How Are You Preparing for Easter?

“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity”— 1 Chronicles 29:17 (NIV).

LentEven more than Christmas, I love this time of year, especially the traditions we observe in my church. On March 5, we recognized the beginning of the Lent season on Ash Wednesday. Lent, while not observed by all denominations, is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline.

Observing Ash Wednesday at a special evening service in our church includes an invitation by our ministers to come forward and receive ashes made from palm leaves, which had been part of our Palm Sunday celebration the previous year when children carried them into the service. Our ministers make a sign of the cross on our forehead to symbolize purification and sorrow for our sins.

Several weeks before Ash Wednesday, I was experiencing a spiritual dryness. I hadn’t given up on my spiritual disciplines. I was still reading and studying my Bible each morning, praying and writing in my prayer journal and spending time listening for that still, small voice. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t hearing as clearly from the Lord. The weekend before Ash Wednesday, as I was reading the last few chapters of Chronicles, I came across Chapter 29:17. “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.”

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Are you leaning on the ONE who cares?

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”– 1 Peter 5:6-7

When I was younger, I relied on my parents. Later on in life, I relied on others until they proved untrustworthy. For too many years, I relied on myself. Then, God showed me I could always depend on Him. I like this acronym:

frogF  ully

R  ely

O  n

G  od

Is it hard for you to rely on others? What about God? Do you have a hard time relying on Him? Why or why not?

Begin Day 2 of your journaling journey with the following prayer starter:

Dear Abba Father,

I want to completely trust and rely on You for everything in my life. I know you care for me. I am counting on You to show me how to rely on you fully.

Faith Step: Whom have you relied on in the past? Other people? Yourself? Consider what steps of faith God is asking you to take today to learn how to rely on Him fully. Read and memorize Proverbs 3:5-6. Write it down on several index cards and post them around your house.

 

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Are YOU a prisoner?

Be kind and compassionate to one another,forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” — Ephesians 4:32 (NIV).

Are you harboring a grudge? Angry with someone? Is bitterness holding you back from enjoying life? For years, I carried around bitterness and hurt. Until I learned to forgive, I was not free. I like this anonymous quote:

chainsbroken“When I forgave, I set a prisoner free. Then I realized the prisoner was me.”

Dear Father,

I want to forgive those who have hurt me. I want to forgive myself for poor choices in the past. Please show me how to do this, Father.

 

Faith Step: Learn to forgive. Journal about those things that have led to your bitterness and anger. Now choose to forgive. Pour out your heart to the One who knows you better than you know yourself.

 

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Where is God on your priority list?

“Come near to God and he will come near to you”–James 4:8(NIV)

journalingWhere is God on your priority list? If you were to rate your relationship with Him on a scale of 1-10, like a daily to-do-list, would He be at the top or closer to the bottom?

Did you know that spending time with your Heavenly Father is the best relationship you will ever develop? When you spend time with Him on a daily basis, the more your other relationships will improve.

How do I know? Because I’ve been spending quality time with my Abba Father every morning for almost 13 years. Not only have I found peace within, but I’ve made peace with those whom I needed to forgive, including myself. More importantly, I am on the path to becoming the person God created me to be?

Never let a day pass without spending time with your Creator. This simple practice will change your life forever.

Begin your Day 1 journal entry with the following:

Dear Abba Father,

I want to know you better. Please teach me what I need to learn in order to draw closer to You.

(Sit quietly and listen for that still, small voice leading you on a new journey to know Him better. Then pour out your heart to him on the lined pages of your journal.)

Faith Step: Choose to put God above all else each day by getting up earlier, if necessary, to read the Bible and journal your prayers to Him. What would you like to say to Him today? What is He saying to you?

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Are you ready to take the challenge?

“…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”  Hebrews 10:22

walkingwithjesusCan you imagine what it would be like to sit down and have a one-on-one conversation with your Savior? Can you picture yourself sitting together on a carpet of clover near a small mountain river? No one is around to interrupt your dialogue. The only sounds are of the water as it flows on its course downstream, the occasional rustling of the grass as a forest creature timidly checks out the intrusion in his world and the call of a bird seeking its mate.

What would you discuss? What questions would you have? What would He ask you? How long would He be able to spend time with you before He had to move on?

One of the hymns I recall from my childhood is “In the Garden,” by Charles Austin Miles. The refrain dances through my mind when I think about spending time with Him.

And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there;
None other has ever known.

It is a joy to spend time with my Savior. Although I cannot physically walk through the garden or sit by a stream to talk with Him, through prayer journaling, I have found a way to draw closer to Him.

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Give a Gift of Inspiration that keeps on giving all year long

by FAITH Alone

“Give a gift of inspiration that keeps on giving all year long.”

Grab this inspirational volume for yourself or for someone on your Christmas gift list. From December 10 – 18, 2013, you can purchase this collection of my weekly faith-based column for only $10. The regular price is $12.95. And that’s not all, I’m throwing in the shipping FREE!

 Here’s what readers are saying about Carol Round’s daily devotional book:Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00074]

“Tucked inside this book are the musings of a woman who has a heart to know God.  Carol Round sees the everyday events of life through the lens of Scripture and points out life application for her readers.  Don’t miss reading this uplifting and insightful book! -Lorraine Holman-Author of Trials: Thanks a Lot! and Trials: Now What?

“In these troubling times, Ms. Round’s writing offers readers an inspirational lift through hope in our Lord. Without preaching, she uses everyday experiences to draw readers closer to our Heavenly Father in an upbeat style and without sugarcoating a believer’s walk with God.” — Dan Wooding, founder of ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net), author of 45 books, radio and TV host

“Carol Round weaves inspiring stories that are Scriptural truth, thought provoking and work like a spiritual energy drink propelling the reader headlong in pursuit of a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
- John Winder, Publisher, The Cypress Times

Here’s a sample devotional from by FAITH alone:

What’s Your Word?

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” —Psalm 119:105 (NIV).

Guideposts is my favorite magazine. This monthly inspirational magazine, designed to help readers achieve their maximum personal and spiritual potential, contains stories written by people from all walks of life. In the January 2012 issue, author Debbie Macomber shared her New Year’s tradition and one I have since adopted.

At the beginning of each year, she reflects on the words that have appeared repeatedly in her life. By writing in her journal, she watches for patterns to develop. For example, in 1979, “hunger” was her word. Although she wasn’t sure why she chose that word, she came to realize that, in part, it had to do with her lifelong struggle with her weight.

However, as that year unfolded, she realized that her physical hunger for food wasn’t the only struggle she faced. She says, “There were other hungers as well. With four children in a tiny house, I was hungry for more room to spread out, hungry for some quiet and a little time to myself.”

Macomber says she was also hungry to learn, which led to her enrollment in writing classes at a local college. She wanted to be a novelist so badly she could taste it. She kept writing and receiving rejections but soon came to realize that her deepest hunger was spiritual. She was reading scripture each morning. However, she acknowledged to herself that she was only skimming the surface of what it means to live a Christian life. Because she wanted more, wanted to go deeper in the Word, her “hunger” pushed her forward into seeking a deeper relationship with God.

A recent Facebook post by one of my former students touched my heart. Krista’s husband is a police officer who has faced the horrors of teen suicide one too many times. Krista is now on a mission to educate young people that suicide is not the answer. I think Krista’s word for the New Year is “mission.”

As I have thought about, reread Macomber’s magazine article, and responded to Krista’s posts on Facebook, I chose “focus” as my New Year word. I have commented to several friends in the past months about my struggles to stay focused on God’s leading because there are so many distractions in life. I have posted the word “focus” throughout my house on notecards and on my computer to remind me that my focus is on what He is doing through me and in my life.

Because it’s so easy to allow the outside world to distract us from what is important in life, I challenge you to choose a word for the New Year. Macomber’s past words have included trust, brokenness, prayer and hope. This year, she has chosen the word “listen.”

If you feel led to explore the possibilities God has for your life, ask Him to reveal the word He has for you. When you trust Him, He will take you on a journey of discovery you never imagined.

What is your word for the New Year?

 

To order your copy of by FAITH Alone, email me at carolaround@yahoo.com. You can order one for yourself and one for gift giving for only $20. In fact, it doesn’t matter how many you order, shipping is free!

Please note the days of this special offer:

December 10 – 18, 2013

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”–Isaiah 9:6 (AKJV).

 

 

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Sometimes We Need to Escape

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul”—Psalm 23:1-3 (NIV).

Daily routines. Technology addiction. Endless concrete. Confining cubicles. Cluttered minds. Sometimes we need to escape. That’s what I did recently.

For several months, an overwhelming schedule of writing deadlines, book promotions and other commitments had left me drained. I didn’t have anything else to give—at least without God’s help.

Spending time in God’s Word each morning and pouring out my heart to Him in a prayer journal kickstarts my day. Without this daily commitment, I couldn’t accomplish my tasks. Throughout my busy days, I check in with my Heavenly Father because it’s a reminder I can “do all things through Him who gives me strength.”

However, my strength was waning. God was trying to tell me something but I was ignoring that still, small voice. I needed to run away. Not from God. You can’t hide from Him.

LakeCabin09 I needed a break from my self-imposed responsibilities. I wanted no distractions for at least a week. After searching online, I booked a secluded cabin on Lake Keystone. It met my need to escape temporarily from routine, technology and concrete, as well as my home office and a cluttered mind of my own making.

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