30 Days of Hope for Dealing with Depression

30DaysDepression_ 300x200If you are feeling sad, down in the dumps or have lost interest in life and things you used to enjoy, find understanding and encouragement in 30 Days of Hope for Dealing with Depression. Whatever form your depression takes, it gives you a feeling of hopelessness. That’s what this book can help you with. Through stories, Scripture, quotes and reflections, little by little, day by day, your hope can be revived and activated to where you can enjoy life once again.

Price: $10

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He Did That?!: Jesus’ Amazing Acts for Women

He Did That?!With this book, step back in time and see Jesus’ astonishing—and even sometimes bewildering—acts in Mark’s gospel. Reflect on His actions—what they meant then and what they mean now. As you do, your belief in miracles will be renewed, your sense of integrity strengthened, and your appreciation of His love increasing. You’ll exclaim, “Oh, my! I’m simply amazed at what Jesus did for me!”

Price: $15

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Unshakeable Love, Unshakeable Faith

What Do You Say?

Whether you have been a Christ follower for a few weeks, a few years or decades, you have made some conclusions about the Christian life. You may not have actually stated those conclusions, but they have “been there” influencing your thinking and your way of life. If you were to summarize what’s most important in following Christ, what would you say?

Download the study guide now.

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How do you love yourself if you never have?

Jesus taught us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as your love yourself” (Luke 10:27 TEV). Which part of this teaching do you find challenging? One woman was troubled by the “as you love yourself” part. She asked, “How do you love yourself if you never have?”

I assumed by her question that she wanted to feel better about herself, appreciate who she is and values what she can do. It is in this sense that she didn’t love herself.

Our feeling about ourselves can be changed if we are willing to do some work. Here are some things we might do.

Practice the first part of the second commandment—the “love your neighbor” part. When we get caught up in caring for and helping others, we take the focus on ourselves. We find what we do for others makes us feel better about ourselves. Think of what you can do for others. Whose life can you make better? What encouragement can you bring to the discouraged? Go on mission trips, visit nursing homes, teach Sunday school, visit the lonely . . . you get the picture. Put the focus of your attention on others, not on yourself, and the result will be that you will change how you feel about yourself.

Thank God for who you are and for your attributes. Be as specific as you can, and make it a habit of doing this everyday until you notice a change, and then thank God for changing you!

Quote Psalm 139:13-16 frequently throughout the day. Say it out loud as you drive to work or as you are doing dishes. Make it personal. Put your name in the verses when you say “You created every part of me (your name).” Say it before you go to bed at night and when you get up in the morning.

Surrender your negative thoughts to God in prayer and then affirm in prayer a picture of your loving yourself. Thoughts led to emotion, not the other way around. Identify what those negative thoughts are (Is it jealousy? Envy? Anger? Disgust?). Give these thoughts to God and then affirm what you want to see. Your affirmation could go something like this: “I see You, Lord, as smiling on me because You are pleased with me. You delight in who I am. You have meaning and purpose for my life. You value my service to You, and You take pleasure in watching over me.” Make this a morning exercise every day until you experience a change in your feelings.

Believe God has a purpose for your life—you with your unique attributes and in your particular situation have something special to offer. Begin to walk, to talk, and to act in acknowledgement of this purpose. You have a unique place to fill on this earth and when you acknowledge this, you will find yourself respecting who you are.

Have a conversation with Jesus by saying out loud both sides of a dialogue. I got this idea from Rosalind Rinker. It’s from her book Communicating Love Through Prayer (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966). I quoted a version of this dialogue in my books He Said What?!: Jesus’ Amazing Words to Women and Prayerfully Yours. It goes something like this.

Brenda: Lord Jesus, are you right here with me?
Jesus: Yes, Brenda, I am here with you.
Brenda: Your love for me never changes, does it?
Jesus: No, my love for you never changes; I always have and I always will love you.
Brenda: But Lord, how can you love me? Most of the time I don’t even like myself. Jesus: I understand how you feel, but your insight about yourself is limited. I, however, love you for yourself. Believe me because I want to help you. You are my precious child.

Through the years, I’ve used this prayer exercise at times when I haven’t loved myself,  and it never failed to help me. In fact, I’ve used all of these suggestions; that’s why I can heartily recommend them to you. I know they work, and if you put your heart and soul into it, they will help you, too. I want you to love yourself because God loves you.

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“From the Heart” Valentine Ideas

Valentine’s Day, with its traditions of cupids, red roses, and heart-shaped boxes of candy, has usually been linked with romantic love in the past. Thankfully that has changed. It’s now also a time to connect with friends and family and to show you care. Here are some ideas for doing just that with your children and grandchildren.

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Best Christmas Cookies Ever

What’s the one dessert you associate with Christmas? Blog radio host, Linda Kozar, asked me this question when interviewing me recently. Without hesitation, I said, “Ruth’s Chewy Oatmeal Fruit Cookies.”

This is our family’s favorite cookie, but we only make them once a year because they require a lot of effort and because they seem to go with Christmas. Maybe it’s the blend of sugars, raisins, dates, oatmeal, nuts, and coconut that prompts the association.

Interested? Here’s the recipe.

Cream together 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar and 1 cup shortening. Add 2 large eggs, beaten with 1 teaspoon vanilla. Sift together 1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon soda. Add to the creamed mixture, blending well. Then add 4 cups uncooked oatmeal, again blending well.

Grind 1 cup raisins and 1 cup pitted dates. Add those to mixture along with 1 cup chopped pecans and 1 cup coconut.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for about 10 minutes at 325-350 degrees. It is normal for the cookies to fall some after they are out of the oven so don’t worry that you’re done something wrong.

Grinding the dates and raisins does something that just cutting them up won’t do, so don’t skip this part. Just be sure you cream the sugars and shortening extremely well, until they go “plop” when dropped from a spoon. Do sift your flour even if your brand says it isn’t necessary. Some of the nonsifts have a very drying effect on cookie doughs where the only moisture is eggs. The mixture may then crumble to where you can’t make it hold together. Sifting is a small price to pay to ensure success. Even then, the dough is still drier than other cookies.

Why these cookies are called “Ruth’s,” I don’t know. I clipped this recipe from Nan Wiley’s column in the Kansas City Star years ago, and my husband Bob and I have been making them ever since. They are delicious, and we figure with oatmeal in the cookies, we can even eat them for breakfast!

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He Said What?!: Jesus’ Amazing Words to Women

He Said What?!Turning the spotlight on Jesus Christ and His words, He Said What?! artfully places you in the midst of powerful and meaningful conversations Jesus had with women. Discover His words’ incredible meaning for women today. Allow His values and desires to restore order to your life. Experience new understanding and gain insight for living as you hear Him speak to you. An in-depth and reflective look at Christ’s words will have you saying, “Guess what He said to me!”

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Capturing Christ in Christmas and Other Holidays

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Why Didn’t Jesus Pray for Peter’s Protection?

Not My Will: Finding Peace With Things You Can't ChangeWhen I’m researching a book, all kinds of questions enter my mind—questions whose answers won’t necessarily become part of the book. Writing Not My Will (based on Jesus’ prayer life) was no exception. For example, when I studied Jesus’ words to Peter at the Last Supper, I wondered, Why didn’t Jesus pray that Peter be protected from trouble? Wouldn’t you if one of your family members or coworkers was going to be experiencing difficult times?

Instead, Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail (see Luke 22:31-32). Peter and the other apostles were going to be facing tough times ahead as their leader was arrested, tried and killed. Satan had demanded—and apparently received—permission to test the disciples. They (and specifically Peter) were going to be shaken like straw in a sieve, a process used to separate valuable wheat from the chaff. Looks like Jesus would have wanted to protect them from this violent shaking process. Wouldn’t you if Peter were your brother, your child or your friend?

Many of our prayers for our loved ones, friends and coworkers are about protection, safety, deliverance and escape. We don’t want to see those we care about go through rough times, but sometimes they do. At those times, Jesus’ prayer for Peter is something we might want to consider praying. We might want to ask that their faith not fail instead of asking for protection.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t pray for protection and safety for others. Jesus did that, too, which added to my perplexity. Later that same night, Jesus prayed for the disciples to be kept “safe from the Evil One” (John 17:15b TEV). Earlier in His ministry, when Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, He encouraged them to say, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13a KJV).

What all this suggests to me is that we might want to be more discerning in our prayers. There are times when we will definitely want to pray for protection for our friends and loved ones, but there are also times when praying that their faith wouldn’t fail would be appropriate.

Faith can be a fragile thing. Peter who had been with Jesus over two years was going to deny even knowing Him in a matter of hours. Would his faith grow even weaker? Possibly die out altogether? Or could it survive and grow stronger?

There are going to be those experiences in life when our faith is tested. The undergoing of difficulties and hardship are an integral part of life. These experiences, as hard as they are, can contribute to our faith development by separating the false from the true, the genuine from the fake, the good from the bad. And if our faith survives the sifting, perhaps even growing stronger, we’ll be better able to help others who are struggling. This was Jesus’ vision for Peter. He said “And when you turn back to me, you must strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32b TEV).

How else would Peter know how to strengthen his brothers if he could not have understood the depth of their dismay over their own failures? They would all desert Jesus in his hour of need, and they would need someone with strong faith to help them. Peter would be that person because Jesus prayed that his faith wouldn’t fail.

The next time you start to ask for protection or safety for someone, pause for a moment. Ask yourself, should I pray instead that his or her faith not fail? I know that’s something I’m doing as a result of pondering the question, Why didn’t Jesus pray that Peter be protected from trouble?

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When Jesus Prayed

Studying Jesus’ Prayers has been one of the joys of my life. Not only did the study lead to four related books, but it helped me immensely in my own praying. In particular, His prayer life showed me how to pray about things that can’t be changed which I write about in Not My Will. If you would like to make a personal study of His prayer life, here’s a list of His prayers in order of their occurrence. The order is based on A. T. Robertson’s A Harmony of the Gospels for Students of the Life of Christ. I hope the study will benefit you as much as it did me.

Jesus’ Prayers in Order of Occurrence

Jesus prayed at His baptism, Luke 3:21-23, Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11.

He withdrew to pray when the crowds in Capernaum wanted Jesus to stay with them, Mark 1:35-39 and Luke 4:42-43.

He withdrew to pray after the healing the leper, Luke 5:12-16, Mark 1:40-45, Matthew 8:2-4.

Jesus prayed before choosing the Twelve apostles, Luke 6:12-16 and Mark 3:13-19.

Jesus gave a prayer of thanks after working with people who rejected His miracles, Matthew 11:25-26.

He gave thanks before the feeding of the 5000, Mark 6:39-44, Matthew 14:17-21, Luke 9:13b-17, and John 6:8-13.

He withdrew for prayer following the feeding of the 5000, Mark 6:45-46, Matthew 14:22-23, and John 6:14-15.

He gave thanks before the feeding of the 4000, Mark 8:1-9, Matthew 15:32-38.

Jesus prayed before questioning the apostles about His identity, Luke 9:18-21, Matthew 16:13-20, and Mark 8:27-30.

He prayed before His transfiguration, Luke 9:28-36, Matthew 17:1-8, and Mark 9:2-8.

Jesus expressed joy and thanksgiving after the return of the 70, Luke 10:17-21.

He prayed before His disciples asked to be taught to pray, Luke 11:1.

He gave thanks at Lazarus’ grave, John 11:36-44.

Jesus blessed the little children, Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-16, and Luke 18:15-17.

Jesus prayed when His heart was troubled, John 12:20-36.

He prayed for Peter, Luke 22:31-34.

He prayed at the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:19-20, and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25.

He prayed for Himself and His disciples after the Last Supper and before He was arrested. This is often referred to as Jesus’ high priestly prayer, John 17. This is the longest of Jesus’ recorded prayers.

Jesus prayed for an escape in the Garden of Gethsemane, Luke 22:39-46, Mark 14:32-42, and Matthew 26:36-46.

From the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:33-34).

From the cross, He prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” See Matthew 27:45-46 and Mark 15:33-34.

From the cross, He prayed, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit (see Luke 23:46 and John 19:30).

The resurrected Jesus blessed the bread when eating with the disciples from Emmaus, Luke 24:30-32

He gave a parting blessing at His ascension, Luke 24:50-51.

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