A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Category: time alone with God (page 1 of 4)

Shadows, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the Inside-out Life

inner life inside out smallerAllow me to briefly refer to a bad movie, if you would. After all, that’s what makes for a great Thursday.

Remember Shallow Hal (2001), with Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow? Tacky as it was, the idea of the movie is actually sheer genius. Hal, a total womanizer (this is not the genius part), disregards any woman outside of the “knockout” category. That is, until a spell is cast upon him. Within the spell, women’s inner beauty–or lack thereof–manifests as outer beauty. Hal falls hard for a woman who, to him, looks like Gwyneth Paltrow. To the rest of the world, she’s woefully obese. Hal can’t figure out why she’s treated with such disdain; why no one can see how he’s won the jackpot. She’s unspeakably kind and physically dazzling.

What I like about an otherwise dumb movie: What if the portion others see of us misleads and distracts from our actual selves?

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Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families: 14 Creative Ways to Help Your Kids Praise God

Want to catch up on this series? Start here.spiritual disciplines for real families

Would your kids believe me if I told them eating mac and cheese could praise God?

True story.

If Romans 12 is true–then it’s all His. (Um. Even that questionable, nuclear-orange variety of tube-y pasta.)

 

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Freebie Fridays: FREE Printable 28-day Self- or Small-Group Discipleship Guide in Basic English (Great for New English Speakers or Adult Literacy!)

I’m tickled pink about today’s freebie. And I’d love your help in passing it on, pinning it, or sharing it with people who might use it.

After teaching refugees for three years, I had a wish list. I wanted a free, printable discipleship guide that could take students through basic concepts of Christianity. I wanted it to be useful for a single person or in small groups. I wanted discussion questions and verses to memorize. But as much as I love to play with words in my own writing–I needed something without complex idioms or words that would discourage or confuse an early English speaker.

So imagine my delight when I finally got to pass this out as a parting gift to my students…alongside their first Bible in English.There was some ululating involved! (I may have participated, despite my rather rudimentary skills in this area.) And here it is for you: a FREE printable 28-day self- (preferably with a disciple or mentor) or small-group discipleship guide in basic English. discipleship guide title page

Please, pass it on to cross-cultural workers, adult literacy instructors, teachers of ESL/TOEFL/TOESL/English as a second language, or anyone else who might use it in their own creative ways. (I’ve also passed it out alongside films like the JESUS film or the Gospel of John.)

My vision for this is for it to be as universal as possible. Because of this, I consider it a “living document”–one I can alter to accommodate as many groups as possible. That’s where you come in. I’m still dreaming up new topics I’d like to include, and changing the language to be more understandable. Though I’ve taught ESL in a couple of other contexts, my experience is limited to a few people groups. I don’t know, for example, how it may be received in Asia, with Buddhist or Hindu audiences exploring Christianity. If you’ve got ideas on how to improve this or make it more palatable for certain people groups, please comment below.

And thank you for spreading the message of true freedom everywhere.

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Guest post: Where’s the Holy Spirit When My Marriage is Hard?

It was late, and she was crying now. Her marriage had been hard–hard for a long time.

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Ideas for When You’re Spiritually Distracted

1. Acknowledge and explore it.

Why am I distracted? Am I having basic needs met, like sleep, food, exercise, and white space in my day to think? (Consider grabbing a snack or some yummy lotion to spread on your feet to make this time feel more like “you time” rather than checking a “should-do” box. Moms with young kids welded to thy knees–more ideas on that here. If you’re in need of a few minutes to settle your mind, set a timer on your phone and let your thoughts wander aimlessly. It’s…actually healthy.) What’s appealing about the rabbit of my brain’s bunny trails? Is it a fantasy? Is it feeding a need that I wish I had met right now-like comfort, security, approval, or power? Is there anything in my circumstances making me hunger for this…or is it just my natural security blanket? Commit the “holes” you’re feeling to God, and meditate on verses that direct you toward His complete comfort, security, acceptance, and power.

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When God Isn’t Who You Thought He Was: On Spiritual Bewilderment and Anger

Perhaps one of the most unsettling aspects of this year of upheaval for my family has been my own understanding of who God is. It actually took me awhile to churn out this post for you, because, well, “I’m angry with God” should ideally have some kind of resolution at the end, right? I’ve learned people get unsettled when you tell them you’re feeling spiritually jaded or rattled.

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When my cravings “get religion”

You’ll have to forgive me for the rather junior-high-level humor today. I now have a teenager (which makes me feel old. Another post, that one) and two middle-schoolers. So you can imagine the stimulating conversation that surrounds the dinner table (which can actually feel more like a cafeteria table. Sometimes I feel like I should be wearing a hairnet. Box of milk with your fries, anyone?).

At any rate—at a certain point in our marriage, my husband kindly asked for us to spend no further dollars on air freshener for the bathroom. His reasoning, at the time: It only kind of layers on top of the real smell lurking beneath. You start inhaling something flowery or sentimental, with a name like Tahitian Sunrise (because who doesn’t want a tangerine sunrise from Tahiti in the loo?) or Honeysuckle Nectar (with a name like that, maybe we should stay in here all day!) or Apple Cinnamon (which reminds one, oddly, of eating pie). Then, BAM. It hits you. This is not nice. This is not nice at all. There is nothing “fresh” or edible about this. Hence my husband’s affectionate moniker of “Poo-potpourri.”

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6 Lifelines for the Season When It Feels Like God’s Against You

Recently I sat with a friend who’s undergone such remarkable suffering over short years. I should tell you: She’ll be the first one to respond with hope. But I can also tell that what she has is faith, not answers. I can see question marks curling around, pointing her year after year to the God who will, someday (and even now) reward those who earnestly seek Him. Her sinewy, muscled joy is built on what she can’t see; on decisions of trust she makes over and over again.

Since I’ve been army-crawling through my own questions lately—today I’m yanking together some of the best advice I’ve received for seasons when God seems…away.

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A Mountain of [Surprising] Reasons to Get Our Kids Outdoors this Summer (…and Maybe Follow Them)

In all honesty, with my house still lined with cardboard moving boxes, camping was not at the top of my priority. When my dad burst into a rendition of a song entitled (I kid you not) “We’re Going Camping Now!”, I admit to replying with a chipper, “Whether we like it or not!” I could barely find underwear for everyone. I’d been in some form of transitional housing for the last year. Let’s go sleep in a tent without a shower!

But as we wove through the mountains, I had to admit that maybe it was good this was blacked out on the calendar. How long had it been since I’d been able to tell everyday life “Stop. For right now, just stop”?

My sheepishness reached its hilt the next day when my kids’ skin was glittering and shivering as they picked their way through the river, counting rainbow trout and daring each other to duck beneath the current. Their courage and confidence mounted before my eyes. The spikes of pine behind them were stunning; the rock formations solid and timeless.

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Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families: Simple Ideas to Teach Fasting

I’m posting this in part for families who’d like to fast for Lent. A few believe Protestants shouldn’t; but Matt Chandler offers this perspective–so it’s your call! At any time of year, I feel families can benefit. Here’s why.   -Janel

fasting for families spiritual discipline

Yeah, I bet you were wondering what I was going to write in this one. (I was, too.)

It’s hard enough for adults to get the idea behind fasting, I think. But I like how John Piper phrases it: Fasting is about demonstrating a hunger for God. It’s like saying, God, I want you this much. Remember how man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God? Fasting—much like its sister discipline, simplicity–is like putting down the bag of Cheetos in our lives that mutes our soul’s shouting to be filled. (My refugee students could likely out-fast me any day, simply because they’ve lived life without being constantly satiated.) Kids aren’t likely to understand this easily, so let’s put it this way.

 

What it is

THE KEY: Fasting is a sweet offering to God of choosing against something we really like for a little while, so we can be satisfied by Him rather than all the pleasures in our lives.

God made those pleasures as good gifts! But He never means them to get more important than Him. Fasting helps us step away from them a bit, to spend time thinking of Him and praying more.

We keep it quiet, because fasting isn’t about making us look all spiritual. It’s about our private walk with Him, like a special secret between the two of us.

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