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"We are committed to helping you grow in grace-filled, daily discipline! The habit of a Quiet Time looks different in every season, and we hope that these articles will encourage you to just keep going by the grace of Jesus!"

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November 25, 2021

5 Practical Ways to Express Gratitude to God

How to Cultivate a Grateful Heart

By Miranda Ewing

A few weeks ago, my one-year-old son ran the highest fever he’s ever had. My husband and I nervously passed our flushed baby back and forth as we scrolled our phones, looking for remedies. When we took him to urgent care the next day, the doctor told us his molars were coming in, and his fever would pass soon. I breathed a sigh of relief and said out loud to my husband, “Praise God.” 

I am quick to give God thanks when a troubling situation is resolved, when my frustrations or anxieties are soothed, or when something goes my way. But am I quick to thank Him in the menial moments of the day? Do I look for opportunities to notice His handiwork and how His blessings have shaped my life? 

The answer is often “no.” It is far too easy to go through life without thanking God for His kindness. But a grateful heart is something God delights in.

So, how can we cultivate a grateful heart? 

1. Begin the day with thanks.

After you wake up in the morning, let your first words be thanksgiving to the Lord: “Thank you Father for giving me another day. Thank you for making me Your own. Thank you that, whatever this day holds, I can rest secure in the gospel.” If it is hard for you to remember to begin the day in conversation with the Lord, you might write your prayer out on a piece of paper to put up near your bed or on your bathroom mirror.

2. Thank Him in your worship.

One of the easiest ways to thank the Lord is to sing praises to Him. Sing songs of praise around the houses, in the car, on walks, and in your quiet time. As we thank Him with song, we repeat the truth about Him to ourselves and to others. We are blessed with renewed minds as we worship and thank our Heavenly Father! How incredible!

3. Speak of all of His benefits.

Psalm 103:2 says: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” There is no better way of remembering the Lord’s benefits than to recall them and speak of them often! The Psalms give us the model for this kind of remembrance. The authors give thanks to God by calling out how He has shown His faithfulness. How has He shown His faithfulness to you? Make a daily habit of telling God and others how God has blessed you!

4. Thank Him as you read His Word.

When you spend time with the Lord reading His word, pause and thank Him for what He is revealing and teaching to you. Thank Him for giving you His Word in the first place! As you linger in the Lord’s presence you have access to unmeasurable treasures. 

5. Thank Him for the hard things.

Because life is still broken with the presence of sin, we encounter difficulties everyday. What if we took our hard situations, even our sin, and instead of becoming despondent, we thanked the Lord for our righteousness and security in Christ?  Pausing to be thankful turns our hearts away from ourselves and back towards the Lord. 

Application Points:

  • Take one of the suggestions from this blog and put it into practice for the next week. Reflect in your journal or Quiet Time Companion about how it is cultivating gratitude within you.
  • Ask a friend to be a “thankfulness accountability partner” with you for the rest of November. Each day you text one another about something you are thankful for. 
  • Read a book on gratitude, like Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ book, Choosing Gratitude: A Journey to Joy.

Miranda lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana with her husband, Sam, and son, Jack. She and her husband actively serve together at Headwaters Church.

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November 18, 2021

In All Circumstances

The Gratitude Advice that Changed My Life

By Erica Hunt

Tucked into the cracks of the history of World War II is the story of two Christian women who were imprisoned and sent to a concentration camp for hiding Jews in their home. Upon arrival to Ravensbrück, these two sisters were assigned to their barracks and found a dilapidated building with broken windows, backed-up toilets, and wooden slabs built as beds for four people that packed in seven other women and thousands of fleas.

Betsie and Corrie ten Boom reacted as anyone would upon finding that they would be sleeping with fleas. Their hearts sunk, their bodies cringed, and the pits in their stomachs deepened. But though their circumstances were bleak, they had hope; they had miraculously managed to smuggle in their small Bible. They had the gift of God’s Word.

It was Betsie who remembered the recent reading from 1 Thessalonians 5: “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (vs.14-18).

They obeyed God’s Word and thanked God that they were together. They thanked Him for the precious gift of His Word which had somehow slipped past the notice of the guards. They thanked Him for the crowded quarters that would enable many women to hear the Gospel. Then Betsie went a step further:

“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for—”

The fleas! This was too much, “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

“Give thanks in all circumstances,” she quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”

(pp.209-210, “Ravensbruck”, The Hiding Place, ten Boom, Corrie; Sherril, Elizabeth & John)

Corrie reluctantly joined Betsie in thanking God for the fleas.

Weeks later, they learned of an excellent reason to give thanks for the fleas. The terrible infestation caused the guards to avoid their building, allowing the inhabitants to hold uninterrupted worship services and Bible reading that encouraged and strengthened the overcrowded barracks full of broken, dying women.

Betsie ten Boom had a perspective that truly only came through the Holy Spirit’s work in her life. She had developed a close relationship with the Lord long before the hardships of war had disrupted her life. Because of that close relationship, the harshness and evil of the concentration camp did not squelch that spirit, but instead made the Holy Spirit’s presence even more evident in her life.

I greatly admire Bestie’s attitude of thankfulness. Though I have never been starving, I have been hungry. I have been in some dark and dirty places, but I have always had access to a shower and a clean bed at some point. I have never had to sleep in a flea-infested building surrounded by tired, harsh people laying in the stench of their own filth, but I have been in situations out of my control. I too, have had the choice to express thankfulness in the midst of all kinds of circumstances: good or bad.

Betsie’s thankful heart is a reminder that even the darkest, dirtiest of places and the cringiest critters can show God’s hand at work. We can be thankful for seemingly terrible, dirty, or disgusting things because God doesn’t waste them. He uses them.

Being thankful is more than just a positive attitude or a bright outlook on the future. It is not natural or easy to be thankful for nuisances in our lives. But thanksgiving to God takes the focus off ourselves and places it on Himself. When we lift our attention to the Giver and Sustainer of even the fleas, joy will followa genuine joy given by the Holy Spirit. Such a joy is only made sweeter by the contrasting darkness of sin and suffering.

Like Corrie and Betsie, we may never understand why God allows us to endure hardships or to walk through circumstances that are beyond our control and understanding. But we do know that the words of 1 Thessalonians 5 apply to us as well. This is His will for us, and in that, He will be glorified. This mindset is what sustained Paul while he was in prison. It strengthened Corrie and Betsie ten Boom in the flea-infested barracks of a concentration camp. This surrender of giving thanks in all things can sustain and strengthen you and your circumstances, too.

Application Points:

  • Practice thankfulness in all circumstances.
  • Memorize all or parts of 1 Thessalonians 5.
  • Pray that God would give you a thankful heart.
  • Join with a friend and hold one another accountable in giving thanks for hard things in your lives.
  • Read more of Corrie’s story in her book The Hiding Place.

Erica lives with her husband, Justin, in South Dakota. She teaches middle school and loves traveling, collecting quotes, learning fun facts and historical information, drinking coffee, eating ice cream and enjoying good conversation with friends.

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November 16, 2021

10 Spiritual Blessings You Can Never Lose

A Look at the Riches We Possess in Christ

By Katie Stone

It’s a tradition in my family at Thanksgiving for each of us to share one thing we are thankful for as we sit around the table. Some years, it’s easy to a list a hundred blessings. Other years, it’s hard to think of even one.

As Christians, our gratitude should never be based on the temporary blessings of this world. Regardless of whether you have a long list or the heavy heart this year, let’s take a fresh look at the incredible spiritual blessings we have received in Christ. These blessings don’t change. These are blessings we can never lose.

These blessings are not earthly things like relationships or possessions. They are spiritual blessings. And all of these spiritual blessings are found in one place—in Christ.

Jesus is the blessing from which all other spiritual blessings flow. When Christ becomes our very life, He becomes the source of everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)

These blessings flow from Jesus, but what exactly are the spiritual blessings Paul describes? Here are just ten of the blessings Ephesians chapter 1 mentions.

1. We are chosen

“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…” (v4)

God, who created all things, chose us to be His. Furthermore, He chose us before He created the world. In other words, He specifically chose to create us. Contrary to the evolutionary belief that we all evolved without any thought or purpose, Scripture says that God specifically made you. And He chose to make you His child. 

2. We are holy and without blame

“…that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love…” (v4)

Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines Holy as “whole, entire or perfect, in a moral sense. Hence, pure in heart, temper or dispositions; free from sin.” Blameless is defined as “Without fault; innocent; guiltless.”

While we live in this world, we will sin. However, sin is no longer our identity. If you are in Christ, you are holy because Christ is holy. Your actions do not define you. Christ’s action on the cross defines you and makes you holy. He crucified our old sinful man, clearing all our guilt, and gave us a new life, clothing us in His righteousness.

3. Adoption as sons

“…having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself…” (v5)

In addition to being specifically chosen by God and then made holy, we have also been adopted into the family of God. God is our Father. The church is our brothers and sisters. We are no longer orphans.

4. Acceptance in the Beloved

“…He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (v6)

Our acceptance as sons of God is not based on our own actions or inherent worth. It is based on the grace of God that is ours through faith in Christ. Since we did nothing to earn our acceptance, we can do nothing to become unacceptable to God once we are in Jesus.

5. Redemption through His blood

“In Him we have redemption through His blood…” (v7)

Redemption is similar to a ransom. We were slaves of sin, and Christ paid our ransom with His very blood. We are no longer slaves. We are redeemed.

6. Forgiveness of sins

“…the forgiveness of sins…” (v7)

The forgiveness of sins can only be found in Christ. There is no other way to obtain forgiveness. So if we belong to Christ and confess our sins to Him, we are forgiven! “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

7. Riches of Christ’s grace

“…according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us…” (v7-8)

Grace is often thought of as an undeserved hug from God. Grace is undeserved. However, it is much more than a hug. Grace is God’s enabling power to live the Christian life.

Are you in bondage to a specific sin? Does it feel impossible to live in victory? You have access to the riches of Christ’s grace which He has made to abound toward you. This grace is available to every believer who will reach out in faith and receive it from God.

8. Knowledge of God’s will

“…having made known to us the mystery of His will…” (v9)

Does it ever feel like God’s will is a mystery? In Colossians, Paul explained the mystery of God’s will. Are you ready for it? “God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery…which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

This might not be the answer you hoped for. Nevertheless, it is an immense blessing. When Christ becomes our life, He enables us to live the Christian life, He sanctifies us, conforms us to the image of Jesus, and gives us hope for eternity. This has been the will and the purpose of God from before the foundation of the world.

9. An inheritance

“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance.” (v11)

“You received the Spirit of adoption…we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:15-17)

We often think that God asks too much when He says we must give up all to follow Him. And yet, God has given us all that He has in Christ as our inheritance. What do we have to give up in comparison to what He has given us?

10. Sealed with the Holy Spirit

“…in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” (v13-14)

The night before Jesus was crucified, He said, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7) Jesus said it was better for us to have the Holy Spirit than to have the physical Jesus with us.

One reason it’s better is because the Holy Spirit is always with us. “I pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever…you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

Application Points:

  • Read through and meditate on Ephesians chapter 1 and respond in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for all the spiritual blessings you have received in Christ
  • Seek Jesus afresh. Make Him your goal, your reward, and your desire. All the spiritual blessings are found in Him. And all that we need for life and godliness is found in Him.

Katie loves an urban cafe as much as the smell of campfire and pine. She works in communications while studying business and non-fiction writing, and is most happy when leading worship and discipling others. 

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November 11, 2021

Control and Perfection: The Enemies of Thankfulness

Why I Struggle with Being Thankful

By Christi Grimm

If you have joined the ranks of parenthood, you have probably felt overwhelmed at the task. Parenting is no joke- it is definitely not for the faint of heart! As I have spent the last two decades raising children (and with another decade in front of me), I have come to realize something: I like control.

Children have a way of pointing these things out to us, don’t they? I like to feel that I am in control of my life, I like to have control over my home, I like to have a sense of control over my children’s choices…and the list goes on.  If you’re willing to admit it, you probably like control too! Control, many times, has a partner called Perfection.

Our so called “friends” Control and Perfection sound like this:

“My home should be perfectly picked up- it should look like a Pinterest board.”

“My children should never talk back, disobey, act rudely, or be disrespectful.” 

“My meals should be wonderfully healthy, organic, and home grown, and we should eat dinner at 6 P.M. every night.”

“My body should be shapely, lack any extra fluff, be perfectly smooth, and of course I should be working out 3-4 times a week.”

“My spiritual life should be soaring, I should hear from God in a profound way every time I sit with Him, I should never miss a day, and it should absolutely happen first thing in the morning (while the children are quiet, content, and doing their own Bible studies with their Greek and Hebrew word study materials, of course.)”

“My marriage should be idyllic- we should never argue, should have weekly romantic dates, should connect emotionally, sexually, and spiritually on a regular basis…and it should always be fulfilling.”

Now, I realize we don’t use these exact phrases, but this is how we live. We expect to have perfect lives. We expect to “have it all together” all the time.  And because we have these unrealistic expectations of ourselves, our children, and our families, we must maintain control!  Because when we give up control, we risk the opportunity of our perfect-Pinterest-personas crashing down. 

Friends, I can tell you from experience- this is no way to live! Control and Perfection are two sides of the same coin and no matter how you look at them they always do the same things: they steal your thankfulness and ultimately your joy.  If I am focused on everything being perfectly planned and executed, there is no space to experience God’s grace. There is no space for learning and growing, to be human, or to be a CHILD of God. We tend to forget we are CHILDREN of God; we are not little gods who should be in control of everything and perfect! If I am focused on everything being controlled and perfect, I miss out on experiencing a thankful heart.

Thankfulness occurs in a humble heart.  Control and Perfection occur in a prideful heart. A prideful heart says “I can do this, I don’t need help, and I need you (the world) to see how well I’m doing and applaud me.” Essentially, the attitude of our heart becomes “Look at me! I’m a little god!”

On the flip side, the more we recognize that we DON’T have it all together and our daily dependence is on God, the more thankful we can become at His work and presence in our lives.

I am finding that the more I open my hands and relinquish control and perfectionism to Him, the more thankfulness stirs in my heart. It isn’t a series of words I speak, per se, but rather an attitude and authentic feeling of thankfulness (that can then pour over into my words). I am recognizing that when I fall back into control and perfectionism, I fall out of a thankful heart and attitude. The two cannot reside in the same heart at the same time. I can either choose control and perfectionism OR I can choose humility and thankfulness.

Do you struggle with being thankful?  Do you struggle with irritability when things don’t go as planned? Perhaps, like me, you have struggled with control and perfectionism. I want to challenge you: each time God brings a detour in your day or an irritability from the messiness of life, stop and choose thankfulness. 

As we walk into this Thanksgiving season, I encourage you to do it differently. Get to the heart of the matter!  Cultivating a thankful heart requires digging in. It requires more than just speaking some nice words of thanks around the Thanksgiving table with friends and family. It is more than writing what you’re thankful for on a paper cut-out turkey. Thankfulness pours out of the heart; it is an attitude and is in direct correlation of our communion with the Father. The more I relinquish the need for control and perfection, the more I can offer all of myself to the Father and the more thankfulness will flow in. 

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His Holy Name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. (Psalm 103:1-4)

Application Points

  • Ask yourself: Am I striving for control in this situation? How can I let go of control and invite God into this moment? If God is invited into our messes, He will create thankfulness within your heart.
  • Ask yourself: Am I trying to have everything perfect so that I can feel better about myself? Is my perfectionism tied to my identity and worth? When our identity and worth is grounded in Christ instead of our surroundings, we can’t help but become thankful at what the Lord has done!
  • Ask yourself: What, in this moment, is actually a God-gift that I can humble myself and be thankful for? What often looks like a disaster is frequently filled with God-saturated goodness if we will only look for it!
  • Ask yourself: What is it about a Pinterest-persona that is so gratifying? How can God fulfill this need for you? Each time we turn to a worldly way of fulfillment (even if it’s a good thing), our soul is ultimately crying out for more of God. He desires to show you more of Himself, and as He does, your thankfulness will overflow!

Christ keeps busy raising her 6 children, traveling, and homeschooling. She is passionate about bringing God’s freedom to women through small retreats. www.sixtyoneacres.com.

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November 9, 2021

Choosing to Rejoice in a Season of Suffering

How to Fight Roots of Bitterness and Resentment

By Jordan Sparnroft

I have found it easier to choose resentment over gratitude when I’m walking through darkness. Resentment masks itself as a comforting blanket in a dark and scary room. However, resentment only deceives and further suffocates.

I have resented everything and everyone: from the person who wronged me, my situation, myself, and God. In my resentment, I’ve hurt the people who were trying to help me. I’ve walked away from God and the results were even more darkness. Isn’t that exactly what Satan wants for us? To isolate us from God and His people, to separate us from love and drown us in hate. I don’t want that for you or for me. Neither does God. The path to light is narrow but it can be found. Jeremiah 29:13 tells us, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Both Philippians 4 and 1 Peter 1 tell us to rejoice in our suffering. David spends the majority of the Psalms lamenting to God, yet rejoicing and remembering both God and His character. I recently learned that there is a difference in rejoicing and being “thankful”. Rejoicing means to celebrate the character of God. Being thankful means to praise God for all the blessings He has given you. God calls us to do both.

Hebrews 12:3 tells us to “Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Consider Him. Jesus deserved to be bitter and resentful. His circumstances were unjust. He is King yet he was homeless, wrongfully accused, all culminating in suffering and dying a death He didn’t deserve. He knows the temptation of being bitter; go to Him. His grace comes in the form of His word, His creation, His people. We consider him by meditating on what He endured for us, we praise Him for Who He is, we google verses about God’s character and apply His character to our suffering.

If resentment has settled into our hearts, we also need to examine what and who is feeding our feelings of resentment and seek the people and things that help us focus on God and to dwell on the praiseworthy.

Do you have friends who are joining you in your misery? Are they wallowing in self-pity with you and bringing you further down into despair? Or are your friends bearing your burdens with you by caring for you in your time of need, crying with you, and still pointing you to the One Who holds your heart and is near to you in your brokenness?

Surround yourself with people who will lament with you yet open your eyes to everything God is doing and has done in the midst of your suffering. It is acceptable to be sad and angry about what is happening or has happened to you. However, it is possible to sing His praises in the midst of intense sadness.

To do this, we need people in our lives who love God and love us, bear our burdens with us, and point us to the One who holds our hearts and is close to us in our brokenness. Seek those who have also endured suffering and have chosen to pursue God in the midst of it. Their wisdom is pure, gentle, full of mercy and good fruit; without bias and hypocrisy (James 3:17). Such wisdom comes directly from the heart of God. Spend time with those who use their sufferings for His glory and help you seek God and His grace in the midst of your own suffering.

What are your eyes looking at and your ears listening to? What kind of accounts are you following on your social media feed? Is what you’re looking at promoting fear, doubt, jealousy, lust? (Even Christian accounts that aren’t bad can promote feelings of jealousy and lust because of our own immature thinking.) Is what you’re looking at on social media and Netflix or what you’re listening to promoting anything worthy of praise?

It is also important to note what resentment is NOT. It is NOT resentful to ask God to take your suffering from you. It is NOT resentful to be overwhelmed by what is happening to and around you. It is NOT resentful to tell Him your anxieties and your anger about your situation. All of these feelings and actions are permissible and even encouraged! The sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite spirit. Don’t be afraid to be completely honest with God about your emotions.

Application Points:

  • Rejoice in the character of God. Be thankful for the blessings and grace He has given and is giving you in your suffering. Meditate on Jesus and the unjust suffering He endured while remaining sinless so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
  • Surround yourself with people who love God and love you. People who will bear your burden with you, yet point you to the One who created You and holds your heart in His grip. Look to the wisdom of those who have also endured suffering yet have chosen to pursue God and seek Him in the midst of it. Their wisdom is invaluable and comes from God.
  • Set aside anything or anyone who is promoting feelings of self-pity, doubt, anger, fear, lust, and jealousy.
  • A great resource is the book Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy by Mark Vroegop. He talks about what it means to lament yet praise God in suffering.

Jordan lives in historic central Virginia with her husband and daughter. She is a first grade teacher at a Christian school, and loves early mornings and spending time with her family.  

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November 4, 2021

3 Ways to Incorporate Gratitude into Your Quiet Time

Showing Gratitude Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

By Grace McCready

Fall is the season of many pleasant things, including flannel shirts, stylish boots, and pumpkin spice lattes. But fall—especially the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving—sometimes produces that very unpleasant feeling of guilt because we haven’t been as thankful as we should’ve been this year.

Don’t worry, friend. It’s never too late to be thankful. While I completely understand how challenging it is to be grateful when you’re in the midst of suffering, there are several simple ways that you can express gratitude to God. Here are just a few of them:

1. Use the Quiet Time Companion.

One thing that I love about the Quiet Time Companion is that it essentially serves as my reminder to express gratitude. The section entitled “Today I’m Grateful For” nudges me to thank God for a recent blessing in my life that He has provided. Instead of journaling a quick prayer or asking for a long list of things, this little reminder helps focus my heart on God’s provision in my life.

2. Make daily lists.

I often incorporate gratitude into my quiet time by making lists of things that I am grateful for. This is a straightforward way to express thankfulness to God. After all, He is the One who provides every good thing in my life and your life—whether it’s a home-cooked meal with family, an encouraging text from a friend, or a breathtaking sunset at the end of the day (James 1:17). Your list doesn’t have to include a hundred things—it can be as short or as long as you want. The length of your list doesn’t matter nearly as much as the attitude you have while you make it.

3. Note answered prayers and respond with praise.

I have a little journal that has my “big prayers” written inside and the “big answers” that God has given in response. These “big prayers” are prayers that I typically pray multiple times—sometimes even for months. When God graciously shows up in my life and answers one of these prayers (even when the answer isn’t what I initially wanted to get), I write it down. Honestly, I often neglect to show my gratitude when He answers, but He deserves my gratitude for each and every prayer He answers. When you look for God, you’re more likely to see Him working in your life—and you’re more likely to thank Him for the work He’s doing, too.

I love the Lord, because He hears my voice and my pleas. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live. (Psalm 116:1-2 NASB)

Application Points:

  • If you don’t already have one, check out the Quiet Time Companion and see if it could be a helpful resource as you grow in gratitude.
  • Try making a new list each day this week with several things that you’re grateful for. See how many blessings you can identify and thank God for them throughout the week.
  • Find a blank journal (or use your Quiet Time Companion) to write a few “big prayers” that are on your heart right now. As you see God answer these prayers, write down the “big answers” and praise Him for working—even if He doesn’t work exactly like you thought He would.

Grace enjoys spending time with her family, hanging out with friends, and watching her favorite TV shows. She is the author of Real Recovery: What Eating Disorder Recovery Actually Looks Like, which is set to release in 2022. She blogs about the Christian life at 
Tizzie’s Tidbits of Truth.

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November 2, 2021

3 Ways to Spice up Your Quiet Time Routine

Fighting for Our First Love

By: Emily Miller

I’ve been married for almost seven years. During our first couple years of marriage, everything was new and exciting. We learned everything about each other: Our pasts, our quirks, our habits as we explored the ins and outs of our personalities. Sometimes this learning was intentional in the form of long talks and many questions, but more often we learned as we lived life together.

Seven years into marriage, we’ve had three children, moved five times, fought, repented, pointed each other to Jesus, clung to each other while weeping, held hands in hospital rooms, and shared almost every evening together. Leigh and I know each other deeply.

There are dangers in knowing anyone well. We can feel over-familiar and lose interest; take the other for granted and not appreciate; we can assume that we know everything and stop pursuing the relationship.

I’ve been having a quiet time every morning since I was thirteen years old. At first it was new, exciting, and hard. I felt proud of myself for spending a whole 15 minutes reading the Bible each morning. I had a sense of accomplishment for maintaining my new habit. I was thrilled by each new insight into the Scriptures I read, amazed every time I heard Jesus’ voice in those quiet, early-morning moments.

Eighteen years have passed since I began my quiet time routine. I’ve learned much about Jesus through both His Word and in putting His Word to the test by (very imperfectly) living it out in every season of life. My battle is not with knowing how to spend time with Jesus, that habit is formed. My battle is with over-familiarity.

Becoming over-familiar and even bored with the Bible, the Gospel, and Jesus Himself is not a trivial thing. In Revelation 2, God warns the church of Ephesus with these words:

I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Rev. 2:4)

In marriage, we don’t go to sleep delighted in our marriage, wake up the next morning feeling a bit bored, and then willy-nilly decide that we don’t love our spouse anymore.

Likewise in our walk with Christ, we don’t immediately go from delighted with Jesus’ love to indifferent to Him and His Gospel. Instead, the loss of our first love is not dramatic, but a slow, quiet process.

In both marriage and our relationship with Jesus, regaining our love is also a slow, quiet process.

Thankfully, there are many weapons we can use to combat over-familiarity and a dwindling love for Christ. Here are three:

1. Repent.

We are often very clever about avoiding our responsibility in our relationships with God (and people). We pretend that our lack of love is normal, not that serious, and perhaps even inevitable. We blame circumstances. We act like we’re the helpless victim of our own stale hearts. We do everything except call our lack of love what it is: sin. Sin always has its reasons. But, as long as those reasons are our excuses, we are kept under sin’s power.

The truth is that it’s shocking that we become bored with the Jesus and His Gospel! How do we become tired of the One Who made us? How are we bored by the One Who loves us best? How can we be indifferent to the Hope of the world? It’s insane (and yet so very normal) that we have to force ourselves to make time for Jesus.

Repentance frees us to recognize reality, take responsibility, and ask for Jesus’ help in escaping the appalling hardness of our own hearts.

2. Remember.

When I recognize that I’m taking my husband for granted, I immediately start keeping a mental list of everything I appreciate about him. Lists of how he has failed my expectations or irritated me tend to come more easily, since we are naturally wired with loveless hearts that keep a record of wrongs. So, I fight to make note of everything I like about my husband: His smile, his lanky frame, his laugh, his tireless serving of our family, his practical knowledge, his hard work, his ridiculous love of Minecraft, everything! I rehearse my favorite memories of him. I keep an account of the things he’s done that inspires my respect.

This practice feels unnatural at first but, as I do it, my love revives. After a short while, I’m grateful to have my husband in my life. I’m amazed that he loves me and chose me as his wife.

When quiet time is boring and our love for Jesus is cooling, start a list. Write out scriptures that inspire thankfulness, respect, and love in you for Who God is and what He has done. Write out specifically what He’s done in your life. Keep a jar labeled “God’s Goodness” and spend a year collecting notes of every good gift God gives and every prayer He answers. Gratitude is love’s great ally.

3. Make It a Date.

When we first begin dating, we prepare ourselves, plan our time, and set up an atmosphere to learn about and please the other. We rejoice in sharing ourselves with someone we find so wonderful and interesting.

If daily quiet time has become rushed, boring, or lifeless, then treat it like a date. Schedule the best time. Prepare yourself by getting a good night’s sleep, making a delicious cup of coffee, or getting some exercise to clear your mind. Set a nice atmosphere by choosing a beautiful spot, lighting a candle, or getting some flowers. Remember that this time is set aside for you to learn about and please the Most Interesting Being in existence. You get to spend time with the One Who loves you best. Treat quiet time as a holy (set apart) time. Share yourself with Jesus. Rejoice in the fact that the Most Wonderful One delights in meeting with you.

In seven years of marriage and eighteen years of daily quiet time with Jesus, I’ve discovered two truths:
1. The battles against over-familiarity will come.
2. If we fight this battle, instead of surrendering to it, we’ll end up enriching our love.

My marriage now is way more fun, deep, and satisfying than our first years together. I also love Jesus and enjoy my quiet time with Him more at 31 than at 13.

The enemy of your soul wants you to be convinced that the familiar becomes boring, that love is only exciting at the start, and that habits -like a daily quiet time only lead to lifeless routine. The truth is that the familiar can be delightful, well-tended love grows in beauty, and a daily quiet time (like regular dates with your husband) nourishes your relationship with Jesus.

Application Points:

  • Recognize the dangers of over-familiarity.
  • Repent.
  • Remember. Make lists!
  • Treat quiet time like a date: schedule it, prepare for it, and set the atmosphere.

Emily began having a daily quiet time at the age of 13. This habit has been one of the few constants in her life as she transitioned from being a missionary kid in Mongolia to a barista in Oregon to a stay-at-home mom in central Florida. The Word of God has anchored Emily to Jesus through depression, struggles with doubt, health issues, and her son’s cystic fibrosis.

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December 31, 2020

New Year, New You

By: Vanessa Bonilla 

5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Happy New Year! 

It’s so strange that the same twenty-four-hour change that happens everyday of the year, changes something in us on the final day of the year. We immediately have this deep desire for more. We start to think up ways to be better than we have been. We condemn ourselves for not meeting last year’s goals. We become anxious about tomorrow. This anxiety is like a loud nagging voice yelling 

DO MORE! BE MORE! EXPERIENCE MORE! 

The most common new year’s resolutions are: 

  1. Exercise more 
  1. Save money 
  1. Eat healthily 
  1. Lose weight 

Do these goals sound familiar? They definitely do to me! My family and I sit down to make goals every year and I have written each one of those for the past two years. Unfortunately, I have failed at meeting them two years in a row. 

This year will be different! 

Will I somehow meet all of these goals? No, instead I’ve set my sights on new goals: 

  1. Strength 
  1. Wisdom 
  1. A joyful heart 
  1. Enlightened mind 
     

I can meet these goals! So can you! All we have to do is make quiet time in 2021 our greatest priority. Time in the word of God gets us all these things. Psalm 19 tells us God’s laws, his rules, his commands are perfect, they can be trusted and they are right. When we believe that, we get to accomplish these goals. We get to shut down the loud nagging voice and hear the voice of God whispering draw near

In Luke 12 we see Jesus talking to the people, sharing with them the cure for an anxious heart. Which one of us has not been tempted by anxiety at some point in 2020? But, if everything were to stay the same in the world, the sickness, the mistrust, the injustices, what do we do? We trust what is right, the word of God! 

Worry doesn’t add a day to our lives. The word says the world eagerly seeks out the “how” in everything but our trust leads us to believe the Father knows what we need and provides. Not only does he provide, He delights in giving us eternal things along with the temporal things. There isn’t anything evil about the first list of goals, they are excellent goals to have, but in pursuing things over pursuing God we get nothing in the end. But when we pursue God and His kingdom all these things will be added unto us. 

Here is my prayer for 2021, 

Lord lead me to your feet daily, give me the strength to do the things that will bring you the most glory and will kill my selfish nature. Give me wisdom through your word to know what is of you and what isn’t. May I find joy in you and my mind be enlightened by the light of your word. “Cleanse me from my hidden faults, keep my from willful sins; do not let them rule me. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:13-14 


Vanessa is the daughter of a Pastor, baby of six and a homeschooling mom of five. Married to her wonderful husband of eight years, they serve in their local church together. She loves fresh fruit, nights by the fire pit, and time with friends and family. Vanessa has watched God do amazing things in her life. Assaulted at a young age, teen mom and the survivor of an abusive marriage left her life in pieces. Today she stands restored and uses the testimony of brokenness to help build others and encourage women to discover the fullness of a relationship with God.

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December 29, 2020

Joy Unspeakable Joy

By: Tiffany Joy Layton

When Christmas rolls around each year, a particular song plays in my head. Many years ago, the worship team I was on at the time, first introduced this song to me: a variation of Joy to the World by Chris Tomlin called Joy Unspeakable Joy. The chorus is simple and repetitive, but for some reason, all these years later, it’s still in my head. 

“Joy, Unspeakable Joy 
An overflowing well  
No tongue can tell 
Joy Unspeakable Joy 
Rises in my soul, never lets me go” 

Why is this time of the year so focused on joy, especially within Christianity? Think about this with me for a moment. For hundreds of years God’s people were promised a Savior and Messiah. The One who would save and redeem them. When Jesus was born, it wasn’t just about a perfect baby being born. It was a long-awaited fulfillment of prophecy. I can only imagine the joy that welled up inside of those who realized who Jesus truly was! 

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come 
Let earth receive her King. 
Let every heart prepare Him room 
And Heaven and nature sing… 
He rules the world with truth and grace 
And makes the nations prove 
The glories of His Righteousness 
And wonders of His Love…” 

As we close out this year and look on to a new year ahead, I want to embrace and implement the lyrics to this song. I want to respond with great joy all year long and not just at Christmas. As I read through the lyrics of Joy unspeakable Joy, I found myself questioning how often I truly reflect on these truths and if I respond to these things sufficiently. Is my life expressing the joy and worship that my Savior is due? 

The Lord Has Come 

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to live during the Bible times. What did it feel like when the Messiah, that generations had been waiting for, was finally born? Would I have been one of the few who acknowledged that He was the Savior? But then I think about how I am acknowledging that today. The truth is: THE LORD HAS COME!!! And my response to that truth should be the same as the angels, shepherds, and wise men that glorious night! 

“Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those whom God is pleased.’” Luke 2:13-14 NLT 

The entire purpose of Christ coming to earth was to ‘seek and save those who are lost.’ (Luke 19:10 NLT). Jesus’ unmatched glory, coupled with His mission to seek out and save the lost, provoked the angels to worship, and it should provoke me to do the same. 

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room 

What does it mean to prepare room in our hearts for the Lord? What does that look like? This line in the song is possibly the most applicable to Quiet Time. When the Lord came, the world didn’t receive Him the way they should have. From His birth through the rest of His life, there were those who either did not believe He was the Messiah, or who even tried to kill Him. The cheery sing-along line of this happy song holds a lot more weight than it seems. 

“He came into the very world He created, but the world did not recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him. But to all who believed and accepted Him, He gave the right to become Children of God… So the Word [Jesus] became human and made His home among us.”  John 1:10-12; 14 NLT 

I wonder how often I may not recognize Him in my daily life. How often do I barrel through my busy schedule (or even my Quiet Time) without truly stopping to believe Him at His Word, trust Him in the small and big things, or worship Him in all things throughout the day? Making room for Him in our hearts means we must acknowledge and accept all of who He is. It means we must slow down enough to actually go through our day with Him as the focus. It means we must rid ourselves of unconfessed sin so the home in our hearts is ready for Him. 

He Rules with Truth and Grace 

“For from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:16-17 ESV 

I recently listened to a sermon discussing how Jesus deals with us in grace and truth, and that we should deal with one another in the same way. When I read this line I immediately thought of that sermon. One without the other would create disorder. If there were only ever grace, we would all likely have no convictions of sin and believe that our gracious salvation excludes us from the consequence of sin, therefore no need for repentance or obedience. If there were only Truth, it would be as it was in the Old Testament with the law: Constant fear of punishment for our sins. We would all be seeking perfection rather than the freedom of a relationship with Him. I rejoice that Jesus came to this world to offer us both grace and truth! 

Nations Prove the Glories of His Righteousness and Love 

There are several passage throughout the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, discussing how all of creation proves the glory of God. I love this truth. Understanding that He causes all of creation to acknowledge and worship His glory is so powerful and comforting. 

“The heavens proclaim His righteousness; every nation sees His glory.” 
Psalm 97:6 NLT 

One of my favorite stories in the Bible regarding this topic is found in Luke 19. As Jesus and His disciples were walking, they all began worshiping Him! 

“‘Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Preface in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’ But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, ‘Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!’ He replied, ‘If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!’” Luke 19:38-40 NLT 

This passage always makes me smile. I imagine the looks on the Pharisees’ faces. I imagine the confidence in Jesus’ voice. He will have His praise one way or another! My prayer is that stone will never have to cry out on my account. I pray I will always be His disciple and worship Him as I go about my day. 

Repeat the Sounding Joy 

“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:11 NLT 

I thought for a while about what it practically looked like to ‘repeat the sounding Joy.’ It’s not exactly a figure of speech we use often. My resolve concluded at this: to repeat the sounding joy is to live a life overflowing with the Joy of the Lord. This is what ties it all together! The understanding that the Lord has come, the practice of making room for Him in our hearts, the blessing of His grace and His truth, and the evidence of His glory in creation all should come to a resounding crescendo of overwhelming joy! 

This joy given to us by the Lord Himself is not defined by human understandings of happiness. It is an overflow of our gratitude for the Messiah Whose great love motivated Him to come in grace and truth to save the lost. I am taught how to ‘repeat’ the sounding joy by following the Psalmist example of meditating on the Lord and His truth. By creating daily habits of reflection on Him, we are not only filled with joy overflowing, but we posture ourselves to instinctively respond in worship. 

I pray the next time you hear any variation of Joy to the World it will have an entirely new meaning to you. I pray we would all be reminded of how magnificent the coming of our Lord truly was and that we would be prompted to give Him the worship He is due all year long. As we close out this rather difficult year, there is one thing that has remained steadfast and true. The Savior and Messiah of the world came to earth, lived perfectly, and pursued us in the unity of love, grace, and truth all the way to the completion of the cross and grave. Oh, what Joy to the World, what Unspeakable Joy, what a reason to overflow with joy! 


Tiffany was born and raised in central Alabama and earned a bachelor’s degree in Theology while residing in Mobile AL. She then moved back to her hometown and met her husband while working as a barista in a local coffee shop! Tiffany and her husband Lex have now been married for 6 years and have both service in several different church staff positions. She is a proud dog mom and loves coffee, songwriting, art, Japanese/Thai foods, sunsets, and spending the day at the lake/beach! Tiffany is passionate about helping women deepen their understanding of Scripture through Bible study and quiet time, and as a result, creating lasting discipleship!

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December 24, 2020

Advent: What to do with the In-between

By: Hannah Fatheree

I’m sitting on the couch watching Elf, enjoying a bowl of popcorn, and listening to the crackle of the logs in the fireplace. I glance at our beautifully-lit Christmas tree in the corner with all the presents wrapped, ready to be opened. Excitement rushes through my veins because I can’t wait to have my family together on Christmas morning, hopefully it will even be snowy. 

In the midst of the Holiday anticipation, I started to realize that my focus this season has mostly been on worldly celebrations. This year has taken a lot from all of us: routine, certainty, normalcy, etc. I got so wrapped up in feeling normal again: pursuing our Christmas traditions, buying gifts, and decorating, that I lost sight of why we pause, reflect, and rejoice this time of year. 

This Advent season, I started reading a daily devotional, to take me through what Advent means and how it still shapes our lives to this day. Advent is the celebration of Jesus coming into this world and our anticipation of His second coming. 

We can infer from Luke 1:29 that Mary felt uneasy when she discovered she would be the earthly mother of Jesus. Uneasiness would be more than understandable, and I can only imagine the weight and pressure she must have felt. The angel Gabriel encourages Mary stating she had found favor with God and Jesus would be the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32). In the first coming, Jesus was born to serve as the atonement of our sins, rescuing us from the punishment we deserve (John 3:16). Jesus’ birth signified the opportunity to spend eternity with Him, but the work doesn’t stop there. 

While we don’t know when He will return, scripture tells that the second coming will bring healing, restoration and righteousness. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is King (Philippians 2:10-11). 

As we anticipate His second coming, we’re faced with a question: What do we do with the in-between? We know what happened and what will happen, but how we spend this time in between matters. We’re called to live out scripture and bear much fruit, but what does that mean for our day-to-day lives? 

  1. Take root in Him. To have a relationship with Jesus, we must seek Him with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13). It’s important to remember that His ways are higher than our ways, and His plan is far better than our plan. Rooting yourself in Jesus includes frequent prayer, time in the Word, time in community, and worship. Set up specific times each day to dive in the Word, worship on your way to school or work, or join a small group. 
  1. Make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Share His name and glory with those around you: classmates, coworkers, friends and family. A big testimony to those individuals includes sharing what He has done in your life and how He has radically changed you. We should desire to share the freedom we have experienced only through Christ. If you’re not sure who to share with, pray for God to plant the right people in your life. 
  1. Be in the world but not of the world. What we have on Earth is only temporary. Remember that we live differently when we follow Jesus. We speak a language of love, leading with grace and landing in truth. 
  1. Don’t simply enjoy what He’s done, but engage in what He’s doing. It’s easy to sit back and delight in His goodness, but don’t stop there! Jesus can do far more in you when you’re engaged. You’ll be amazed at all that He’s doing when you take a front row seat. 

We live between His promise and His rescue. As we wrap up the Advent season and prepare for a new year, I challenge you to think about where your focus has been lately. Maybe you’re like me and have desired to obtain normalcy and that desire has created further distraction from your purpose. Or maybe this season has been extremely tough and it’s difficult to remember His promises. Regardless of where you’re at, consider and pray what your next step should be as we anticipate His second coming. 


Hannah currently resides in Knoxville, Tennessee with her husband Taylor and works as an event planner. In her free time, she enjoys hiking in the Smoky Mountains, training for marathons, or sipping on a cup of coffee with friends. Hannah is passionate about helping others find Biblical community in their season of life. Through Captivating Community, she seeks to encourage and equip women in their walk with Christ.

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