Forgiveness Is Freedom

FORGIVENESS IS FREEDOM

Have you ever noticed that the words GIVE and GIVEN are in the middle of forgiveness? I guess I never really thought about it. Until today. And now, that which has been seen cannot be unseen. 

ForGIVEness is a noun, and as such, it is a thing. It is something you can give, and it is something that can be given to you—whether you choose to receive it or not. Isn’t that interesting?

Psychologists have long contended that the offer of forGIVEness benefits the person giving it regardless of the recipient’s reaction. Why? Rarely do the people we need to forgive have a clue how much harm they have inflicted or the extent of the pain they have caused. Can I get a witness?!

ForGIVEness is not about fighting for justice or holding the offender accountable—that’s completely different. ForGIVEness is an attitude of the heart. It’s about us and our willingness to trust God’s sovereignty: Do we trust God enough to forGIVE someone for hurting us? Our family? Our friends? Our pastor? Our animals? Our possessions? Our bank accounts?

Click here to continue reading my devotional at “Rooted at the Throne” hosted by Rachael Carman. 

He Himself Is Our Peace

He Himself Is Our Peace

As I was contemplating the topic of peace, I decided to share a spiritual discipline versus writing a typical blog post. When you practice this discipline, you can experience God’s peace in your life. Right now.

A Meditation on Peace

What follows is a guided meditation on Scripture based on the Christian spiritual discipline of contemplative prayer (a.k.a. meditation). In his classic book on spiritual disciplines, A Celebration of Discipline, renowned and well-regarded Christian author, teacher, and former pastor, Richard Foster observes:

"In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in 'muchness' and 'manyness,' he will rest satisfied."

One way we can “disengage” from the pressures of the world is with contemplative prayer or Christian meditation. Foster states that words used in Scripture “to convey the idea of meditation” occur more than fifty times—and that’s just in the Old Testament! Foster continues:

"These words have various meanings: listening to God's word, reflecting on God's works, rehearsing God's deeds, ruminating on God's law, and more. In each case there is stress upon changed behavior as a result of our encounter with the living God. Repentance and obedience are essential features in any biblical understanding of meditation."

As followers of Christ, we don’t practice meditation for the sake of clearing our minds or relaxation (although relaxation may be a happy outcome just the same). Instead, we meditate on Scripture and the Lord’s promises in order to bring about repentance in our lives, so that restoration replaces resistance and rebellion; obedience overrides resentment.

"Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

This devotional will walk you through a Scripture-based meditation that centers on Jesus Christ as our source of peace. As you participate in this contemplative prayer, you will focus your thoughts on your relationship with the Lord by coordinating your breathing (inhale/hold/exhale) with a very simple physical action (palms up/palms down). As you exhale, you will confess your sins.

Physical Location

Scriptural meditation and prayer are gifts God gave us to center our attention on Him and experience His peace in the midst of life’s turmoils, no matter where we are physically. In other words, you can meditate anywhere, but a quiet place would be best. You can do this while laying in bed, sitting at the kitchen table, or even holding a baby. You can do this in the waiting room at a hospital, in the break room at work, or in a recliner by the pool.

This is a simple, portable spiritual discipline! For example, King David meditated in the middle of the night while he was laying awake in bed:

“When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.” Psalm 63:6-7 (NKJV)

Intentional Breathing

Breathing. It’s not something we tend to think about, is it? Since we’ve been inhaling and exhaling our whole lives, the thought of intentional breathing might seem silly. But it’s not. Intentional breathing is a way for us to control our bodies and quiet our minds for the purpose of focusing on the Lord and the truths in His Word.

Box Breathing & Prayer

Box breathing, also known as square breathing or four-square breathing, is a simple yet effective breathing technique that helps promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve focus. It involves inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling, and holding the breath again, all for equal counts of time. The pattern of breath resembles the shape of a square or a box, hence the name.

To practice box breathing, follow these steps:

  1. Find a comfortable sitting position or lie down, ensuring your body is relaxed but your spine is straight.
  2. Begin by exhaling fully through your mouth, releasing any tension or stale air.
  3. Inhale gently through your nose to a slow count of four. As you breathe in, focus on filling your abdomen, then your lower chest, and finally your upper chest, allowing your lungs to expand fully.
  4. Once you’ve completed the inhalation, hold your breath for the same count of four. Keep your body relaxed and your mind focused on the present moment.
  5. Exhale slowly and steadily through your mouth for another count of four, emptying your lungs completely.
  6. After exhaling, pause and hold your breath for the final count of four. Maintain stillness and a sense of calm.
  7. Repeat the cycle by inhaling again for four counts, and continue the pattern for several rounds or until you feel more relaxed and centered.
  8. As you practice box breathing, try to maintain a steady and even rhythm, keeping your breaths smooth and controlled. It’s essential to listen to your body and adjust the breath counts to a pace that feels comfortable for you. If counting to four feels challenging, you can start with a shorter count and gradually increase it over time.

Box breathing can be done at any time of the day whenever you feel the need to reset, calm your mind, or regain focus. It’s especially useful during stressful situations, before important events, or as part of a regular mindfulness or meditation practice.

Remember, the key to box breathing is to cultivate a relaxed and intentional breathing pattern, allowing it to guide you into a state of balance and tranquility.

Here’s a video that provides both a visual to help you with this exercise as well as gorgeous scenery and beautiful music to enhance your experience. 

Palms Up & Palms Down

Whether you’re lying down, sitting, or standing, you can intentionally position the palms of your hands facing up (palms up) to symbolize your willingness to receive the Lord’s gift of peace (or anything from Him, for that matter).

When you purposefully turn your palms face down (palms down), you are symbolizing your desire to let go of anything standing in the way of your relationship with Him. With a simple turning of the hands, you can physically position yourself both to receive peace from the Lord and to let go of distractions and obstacles.

Fellowship thru Contemplative Prayer

Since our theme this month is “peace,” what follows is a meditation on peace—a fruit of the Spirit. We will begin with a “breath prayer”—one word or a short phrase that can be said within one breath. The breath prayer is one way we can stay in touch with the Lord throughout the day. In other words, don’t make the mistake of thinking that prayer is limited to your “quiet time” or time of meditation. You can utter a breath prayer at any time throughout the day to remind yourself not only what you’re giving up, but also what God is doing in your life.

I have written a few “breath prayers” to help you get started (see below), but you don’t have to use my words! As Richard Foster says,

“Christian meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God’s voice and obey his word…it involves no hidden mysteries, no secret mantras, no mental gymnastics, no esoteric flights into the cosmic consciousness. The truth of the matter is that the great God of the universe, the Creator of all things desires our fellowship.”

That just rocks my world! God wants fellowship with US!

And, listen, this is far from an exhaustive training on contemplative prayer (a.k.a. Christian meditation). If this is something you find fruitful, then by all means, do additional research. I’ve recommended a few resources for spiritual discipline on my website which you can find on the Resources Page.

“His Last Words” by Erickson

His Last Words by Kim Erickson

Refreshing. Inspirational. Life-Impacting. Bible Study.

It’s like a breath of fresh air just swept across my Bible Study world. As one who gravitates towards studies that dig into the historical context of Scripture, the original languages, and the local customs of the time, I tend to prefer studies by (or similar to) Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer. I enjoy digging into the Word—excavating hidden treasures and deep truths—so much so that I may have forgotten how wonderful it is to simply read the Word of God without commentaries, Bible dictionaries, lexicons, and theological resources at my fingertips.

Bible Study for the Soul

His Last Words: What Jesus Taught and Prayed in His Final Hours (John 13-17) by Kim Erickson (Moody Publishers), is a 7-week inductive Bible Study written for small groups, although it is easily adaptable to a personal study. I completed it by myself, and I loved it! Though the book is written with women in mind, I am certain anyone interested in learning more about Jesus—his last days, death, resurrection, and relationships—would benefit from this study.

Each week’s study is bracketed with a brief written introduction by the author (there are no videos) and discussion questions for a small group. (Since I completed the study on my own, I read through them, and answered anything applicable.)  There are five days of homework to be completed each week: the first four days center on Scripture reading, reflection, and application, and the fifth day is reserved for review and reflection.

From the author bio on the back cover:

Kim Erickson began following Christ after the death of her three-year-old son from strep throat in 2008. Her growing relationship with the Lord and her Bible saved her from the pit of grief. During this time, she also developed a deep, abiding love for the Word of God. Kim’s love of Scripture led her to develop a website and teaching blog to help other women fall in love with it, too: lovemyword.com. An elementary school teacher turned lawyer, Kim lives in Florida with her husband and son.”

Erickson’s explanation about how God used this tragic event to draw her close to Himself and heal her heart is interwoven throughout the book. She shares tidbits here and there so as not to detract from the study of the Word. Her testimony—though heart-wrenching—is extremely refreshing, exuding a joy and peace that only the Lord could bring.

 His Last Words: What Jesus Taught and Prayed in His Final Hours (John 13-17)

Four Days of Bible Study & One Day to Reflect

On the first four days of each week, you begin with Scripture. First, you read through the specified passage (short), and then you reflect upon it one verse at a time specifically looking for what it says about God. Erickson has provided a helpful guide for this part of the study, so you know what to look for during your review.

*His Last Words* Bible Study

Following the Scripture study, there are insightful notes and open-ended questions to help you think through the meaning of what you’ve read and how it applies to your life. Each day concludes with a Bible verse and a specific prayer to apply what was learned that day.

*His Last Words* Bible Study

On the fifth day of each week, you begin by asking the Lord to “reveal anything you may have missed the first time through the lessons.” I love that. Then, she guides you through a review of that week’s Scripture reflections, applications, and lessons learned. And then, there’s my favorite part of the study: Stillness before the Lord.

*His Last Words* Bible StudyBe Quiet. Be Still. 

Each week ends with a reminder to be quiet and still. To listen to the Lord. To remember what you’ve learned. To listen to the Holy Spirit. This is a very important part of the study and should not be skipped.

God has been showing me over and over and over again throughout the Prophets that, as His people, we need to slow down, be quiet, pay attention, and listen. We cannot continue living a hectic pace of life with the volume on everything turned up and expect to be able to hear what God is saying! We have to carve out time to be still and know that He is God.

Time for Reflection on the Entire Study

The final week (week 7) of the study is a review. Each day, you revisit one of the previous weeks and reflect on what God has revealed to you through this study. The book ends with suggestions for taking it deeper with goal setting and accountability.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I highly recommend His Last Words. I recommend it for small groups and individuals. I recommend it for women and men. I recommend it for Christ followers and those who aren’t yet sure about this whole Jesus thing. In fact, if you or a friend have not yet put faith in God, this is the study for you!

There Were Not Enough Sources 

Now, being the Bible nerd that I am, I have to confess that I was a lot disappointed in the “Notes” page at the end of the book: There were only nine footnotes for the entire study including only six sources (one of which was an English dictionary).

While I loved relying primarily on the Bible for this study, I believe a few more resources would have shed a more light on certain passages. For example, while reflecting on Jesus’ restoration of Peter in John 21, Erickson laments,

We don’t know why Peter was grieved by the third ‘do you love me?'”

Um…yeah, we kinda do know why he was grieved. With a little more research or a more scholarly commentary, the author would have seen that Jesus was using one word for “love” (agape) in His first two questions, while Peter was answering with a completely different word (phileo). The third time Jesus asks Peter “do you love me?” He switches from using His word (agape) to using Peter’s word (phileo). This is what grieved Peter, and a study of the interplay of these two Greek words for “love” adds texture and depth to the interaction between Jesus and Peter, as well as one’s interpretation of the passage. This can easily be overlooked if you’re relying exclusively on an English translation. I’m not trying to underplay the role of the Holy Spirit at all; however, we must keep in mind that the Bible was written in other languages, and the Holy Spirit has enlightened many theologians as they did their own research on the Scripture. 

With that said, honestly, I think that this is one of the best Bible studies I’ve done in a really, really long time! I loved it, and I recommend His Last Words with no hesitation whatsoever! 


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

“Tranquility” Prayer/Coloring Journal

Tranquility: Prayer and Reflection Coloring Journal

This beautiful Tranquility: A Prayer and Reflection Coloring Journal invites us to slow down and reflect on God’s goodness and what He has done (or is doing) in our lives. The journal is something to be treasured whether you are the only one who ever sees inside its pages or if you take my challenge and share it between friends—more on that later.  (Click here if you you like to read the last page of a novel first.)

First of all, if you’re anything like me, you often find yourself wondering where the month went…or week…or day. Tranquility: A Prayer and Reflection Coloring Journal is the perfect tool to help me slow down, pay attention, and calm my heart.

The book is brimming with beautiful, blank drawings which invite you to add your own color and words as you reflect on the inspirational sayings, Bible verses, and decorative drawings the artist has provided to evoke a sense of peace and calmness.

Tranquility: A Prayer and Reflection Coloring Journal
Inside spread with a prayer, Bible verse, space to journal, and an intricate drawing (with words–not all of them have words) to color. 

The pages in the Tranquility Journal are set-up as spreads with each theme carrying across both pages. The layout of the spreads vary between:

  • A guiding prayer*, Bible verse or inspirational quote, space to journal, something to color across the spread; and
  • A suggested activity or reflection with ample space to draw or journal and something to color on the facing page.

The prayers were compiled and adapted by Amie Carlson from 365 Pocket Prayers for Women and are perfectly paired with Bible verses or inspirational quotes to enhance the theme of the specific reflection on that spread.

Gorgeous Spreads with Thoughtful Words

Inside spread with a guided reflection on the left and a lovely picture to color on the right.

Each spread is specifically designed to calm your heart and mind so you can focus on the Lord and what He has for you that day. There is ample space for you to write your own prayer and or reflection for that day, and the pictures really are beautiful.

Tranquility Coloring JournalThe only negative comment I have about this book is that some of the pages are either already colored or have some color on them which somewhat limits creativity for people who, like me, care about clashing. But the upside of this negative is that the colors they have chosen are lovely and do not detract in any way from the content. 

The book itself features a reinforced cover (thick board) which protects the inside pages from curling and provides a firm surface for coloring. 

The pages are thick enough to use gel pens without fear of bleed-through. I would not recommend water-based markers, Sharpie pens, or Koi pens, though. I personally prefer to use good-quality colored pencils which work well for blending and detail work.

Here are links to a couple of my favorite “tested and tried” coloring tools:

* You can pick up the U-Brands Colored Pencils at Costco for under $10 (assuming your local Costco carries them). They are GREAT!!!

Friends Who Pray Together Stay Together

At the beginning of my review I mentioned that I intend to do something special with my Tranquility Journal, and I’m excited to share this idea with you, in case you’d like to do it, too. 

Tranquility JournalRather than keep this treasure all to myself, I plan to share it with a few trusted friends at church (probably a group of 4-5 ladies total, but we’ll see what the Lord has in mind). I have started the process by coloring the spread of my choice and journaling some thoughts in the notes portion and will pass it along to my mentor. Over the course of a week, she will select a spread to color and add her thoughts to those pages.

The following week, she will pass it along to another woman at our church. The plan is for each of us to have the journal for a week, and pass it on to someone else on Sundays. Additionally, while we have the journal, we are to pray for the person who passed it to us, as well as the woman we’ll be passing it to the next week. I can’t wait to do this, and I look forward to sharing with you how this works. Once all the pages are colored, I’ll pass it onto my mentor  (Click here to get back to the top, if you skipped here first.)

I’m happy to recommend the Tranquility: A Prayer and Reflection Coloring Journal to you, and I would love to hear how you plan to use it—whether personally or between trusted friends. Feel free to comment below. 


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

“While My Child Is Away” by Melson

Book Review

My only son started high school this year—I’m still in shock over that—and the thought he will be leaving home soon is something I can barely think about without becoming verklempt. Lately, he’s started asking about Driver’s Ed and getting his license. He’s fourteen. I’m not ready!

As I imagine my son out on his own, I experience both euphoria and anxiety: I’m excited that he’s ready and confident enough to want more independence, but I’m also anxious about what this will mean when he’s away without parent-approved adult supervision—whether for an evening with friends or a semester at college. One thing I know for certain, when he is away, I will pray.

Book CoverAs parents, we are all keenly aware that we cannot be with our children at all times. This separation process begins early and continues, I think, for the rest of our lives. (I mean, do we ever really completely separate from our children?!) So, whether your daughter was just married, your son recently earned his driver’s license, or your twins started a new daycare, it’s important that we know how to pray for our children.

This week marks the release of Edie Melson’s new book While My Child Is Away: My Prayers for When We Are Apart. Not only is this a handy reference book full of inspired prayers we can say for our children, but it is also peppered with devotions and prayers specifically written for us parents and caregivers.

While My Child Is Away

The book itself is divided into nine chapters:

  1. The Triumph of Love
  2. Making Good Choices
  3. Peace Beyond Circumstances
  4. True Self-Confidence
  5. A Foundation of Faith
  6. A Core of Strength
  7. Companions Matter
  8. My God, My Defender
  9. Fully Present

Within each chapter, the reader will discover a number of prayers for the kiddos, a handful of prayers for the parents to pray for themselves (thank you!), a few devotionals, and a section entitled “Parenting Thoughts.” It’s basically four books in one! The organized, calming format invites us to relax into the discipline of prayer for our families. With the prayers divided into categories, it’s easy to find the right kind of prayer when you need it.

While the prayers for the children are a helpful tool filled with love from a mama’s heart, I personally find the prayers for parents and the devotionals to be something I need just as much (possibly more). The personal stories included in the devotionals drive home her point again and again:

“[God] has lessons for each of us—even our kids—and we don’t always need to be there to make sure they get the point” (p. 20).

Amen, sister! Amen.

bookcover

In addition to the fantastic content, I cannot conclude this book review without commenting about the physical formatting of the book itself. The book is a small paperback that fits nicely into my hands. Whoever designed the cover deserves an award, because not only is it an aesthetically pleasing and calming design, it also has flaps on each side which can be used to mark the spot of favorite prayers or devotionals. It’s obvious to me that a lot of thought went into this book from character-building content to charming page design. Each prayer page features the subject of the prayer in bold print, an inspirational quote, the prayer itself*, and a related Bible verse. The book is something I will treasure and refer to frequently for years to come.

This book is not only a wonderful reference for any parent, it would also make a great gift for anyone who wants to pray effectively for his or her children.

* The prayers are both inclusive and exclusive. Inclusive, because they alternate between “he” and “she.” Exclusive, because each prayer will focus either on a son or a daughter. The prayers are easily be adapted for your own child.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Praying for Relief from Fire & Rain

Laura Zielke

Please join me in praying for relief from natural disasters, for everyone in harm’s way, the people who are reaching out to help them, and an end to the reign of terror by the group that shall not be named.

Why pray? Wouldn’t it be better to pray for the floodwaters to evaporate and the fires to spontaneously turn to glitter? Maybe. I don’t know that God works like that, though. What I do know is that when natural disasters strike, followers of Jesus Christ will rise up, reach out, and do whatever they can to help the people in need–without gender, race, or sexual orientation bias. They just want to help…as do first responders and people of other faiths and athiests. We pitch in to help each other, because we value life. And life is so much more than things.

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27, NLT)

Pray for Relief from Fire & Rain
Click to enlarge

I pray that God will help people who need to be rescued hang on long enough to be rescued. I pray that God will give stamina to fire fighters, water rescue crews, and average citizens who are rising above and beyond the call of duty to help thousands of people in desperate need. I pray that the water will recede in Louisiana. I pray God’s blessing and favor on everyone affected by the flooding–that they will be able to rebuild and be in better situation than they were before. I pray the fires will be extinguished in California. I @Prayat12 every day for mercy on our country during this insane election season. I pray for the end of the reign of terror under the group that shall not be named. And most of all, I pray for you, my friend, that you will recognize God’s hand moving in the midst of the storm–whether it be a rainstorm, a firestorm, or a lifestorm.

God never said life would be a cakewalk, but he did promise to see us through it to the other side.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13, ESV)