by Wanda Grimsley

 

Have you ever heard educators refer to something called the ‘Summer Slide’? This is where kids can lose as much as 3-4 months of academic material or acquired skills if over the summer they do not engage in activities that help them retain what they’ve learned. The result is when they return to school in the fall, the first several weeks are spent playing catch-up or trying to re-strengthen skills they should already have mastered during the previous grade.

I am that parent who supplements my children’s homework throughout the entire school year, so we are indeed working through the summer, utilizing various websites, workbooks, and academic camps. I am usually intentional and methodical about it and whenever I’m not and feel my kids are being lazy thinkers or are under-stimulated, I scramble to find anything that reinforces, challenges, or stretches them…it keeps them growing academically and reminds them that this is important.

Slip-n-slide7_thumbWell, as women of faith, we have to guard against the summer slide, too! Some of us are not in small groups or Bible studies over the summer and attendance at church can be irregular, depending on our travels. This lack of accountability and fellowship can be a slippery slope (in addition to the chaos and leisure of summer) and can bring our spiritual growth to a screeching halt…that’s when it gets all messy. Thinking about that, I can see arms and legs flailing out of control on the old  ‘Slip ‘n Slide’…remember the ‘Slip ‘n Slide’ we hooked up to the water hose and played on in the backyard as kids? Those things are back, $10 or so at Walmart, crazy fun! But that kind of unchecked slide is not so fun in our marriages, our relationships with our kids, our thinking, our words, our hearts and our ministries. I also remember the nasty mud puddles that would develop around the Slip ‘n Slide; the wet grass that ended up in my mouth and hair, and the bumblebees that always lurked around the edges of our slide for some reason…Messy! And sometimes painful!

Like our kids in their schoolwork, we too can lose ground, but this is spiritual ground. Far more dangerous a slide, we then find ourselves back in old habits or crazy cycles, in mud and mire. Nursing all the stings and bruises sin leaves us with, we end up revisiting lessons and retaking tests we thought we’d already mastered with the help of the Holy Spirit.

So wherever you are in your walk with the Lord, whether you’re a new believer or you’ve been walking with God for years, please know that our salvation does not mean we have fully arrived at that place God wants to take us to. He has so much more for us.  Our walk with the Lord is just that, a continuous journey with God. It’s not something we acquire or accomplish once and then rest on our laurels. It’s God who does it anyway, but our part is surrendering the things that burden us and spending time with the Holy Spirit, over and over again. Lets avoid the Summer slide together!

 

 

 

 

By Nancy Strackany

 

This summer I was in a group that studied the book, “Celebration of Disciplines” by Richard J. Foster. It is a wonderful book with deep insights into God’s heart for us. One chapter, The Discipline of Service, especially the service of small things, stood out for me. The author uses Dorcus, in the book of Acts, ”who made coats and garments for the widows,” as an example of “this service of active helpfulness.” This, Foster calls, the “simple assistance in trifling external matters.” These small things are often overlooked for larger types of service which as Foster says, “require great sacrifices for a moment, whereas small things require constant sacrifice”.

I am reminded of the everyday mundane chores, making meals, doing laundry, cleaning, picking up after husbands and kids. We give service as we do these things if we do them as unto the Lord. Our temptation to quit is great when we feel unimportant or unappreciated, or our talents wasted. But these are the very things that God wants us to prove ourselves faithful in.

Another example of small service is guarding the reputation of others, as Paul says, ”Speak evil of no one.” Gossip among women is sadly notorious and I admit to having gossiped myself, even within my own family. Fortunately God has helped me see and prepare for this temptation and to practice the discipline of holding my tongue.

Going a step further, the guarding of the reputation of others, is a service rendered when we not only refuse to gossip about someone but to let others know that we will not speak badly about anyone when the subject comes up. This kind of witness is one that isn’t often forgotten by those involved.

servinggodbyservingothers-620x263There is the service of being served. When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, the ministry of the towel, as Foster calls it, Peter at first refused. But Jesus tells us that to allow other to serve us is an act of submission. And in some cases a gift of love. Do we allow others to help us, or like myself on so many occasions do we have the attitude of I can do it myself. I’ve had a difficult time asking for help and God has shown me my pride in this. I felt because the way someone else might do it, it would be less well done, or more trouble than doing it myself.

I remember a time 44 years ago, on the first Christmas I was married. I had little money to buy ornaments for our tree and so found a pattern for some felt Santa Clauses. I remember none of the specific or the incident but my husband still remembers that I would not let him help. I am sure I thought, I am artistic, you are not, I want all the fun and satisfaction, and probably praise. But if my husband can still remember this, I know that God does. Allowing help, accepting a gift, saying thank you, letters of appreciation and encouragement, all acknowledge others and affirm their worth.

Throughout the year, the service of hospitality is also important. And it is one that is often overlooked because invitations are too complicated. People often want just companionship, not a fancy meal. They don’t care if your house is clean, they just want to get together. And while having a visitor we can practice the service of listening, For as Foster puts it, “an impatient half listener is an affront to the person sharing.” We, he reminds us, “would do well to listen to others in silence and see if we don’t hear God through them.” When we listen to others thoughts, fears, burdens and sorrows we allow the love and compassion of Christ to flow through us. This is a service we can share anywhere and as we start, Jesus will be our teacher.

Finally another small service is that we can share the word we receive from God, with others. No one person can hear all God has to say. We all receive God’s wisdom and we are expected not only to grow from it but to share it. Our prayer each day can be, “Lord Jesus, as it would please you, bring me someone today whom I can serve.”

 

 

By Wanda Grimsley

 

While the freedom of summer can be such a beautiful, much-needed thing, I am amazed at how quickly life can go off the rails once we get out of our routines. Having everyone at home, all in and undoing everything, activities that run way too long – you know what I’m talking about.  Making too many commitments one week and too much leisure time the next. If I’m not careful, I can fall into sacrificing my time with the Lord. It quickly becomes a slippery slope that leaves me feeling all messy.

 

God has led me to this verse repeatedly this summer. It continues to resonate with me as these weeks fly by.

I Corinthians 10:12 “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

 The Message version says “Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence, it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.” 

 

Bible-Coffee

This specific verse serves to put me on notice…acknowledging again that yes, I have been delivered and justified by God; He has set me free and changed me in the deepest part of my being. This does not make me immune to getting caught up or slacking off… I have to be intentional about going after the things of God and spending time with Him or I, too, will begin to rely on myself and fall flat on my face.

 

I’ve heard it said that if we’re not growing spiritually, we are losing ground. That is so true, right? There is no standing still…the enemy would have us think there is, but there just isn’t. Think of it as a treadmill, as long as we are keeping pace, walking out our walk, pressing forward through the things God places or allows in our lives, we are growing, getting better, stronger, all things working for our good as we move closer to God’s will for our lives.

 

On the other hand, the second we stop moving forward on the treadmill, we begin to slide backwards, and what happens next? The fall, the pain, the mud and mire. We can be numbed into a false sense of security that allows us to think we can revisit our relationship with God when normalcy returns in late August.

 

So I pray I Corinthians 10:12 will encourage you.  Don’t be deceived and think that you’ve arrived. Keep first things first, remain watchful and be intentional about cultivating your confidence in the Lord.  Find connections or resources that will stretch, grow you, and hold you accountable. Reach out to others from small groups you’ve enjoyed in the past if necessary. Make time – carve it out – get into your Bible, spend time with God and listen for His voice.

By Becca Christensen

 

When you’re a guest in my home you will notice early on that I have a collection of brightly colored post-it notes on the side of fridge. My prayer wall. Not being a ‘crafter’, my prayer wall is as simple as they come. I put colorful post-it notes with the person for whom I’m praying’s name and what I’m praying for them as well as the date I begin submitting that request to the Lord. I determined early on that when the Lord answered my prayers I would take the note down, date it with the answered date and send it to the respective person with a note.

 

I am a firm believer in the power of prayer. Even so, sometimes I found that I would say ‘I’ll pray for you’ but my follow through was weak. My prayer wall keeps those prayers before me every morning as I brew my coffee. The kitchen tends to be a hub at my house due to my love of entertaining but also it’s where I really begin every morning. As I made my prayer wall I wanted it to be in a place where people who come into my home, no matter what they believe, would see that I am praying big, bold prayers for others and myself.

 

The choice to put my prayer wall in plain sight was well intentioned. I could prayer wallnot, however, have come close to imagining how the Lord would use it. A few months after I put that prayer wall up, I had two friends visit from out of town. They weren’t churchgoers but I wish each of you could have seen their faces as they noticed their names on my fridge with my prayers for them. I knew that they felt honored but months later when the Lord answered those prayers I was the first person in their phone to get a text message. The first one read, ‘Becca – just wanted you to know that the Lord answered your prayers for me! Can’t thank you enough for praying’. I took that post-it down and mailed it to him and the day he received it I got a picture of him with it and a big grin on his face. He was the first of many believers and unbelievers alike who would be excited to get those post-its back with an answered date.

 

Often times if we are not intentional we don’t take the time to recognize the Lord’s answers to our prayers. This is my tangible, practical way of celebrating the Lord’s answers to my prayers and sharing or showing the power of prayer to others. I shared the idea with my small group and several decided they needed a prayer wall too. Thankfully, they let me submit the first post-it and I’ve gotten one back with an answered date myself! Next, I shared it in my Freedom group and a few days later I got pictures of prayer walls in my leaders homes.

 

I didn’t invent the prayer wall anymore than I invented prayer but I’ve made it my own and I love to see the idea catch on. If you need a way to remember to pray daily or of the Lord’s faithfulness to His people in answering prayers this may work for you. Regardless of what you do to keep your prayer life strong – be encouraged by this, ‘ Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours’ – Mark 11:24

 

Becca Christensen_croppedBecca Christensen works at Grace Family Church. She loves to  travel, entertain, read, spend time with family, and root on the Indianapolis Colts.  You can read more about Becca on her blog, www.beccachristensen.wordpress.com.