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With the upcoming holidays, you may have more opportunities to host over-night guests, than normal.  As much as it is easy to allow a “guest room” to become a “catch-all room”, putting a little extra thought into preparing a space for guests can help them feel comfortable and welcome.  These ideas can be also be modified to whatever space your guests will be staying in, whether or not you have a dedicated guest room.

Here are a few suggestions for some thoughtful touches:


When first setting up the room (long-term):

  • Extra, good quality pillows (both soft and firm), and extra blankets
  • A mattress pad (maybe even memory foam, etc)
  • A wastebasket
  • A nightstand with an alarm clock, lamp and Kleenex box
  • A place for guests to hang clothes, with some extra hangers
  • A seat of some sort, for guests to sit or put their bags
  • A framed WIFI login and password, such as this free 5×7 printable:

wifi graphic


Touches to add/refresh regularly before different guests:

  • Fresh, clean sheets/linens
  • Vacuum and dust, especially if the room isn’t used often
  • Possibly a small basket with a few snacks (granola bars, etc) and bottled water
  • A basket with un-opened toiletries.  This could be kept in the guest bedroom or bathroom.. A few suggestions of things to put in the basket:
    • un-opened toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
    • un-opened soap, razor, lip balm, feminine products
    • shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, lotion
    •  basic first aid items, such as Tylenol, Band-Aids, hand sanitizer
  • A basket with fresh towels and washcloths

A little extra thought can go a long way towards making your guests comfortable 🙂

*Photo credit of title image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

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loving people well_tips for biblical encouargement

 

At times we all receive and probably give encouragement that sounds cliché, overly-optimistic, or maybe just very superficial—i.e., “Don’t worry, everything is going to turn out fine.”

But even as we say it, we are half-wondering if it is true ourselves. 

So, how can we encourage people in a deep, honest and scriptural way?  The Bible offers some insights into why real encouragement is essential and what it looks like for people who follow Christ.

 

WHY STRIVE TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE BIBLICALLY?

  1. So we’re not deceived by sin and hardened against God. Wow, that’s huge!  This verse also specifies that we should be encouraging each other daily as a safeguard. (Hebrews 3:13)
  2. So we will be encouraged and knit together by love, having complete confidence in Christ. (Colossians 2:2)
  3. To help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.  God gives us an abundance of hope and encouragement in the Bible, so we should direct people to the source of real encouragement—Him.

“We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.  For even Christ didn’t live to please himself.As the Scriptures say, ‘The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.’  Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.” Romans 15:2-6

 

HOW DO WE ENCOURAGE PEOPLE BIBLICALLY?

  1. Through genuinely loving people. (Philemon 1:7).  If you can love the other person more like Christ does, you will naturally be an encouragement to them.  “But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” -1 Corinthians 8:1
  2. By growing in your own faith. You can do this, for example, by learning fresh insights from your time in the Bible and prayer each day.  This allows you to have something life-giving to share with others.  You can be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. (Romans 1:11-12)
  3. Through actually using verses in the Bible (in their context, with good teaching), in your conversation.  (2 Timothy 4:2).  This might mean reading or quoting verses that affirm something the person is doing well, or sharing verses that apply to areas of struggle.  This could happen in the context of a conversation or even a letter or e-mail message.
  4. By encouraging believers to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.  Christ is where our purpose and true life is found.  Without trusting in Him, there is very little to be encouraged about.  (Acts 11:22-24).
  5. By reminding people where our hope is really found—not in this temporary life but in heaven with Christ.

“Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:16b-18

Hebrews 3_13

 

How have you been encouraged Biblically this week?

 

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How to be a good listener

 

In today’s world of multitasking, smartphones, and constant entertainment, listening is becoming something of a lost art. But it’s so incredibly important for deep, meaningful and fulfilling relationships.

Take these tips and corresponding Bible verses as food for thought and as an opportunity to reflect on how well you’ve been listening to those in your life lately.

4 Tips for Being a Good Listener

1)  Give your full attention

  • Leave your phone alone when you are having a conversation if possible—this communicates to the person that what they have to say is important to you.
  • Teach your kids not to interrupt your conversations, and how to politely wait to ask you a question (in theory)… unless your child is the one you are having the conversation with—then give them your full attention, just as you would a friend.
  • Meet in an environment that is as least distracting as possible—preferably where you can hear each other easily.

 2)  Focus on listening instead of talking. 

 “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

  • -It is hard to be listening if you are instead spending the majority of the time talking.  This may require some sacrifice on your part—not sharing everything that you have to say, in order to serve and love the other person through listening.

 3)   Be proactive to ask thoughtful questions.   

  • -Be willing to “host” the conversation in a sense, focusing on the other person and how they really are and feel.  Look for ways to understand them better (through asking intentional questions), in order to be a blessing.
  • -For example, you could ask more details about what they were sharing, how it made them feel, what they wish they would have done differently, if something had been difficult for them, etc.

The finest art of communication

 

 4)  Allow your listening to inform your talking.

“To answer before listening—that is folly and shame”. — Proverbs 18:13

  • We are all capable of giving bad advice—especially if we haven’t listened first, to really understand the situation.
  • -Being an active listener and asking good questions allows us to then encourage people in specific ways, building people up according to their needs.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” –Ephesians 4:29

Are you a naturally good listener or do you have to work at it? In which of these four areas would you most like to grow?

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Photo credit

Have you ever considered creating a “prayer closet”…  a place where you can go to alone, in privacy, to spend quality, focused prayer time?

This is something I have found beneficial in my distracted life, to be able to pray more like I want to.  Please take the following as humble suggestions, as I “pull back the curtain” on a very private part of my life– my prayer closet.

Why a Prayer Closet is beneficial

  • Because prayer matters to God and it’s powerful!  James 5:16 says “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
  • In today’s super-electronically connected world, it’s what we need to really be able to quiet our hearts, to hear God’s voice.
  •  It is eye-opening, the things that God wants to reveal to you through a dedicated prayer time—insights into your life, your relationships, your motivations, and understanding God’s purposes.  Jeremiah 33:2-3 “This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name:  Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’”
  •  We are commanded to devote ourselves to prayer.  Colossians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”
  • For the future of us, our children, and our land.  2 Chronicles 7:14 says “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”
  •  We are told to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:7), and be faithful in prayer.  How often do we actually, currently pray, though?  Probably not as much as we would like or should.  Romans 12:12 “Be hopeful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
  • Following Jesus’ example of withdrawing to a solitary place to pray.  Luke 22:39-46- we see that Jesus withdrew and knelt to pray.  And Mark 1:35 “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
  • We are told to pray in secret (not just to be seen by others).  Matthew 6:5-6  “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

prayer closet graphic no title

How to set up your own prayer closet

1. Consider if there is an actual extra little closet or space in your house where you can comfortably sit and kneel to pray.

It may currently be used as storage and filled with things, but consider emptying it by selling or giving away excess that you don’t really need.

If a little space like this does not exist in your home, try to be creative with an alternative– is there a space on the floor of your bedroom (not your bed!) where you could be alone, leave a Bible, prayer photo album (see description below), etc.? It just needs to be an electronics free zone (no I Pads, IPhones, Laptops, etc.)

2. Equip your little space with a lamp, if it doesn’t have lighting.

Also, I find it helpful to keep a throw pillow in there, to be a little more comfortable.

3. Print off photos of people in your life that you want to be regularly praying for.

Either put them up on a tack board or in a little prayer photo album that you keep in your prayer closet. Looking at people’s faces seems to help me remember to pray for them, and then to pray more specifically for what they are going through in their lives.

4. Pray using the “ACTS” acronym. Spend time on each “letter”.

Adoration:  Spend some time adoring and worshipping God by declaring things about who He is.  (ie- Altogether good, loving, just, faithful, truth, etc.)  Psalm 145:3 “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;  his greatness no one can fathom.”

Confession:  Spend time confessing your own sins to God.  1 John 1:9- “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Thanksgiving:  Spend time listing out things you are thankful for—finding things to be thankful for will help you understand God’s purposes in hardship.  Ephesians 5:20- “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”   Psalm 50:23- “But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.  If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.”

 Supplication:  This is the part where you bring your different requests to God—for yourself, for fellow Christians, for people who don’t know Jesus, for our country, for different situations around you and around the world, etc.  1 Timothy 2:1 “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.

4. Pray with an open Bible.

God uses His Word (the Bible) to speak into our lives and reveal  Himself.  I would suggest that this should be an actual hard-copy of the Bible (not electronic), to guard against potential distraction.

5. Keep a journal in your prayer closet.

You will want to be writing down (to remember) the things that God will start revealing to you.  Also, if you journal the things you are praying for, you will be encouraged and praise God when God answers your prayers, in His timing. Otherwise, you might not even notice when God has moved in response to your prayer.

6. Consider getting a book like Operation World to keep in your prayer closet.

This book will help you focus in prayer on a specific people group or country, and their spiritual needs/spiritual state.

7. Spend some time praying in a kneeling position.

Something about kneeling to pray really seems to help humble my heart before God and helps me naturally tend towards worshipping Him. (This does not have to be all your time in your prayer closet—just try it to see if it helps you focus on our glorious God.)

Psalms 95:6 “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”

8. If the idea of spending more extended time in prayer seems overwhelming, set a kitchen timer or a watch

(not your smartphone, for distraction reasons).

Then set the alarm to go off in a set amount of minutes (maybe start with 10 minutes and then add from there).  I think you’ll be surprised how fast time flies, once you really start praying through different people and situations in your life.

9. Just get yourself into your prayer closet.

If you can make it that far, I think that actually praying will be the easier part. Tearing ourselves away from the endless house work, TV, Facebook, e-mail, etc., is the hard part.  That is often what keeps us from hearing from God– being distracted. Don’t be discouraged if this feels unnatural and hard. Prayer is a spiritual discipline, so that infers it will take time, effort and energy.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”  – Hebrews 12:11

The real beauty of having a prayer closet is forcing out all the distractions that keep us from having the kind of prayer life that God desires.

Is prayer closet something that you can see yourself creating?  What are some ways that you currently are protecting and preparing for your dedicated prayer time?

 

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Having a baby is a life-altering and life-shaking experience in many ways, including shaking up well-established habits like daily time with God.  Once getting past the initial shock of having and being responsible for a new little person, combined with cumulative sleep deprivation, how do you re-establish the most important habits and patterns of life?  Specifically, prioritizing your relationship with Jesus?

bible journal and coffee at the kitchen tableHere are a few of the things that I have learned along the way, and hopefully something will be encouraging.


Ways to Immerse Yourself in God, Despite Your New Life With Kids:

1)  Give yourself some grace and don’t live in guilt.

Romans 8:1—“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”

2)  Each day is a new day.  Move forward and prioritize time with God for that particular day.

3)  Prepare for Bible study/prayer time before-hand

  • Schedule Bible study with yourself like an appointment (maybe during baby’s nap?  Or right after baby goes down for the night or before they get up in the morning?)
  • Place your Bible and journal in a place you find as peaceful and conducive for reading (NOT your bed!)
  • Make it an electronics-free area—No I-phones, I-pads, computers, etc—DON’T let Facebook steal this time from you.

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4)  Have an on-going list to keep in your Bible (or journal) of things and people you want  to be praying for.
5)  Ask God to meet with you and confess any sin.  Quiet your heart before God.
6)  Place Bible verses in places around your house where you spend time throughout the day—over your kitchen sink, on the bathroom mirror, in the shower, by your rocking chair (or wherever you tend to feed the baby), on your stroller
7)  Upload sermons and worship music to your Ipod/MP3 player
8)  Consider asking your husband to watch the kids every so often (maybe even weekly?), to allow you time to get away to a coffee shop, park, etc to spend some especially revitalizing time in the Bible/prayer.  It will benefit him, too, for you to have a fresh touch from God.
9)  Be proactive to get together with another mom with kids, whom you know has a daily Bible study & prayer time.  Pick her brain as to how she does it, what it looks like for her, and what has helped her to re-prioritize time with God after having baby #1, #2, #3, etc.

10)  In general, be proactive.  Some time with God, reading the Bible and in prayer, is better than no time.

The Bible is our life—our daily bread.  We will be better wives and moms for the time we spend praying, reading the Bible, meditating on it, memorizing it, listening to it and applying it to our lives.  Faithfulness and obedience is a battle, but it is worth fighting.

Philippians 3: 13b-14: “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

 

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10 tips for prioritizing time with God after a baby