Tuesday, December 24, 2019

New Devotion! One Gift to Grow This Christmas

Experience Christ's peace—just in time for Christmas! Discover how a snow globe can serve as a useful reminder to point us toward that peace. Merry Christmas!

Read: One Gift to Grow This Christmas

To read more devotions like this one, click on the "iBelieve devotion" label, which is on the right hand side of my homepage!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

New Devotion! What Christ's Light Means at Christmas

In this devotion, I explore the meaning of Christ as the Light of the world. You'll discover why Christmas falls when it does on our calendar and feel inspired to make a difference!

Read: This Little Light of Mine 

To read more devotions like this one, click on the "iBelieve devotion" label, which is on the right hand side of my homepage!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Christmas Children's Books Finds!

It's always a delight to team up with the Christian children's book publisher Zonderkidz! I got to preview some highlights of their Christmas collection this year. They provided me with 13 free books (a baker's dozen for the 12 days of Christmas) so that I could spread the word and some holiday cheer! Here is what I did with them:

First, I sent three books to my grade school nieces, who were baptized recently. My favorite Bible is Sally Lloyd-Jones' Jesus Storybook Bible. It is now offered in a beautiful light blue and gold, leather-bound gift edition. I purchased an extra one so that each of my nieces would have her own! Then, I sent A Savior Is Born: Rocks Tell the Story of Christmas by Patti Rokus to my older niece, who excels at crafting. I thought this book might inspire her to tell the story of Jesus' birth in her own medium! I sent Your Spark: Celebrating the Brightest Part of You! by Lisa Leonard to my younger niece. She has a special spirit that's worth celebrating!

Second, I gave A Night of Great Joy by Mary Engelbreit and Mouse's Christmas Gift by Mindy Baker to the associate pastor at my church. She does a lot of work with children and families, including organizing a Christmas pageant on Christmas Eve. A Night of Great Joy involves a children's pageant—my favorite part is the children's faces in the book. Anyone who has taught children will get a laugh out of that backstory! Mouse's Christmas Gift tells the story of how a little mouse makes a Christmas church service possible, even when the pastor is sick. This book celebrates that we all have something to offer in a Jesus' story that's much larger than ourselves, no matter how small we are!

Third, I donated four books to our Toys for Tots collection at my children's school. Did you know that the US Marine Corps Reserve collects books too, not just toys? I told my boys that books are gifts that keep giving, as they encourage learning, cannot break, and are something that can be enjoyed with others! I donated two board books: Michael W. Smith's Merry Christmas, Nighty Night and Tara Knudson's Christmas Cookie Day. The latter comes with a sweet recipe for cookie baking on the back cover! I also donated A Very Fiona Christmas by Richard Cowdrey and The Berenstain Bears Go Christmas Caroling by Mike Berenstain. The former is a celebration of animals at the Cincinnati Zoo!

Fourth, I kept four books for my family. Over Thanksgiving, I baptized my baby son. I will give him the Beginner's Bible Gift Edition for Christmas. It has beautiful gold foil on the cover as a special keepsake. The Beginner's Bible is the perfect first Bible for children—my older boys each got a copy when they were little too. I also kept A Christmas Gift for Santa by John T. Elkins—I adore the illustrations and print style in this book! The baby will enjoy My Christmas Story Tree board book by Mary Manz Simon. Finally, it's a tradition in my family that we read the story of Jesus' birth around the Christmas tree. This year, we read a retelling entitled 'Twas the Evening of ChristmasGlenys Nellist is the author; she's no stranger to my website and is a favorite in our house!

You can learn more about these books by visiting the whole Zonderkidz holiday collection. You will see another favorite there—author Laura Sassi's Goodnight, Manger! Stay tuned for Christmas inspiration to come on my website soon! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 9, 2019

New Devotions! 2 Encouragements for Times of Trouble

What kind of trouble might you be facing today? Perhaps bills are piling up and you’re dealing with financial uncertainty. Maybe you or a child is experiencing a difficult social situation at work or school respectively and it feels like a dark cloud is following you. Perhaps you or a loved one is fighting sickness, pain, or even death. If that is the case, this devotion offers hope. You'll learn about a passage in scripture that includes some of the oldest hymn fragments in the Bible, which offer special encouragement!

Click here to read my devotion, available on Crosswalk.com and iBelieve.com.

Devotion #2: What It Means That God Is Our Fortress

Discover how God still serves as a fortress today—God can help you keep the good in and the bad out, especially in times of trouble! 

Click here to read my devotion, available on Crosswalk.com and iBelieve.com.

Did you miss my two devotions last week? Read about the birth stories of my three sons, which point me toward our Creator, and how to live into the full expression of your birthright as a child of God! Also, watch my latest Chaos to Calm episode for inspiration to confront your fears and live your passion! Stay tuned later this week for a special Christmas children's book post!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

3 Don't-Miss Inspirations

They're here! I invite you to read my first two featured devotions for Crosswalk.com and iBelieve.com:

Devotion #1: Read the birth stories of my three sons and how those early moments pointed me toward our Creator. Get your tissues ready!

Devotion #2: How do you live into your scriptural birthright? What lesson from scripture can help you fully live into God's blessing reserved for you?

Read "Live into Your Birthright

Plus, one of my most popular articles now contains 11—not 5—scriptural promises to live by! This article is one of the top 5 most-searched ones online for scriptural promises. Have you read it?

Stay tuned next week for a Christmas book special! Follow the story as I review 12 new resources from the Christian children's book publisher Zonderkidz and give them away...you might get some gift ideas of your own!

Monday, November 25, 2019

New Episode! "Overcoming Fear, Taking Risk at Midlife"

Chaos to Calm shot its tenth episode this month on a very important and relevant topic: Overcoming fear and talking risk at midlife! This episode will help you:

* Beat your fear of public speaking
* Present your best self on camera
* Engage your passions!

Maybe you feel empty because you are so busy with family responsibilities that you have little time for you. Dreams involving your other passions have long been drowned out and you’re not sure how to reengage them. Or maybe you have been working toward your dreams or interests for years and feel bored. What you are doing is no longer igniting something inside of you. Whether you are afraid to take a leap or unsure of what it would look like—or both—I interviewed two guests who can help!

First, it was an honor to welcome my friend and broadcasting dynamo Kerry Barrett to the set. Kerry most recently served as an anchor for NBC's TODAY in NY, but she has appeared on the Weather Channel, NBC, ABC, and Fox TV stations in markets across the country. She currently serves as the Founder and CEO of Kerry Barrett Consulting. It’s a full-service media training and public speaking boutique that’s geared to bringing out her client’s inner rock star. Kerry has some practical tips for you!

Second, I was delighted to also welcome MorphMom Founder Kathleen Smith to the set. Kathleen's passion is helping women reconnect with theirs, whether it’s through a career, hobby, or volunteerism. MorphMom hosts individual and large-scale events, a weekly radio show, and a podcast called “MorphMom Moments” that have equipped and inspired thousands. Kathleen will share a true story that will hopefully get your own wheels turning as she calls out the fears that typically trip us up!

Don't miss this episode that packs a lot of sister wisdom and inspiration as I tie back to my life purpose series too! (I even sneak in cute pictures of my baby...) I hope you watch!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Stay Tuned in November!

November holds big things in store! First, I will be a new featured author for women's devotions at iBelieve.com and Crosswalk.com. Stay subscribed to my site to get links and inspiration sent straight to your inbox! Second, my faith and family TV show Chaos to Calm will be welcoming former TODAY in New York anchor Kerry Barrett to the set to talk about risk. It's a great topic to consider in the wake of my life purpose series. I will pass along the link to watch our interview on demand. You won't want to miss it!

Image result for kerry barrett

Monday, September 23, 2019

Special Author Interview and Book Giveaway: Glenys Nellist

I'm delighted to welcome back bestselling author Glenys Nellist as a guest today. Glenys is no stranger to my blog nor publishing children's books! With a baby who is almost five months now, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to be on her blog hop for her newest book, The Wonder That Is You. Read my interview with Glenys below, and you'll see why. Don't miss the book giveaway details at the bottom of this post too!

1. You wrote this special book describing the gift of a child's birth. How many children and grandchildren do you have? What has made each of these roles particularly special for you?

There is no doubt that when we welcome a child into the family, whether through birth or adoption, we are the recipient of a wonderful gift. As a mom to four adult children, I remember the joy of holding each of them for the first time, watching them take their first faltering steps, seeing them score a goal on the soccer field, watching them grow. However, as your readers well know, parenting is also very hard work! I remember those days when I had four under the age of five, wondering if I would ever survive! Now that I'm a grandparent of four little ones, I get to experience all the joy without the stress! At this stage of my life, I truly can appreciate the wonderful gift that my grandchildren are.

2. No doubt that sentiment helped you write your beautiful book. You describe the celebration of a parent's insurmountable love for a new child so perfectly. What are the top five things you love about babies and/or this special stage?

1. Their utter dependence on you.
2. Their smell.
3. Sacred moments: their first smile or their first laugh.
4. Looking into their eyes as you hold them.
5. Watching them as they sleep.

3. Amen! Can you share the inspiration behind your book?

On the night my eldest son was born, thirty-five years ago, I fell asleep in my hospital bed in England with my baby son in the crib beside me. During the night I had THE most amazing dream. I was flying upwards in the dark and landed on a rooftop, where I swung my legs like a little girl, overflowing with happiness because my baby had been born. I clearly remember seeing the moon and the stars, and it was as if they were rejoicing along with me. THE WONDER THAT IS YOU captures the idea that perhaps all creation rejoices when a new baby is born, or joins the family. The strangest thing about this story is that when my husband came three days later to take us home, I glanced back at the hospital as we were leaving. It was only then that I saw the flat roof above and recognized all the windows I had flown past that night. I realized that THIS was the building I had been sitting on that night. As crazy as it seems, I know that it was no dream. It was real.

4. What an incredible dream! As you know, we recently welcomed our third child, a little boy. Do you have any advice for new parents or tired parents trying to juggle it all?

"Juggling," Noelle, is a great image for what most moms (especially) try to do, and it's so sad that we feel guilty, or like failures, if we let one thing fall. But perhaps that's what parents need to do to protect their sanity and mental health! It's so easy as parents to compare ourselves with others who seem to have it all together. So here's my advice for what it's worth: Don't compare yourself to others; try to say no to non-essential things that take you away from your family time; do less housework; spend more time outdoors with your children; read more, laugh more, cuddle more. The bottom line is to enjoy your little ones—this is precious time that will be gone before you know it.

5. Doing less housework really resonates with me in your answer...laundry breeds itself at my house! Glenys, I have loved your repeat visits on my site. Do you have any other book releases planned? Fill us in!

Oh Noelle, it's been a busy year! Coming soon I have two board books in my Good News series, including Good News! It's Christmas! I'm also so excited about my two new picture books, coming next year with Beaming Books! Little Mole Finds Hope is the first in a new series and tells the story of a little mole who lives, literally and figuratively, in the dark. Fortunately, he has a wise mama who helps him find the light. The book contains tips for helping a child who is sad. There are so many in our world who need hope! My prayer is that this title will resonate with parents and little ones everywhere and will bring hope into their lives. The book will release in February, followed by Little Mole's Little Gift next fall.

Thank you, Glenys, for being my guest on the blog today! 

And now, for the giveaway! You can win a free copy of Glenys' book shipped to you straight from the publisher! Register by leaving a comment on my post today on Instagram. Be sure to follow me and Glenys, and if you tag a friend, you will get an extra entry! All entrants must have a US street address, no PO boxes, for shipping purposes please. I will pick a winner on Wednesday! Also, check out Glenys' former posts for my blog, like the popular 5 Love Letters Your Child Needs from YOU. You can also visit her website

Don't forget, subscribers to my blog will get the special, final installment of my life purpose series over email next week! 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Joy, Part Two

Today marks our final life purpose series post on the blog. We conclude with another reflection on joy after last week. If you are a subscriber, you will receive the culmination of the series and my story in two weeks over email. To make sure that you don't miss it, subscribe here!

Next week I am welcoming bestselling children's book author Glenys Nellist back for a special interview and giveaway. Her newest book, The Wonder That Is You, celebrates the gift of a new child and God's purpose for their lives! It's a special series tie in. Stay tuned on Monday!

The joy of living in response to our calling or life purpose is echoed in theology. Read theologian and pastor Donald McKim’s description of calling. He writes:
We can live as anticipatory people, as people standing on tiptoe, eager to see what or where God is calling us to next…In word and witness, mission and ministry, the possibilities for God’s work in Jesus Christ are limitless. Yet we, limited as we are, are blessed with the grace of God’s call to be all we can be as God’s people and to live out our vocations in whatever directions we are led. That is real excitement. It can be real joy…So we rejoice in God’s call to us. We live confidently, creatively, and expectantly to see how God will use us as a people who seek above all else to do God’s will. *
We trust in God’s goodness and enjoy playing a part in his plan; our joy stems from that relationship.

Importantly, God’s plan does not just involve our own lives. Popular secular literature often encourages us to live into our full potentials for our own benefit; but God’s eye is upon each of us and his entire creation. Therefore, participation in his plan will contribute in some fashion to his larger redemptive mission too. This has the potential to unlock greater personal fulfillment for our work.

Though there will be joy and fulfillment in our obedience, there will be difficulties on our journey. Rev. Dr. McKim acknowledges that even as he describes the joy associated with our calling and God’s work. He states, “There can also be suffering and struggle. But we do not struggle alone. The One who calls us is faithful.” * Paul concurs. Whenever I’m tempted to get discouraged, I cling to his words in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” God can use temporary setbacks as setups for something better when we have faith. 

I hope this series has equipped you to consider how God might be calling you and take action in your life. I hope it allows you to experience the joy of your Creator by living exactly as he designed for you. Our Creator does not require perfection and there will be bumps in the road, but he has ordained you with promise. Make no mistake: God is offering YOU the pearl. Adventure awaits!

You can read more about my life purpose journey by reading my article for my writer's guild. Discover the struggle and subsequent joy of my calling, along with biblical support for female ordination too.

Donald K. McKim, "The ‘Call’ in the Reformed Theology," Major Themes in the Reformed Tradition, edited by Donald K. McKim (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998), 342-3.
* Ibid.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

How to Life Your Life Purpose: Joy, Part One

I am delighted to begin the final step of six in my series, How to Live Your Life Purpose. The last step is the sweetest: joy. Fall is a great time to make changes. Hopefully, you find yourself with a bit more time on your hands and a return to a more regular schedule. As the leaves begin to change, we can think about any life-giving, joy-filled changes God wants to inspire within us. 

Are you new to my series? You can read the first installment of the other steps below. Scroll through my blog to read all of their related entries. And don't forget to subscribe here to get the last special installment of my series, which will be available only to subscribers by email! 

Part One: Longing

Part Two: Surrender
Part Three: An Inventory of Strengths
Part Four: Risk
Part Five: Persistence

Part Six: Joy

Imagine living in such a way that a current flows through you. You have a natural, vivacious energy that comes from doing what you were made to do. It flows from God's Spirit through you and out to others as you make an impact precisely as God has intended just for you. Further, this energy is renewable. As you stay connected to your Source, God will continue to renew and empower you. Your life, therefore, shows circuit-like harmony and flow, and it feels good!

While the Bible does not address circuitry, this same principle is represented in Jesus’ discussion of the vine and branches in John 15:1-8. Jesus, the True Vine, cares deeply about our connection to him. He wants us to grow and thrive, but he makes it clear that it is impossible for us to do so apart from him. Apart from him we cannot bear fruit, and we wither and die. But with him, we can find life, bear fruit, and flourish. Jesus wants to foster beneficial intimacy with you and me, an intimacy that is so rich that he is flowing through our veins. We grow up and out into the world as branches with him as our Source. Whether it's electricity or natural imagery, the conclusion is the same: Flourishing life is possible through an intentional connection to God.

It’s important to recognize that our spiritual connection is the reason for our joy. God supplies the necessary energy or life. Our own connectivity or intimacy with God allows it to flow in and through us, and the result is that joy bubbles over. Therefore, it is not our output itself that produces joy. Our output, or willingness to embody our life purpose, is the fruit of the inherently joyful connection. This understanding allows us to be joyful even when our efforts do not produce the immediate outcomes we had hoped for.

We’ve explored the cost of the pearl for the merchant in previous weeks, but part of unpacking joy means also noting what the merchant got out of the deal. Matthew 13:45-46 reads: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” We can imagine that the merchant had a discerning eye for pearls for him to excel at his trade. When he saw his prize, he unquestionably recognized its value. His joy at the thought of owning it propelled him to willingly change everything.

The joy that God offers us hinges upon our choices too. It's rooted in our connection to him and willingness to go on the adventure that he has in store for our lives. We’ll learn to increasingly recognize this connection’s value and trust it, just like the seasoned merchant. We’ll also flourish with its power coursing through our veins. We'll explore more of what we can anticipate through study in the weeks to come!

Congratulations to C. Reed for winning my recent giveaway on Facebook. She will receive her resources soon. Stay tuned for another fall giveaway later this month!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Back to School Three-Book Giveaway (And Prayer)!

This week is my boys' last week of summer vacation. In honor of back to school time, I have paired with the Christian children's book publisher Zonderkidz for an exciting giveaway. Our children will be learning, growing, and changing this year...let's make sure their development includes the spiritual kind! One way to do that is by choosing resources to help us that are busy-parent friendly. I like the first two books because they break the Bible down into easy-to-digest portions that are easy for children to remember and for parents to talk about with them!

The first book is the Bible Gems to Remember Illustrated Bible: 52 Stories with Easy Bible Memory in 5 Words or Less. This Bible shares popular stories and simplifies related scripture verses for easy memory and theme-based teaching. It is for grade schoolchildren.

The second book is Bible Gems to Remember Devotions for Kids: 52 Devotions with Easy Bible Memory in 5 Words or Less. These devotions take Bible concepts further by filtering them through the eyes of older children, applying them to their lives, and equipping them to make godly decisions. This devotional is suited for middle school children (10+ years old). 

A bonus book will also be included in the bundle! This is a great free reading option—I can't wait for my sons to read it! Arcade and the Golden Travel Guide is the second book in the Coin Slot Chronicles series by New York Times bestselling author, former NFL running back, and Dancing with the Stars champion Rashad Jennings. This humorous and imaginative series encourages readers to value the power of friendship and imagination, and to never underestimate an underdog.

I am doing this giveaway a bit differently! The giveaway will happen this Sunday night on Facebook. Simply post a comment on my post announcing the giveaway to register. I will then select a random winner from the comments the next day! I usually post an inspirational Facebook message on Sundays—this one will include loot for one lucky winner! I invite you to like my page so that you don't miss a thing. Note: Entrants must have a US street address, no PO Boxes, for shipping purposes. Also, I was given a copy of these books in exchange for my review.

In the meantime, want a back to school prayer to pray for your children? You will find two options here that I wrote from the heart!

Stay tuned for the conclusion of my life purpose series starting the first week in September!

Monday, August 12, 2019

New Article! "Passing on the Torch"

For the past several months, I have been sharing my life purpose series with you. We have completed five of the six steps—only the last step, joy, remains. Before we launch into that step this fall, I wanted to share my recent article.

The article, Passing on the Torch, is the perfect culmination to our series. It describes the wrestling and subsequent joy I've experienced living my life purpose. Some of its story will be familiar to you, and some of it will be new. 

My article includes scriptural support for female leadership and ordination in the church. If you or anyone you know has been personally struggling with this topic, I hope you will share it with them. There are many, many women who still need to feel and experience this holy affirmation.

It's a delight to be a repeat featured author for my writer's guild, Redbud. Please leave a comment after reading! And again, stay tuned in September for the culmination of our series! We also have giveaways coming soon!

Friday, July 19, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Persistence, Part Three

Step five in our six part series, "How to Live Your Life Purpose," is underway. This is our third week studying persistence. Prior steps of the series have been longing, surrender, an inventory of strengths, and risk. To catch up on prior steps, scroll through my blog. To receive exclusive material like this next week from my own story, subscribe here

1 Timothy 6:12 reads, “Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (NRSV). This notion of “fighting the good fight of faith” alludes to persistence—living our faith will not always be easy, for a fight is required and mustered courage is implied.

Theologian John Calvin cleverly picks up on these principles as he writes:
Nothing can fill us with courage more than the knowledge that we have been called by God. For from that we may infer that our labor, which is under God’s direction, and in which He stretches out His hand to us, will not be in vain. Thus, it would be a very serious accusation against us to have rejected God’s call. It should, however, be the strongest encouragement to us to be told, “God hath called thee to eternal life. Beware of being distracted by anything else or of falling short in any way, before thou hast obtained it.” *
According to Calvin, no labor is in vain when we are living our life purpose. He advocates honoring the primacy of God’s call and keeping from being distracted in any way. Persistence, therefore, is necessary for a genuine observance of faith.

Calvin wants us to live each day as if our decisions and obedience really count. Considering eternal life necessitates that we number our days this side of heaven. His writing encourages a sense of focus. 

In other words, we have to dig our heels in and keep going.

John R. Walchenbach, "Vocation," The Westminster Handbook to Reformed Theology, edited by Donald K. McKim (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 233.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Persistence, Part Two

Step five in our six part series, "How to Live Your Life Purpose," began last week. For four weeks, we will be studying persistence. Prior steps of the series have been longing, surrender, an inventory of strengths, and risk. To catch up on prior steps, scroll through my blog. To receive exclusive material like this every month from my own story, subscribe here!

While persistence involves our own action in obedience, it can also involve our willingness to wait for God to act. Is there a blessing you've been waiting for? Is there a dream that God has put on your heart? Have been several roadblocks and disappointments along the way? Just ask a toddler if waiting is any fun. The frustration and whining of the "terrible two's" really doesn't get any easier; the struggle just becomes more internal as we age.

Scripture reveals that we’re not alone in our waiting. The Psalmist yearns, "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning" (130:5-6, NRSV). But the Psalmist also declares God’s faithfulness while we wait too. The Psalmist professes in 27:13-14, "I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Asking us to “be strong” and “wait for the Lord” implies persistence.

This encouragement is important because waiting is often necessary, especially as it pertains to our life purpose. While we understand the frustration of waiting from an early age, the things we want as we get older usually take a bit more arranging. A dream come true takes more than a flick of magical wand or a cookie from our parent's hand. It's often a compilation of years of striving, faithfulness, and even heartbreak until we taste the sweet fruit of satisfaction. But the Lord promises, someway, somehow, that fruit will come. {Tweet that.}

The pinecone is an interesting metaphor for persistence. Notice that while the pinecone is one object, it's made up of many "leaves" called scales. Each scale must grow individually to produce the ovular shape we know as the pinecone. Its formation is a multi-step process. To uncover God's faithfulness in big ways, we need to be faithful in little ways. We need to allow each scale to form along the path toward the completion of our God-given purpose. Every decision matters. Frustration cannot lead to giving in or giving up while our formation is still in process. 

The Psalmist extols, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act" (37:4-5). Paul echoes the psalm in Galatians 6:9 by encouraging, "So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up." Both verses, along with the pinecone, reflect the tension that persistence involves not only our continued action in obedience but also our willingness to wait for God’s action too.

The faithful have waited throughout the centuries and over the course of each lifetime. The Bible resounds with God's faithfulness all the same. Time and time again, witnesses prove it. If you are weary and ready to give up, be encouraged by the promises of a faithful God. Like the pinecone, you are forming. Commit your ways to the Lord and stay tuned to witness the full expression of God's artistry through you. You're going to see something beautiful.


It's been a landmark week on the blog! It hit 200,000 views since its inception! Thank you to the thousands who are checking in each month! I pray God has been touching your heart through this series. Stay tuned for next week as we continue our study on persistence!

Monday, July 1, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Persistence, Part One

Step five in our six part series, "How to Live Your Life Purpose," begins today. For four weeks, we will be studying persistence. Prior steps of the series have been longing, surrender, an inventory of strengths, and risk. To catch up on prior steps, scroll through my blog. To receive exclusive material like this every month from my own story of finding and living my life purpose, subscribe here!

Our journey in this series began with a discussion of the parable of the pearl. You can find it here. The scripture itself, from Matthew 13:45-46 (NIV), records Jesus saying: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."

I cannot imagine the resolve that the merchant must have had to sell everything he owned for the pearl. As he parted with each piece of property bit by bit, his fingers trembled as tinges of fear crept in. It is not hard to believe that he could have been experiencing full-blown panic. He was letting go of the security he had made for himself to receive far greater security solely by faith. He was being transformed. Now Jesus offers him as an example of how to respond to God’s call in our lives, because he willingly remains persistent even in risk to claim his prize.

The merchant’s parable understandably involves goods. His goods stand for whatever we depend upon for our livelihoods. God is the ultimate source of our security—not just spiritually, but physically and emotionally as well. God wants our relationship with him to be the guiding factor for our lives. For this relationship to mature and deepen, we must remain persistent in our obedience and pursuit of him. In so doing, we slowly draw nearer to the pearl ourselves.

Persistence is a rich biblical principle; growth in the kingdom of God requires it. When I was in high school, I remember feeling impatient to begin ministering. I saw what a difference I could make on a mission trip, and I wanted to feel that real-time difference everyday instead of being buried under mounds of future homework. But my youth pastor encouraged me to look to nature for wisdom in my frustration. A sapling, he said, springs up quickly, but its roots are shallow and its trajectory is small. A mighty oak, however, allows time for its roots to burrow deeply into the ground. These roots weather many winters, but that makes the tree stronger and eventually more productive: It has more shade, lumber, and beauty to share. The same can be said of us. The kingdom of heaven often hinges upon slow, quiet, persistent growth as God actively transforms us. {Tweet that.}

Our transformations will look different because we have different life purposes. Persistence may be needed in our training, in our work inside or outside of the home, or certainly in our diligent pursuit of God. The key is that we do not give up; we do not waver despite potential risk or actual cost. Paul agrees, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2, emphasis mine). Here, perseverance and persistence are interchangeable. Paul is arguing that having persistence is inherent to the Christian call; it not only produces external results, it also develops an inner fortitude as we grow in relationship and trust in Jesus. Both are key to living our God-given life purpose.

Questions to think about this week: Can you remember a time when you were persistent and it paid off? How might God be calling you to be persistent now, and what might the benefits be?

Monday, June 17, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Risk, Part Three

Step four in my "How to Live Your Life Purpose" series continues this week with risk. Did you miss the prior two weeks? You can catch up by reading week one and week two on risk. The final installment of this step will be sent exclusively to subscribers next week, so be sure that you have subscribed here!

Peter’s ability to walk on water in our study last week gave glory to God. Paul urges all Christians to “…do everything for the glory of God” in I Corinthians 10:31. Christian theology agrees. The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: “What is the chief end of humanity?” The answer is our chief end is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” One way that we can glorify God is by offering him our very lives in obedience.

I love how the Directory for Worship for my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), defines the Christian life. It states, “Christian life springs from Christian worship, where we find our identity as believers and discover our calling as disciples. Christian life flows back into worship as we present to God the prayers of our hearts and the offering of our lives” (W-5.0101). Our lives become offerings when we surrender to God’s plan and show a willingness to hear him. Like Peter, this offering will sometimes call us to leave the safety of our boats and embrace risk at God’s direction. {Tweet that.}

Our obedience will not only help us; it will also benefit the church. As Christians, we obey and risk to fulfill our God-given purpose, and this purpose is connected to God’s larger plan for the world. Living out our life purpose enables us to be God’s redemptive hands and feet as we follow his direction. {Tweet that.} Our courage to counter risk by faith can inspire others to be bold and effect kingdom victories of their own too!

Questions to think about this week: Have you ever considered how what God is calling you to do could connect to his larger plan for the world? Have you ever observed how a simple act of your obedience to God produced a ripple effect that you did not expect? 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Risk, Part Two

Last week I introduced my favorite topic of the series...RISK. Did you miss it? If so, read here. Risk is step four in my six part series, "How to Live Your Life Purpose." Want exclusive material from this series? If so, make sure that you have subscribed here. This week's post on risk focuses on a critical biblical story...Read on!

It’s natural that risk elicits fear. I like how Parker Palmer embraces fear with respect to living our life purpose. Reflecting upon Jesus’ command to not be afraid, he states: "'Be not afraid’ does not mean we cannot have fear. Everyone has fear…Instead, the words say we do not need to be the fear we have…” * Palmer argues that fear is not necessarily an alarming sign. Mark Twain wrote, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” Faith can provide us with the courage we need to counter fear effectively. {Tweet that.}

Palmer describes what courage from faith looks like. He writes, “We have places of fear inside of us, but we have other places as well—places with names like trust and hope and faith. We can choose to lead from one of those places, to stand on ground that is not riddled with the fault lines of fear…” * Where we choose to stand has everything to do with courage. We must not opt to stand on ground that is “riddled with the fault lines of fear.” Instead, we can stand on Christ’s firm foundation by choosing trust, hope, and faith.

There is a stunning story in the Gospel of Matthew (14:22-33) that concerns where we stand as well. The disciples are on a boat in tumultuous waters. Early in the morning, Jesus begins walking on water toward them; the disciples think he is a ghost and are terrified. Jesus identifies himself and tells them to not be afraid. Peter responds by asking Jesus to confirm his identity by commanding Peter to step off the boat and walk toward him on the water. Jesus agrees and commands him. Peter walks safely for a little while until a strong wind blows and he doubts. His feet become shaky and he starts to sink as he cries out to Jesus for help. Immediately, Jesus offers his hand. As they climb into the boat, the wind stops blowing. Jesus’ response to Peter is: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Standing on water wasn’t the problem—it was Peter’s unbelief.

There are three significant takeaways to this story. First, it’s important to recognize that Jesus commands Peter to climb out of the boat. In other words, Jesus is calling Peter to risk at the sound of his voice. Peter will have to depend upon the firm foundation that Jesus offers by faith to stand upon the stormy waters. Second, Peter does not risk until Jesus commands him to do so. Peter is not jumping out of the boat and into tumultuous waters for his own name’s sake; instead, he wants to follow the specific call of Jesus. Once he hears it, Peter knows it is safe to counter his fear by faith and act courageously. Third, this leap of faith allows Peter to do something spectacular that gives glory to the power of God. It’s only when Peter doubts that he starts to sink, and this feat isn’t possible.

We are called to risk as Christians only at the sound of Jesus’ voice. Our own fear nor the stormy waters should not stop us when we hear it. As we discern God’s voice, as we surrender to our life purpose or God’s calling in our lives, our faith can equip us to respond with courage and carry out the impossible for God’s glory too! {Tweet that.}

* Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening to the Voice of Vocation (San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2000), 93-94.

Monday, June 3, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Risk, Part One

Have you ever wondered whether you are living up to your full potential, particularly as you straddle the doldrums of parenthood? If so, I invite you to join me in this series entitled, "How to Live Your Life Purpose." This week we begin step four on risk. For material on the first three steps, be sure to read previous posts on my website. Also, subscribers will get exclusive material from this series emailed to them next week, so be sure that you have subscribed here. 

When I was younger, I loved to climb a tree at a neighbor’s house. You had to be a certain height to throw your arms around its lowest branch and hoist yourself up. I remember the day I was first able to do it and the fun that ensued. At first, I mounted up the tree slowly and carefully. But the tomboyish spirit of my youth quickly won out as I swung from branch to branch. I felt tall, strong, invincible. Luckily, the worst repercussion I ever experienced while climbing was a random splinter or scraped knee. 

There’s a balance of exhilaration and danger that a tree offers a young child, and I find the same to be true as I strive to fulfill my life purpose as an adult today. Daily, I need to have a comfort level with risk and sometimes, an appetite for adventure. From trying something new in ministry to writing vulnerable words on a page, when I get it right, the thrill feels like it did the first day on those high branches—it’s exhilarating! At the same time, some things don't work and some outcomes are disappointing. Pushing through those bumps and bruises is a part of the process.

American author and professor John Shedd once wrote, “A ship in harbor is safe—but that is not what ships are built for.” I’m convinced that a well-lived Christian life will involve risk; otherwise, faith would not be necessary. It’s no mistake that “do not be afraid” is the Bible’s most repeated statement. In fact, Jesus says it and its derivatives three times more than anything else. He knew we’ll never know the fun—nor view—that awaits us if we don’t have the willingness to grab that first branch.

Grabbing a branch or being willing to risk is the next step on our journey toward living our life purpose. Up until this point, we have explored longing, surrender, and an inventory of our strengths to discern it. Now it’s time to use our strengths and implement what we’ve found; no doubt, this will involve risk. What’s key to our understanding is that this risk is not random—it’s calculated. It’s the very risk God is calling us to take. Being willing to follow God’s lead will bolster our faith and open new adventure. {Tweet that.}

A life of faith is supposed to be a life of adventure. God's call to action will require our dependence on him. It’s a spectacular dance of his call and our response that increases our intimacy. As we stretch for his hand of support in our obedience, we learn more about God’s trustworthiness and character. We experience the thrill of challenge side by side, together. We become more fully who we were meant to be. {Tweet that.}

The upside of healthy risk is considerable. Imagine the risk the merchant undertook to grasp the pearl; he sold everything he had, and his profession was dealing goods! While that must have been scary, he gained far more in return. We can too. In this step, I’ll explore risk using a contemporary example and scripture, continue our discussion of theology, and offer another life story. The latter will be for subscribers, so be sure you've signed up here!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Baby Boy Kirchner #3 Is Here!

Dear Readers,

My apologies for the lag in my life purpose series and delayed delivery of your bonus content! Baby Boy Kirchner came early! My water broke two weeks ago, and he arrived in the world happy and healthy...but I have been playing sleep catch up ever since! I am finally awake enough to post an update! It is with great thanksgiving that I share these pictures. Please expect your awaited bonus content this month, and my life purpose series will resume next month, probably mid-month. Check out my social media pages in the meantime for updates.

Thank you for sharing in our joy, and we would relish your love and prayers during this special time! Our new baby is a miracle in every sense, as every child is!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: An Inventory of Strengths, Part Three

Have you ever wondered whether you are living up to your full potential, particularly as you straddle the doldrums of parenthood? If so, I invite you to join me in this series entitled, "How to Live Your Life Purpose." This week we continue step three, an inventory of strengths, with a theological and biblical discussion. For material on the first two steps, longing and surrender, be sure to read previous posts on my website. Also, subscribers will get exclusive material from this series emailed to them next week, so be sure that you have subscribed here.

Discerning our strengths, also referred to as our talents or gifts in this series, is key to living our life purpose. I use life purpose to mean God’s comprehensive plan or direction for our life. Another term that is important to a theological understanding of this topic is vocation.

Theologians John Calvin and Martin Luther both developed specific teachings or doctrines on vocation. They understood its scope to extend well beyond traditional ministry positions, such as the monastic life, which was revolutionary in their day. Their broad description of vocation included “even the lowliest daily tasks” as means of responding to God. * Calvin believed that one could even sweep the floor for God’s glory!

The aim of Christian vocation is to give God glory. “As we honor and serve God in our daily life and labor, we worship God. Whatever our situation, we have opportunities each day to bear witness to the power of God at work within us. Therefore, for Christians, worship, work, and witness cannot be separated." * It is our responsiveness and the pervasiveness of our worship that gives God glory. 

How we honor God through our lives will vary. God left his creative thumbprint upon us as our Creator. While we have been infused with different strengths, we are all united as Christians as we serve God through them. “We all, each of us, will write the definition of what this service means as we live out our calls. Whether in the ministry of word and sacrament, in teaching, specialized ministries, administration—whatever and wherever—the common thread of service to God in Christ ties us together.” * In other words, though we have different life purposes, we have one goal. 

While God wants to utilize our strengths to do his work “whatever and wherever” in the world, God has set apart some tasks for the church. Paul addresses the concept of spiritual gifts three main times in scripture in Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. Because every Christian is given at least one spiritual gift or strength, they should be included in this step’s discussion too.

There two kinds of spiritual gifts. First, there are extraordinary ones like speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing, and miracles. Scripture also names others that are more commonly used in church life. These are the gifts of administration, artistry, discernment, evangelism, exhortation, faith, giving, hospitality, intercession, knowledge, leadership, mercy, vocal and instrumental music, pastoring/shepherding, service, skilled craft, teaching, wisdom, and writing. While it’s clear that certain gifts can carry over into work outside of the church, the primary function of spiritual gifts is to unite, grow, and mature the church. *

An assessment of our spiritual strengths is a factor as we live our life purpose. What unites our gifts—whether spiritual or otherwise—is that we’re meant to employ them to give God glory. Also, they are just that—gifts. They are not something we choose; they are given to us. Uncovering and utilizing them will unlock a greater joy in our lives through our Creator!

* John R. Walchenbach, "Vocation," The Westminster Handbook to Reformed Theology, edited by Donald K. McKim (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001) 231.
* Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Order, "Directory for Worship," W-5.0105.
Donald K. McKim, "The ‘Call’ in the Reformed Theology," Major Themes in the Reformed Tradition, edited by Donald K. McKim (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998), 342.
* “Finding Your Spiritual Gifts Scripture Review — Printable Version,” Elca.org. 

Subscribers will receive exclusive material, sent right to their inbox, to conclude this step next week! I will continue sharing my personal story with them as I have found my life purpose—don't miss it! 
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Monday, April 8, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: An Inventory of Strengths, Part Two

Have you ever wondered whether you are living up to your full potential, particularly as you straddle the doldrums of parenthood? If so, I invite you to join me in this series entitled, "How to Live Your Life Purpose." This week continue step three, which is an inventory of strengths, with six specific pointers. For material on the first two steps, longing and surrender, be sure to read previous posts on my website. Also, subscribers will get exclusive material from this series emailed to them, so be sure that you have subscribed here

Assessing and inventorying our strengths takes time and effort; it is a process. Some have likened it to completing a dot to dot picture. As a child connects the numbered dots, a picture takes shape. Likewise, as we faithfully inventory the gifts we’ve received from our Creator, an image of our life purpose will form. It’s important to recognize that while this image involves our surrender and service, it should not feel imposed. In fact, surrendering to it paradoxically brings us freedom and life. Author Rebekah Lyons describes our purpose as living the life that makes our heart sing.

Asking insightful questions of ourselves can unearth our strengths and God-given life purpose. The following are pointers to help us do that; watch how they are rooted in what brings us joy:

1.     Describe a memorable life experience in which you felt “most alive, creative, inspired, in harmony with yourself and the world.”
2.     Can you recall a time in which you felt the things listed in pointer one specifically in a productive work environment? 
3.     Describe a time in your life when you were “most aware of the Holy, the sacred, or God’s presence.” If you are new to faith or unaware of such a time, use this description as a guide: “Many such experiences are associated with feelings of timelessness, harmony, peace, unity with all people and things, a sense of well-being, or a sense of being part of a loving mystery that is bigger than the person.”
4.     Take an inventory of what you value most about yourself, home, work, and work environment.
5.     Think intentionally about meaning by discerning how you derive it, i.e. from what kinds of values, activities, or things? 
6.     Finally, take an inventory of your wishes for the future by including two wishes each for your personal life, work life, and the world.

These pointers are taken from a book designed to help people discern their life purpose comprehensively by saying yes to God, their neighbor, and themselves. * Our strengths will factor into this assessment and undergird several answers. For instance, pointers one and two will probably reveal them to you in action and pointer four will help you articulate them about yourself. What did you discover? Stay tuned as our exploration continues next week!

* Robert and Kim Voyle, Yes 3! Participant Guide (Clergy Leadership Institute, 2006), 32 and 34.

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