Love and Faith

Be Brave, Not Safe

It was my dream job, but it was hundreds of miles away.

I always knew that if God opened the doors into the publishing industry, I would have to leave where I was living at the time: Austin, TX. And let me tell you, I love that city! I had incredible community, deep friendships, and a church that challenged and encouraged me. Plus, the food…it’s some of the best in the world. Really, it is.

As soon as I got the offer though, I knew I was leaving. I had been applying to publishing jobs for two years. I knew God opened the door I had been praying for. But would it be worth it? Would it be worth it to leave everything behind to such a great unknown?

Prior to my job interview, 98% of my experience with Colorado had been with the Denver airport. I hated cold weather. I didn’t know a soul in the city or of any churches. It was terrifying, even while exciting. Would I make friends? Would I find a church I loved? Would I survive winter?!?

The Lord was faithful through that season and He continued to remind me of this truth in so many ways. Through scriptures like this one found in Ephesians:

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20 (NIV)

But He also spoke to me in one of my love languages: Fiction. In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Aslan (the Lion who represents Jesus) has seemingly remained quiet in the land of Narnia as the terrible White Witch has claimed it as her own. Slowly things start to change, the never ending winter begins to melt and true Narnians began to have hope.

Aslan was on the move.

He was on the move in my life too. Did that mean my fear went away? Nope, but it gave me the courage to be brave. Just like in the book, where even though Aslan was moving to destroy the hold the White Witch had over Narnia, the four Pevensies siblings (and array of amazing creatures created by Lewis) still had to fight. They still had to choose to be brave. Safety wasn’t an option. But they had the best guide. One of my favorite lines about Aslan comes from Mr. Beaver, after one of the children asks if this Lion they kept hearing about is safe. He responds: “Safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

“The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NASB)

It’s been two years now that I’ve called Colorado home and there continues to be plenty of opportunities to choose bravery over safety. Whether it is safety from failure, safety for my feelings, or safety from hurt.

It was pushing through as I searched for months for a church home. It was trusting that God would provide community, trusting that while I hadn’t connected in those first few months through different church groups, it would come. It was pushing through the awkwardness of making new friends (making new friends as an adult is hard!). And yet.

He was and is faithful.

These days? I love my church, my friends, and my community in Colorado. They are a gift to my soul. There’s plenty of times I need to remind myself about this (as life tends to send changes all the time), but I am so thankful the Lord continues to give me the strength to be brave and not safe.

Being brave isn’t fully conquering fear. It will always be there. It’s choosing to not let it stand in the way. It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned it is always worth it. When I don’t want to take that step of faith? I remember my favorite lion Aslan. I remember Who he represents and am reminded I’m not alone, Jesus will always be with me. And I can remember that “He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”

May we always choose to be wild.

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NLT)

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Inklings

How to Have the Perfect Hobbit Party (and Happy Birthday Bilbo and Frodo)

It’s a Hobbit weekend! Today, The Hobbit released in 1937. Tomorrow is also another important day in the Tolkien world – Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday, which is simply referred to as Hobbit Day. Obviously both are very worthy of celebration. And so, I’m here to help. I have experience in this area and who am I to deny the internet my expertise? It would be wrong of me and that’s not the kind of person I am.

Now, on to party business.

Food: This is a vital part of Hobbit existence (another reason why I think I’m part Hobbit). If you’re going to have a party, please make sure to have ample snacks. Thanks to the internet, there’s plenty of ideas to choose from, including Samwise’s Strawberries and Cream Tart, Bofur’s Mince Pies (or any of these really), Lembas bread (obviously), and a Hobbit Hole Cake.

Decor: Although not 100% necessary for a party, I wanted an excuse to share my favorite recent finds.

(Sources: Here Here Here Here Here Here)

Favors: It is Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday after all…

(Sources: Here Here Here Here)

What would you add to the party?

Love and Faith

Truth From a Priestly Blessing

A call to something greater.

Isn’t that what so many people desire? That at the core of who we are, we want to leave a legacy that greatly impacts on the world?

How easy it is to think we have to have a big enough platform to do this, but greater doesn’t automatically translate into something along the lines of “famous.” God calls some to that, but not the majority of us.

If we were to wait for the right size platform/popularity, etc, nothing would ever really get done would it?

I’ve been going through the Old Testament again (and yep, Leviticus is just as exciting as it always is) and while reading in Numbers 6, I came across this priestly blessing that Aaron and his sons were given from the Lord to share. It reads:

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ‭Numbers‬ ‭6:24-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It got me thinking how I could bless more people. What if I meant these words to both those who followed Jesus and those who didn’t? What if I prayed this truth over others? What the Lord could do with that kind of prayer!

I was reading up on some commentary (from the Life Application Bible Commentary) of this blessing and I love what it revealed.

  • To “bless and keep” meant to ask for favor and protection.
  • To ask for a “face to shine” meant that God would be pleased.
  • Asking for graciousness meant that the person would receive God’s mercy and compassion.
  • Asking for the Lord’s face towards someone? That meant you were asking that God would give them His approval (which I’m so thankful we get through Jesus!).

And peace. I know we can all use peace more than ever.

So I leave you, dear reader, with this blessing and praying that you truly would see it in your life today!

Women of the Bible

Shiphrah and Puah | Women of the Bible

(If interested in more Women of the Bible posts, check them out here!)

The story starts like this: Two women were given a command from a king. The command was to take newborn babies from their mothers and kill them.

But that’s not how this story played out. These two women, Shiphrah and Puah, heard the unjust law and refused to obey it, because it went against what their God commanded.

Here’s from the NIV translation:

“The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, He gave them families of their own.” Exodus‬ ‭1:15-21‬‬

What a story no? These women were committed to life. Committed enough to defy the most powerful man in the world.

They were courageous. They were brave.

Would any of us have been brave enough to do the same? Would we have trusted God more than an earthly authority? And here’s what makes the story even more extraordinary. Neither Shiphrah nor Puah knew what the consequences would be for disobeying Pharaoh’s command. Would they get caught? If they did, would they be put to death? It didn’t matter.

And how did their earthly stories end? They are not only remembered forever in Scripture, but God blessed them and they had their own families.

God does not ask us to obey authority when it goes against His commands and His Word. He asks us to follow Him. Christ calls us to something far greater and something much more. To love others. To see Imago Dei in all people.

I wonder if Peter quietly thought of these women, when centuries later, he reminded us, that as believers our call is to God and Him alone:

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts‬ ‭5:27-29‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Love and Faith

I Want to Be Dangerous

My church is currently going through a series called DANGEROUS. Each week we look at the lives of the people in the Bible who were dangerous to satan, the people who showed up on his radar as people to watch and go after. I’m loving it! Not only because it’s been great, but it has reminded me of the truths in Screwtape Letters and as we all know, that’s one of my favorites from Lewis. Anyway, we’ve talked about Jesus, David, and Esther.

After each sermon, I’ve been randomly thinking of ways I need to be more dangerous. Do I trust my own strengths or do I trust Jesus’ strength? Do I wait for His timing? Am I seeking Him daily through His Word and prayer? Do I trust Him in the battles?

It’s been convicting and encouraging at the same time. I don’t have much more to add (plus it’s been 900 years since I’ve blogged), but I encourage you to look at those people who kept satan on his toes and, what do you say? Let’s be dangerous together!

(If you’d like to watch the sermons, check out the sermon videos here!)

And for chuckles, here’s a video from one of the sermons. Each week, some of the staff members do something dangerous and I got to stare my fear of heights in the face. Like for real. I have two things to say: 1. Sorry for the scream. 2. I had to sign a waiver, so legit dangerous 🙂

Inklings

A Toast to the Professor | Celebrating with Favorite LOTR Moments

Today is Tolkien’s 126th Birthday! Every year on January 3rd, we fans raise a toast! (According to The Tolkien Society, it’s at 9:00 p.m. your local time.) Here’s the official way from their website :):

All you need to do is stand, raise a glass of your choice of drink (not necessarily alcoholic), and say the words “The Professor” before taking a sip (or swig, if that’s more appropriate for your drink). Sit and enjoy the rest of your drink.

Current office decor

So tonight I’ll raise a glass, but thought it would be fun to share a few favorite quotes from the book and scenes from the LOTR movies!

1. “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” The Fellowship of the Ring

2. “Courage is found in unlikely places…be of good hope!” (Gildor to Frodo in The Fellowship of The Ring)

3. “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.”

4. Samwise being Samwise

5. “Where there’s life there’s hope.” Sam’s Gaffer (The Two Towers)

6. “But that’s not the way of it with tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in mind. Folks seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t.” Samwise Gamgee

7. Éowyn being awesome:

8. “He (Faramir) looked at her, and being a man whom pity deeply stirred, it seemed to him that her (Éowyn) loveliness amid her grief would pierce his heart. And she looked at him and saw the grave tenderness in his eyes, and yet knew, for she was bred among men of war, that here was one whom no Rider of the Mark would outmatch in battle.” I love this because it shows the romantic Tolkien was (Return of the King)

9. “For Frodo.” Gets me every time.

I couldn’t resist, I had to sneak one in from The Hobbit:
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” (Thorin to Bilbo as he was dying)

What are some of your favorite scenes?

Inklings

In Celebration of His Birthday: 11 Favorite Quotes of C.S. Lewis

In celebration of Jack’s (aka C.S. Lewis) birthday, I thought I’d share 11 of my favorite quotes of Lewis.

1. “He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

2. “It was from the Lion that the light came. No one ever saw anything more terrible or beautiful.” The Horse and His Boy

3. “If the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator? Men are fools, perhaps; but hardly so foolish as that. The direct inference from black to white, from evil flower to virtuous root, from senseless work to a workman infinitely wise, staggers belief. The spectacle of the universe as revealed by experience can never have been the ground for religion: it must have been something in spite of which religion, acquired from a different source, was held.” The Problem of Pain

4. “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” The Problem of Pain

5. “When I began teaching for the English Faculty, I made two other friends, both Christians (these queer people seemed now to pop up on every side) who were later to give me much help in getting over the last stile. They were H. V. V. Dyson (then of Reading) and J. R. R. Tolkien. Friendship with the latter marked the breakdown of two old prejudices. At my first coming into the world I had been (implicitly) warned never to trust a Papist, and at my first coming into the English Faculty (explicitly) never to trust a philologist. Tolkien was both.” Surprised By Joy

6. “Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” Mere Christianity

7. “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Mere Christianity

8. “Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” The Weight of Glory

9. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” The Four Loves

10. “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.” The Great Divorce

11. “Dear Wormwood,
Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage which the religion becomes merely a part of the “cause”…Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won you man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours – and more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here,
Your Affectionate Uncle,
Screwtape”
The Screwtape Letters

There are so many others (I made myself stop adding quotes from Narnia), you really can’t go wrong with words from Jack. What are some of your favorite books and/or quotes of Lewis?

Love and Faith

What If?

I’ve learned that when God wants to teach me something (and usually a repeat lesson, I can be stubborn on occasion), He is the most Creative out there. He doesn’t stop at Scripture or prayer (although I’m a fan of both). He brings in all the things – even a country song.

Have you heard the song “What If” by Kane Brown? It hit the radio a few months ago. It’s super catchy and cute and I became an instant fan. Here’s some of the lyrics:

You say what if I hurt you, what if I leave you
What if I find somebody else and I don’t need you
What if this goes south, what if I mess you up
You say what if I break your heart in two then what…

What if I was made for you and you were made for me
What if this is it, what if it’s meant to be
What if I ain’t one of them fools just playin’ some game
What if I just pulled you close, what if I leaned in
And the stars line up and it’s our last first kiss
What if one of these days baby I’d go and change your name
What if I loved all these what ifs away

When it came on the radio several weeks back, I thought to myself how the “What If” idea isn’t only for romance. It’s for all aspects of life. It’s easy to become cynical in the world we’re living, but I never want to.

Recently, the Life Group I host and co-lead picked a study by Mark Batterson and you know what it’s called? What If. No lie. The whole bible study is based around Romans 8:31:

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

In one of the recent video studies, Batterson talked about Ephesians 3:20. It’s been a life verse for several years now. Years back, when I was in Austin, my church did a whole series on it. Through this new study, God has been reminding me what He taught me back in Austin. No joke, a couple of days after that study, my morning scripture reading was Ephesians 3. I legit laughed out loud as soon as I opened up my bible. To top it off, I started decorating for Christmas (Judge away internet. Judge away. ;)) and an ornament I didn’t even know I had, had Ephesians 3:20 written on it.

I’ve kept this for years and is a reminder I see every morning

There’s been conversations with friends, with coworkers and even other books I’ve read….all things that God has brought into my path, reminding me Who He is, what He is able to do and what He wants to do. So why would I ever stop asking What If?

What if…
…I could get that job?
…that dream was worth going after?
…I became the parent I believe I could be?
…that relationship were possible?
…We pursued adoption?
…I could make that move?
…I put myself out there to make friends?
…I took that chance?

These are several “what ifs” I’ve heard people in my life ask and prayer through. I’ve been inspired by these people. In the past, I’ve sometimes done the, “well if I don’t ask for it, I won’t be disappointed when God says no.” It’s easier that way isn’t it? But what a depressing and fearful way to live. We were made for so much more.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

I’ll share one more quote from the video study that has stuck with me since: “God has blessings for you in categories that you don’t even know exist.”

May we always live life that way. Expectant and willing.

What I love about this truth is, it’s for everyone. Whether you’re “what if” makes you famous or whether it gives you the courage to be the parent you want to be (or both!), God’s truth remains the same and that “what if” will change the world.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20

What’s the “What If” in your life?

And in case you want to hear the country song – here y’all go!

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

The One Year Experiencing God’s Love Devotional by Sandra Byrd | Book Review

Why is it pretty much November? It was about 37 seconds ago that we were ringing in 2017. I need to know scientifically how this year went by so fast :). Outside of my time rushing woes, this time of year, I like to start thinking about reading plans and devos for 2018. If y’all are like me and thinking for yourself or Christmas gifts, I definitely recommend this latest devo from Sandra Byrd!

When was the last time you took a break to experience God’s love? To experience something is to live it, to encounter it, to understand it, to explore with our hearts, minds, and souls as well as with the five physical senses and our God-given spiritual ones. Every action we do with and for God, every good day and bad day, we walk hand-in-hand with God, experiencing Him.

Experiencing God’s love takes time. Love unfurls its blossoms in our lives when we concentrate all of our senses on the small gifts we pass by every day. Time slows, and we finally get to hear God’s beautiful background hum to our lives.

The One Year Experiencing God’s Love Devotional helps you intentionally carve out those moments in your day to savor God and His love for you.

After going through several of the devotionals, I decided to start using it now, instead of waiting until Jan 1. Byrd’s devotional style and stories are relatable and her writing style engaging. Not only that, but I was truly encouraged by the truths she shared and the verses highlighted stuck with me throughout the day. Definitely what my hope is with any devotional!

If you’re looking for something daily to draw you closer to Jesus, I highly recommend this one!

(Thank you to Tyndale for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Ponderings

New Things and Old Things

Isn’t it funny how you start off the year with new goals and new ideas and then halfway through, you’re in a totally different spot. There’s many reasons for this, one being outside life circumstances, but sometimes the Lord is simply calling to you and stirring your hearts in new ways.

That’s where I’ve been (as I’m sure you noticed with the lack of posting on both blogs). Part of it has been life (the summer was really busy – I bought myself a house for my 35th birthday. Yay for mortgages!! :)), but also the Lord whispering to my heart. A change of direction.

I promise the next line isn’t “I’m moving to Europe!” (Although, um…so game!), but a shift in my online writing. I’ve had two blogs for a while, but the past several months I haven’t been sure where I was going with each one. It didn’t seem like I should have two, but I still really enjoyed writing for each one. Did I just stop altogether? I admit, that’s where I was for several weeks, but I didn’t feel peace about that either.

I know it probably seems a bit dramatic to talk about blogs this way, but I truly wanted to be faithful to whatever the Lord was asking of me. So what’s the final verdict? One blog, but a combination of the two. Will I be blogging every day? Not quite. My goal is at least once a week and will be a variety of life posts and bookish posts. I’m figuring out other details (like my Inklings), but I’m ready for a change. I’m also slowly moving over popular posts from each blog to have in the archives, so you can still find them. Plus it’s always nice to have the reminders of early blogging days – sometimes it’s cringe worthy, but worth remembering. (Although true confession, sad to lose all the comments – there were some fun discussions!)

When I first started blogging back in 2012, my time and desire fit my blogging schedule. But, as life happens with new chapters, I don’t have the time (and no longer want to) spend several hours a week on blogging (how different my weekends are with a house. Grass Internet. Grass. It likes to grow). I loved the years when I did that – it was exciting starting and pursuing something I loved. I still love it and am forever thankful it opened up doors to the career I’m in now, but I’m no longer in a place to spend my nights and most weekends working on the blog. And that’s okay. I’m excited to still be in the blogging and bookish world, but at a pace that is healthy for where I’m at now.

I’ll still have my newsletter and of course I won’t stop reading and sharing about my favorite reads on other social channels in addition to blog posts, but I’m excited about this new direction.

I’d love to stay in touch! Here’s how to find me:

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Email: jamie @ musingsofjamie.com