20 Minutes a Day …

Twenty minutes may not really seem like a lot of time to accomplish something important, but, if you think about it, what kinds of things do you or can you accomplish in 20- to 30-minute chunks of time throughout your day?

You could:

  • fold a load of laundry
  • watch a recorded episode of a TV show
  • straighten up your desk/file some paperwork
  • read an online article or a chapter of a book
  • scroll through Facebook/Instagram posts
  • make a phone call to a family member or friend
  • check/respond to emails
  • take a walk to clear your head
  • empty the dishwasher
  • play with the dogs
  • stretch or exercise
  • plan a meal/find a new recipe
  • build an intimate relationship with God

Wait! What was that last point? Build a relationship with God? In 20 minutes? That’s not on my “to do” list.

No? Well, perhaps it should be. We all have the same amount of time allotted to us each and every day. And yet, so often the days just seem to slip away from us. Things we never intended or planned for steal our days away, minute by minute. We find ourselves wishing we had more time, but, more likely, what we really want is more peace, more joy, more connectedness … more real-life moments that matter.

Many of us use the lack of time as an excuse for not accomplishing certain things in our days or in our lives. In her blog post on things to do with 30 minutes or less, Courtney Carver shares:

… the real excuse, even if we are really busy, isn’t lack of time. It’s lack of priority. …

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Author Laura Vanderkam says, “Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.”

2016-09-11-22-53-472016-09-11-22-54-45Two weeks ago, I chose to take time away from my work (which I spend a lot of time doing) to attend a Women’s Ministry Kick-off Dinner with my sister-in-law, Jena, and my niece-in-law, Brittany. It was a dinner put on by their church to introduce their upcoming Bible studies for the fall, and I was thrilled to hear that Debbie Stuart (who used to be the Director of Women’s Ministry at a church I attended in the past) was going to be the guest speaker that evening. Debbie is currently Director of Ministry Initiatives at Hope for the Heart.

Well, as usual, Debbie did not disappoint. I had done a study with Debbie in the past and though I knew she was good, I had forgotten just how good of a speaker and connector she was. She shares personal stories (funny as well as heart-wrenching) and Scripture in such a way as to touch the lives of those around her and to infuse in them a desire to know and serve the Lord as she does.

I have to be honest here. Even though my thoughts are not biblical, I envy her heart for Jesus. I want what she has. Not her life or the things she has accomplished or acquired in her lifetime … but I want a relationship with God where I seek Him and hear from Him daily, and He is obviously at work in my life the way He is in hers. Debbie reminded us:

The truth is: It is absolutely essential to spend time with the Lord. No excuses. You will not know Him, His will or His way apart from His Word, the Bible.

So simple, and yet so true. The thi2016-09-17-09-19-39ng is – I have been reading the Bible lately. I do this from time to time but not on a regular, daily basis, and not always in a way that I feel I am getting much out of it. In fact, sometimes I don’t really feel like I understand what I read (although when I take the time to use my MacArthur Bible Commentary and/or compare passages to those in The Message [which is very reader friendly], it does help).

20-minutes-a-dayThe night Debbie spoke, she brought with her a book she co-wrote titled, 20 Minutes a Day for the Rest of Your Life. She explains it this way:

This resource is an excellent guide to studying God’s word for practical application. It teaches various Bible study techniques, dynamics and methods to learning how to apply God’s Word to everyday life. It’s not enough to ask, “What does the Bible say, we must discover what does it say TO ME!” It’s not enough to know what the Bible means, we must know what it means TO ME! It is my prayer that you will develop a deeper walk with the Lord and come to know Him better by spending time in His Word.

If you know what you need to do, but you don’t know exactly how to go about doing it, this book might be the guide for you. You can purchase this helpful resource for $6 (plus $2 shipping). They are currently available through this eBay link. Proceeds go to support Prison Ministry for women!

I started using my book the very next day, a2016-09-14-13-09-06fter the dinner. The first method demonstrates studying and praying through the Psalms. Each “session” ends with you asking God for a verse for the day that you can carry with you or post where you will see it and can meditate on it. I put mine up on a little clothesline in my study area.

The following Sunday, I just knew I was on the right track when, in church, the preacher had chosen to focus his time in the pulpit on teaching us all on “How to Meditate on God’s Word.” He used Psalm 1 and walked us all through some methods to 1) Read God’s Word; 2) Study God’s Word (observe, interpret, apply); and 3) Memorize God’s Word. One of the main points I got out of his sermon was the importance of having a plan to follow. There are a lot of books and online sources available to help you set one up; two he suggested were youversion.com (a bible app) and esvbible.org.

Last week, I started a Bible study using Beth Moore’s book James: Mercy Triumphs. The five days of homework each week will definitely give me more than 20 minutes a day in the Bible. But I will continue to use my 20 Minutes a Day … book for the other days of the week so that I can become familiar with the other methods of study and eventually determine what works best for me.

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While doing one night’s homework on James, I came across Beth’s discussions on Galatians 2:8: For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my (Paul’s) ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. Beth said:

God only knows how many effective ministries have disintegrated into irrelevance over addiction to comparison. We talk as those who believe God is omnipotent and omnipresent, but we often act as if He can only work through one person, one method, or one kind of ministry at a time. …

There’s a big, needy world out there, and God’s way of reaching it is to enlist every one of us to do our parts in love and humility, variety and diversity.

So, there is no need for me to compare myself to others or focus on what I lack. God will use me … and you … wherever we are in life and to the extent that we make ourselves available to Him. Even if it is only 20 minutes a day.

Be strong in the Lord my friends. And be faithful.

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“ … it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes
and showers righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12

“… those who seek Him, find Him.” see Proverbs 8:17

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Praying for You

Today, I wanted to take a moment to lift up my family members and friends (and even those of you who I don’t know who happen to be reading this) who are going through some tough times right now. I have shared stories with some of you over the past few weeks or heard about your troubles recently, and my heart aches for many of you while it breaks for still others. But I wanted you to know that, despite how you feel at this moment, you are not alone. You’ve got me … and you’ve got God on your side (even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes).

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Consider this:

Pearls are the outcome of struggle. They are rare and priceless, unique and treasured. They are a product of irritation and are created as defense against something that is hard, something that doesn’t belong.

A pearl is a product of suffering. It is a healed wound.

And it takes perseverance and grit to produce anything.

Life is filled with struggle. But it’s not wasted hardship and trials. Our struggle is irritating and annoying, sometimes it’s heartbreaking and horrible, but it’s producing something good within us.

Kristen Welch, For When You Struggle

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Whatever it is you are going through, it is possible that this situation is refining you, and you will come through it stronger, happier, more determined, more faithful, and a better version of YOU.

Lord, I lift up my personal concerns as well as the various troubles many I know are experiencing and I turn them over to you: financial issues; job concerns; health problems; troubled relationships; infidelity; addiction; the loss of loved ones; feelings of depression, anxiety, emptiness, and loneliness; unfulfilled dreams; and so many other issues of this world. Help us to put aside our tears and our fears, our worrying and obsessing, so that we may draw closer to you, and trust in your divine intervention on our behalf. Heavenly Father, I pray for many individuals today specifically CC, BC, AF, TA, AL, VC, RL, AS, BF, GK, EC, JS, BW, JL, TL, EW, KC, LR, KS. I pray that you will heal them, comfort them, help them, and lead them along the right path, and give them hope for a better future. Lord, you are our strength and our shield. My heart trusts in you, and I am helped. (Ps 28:7) In Jesus’ name, I pray for all of you. Amen. 

02042016_CrystalStine_AllThingsArePossible

 

Gifts of Kindness

Today, I’d like to share a post from a friend whose attitude reminds me that despite all the crazy stuff going on around us every day, the world is still full of kind souls who care about others and about making a positive difference.

Melissa Lopes is a co-worker of my husband’s, and a sweet, thoughtful, adventurous person that I’m happy to know. The following comes from an email that Melissa sent out to her teammates and friends last year.

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Birthday Gifts

This year, I celebrated my birthday [early] this past day off by conducting a random act of kindness for each year of life.

The Greater Picture

Sometimes we forget how much of a difference we can make (to even complete strangers) by sharing a compliment, smiling, or even saying a simple thank you. My random acts of kindness really opened my eyes to something that should not only happen on special days, but every day. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had, and that is why I am sharing with you what I would like for my birthday …

For my birthday I don’t want an email, text, or Facebook post wishing me a “happy birthday.”

INSTEAD, my birthday wish is for you to conduct one random act of kindness and share it with me.

Random Act of Kindness

It’s a challenge, so to speak.

It doesn’t have to cost money, just try something as simple as giving a compliment or sending a thank you note.

When was the last time you wrote a thank you letter? Or called a distant family member/friend?

If you run outta inspiration I’ll share with you my 22 acts. I had a list prepared, but was hoping things would find me during the day … (which they did) … enjoy!

  1. I was preparing by buying a few gift cards for friends. The cashier made a mistake in the transaction and confided in me by saying she had been up for 48 hours straight and had to work her second job that night. I handed her the $25 gift card to Starbucks. She cried, then I cried.
  2. I had gotten my roommate her favorite candy and paired it with a big pink bow.
  3. Donated old books.
  4. Left a bag of candy and thank you note for our neighbors for being so nice … and for never complaining about the weekend noise.
  5. Mailed a much needed hand-written thank you card, with a gift card to my best friend’s mom.Thank You
  1. Delivered doughnuts and a thank you note to the local police station.
  2. Delivered cookies and a thank you note to the local firehouse.
  3. Left candy and a thank you note for the mailman. I also apologized for being so horrible at letting the mail pile up in the mailbox.
  4. While I was out checking the mail, I heard a frantic woman over the bushes. I went to see what was going on and she was on the phone with the cops saying she was missing her two and a half year old son. (She apparently thought Hansel was in the other room with the husband … she turned around to realize the door was wide open.) I immediately ran down the street and called out to everyone I could see to look and guard the street since we live off a main road. I actually ended up finding Hansel a few minutes later WAY down the sidewalk before the cops arrived. The whole moment was so hectic and I was SO grateful he didn’t wander in the street or anything else.  ****No, I am not lying this actually happened*** and I nearly thought I was going to have a heart attack afterwards.
  5. Sent a hand-written letter to my grandparents.
  6. Left notes in windshield wipers of parked cars wishing everyone a great day.
  7. Purchased a gift card then turned around and gave it to the person in line behind me. (He was so shocked)
  8. Brought cake pops to a random [company] store. No, I did not make them but got them from a local bakery! (hope you liked them)
  9. Got all new dog toys and huge bones for my already spoiled-rotten dogs.

Romeo

  1. Left a new dog toy with a note in the yard of our other neighbors with a big dog.
  2. Helped push runaway shopping carts back to Wal-mart. (An employee was confused on what I was doing and wasn’t very happy … continued to help anyway!)
  3. Taped money to a vending machine.
  4. Donated to a few different charities. (Pan can of course!)
  5. Left hidden notes in some of my favorite books at the local book store.
  6. Paid for the person behind me at the Starbucks drive thru.
  7. Refrained from honking at the bicyclists who like to cut in front of cars and take up the ENTIRE driving lane in my neighborhood. (This counts … right?) 
  8. Hid some dollar bills around the local playground for kids to find.

**And since #21 doesn’t count ** I am also conducting a “birthday special” at work on my actual birthday. I’m bringing delicious treats in for the guests that come through the door. We are having a “party” at the store!

Melissa Lopes

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Thank you so much, Melissa, for allowing me share your words and story. What a wonderful idea to give the gift of thoughtfulness to others on our own birthdays or any day at all. It really doesn’t take a lot to share a bit of encouragement … a bit of ourselves … with others. You may never know the difference your random act of kindness makes in someone else’s life … but I am quite certain it always does!

Share Words of Encouragement

Today, I am thinking of a few specific people who I believe could use a word of encouragement due to life changes, unexpected circumstances, challenging situations, and unhappy or negative mindsets. Maybe you know someone who could benefit from a positive, kind, or uplifting word as well. I’ve created a few memes with various thoughts that I wanted to share with you today. Feel free to share any of them with someone you know.

Build Something Beautiful Never Too Old Second Chance Stay Positive The Best Things Thinking of You You are stronger!

I hope these words and images speak to your heart or give you an opportunity to share your heart with someone you care about.

Have a blessed day!

Photos, Phrases, and a Little Flexibility

Sometimes I read other blog posts that inspire me and I think about sharing ideas from them with you, but especially when I don’t have a lot of time, I tend to “save them,” like good china, for another day and a longer post. Unfortunately, many of these wonderful little nuggets never actually make it to a post or get shared as they deserve.

I also take a lot of photos that I enjoy and believe others might enjoy as well, but so many of those don’t end up getting shared either. They stay tucked away in a folder (or several folders since I haven’t had time to organize them), unseen … unknown … unloved. 😦

So, I’ve decided to put some of my perfectionism aside and do a little more sharing a little more often. Even if I can’t write a long post, I’m going to make more of an effort to put together some of my favorite thoughts, inspirations, quotes, etc. (giving credit and passing on links to original sources as appropriate) along with some of my own photography, perhaps providing a little encouragement, a ray of sunshine, or an important reminder, at just the right time for someone who needs it.

When I share these thoughts and photos in the future, they won’t be accompanied by a lot of text. That’s the part that takes more time and keeps me from actually posting. Of course, I will still be writing longer entries as I can, but I hope you will enjoy these smaller more frequent bursts of “sunshine” and reminders to take a little time for yourself.

Simple Life

Discouraged? There’s Help for Your Heart.

What Your Heart NeedsI am currently working my way through a wonderful new book by Holley Gerth: What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days: 52 Encouraging Truths to Hold On To. And I am finding so many words of encouragement that I can personally relate to. In fact, I have already flagged a number of pages that I know I will want to go back to so I can reread and savor the messages on days when I might be feeling a bit discouraged.

Holley is a best-selling writer, licensed counselor, certified life coach, and speaker. I have followed her blog: Heart to Heart with Holley (www.holleygerth.com) for quite some time now and often share her posts or some of her words or graphics with friends and family on my Facebook page.

Holley also works in partnership with DaySpring, one of the largest publishers and distributors of Christian greeting cards (and other inspirational products) in the world. Plus, she is the cofounder of (in)courage, an online “home for the hearts of women,” which I love; I have found so many great articles and bloggers through this site.

In fact, there was a recent post on (in)courage from Renee Swope titled “Words for the Weary” that made me think of Holley and the importance of her newest book. To me, Holley Gerth is the encourager of encouragers.  

Words of Encouragement

If you haven’t heard of (in)courage before, you should check them out.

So, back to the book: What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days contains 52 similarly formatted devotions based on the book of Psalms, written in a way that helps us remember that “God is good and we’re all in this together.”

Because there are 52 entries, you could easily use this book as a weekly devotional to be processed over a year, taking your time to read the opening Scripture quote and Holley’s words. Then adding your own words to complete the prayer, which has already been started for you under “What My Heart Is Saying to You.” During the week, you can go back and write in your thoughts under “What My Heart Is Hearing from You,” and at any time, you can open your Bible and read and reflect on the three Psalms referenced at the end of that week’s entry.

Of course, the devotions are short enough that you could also choose to read them as daily devotions. Either way, in this comforting book, Holley invites us “to be filled with the strength, peace, and joy that come from God’s promises.”

She provides real-life stories for us to connect with, as well as encouraging thoughts and passages from God’s Word to help us focus on what’s really important—the internal and the eternal.

All we have to do is be willing to open our hearts and receive.

Open Your Heart

Already a fan of Holley Gerth, her latest book does not disappoint. Not only will you find this book to be soothing for your own soul, but it would make a great gift for a hurting friend or perhaps even a wonderful donation at a women’s shelter. It is also the perfect companion to one of Holley’s other books: You’re Going to Be Okay.

I hope you get an opportunity to read What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days. I will likely be posting excerpts from it in the days ahead.

God Exerts His Strength

“God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.”

Psalm 46:5

“The Lord is my strength and my shield:
my heart trusts in him,
and I am helped.”

Psalm 28:7

 

Disclosure: This book was sent to me free of charge
from Revell for my honest review.