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seeds of faith

seeds of faith

In the dirt and the dark and the muck of her sin, she bravely sows seeds of His word. She buries them deep in the mess and the mud. Hands dirty, soul scarred, heart broken. She waits by faith for His truth to take root.

Cold and storms. Ice and sleet. The elements pound the seeds planted deep by faith. It is the season of Lent of the soul. Waiting, weeping, hoping, striving.  Ages and seasons.

Finally.

Darkness gives way to sunrise. Death gives way to life. Seeds of suffering, watered by tears, groan and grow. Against the odds, in the dark of the earth, they push through the debris of seasons past.

Because He is stronger. Because He rose from the ground. Because His death brings life. A shoot comes forth delivering hope. Buds, blossoms, fruit. It is finished.

Great suffering yields great fruit.




How to Celebrate Lent with Your Family

Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. As a child, I remember the solemn mass of Ash Wednesday and being anointed with ashes in the sign of the cross on my forehead. As an adult, I attend a Protestant church, but I’ve always loved the traditional church calendar recognized by the Catholic Church. There is something special about marking the start of church seasons, don’t you think? 



What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. It is called Ash Wednesday because of the practice of putting ashes on worshipers foreheads as a sign of humility before God and as a sign of mourning for the death and destruction that sin brings into the world.

What Is the Purpose of Lent?

The season of Lent spans 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending with Holy Week: Holy Thursday, (Maundy Thursday),  Good Friday, and concluding the Saturday before Easter. Today, Lent is used as a time of prayer and preparation for Easter. We can look inward to see what needs to be confessed and changed in our lives. Some Christians fast and/or give up something for Lent as a sacrificial offering, while others focus on doing good deeds to help others. 

I love author Ruth Haley Barton’s take on Lent. She makes us think deeply by recommending we all ask ourselves this question, “Where in my life have I gotten away from God, and what are the disciplines that will enable me to find my way back?”

Ideas to Make Lent Special

As Ruth’s question suggests, marking the time of Lent in a thoughtful way will help you to prepare your heart for Easter. Perhaps you could even invite a family member or friend to join you in this journey. If you have young children, they may enjoy starting their own mini-ministry (see the last bullet point) or reading short prayers or scriptures with you. Here’s a list of suggestions, or feel free to try one of your own.

  • Give up a favorite food as a sacrifice to God.
  • Work on breaking a bad habit you have.
  • Add a new beneficial habit that you’ve been meaning to start that will improve either your body, soul, or spirit.
  • Practice Lectio Divina, also called sacred reading.
  • Practice a spiritual discipline that sounds interesting: meditation, prayer, fasting, study, self-denial, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, or celebration.
  • Read Lent selections from the Book of Common Prayer or other prayer books.
  • Start a mini ministry of encouragement. Each day find some way to encourage others: a quick note, a piece of candy, a hug, and so on. (More on mini ministries coming soon).

Let’s all take some time to settle in with God during the season of Lent. We’d love to hear your ideas on making this a sacred season. Please share below in the comments.

Blessings,

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Just Jesus

I love Christmas. I love the displays, the music, the food and the lights, but this was overwhelming. Despite the fact that it was night, I needed my sunglasses. The light emanating from the Christmas display of a neighboring house was overwhelming. Think air-traffic control tower…light house…l.e.d. headlights straight to the retinas. I’m sure this display can be seen from outer space.

In addition to the garishly flashing lights, I counted 25 plus Christmas inflatables ranging from a snowman sporting camo and a rifle to a shark with a Santa hat. To escape the multi-sensory overload, I shifted my eyes from the display to the house across the street. And what did I see?

Just Jesus

A simple manger scene graced the velvety lawn of the house across the street. silent. holy. calm. In the inky darkness, a simple cut-out of the Holy Family illuminated by a single soft light emphasized the beauty of the Gospel. Shadows whispering the simplicity of God’s plan.  Just Jesus.

Simply show them Jesus.

This simple display speaks a lesson directly from heaven straight to the heart. This is just what our lives should be, what our lives should do–leave behind the noise and blinding distractions of the world and simply point to Jesus.

He is all we need.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” 

Col. 1 :15-18

Just Jesus, each day, every hour, every minute. He is all we need. Merry Christmas.

Please leave me a comment below about how your heart is doing this Christmas. I’d love to hear from you!

By Mary Kane

All rights reserved. Copyright 2020

Resources:

Get to Know Jesus by Joyce Meyer

4 Steps to Become a Christ Follower




Re-Adventing Advent: Let Go of the Familiar & Find the Divine

Advent

How can you go about “re-adventing” Advent and Christmas in the midst of the unfamiliar, the challenges of 2020? What does this look like for you and your family? If you’re feeling discouraged about your holiday celebrations, hold on. In this video and PDF, we have some suggestions.



That’s the topic we shared with a group of MOPS moms in St. Louis. We were honored to be invited to speak with them for an Advent event. Due to Covid, we recorded a video instead of speaking in person. We thought it might be helpful for others too.

Mary and Joseph in Isolation

In this Re-adventing Advent video, we discuss how Mary and Joseph responded to their unusual situation that first Christmas. Life changed in an instant for both of them. They had to deal with challenging circumstances and outright danger as they were isolated from family and friends and all that was familiar.

We also are having to give up much of the cherished and familiar in our lives this year. Let’s discover what we can learn from their example as we journey through an Advent and Christmas that looks different this holiday season. How can we make it special?

We hope you’ll join us by listening to the video. We’ve also listed some ideas in our Re-Adventing Advent PDF (available at the bottom of this post) that you can download and use through the season.

Ultimately, our prayer for you is that in Re-Adventing Advent 2020, as you have to let go of the familiar, you will find the Divine.

Thank you for journeying with us. If you would like more resources on Advent, you can check out our book Advent-urous, Seeking Jesus This Season and join our Advent Facebook group. We’d love to hear your comments on how you are re-adventing Advent this year. Questions? Contact us here.




The Lord is Near

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Psalm 34: 17-18

I get the broken heart thing. If you’ve lived on planet earth for more than a few years, you do too. Unfortunately we’ve all been there before, and probably will be again. The good news though is that God meets us in the middle of our broken heart and trauma. He promises. Cross His heart and hope to die. He is near to those who have a broken heart.

How near is the Lord?

The original Hebrew word used in this verse is qarowb which means near of place, time, and personal relationship. God takes your broken heart very personally. He will comfort you in very meaningful specific ways if you draw near to Him when He draws near to you.

Broken

The word broken used in this verse bears studying. From the original Hebrew, broken transliterates as shabar which means to rend violently, to crush, to be maimed, crippled, shattered. Strong words for a deep hurt.  But within the violence and devastation of shabar is a glimmer of hope. This word which speaks of destruction also means to bring to birth. Can it possibly be, in some instances, that a broken heart is the beginning and birthing of something new and meaningful? Only God can do that.

But God’s not done yet

Go back and read the verse again. It also says God saves those who have a contrite spirit. But what is a contrite spirit? What does contrite even mean? Like myself, I think you’ll be surprised.

Contrite in the original Hebrew (dakka’)  means very much crushed, crushed to dust or crushed literally to powder. My heart has been very much crushed and literally crushed to powder. This kind of brokenness is broken beyond repair.  It reaches past I need to get the Elmer’s so I can glue it back together broken. There is no glue that repairs dust. This is hopelessly broken. But

The Lord is near to the contrite

Psalm 34 promises God saves those whose who have a contrite spirit. Let’s say the verse out loud using words from the definition: God saves those whose spirit has been crushed to dust. You see dust is one of God’s favorite creating mediums ( see Genesis 2:7).  He fashions very good things from dust. God dives in with His holy hands and creates a new spirit from the dust and ashes of broken dreams, relationships, and failures.

A final word

The Hebrew word for save used in this verse is yasha’ which means, to save, to deliver, to free, to liberate, to be victorious. You will be liberated from the pain of your broken heart and shattered spirit.  Give Him your heart and trust Him to redeem, restore and recreate your life. In Jesus Name, Amen.

If your are struggling with brokenness, please leave a comment below. I’d love to pray for you.

By Mary Kane

All rights reserved. Copyright 2020

Resources on Brokenness:

Re-purposed

The Blessing of Brokenness




Advent: How To Celebrate the Season

Advent

Advent is just around the corner (it starts on November 29), and what better way is there to get our minds off of ourselves (or Covid or politics or …)  than by cozying in with God as we prepare for the arrival of Jesus as Messiah?



Journey with Us

We would like to invite you to journey with us through Advent. This has been a challenging year, and I think all of us could use some time to seek God and prepare our hearts for the holiday season. Mary and I will be leading a group of fellow adventurers on our Advent-urous: Seeking Jesus this Season Facebook group. Simply click on the link to check out the group and join. We’d love to have you. 

We will be using our Advent-urous Kindle devotional book that is available on Amazon. (It happens to be free if you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited.) This is a light time requirement. We have one reading/theme per week (5 weeks total) with suggested activities to explore the theme as little or as much as you’d like over the next seven days.

Activities

Many of our activities are simple and don’t require lots of preparation or resources.

  • For example, for the first Sunday, one of our activities is to try a new prayer posture.
  • Another is to pray by candlelight.
  • There are a few others that take a bit more preparation, but we tried to do a nice mix between the two.
  • If you wish, you can then share your thoughts and activities on our Facebook group page as you journey through the week.
  • For 2020, we’ve updated the book with a poem and a Christmas Eve Liturgy read aloud that you can add to your Christmas celebration with your family and friends if you’d like.

We hope to see you in our Advent-urous Facebook group. Just let us know in the comment section if you have any questions.

Advent Podcast

We wanted to share another resource with you. Several years ago, we recorded an Advent podcast. We hope it also helps prepare you for the season as we delve more deeply into the Christmas story.

Happy Advent!

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Timely Ways to Pray for the USA

With all that’s going on in America this year, have you ever felt discouraged about the state of our nation? I know that Mary and I have. In the late spring, and into the summer, we were feeling stressed. Truth be told, we’d felt like that for a few months. We both had a lot of changes going on in our lives, even without Covid-19, the election, and the chaos in our cities.

Called to Hope

However, as the summer progressed, God was drawing us back to the basics, and one of the things that meant was back to our Only By Prayer website. We did a major revamp of the site and went into a planning frenzy. As we sought Him for what that looked like, God reminded us that Jesus calls us to be people of hope and to faint not. One powerful tool that we always have when we need to fight the enemy and his schemes is prayer. Rather than despairing of ever seeing things change for the better, God reminded us to be a catalyst of change for the better.



Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The lord is my portion,’ says my soul. ‘Therefore I hope in Him.’

Lamentations 3: 22-24 NKJ

Pray for the USA

Patiently, He impressed upon us the importance to stop moping and to start praying for the USA more and to mobilize others to pray too. With that said, we’d like to give you an update on what’s in the works here at Only By Prayer so you can join us if you’d like. 

  1. Facebook prayer group. We revamped a Facebook group we started four years ago and renamed it Pray for the USA. We then launched an event called 5 Days to Fast and Pray for our Nation in August. To our surprise, as of October 2020, God has brought over 800 people to the group to pray. Thank you, Lord! We’d love to have you join us as well. It’s a non-partisan group, and we do not allow any political arguments on the page — just praying.
  2. October Event. We are ramping up for our next event on Pray for the USA: 5 Days to Pray for the Election. This is another virtual prayer event held on October 28, October 29, October 30, November 2, and November 3. We are adding 24-Hour Prayer to this event in addition to our daily prayer topics. Be sure to check out the details. 
  3. Pray for the USA Prayer book! As we were organizing the prayer group, we realized how hard it can be sometimes to pray specifically about issues that are happening in our country. Mary felt God leading us to write a 31-day book of prayers targeted to culturally relevant issues of our day. Again the Lord came through. We recently finished this short book called Pray for the USA, and it’s now available for sale on Amazon. You don’t have to have an actual Kindle tablet to read it. You can download the Kindle app for your phone or computer and read it that way. We think you’ll find it helpful to pray through the relevant issues of our day. It only takes about two minutes or so to pray each prayer. If you happen to be a member of Kindle unlimited, you can actually read Pray for the USA for free. If you do purchase it/read it, we’d love if you’d leave us a review on Amazon.
  4. ThanksLiving event. In November we are hosting our 12 Days to ThanksLiving event. It will run from Friday, November 13, to Tuesday, November 24. It will be held entirely on our website and is completely free. Details to follow soon.
  5. Advent devotion. In late November through December, we will be leading a group through our Advent devotional (also published on Kindle) called Advent-urous: Seeking Jesus in the Season of Advent . This starts on Sunday, November 29 and runs through December 24, with a bonus week after Christmas. 
  6. 3 Weeks to a Healthier You. In the works for January 11-29 is a new venture we are starting called 3 Weeks to a Healthier You, Body, Soul, and Spirit. More information to follow on this, but we are excited because the body segment will include an exercise program developed just for our group by certified fitness trainer Sarah Lewis. Sarah is also available for online training in these Covid times if you’e interested.

Join Us

Finally, we thank you for your support. We hope you join us for Pray for the USA and however many of the other events you wish. We’re excited for the upcoming months and how God is working in each of our lives during these difficult times. We pray He is encouraging you and your families too. Let us know if you have any questions in the comment section below. May God bless you!

Our latest book on Amazon called Pray for the USA
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