Exercising Our Spiritual Muscles: Guest Post by Amy Ahrens

I am honored to introduce you to my friend, Amy. When she shared this principle with me, I asked her to share it for Red Chair Moments. Enjoy! ~April

Exercising Our Spiritual Muscles

by Amy Ahrens

Recently, I pulled on a sleeveless dress to wear. Observing myself in the mirror, I realized I needed to start working on toning my arms. At the gym, I asked the physical trainer about toning my upper arms. Once I was taught the exercises, I began to implement them into my routine. If I put on that same dress today, would I miraculously have toned arms? No, it will take several weeks of exercise before I start seeing results of this discipline.

Later that week, I facilitated the Experiencing God, Bible study by Henry Blackaby. The class discussion for the week focused on the difference between being self-centered and God-centered. One of the women raised a great question, “Now, that I’m aware that I’ve been more self-centered, how do I change to be more God-centered?”

I responded, “Just as my upper arms were not toned overnight, in a similar way, becoming more God-centered is not going to happen overnight. Once you become initially aware, ask God to help you become more aware of the Holy Spirit’s voice in your day-to-day life. Ask for the courage to listen and obey.  As you begin to “exercise” this muscle of listening and obeying, the more strengthened and toned this muscle becomes.”

However, the more we ignore and disobey God’s Spirit, the harder our hearts become to hear His voice.  It’s like each time we put another cotton ball in our ears, until there are so many we can’t hear anymore.  The hardest times to listen and obey are in the tense situations, such as an argument where you sense the Spirit cautioning you not to speak hurtful words,  but you are so angry that you find yourself doing it anyway.

Take baby steps. Start exercising your spiritual muscles by obeying in the non-tense situations. This could be when you feel the Spirit nudging you to reach out to someone who is hurting or by praying if God wants you to fast.   Fasting is a spiritual discipline like communion, prayer, and reading your Bible.  It is the act of denying yourself of particular foods, drinks, or a meal, or activity (such as TV or social media).  When you deny yourself, and feel that craving for whatever you are sacrificing, reach out in prayer. Cry out to God in a hunger for Him.  It makes you more aware of what He is doing in your life.  By fasting, your prayers will be more fervent, and it exercises that spiritual muscle of becoming more God-centered.

This year for Lent, my daughter felt led to fast from ice cream and soda. It was difficult for my husband and two teenage boys to remember. However, it was a great learning experience for her. Shed had to stand firm when people around her were eating or drinking those items, and not bring attention to herself. Ultimately, it deepened her relationship with God. Each time she cried out to God during those difficult times of craving ice cream and soda, was reevaluating why she was fasting to begin with.

Sometimes God calls us to fast when He knows we are about to encounter a trial. It strengthens us as we shut out the noises of the world and connect to the Vine (John 15:5) When we remain in Him, we produce His fruit (Gal 5:22-23) in every area of our lives.   Trials would be those “tense” times, and after strengthening those muscles, then we are more likely to be “toned” and to act in God-centered ways in the midst of the hard times.

The more we obey and experience God at work, the more we trust Him.   We see in the Bible how God works in unexpected ways, and as we see Him working in our lives. We also see that He answers in unexpected ways. Trusting in God’s promises when we can’t see His hand will tone our spiritual muscles.

Amy is married to Peter and together they have 3 teens.  She works from home as an administrative professional in addition to owning her own Mary Kay business.  She serves in her church as a middle school small group leader and coaches and mentors moms of young children through a ministry called Moms & More.

Serving Pieces

“Serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

I sat on the kitchen floor, crisscross applesauce style, pulling out rarely used items from the base cabinet. With our home on the market, we need pack away any non-essential pieces. Three piles quickly emerged—store, donate, and toss. I wondered how I acquired this much plastic ware with out matching lids. Toss.

I slid over to the next kitchen base cabinet, and extended by back into a cat stretch, feeling the strain pull across my shoulders and back. This cabinet contained serving pieces. I carefully wrapped the cut glass serving dishes and my “good” Pampered Chef items in bubble wrap before placing them in the storage box. Once the box was full, I taped the lid closed and labeled the box:

KITCHEN: Serving Pieces

I reread the contents of the box “Serving Pieces” and looked down at my hands.

Our hands are built in serving pieces. Click To Tweet

Something was amiss. This level of pondering requires coffee. I opened the refrigerator door and reached for the half-and-half. A 1970’s white plate with avocado green flowers caught my attention. I smiled as I thought, “My mom still has these plates.” Nestled on the forty plus year old plate sat a homemade cheese ball. My daughter requested Grandma’s savory delight for her twelfth birthday.

My mind wanders to author Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages. My mom’s language of love is Acts of Service. Mom serves on cooking and cleaning committees at church. Not a week goes by that she is not cooking for someone in the community. While the dining room is full of serving pieces and pink Depression glass, passed down from her mother, mom’s serving pieces are utilitarian and filled with love and prayer. Like mom, I also share in the Acts of Service language . Mom taught me, our hands are our serving pieces to wrap around others in need.

Our serving pieces are extensions of our arms to wrap around others in need. Click To Tweet

The microwave dings and startles me back to my current task. I sip the reheated liquid mercy, and ponder the significance of serving pieces. Our hands are our built in serving pieces. Our serving pieces are extensions of our arms to wrap around others in need, to push a grocery cart or a lawn mower for those who cannot. Our serving pieces become gnarled and wrinkled after years of baking meals for the ill,  recently widowed, or neighbor in need.

Questions probe my heart as I ponder, what about us, do we serve others well?

Do I serve God faithfully?

Do I practice hospitality on paper plate days?

Do I wait to plan the perfect meal and perfect moment?

After nibbling my daughter’s cheese ball, I return to packing. Only God knows how long our home will be on the market. However, should that keep me from serving? No. God calls us to serve. Our hands are our serving pieces, to share with those who are in need. From the bottom cabinet I pull out two disposable pans to make a homemade dish for a few shut-ins in my community.

How can you use your serving pieces (your hands) to wrap around someone in need today?

 

Mom’s Homemade Cheese ball Recipe

2 bricks of cream cheese

¼cup red or green pepper

2 tablespoons of onion finely chopped

1 teaspoon of seasoned salt

8oz can of crushed pineapple (drained well)

1 cup chopped pecans

Mix first five ingredients together.

Roll into a ball.

Chill.

Roll cheese ball into in chopped pecans.

Bible Verses about Serving

Serving God by serving others is one of the most important principles in the Christian faith.  Here are some verses to ponder as we joyfully serve others.

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people” (Ephesians 6:7).

“But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24).

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:9-13).

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15:7).

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” (Hebrews 6:10).

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38).

How can you use your serving pieces (your hands) to wrap around someone in need today?

~April Dawn White

© 2017 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

This article was first published on Inspire a Fire.com.

But as for Me, I Trust in You

As I journey through the book of Psalms, one particular reoccurring phrase whispers hope. The phrase “But as for me” greets me along the trek and encourages me to continue.

The phrase, “But as for me” recognizes I have a choice. I can choose trust or fear, sorrow or joy, rejection or redirection. Despite my feelings (because feelings lie) and despite what the world thinks, this phrase urges me to choose God.

Are you at a crossroads? Is uncertainty looming? I pray that you will read these power packed verses and be encouraged to choose God despite your outlook.

But as for Me Verses:

“But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.” (Psalm 40:17, 70:5)

“But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave.” (Psalm 49:15, NLT)

”But as for me, I trust in you. (Psalm 55:23)

 “But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.” (Psalm 59:16, NLT)

 “But as for me, afflicted and in pain—may your salvation, God, protect me.”(Psalm 69:29)

“But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” (Psalm 73:28)

”But as for me, I will always proclaim what God has done; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.” (Psalm 75:9, NLT)

“But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord.” (Micah 3:8)

”But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7) 

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives.” (Job 19:25, NLT)

“But as for me, Lord, you know my heart. You see me and test my thoughts.” (Jeremiah 12:3, NLT)

And as for God…

As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” (2 Samuel 22:26, Psalm 18:30)

~April Dawn White

*Images courtesy of Pixabay  *Scripture is NIV from BibleGateway.com unless otherwise noted.

© 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

Hope: The First Candle of Advent

advent-wreath-hope-pixabayIn the New Testament church, an anchor symbolized hope. In 2015, I pursued a yearlong archaeological dig into God’s Word, studying the word anchor, and every angle of hope. As a result, I selected “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”(Hebrews 6:19),  as my verse for 2015.

My 2015 study of hope followed with an unexpected medical diagnosis and struggle to find my identity in 2016. I did not know the studying hope would be future preparation for my faith (and my family’s faith) to be tested. We battened down the hatches, clung to our anchor of hope and prayed for God to calm the raging storm.

Hope is choice.

When we choose to believe God is who He says He; when we choose to believe God can do what He promised; when we choose to have the audacity to praise a thrice-holy God in the face of the fiercest storm, we are choosing to HOPE.

I choose Hope.hope-meme-christmas-wooden-background-pixabay

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, he wrote; Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you.” (2 Corinthians 10:15)

Paul’s mission in these words is the same mission Christians possess today, to increase our faith, expand our area of influence, and spread the gospel beyond its current borders. One way we can do this is to cling to hope.

Each of us has a sphere of influence. Whether at work, school, or in our neighborhood, those around us are encouraged by watching our faith anchored to Jesus Christ. When we choose to hope in the face of adversity, others are watching, and we are doing exactly what Paul described—expanding the gospel beyond.

Blue anchor pixabayOur family and our extended church family have suffered greatly this year. To be honest, I wanted to skip Thanksgiving and Christmas and go straight to January. My grasp on hope was slipping. It took a wresting match with God and a verbal spanking from my daughter to strengthen my grip on hope.

 If your grasp on God’s anchor of hope is slipping, follow the instructions in Hebrews Take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees” (Hebrews 12:12) and cling tightly to the firm and secure hope we have in Jesus Christ.

Hope for Advent:  Week One Readings

  • Day 1: Psalm 62:5-6
  • Day 2: Hebrews 6:18-19
  • Day 3: Psalm 71:5-8, 14, 20
  • Day 4: Psalm 52:8-9
  • Day 5: Psalm 89:15, Psalm 130:5
  • Day 6: Isaiah 46: 3-4, Isaiah 54:7, 10
  • Day 7: 2 Corinthians 10:15

What is Advent?

    Advent is a season to remember that God reached down from heaven and extended Hope in the form of Jesus Christ. Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” Christ’s birth was “the first Advent” and the anticipation of Christ’s return in “the second Advent.”

When is Advent?

The season of Advent begins four Sunday’s before Christmas. The four week waiting period during the four Sunday’s of Advent represent the four centuries of waiting between the last recorded Word of God from the prophet Malachi (in the Old Testament) and the arrival of Jesus Christ (in the New Testament). Advent is time of preparing hearts for Christ’s birth, both in celebration, reflection, and repentance.

What the does the Advent wreath and candles symbolize?

          The greenery wreath, a circle, represents God’s never-ending mercy and His eternity. The color green represents the renewal of eternal life in Christ. The candles within the wreath symbolize the light of God coming to the world through the birth of His son, Jesus Christ.

            The lighting of the first candle begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The first candle symbolizes Hope—the anticipation of Hope in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The three remaining candles symbolizing Love, Joy, and Peace are light each Sunday during the season of Advent. Together, each of the four candles tells the part of the Christmas story of Bethlehem, Shepherds, and Angels. The fifth and center candle represents Christ, the heart of the season, giving light to the world.

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is from Bible Gateway.  *Images courtesy of Pixabay. © 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

How to Expose Shadowed JOY

Shadowed JOYIn less time than it took to prepare the morning coffee, the sun’s light traveled 92.96 million miles in eight minutes and twenty seconds. When I returned to my red chair, my favorite spot of reading and conversation with God, I noticed the early morning sunrays cast long shadows through the window.

Darkness and long shadows obscured the hand embroidered JOY on the mini quilt. I cupped my mug of liquid mercy and watched as shadows surrounded the word JOY.  I peered with strange fascination as light and shadows danced across the 16x16-wall quilt. The sun stretched higher and the waltz changed patterns. Will the JOY be completely overshadowed by darkness? I pondered. However, what I truly wondered was if my JOY be completely overshadowed by darkness.

Will my JOY be completely overshadowed by darkness?

This mini wall quilt is one of my favorite quilting projects. Utilizing scraps from left over previous sewing projects, I pieced together this simple mini quilt and hand embroidered JOY in red to accent my favorite color.

My heart has been exceedingly heavy this week.  When the Realtor plunged the FOR SALE sign into the dry earth, I felt the sign puncture my already broken heart. I’d been expecting and preparing for this day for over six months, but nothing could prepare me for the surge of emotions.  I thanked the Realtor, walked into the house, threw myself on my son’s bed and wailed.

 

JOY. Sometimes darkness casts long shadows in an attempt to hide our joy, but God’s light and our praise helps to expose JOY! - April White Click To Tweet

“Worship like the things you’ve been believing God for are on the other side of your praise.”- Pastor John Gray.

 

JOYMy heart is still heavy, but it is saturated in praise.  God is slowly pushing back the grief and darkness and exposing the JOY.

Dear friends, is something shadowing your joy? I pray for Christ to give you the strength to hold on and praise Him, while He pushes back the darkness to expose your joy.

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”(Nehemiah 8:10)

Blessings to you,

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway.  *Images courtesy of author.

© 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

Missing Pieces or Room for Blessings?

alphabet-missing-q-meme“I’m missing Q” stumbled out of my mouth before I realized no one was around to listen. I positioned the rediscovered Kindergarten photograph next to my son’s eight grade school picture.  The rediscovered Kindergarten photo displayed a round face, wide blue eyes, and a crooked smile. The recent eight-grade photograph, of the same child, displayed a confident and mischievous I-know-it-all thirteen-year-old smile. Staring at the two photographs, I pondered at the handiwork of our Creator.

During my son’s Kindergarten year, the dental hygienist noted that our son was missing the tooth labeled as “Q.” He was greatly disturbed to be missing something that everyone else had. It bothered him so much that each time our son saw his school picture from that year he would point to the photograph or his mouth and state, “I’m missing Q.”

I tried to convince him missing “Q” did not matter. I explained it was only a baby tooth and he would eventually loose it anyway. I tried to convince him that the missing tooth would actually provide more space for the future adult teeth. With each explanation, my strong-willed five-year-old peered at me with a look that said, “Mom, you can’t fool me.”

Over dinner one evening, my husband explained that he also had teeth that never grew in. Andrew’s attitude instantly improved when he realized he was just like daddy.

Eight years later, the phrase “I’m missing Q” automatically stumbled out of my mouth when I saw this old photograph. Talking to the image of my five-year-old son, I said, “See you were so worried about this and you didn’t even need it.” Immediately a thought, perhaps the voice of God, downloaded into my brain. These words penetrated my heart, “April, what about you? What are you so worried about missing, that you don’t even need?”

My knees suddenly buckled. Pressing my palms against the refrigerator, I steadied myself. “Oh Lord,” I exclaimed. “Please forgive me!”whats-missing-meme

We spend too much energy fretting over missing pieces. We are afraid these lacking details will cause us to appear different and prevent us from fitting in or worse, prevent us from fulfilling our purpose.  But, what if we changed our perspective? Instead of complaining about the missing aspect of our life, what if we praised God for the extra space it provided. What if what’s missing allows God the space to plant a future blessing?

What if what's missing allows God the space to plant a future blessing? Click To Tweet

Today, I ask you the same question that penetrated my heart.  Dear friend, what are you so worried about missing? Perhaps it is God’s way of making room for a future blessing. 

Last week, I explored the notion of having growing room in our faith in a blog titled, Soccer, Shoes and Faith: Growing Room. If you want to dive deeper into the idea of God making space and growing room for faith, I encourage you to also read this post.

GIVEAWAY WINNERbook-cover

Congratulations to Dana S. for winning a free copy of 66 Ways God Loves You by Jennifer Rothschild! Dana, I will be in touch soon.

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway. *Images courtesy of Thomas Nelson, author, and Pixabay.

© 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

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