Tips for Successfully Reading Your Bible Daily in 2014

Jason and Heather Horseshoe Bend

The first time I attempted to read through the Bible may have been 2009. I met with success using the NIV One Year Chronological Bible. Portions were tedious, no doubt, and many times I played catchup, wondering if I would ever navigate my way through the wilderness of Old Testament genealogies. However, I persevered and because of that, encountered parts of the Bible I would have otherwise avoided or overlooked.

As 2013 dawned, I scrambled for resolutions and toyed with the idea of once again reading through the Bible in a year. I decided on a plan that started with the Old Testament and trudged forward. Admittedly, it wasn’t long before I was entirely bored with my reading plan. I rushed through it so I could check it off my list and move on to a text more interesting at the time.

Read the remainder of the post over here at iBelieve.

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Purity and Social Media… Not Mutually Exclusive

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My husband and I were hanging out in the living room, he watching sports on TV as I scanned my iPhone Instagram App. Wading through pictures of friend’s children and the latest meme, I was jolted by the next photo that flashed on my screen. A former student from our ministry days was posed in her bathing suit bottoms, showing off her hard earned assets… I think you get the picture.

I stammered over my thoughts as I turned to my husband, Ron, and said, “It is really disheartening when I see former students who profess faith in Christ showing off their bodies and bad decisions on social media.” Without showing him the picture, I described the image. Without responding, Ron continued to fiddle with his iPad and watch the game. No reply from him led me to assume he has heard my modesty rant mortification spiel one too many times. However, imagine my surprise when Ron’s Facebook status popped up on my feed, seconds later.

“I am going to go out on a limb here and ask you girls who are working out like fiends and look great to protect us guys who are trying to be faithful to our spouses. Please save those photos for your husband either now or one day. #thinkbeforeyoupost Thanks!”

Read the rest over at iBelieve. (Click here.)

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Step Into Fall

Step Into Fall

Last week we looked at the changing of seasons. As you sip your favorite fall drink, or grab another pumpkin treat, here are some fall-time posts from the archives. Let’s step into fall together shall we?

Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction? (Amos 3:3, NLT)

  1. Harvesting Hearts of Principle (here)
  2. Apple Picking in the South (here)
  3. To Carve Out a Light (here)
  4. Thanksgiving: To Lay Down a Life (here)
  5. Stepping Back in Time (here)

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This Weekend

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This weekend, may you snuggle-up next to someone you love, read a book that stirs your soul, and find reasons to give thanks.

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I Must Remember This

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As I re-wipe counters that were morning clean, fold and put away the same shirts and underwear as last week, and re-sweep floors that were a few days ago Swiffer fresh, I must remember this…

Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, everything here on planet earth is temporary.

Man is like a breath, his days are like a passing shadow. ~Psalm 144:4

That I like Moses should pray,

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. ~Psalm 90:12

Feet will not always dangle from seats too high.

Imaginative play lasts only for a season.

Even tantrums, the “no” stage, and time-outs will eventually fade away.

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I must remember that the little girl and little boy will soon stand up and take their place in God’s world.

Time on earth is temporary and fleeting. Eternity lasts forever.

Shouldn’t I work for the eternal? See my children and their fleeting days till adulthood as a gift and a heritage to be cultivated in tiny hearts? Seek to serve the poor and the persecuted? Indeed. I must remember that each assignment the Lord gives me on this earth will last, at most, only a lifetime. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to this quote  from Joan Walsh Anglund:

Where is the yesterday that worried us so?

I must remember that today is a gift, yesterday a memory, and tomorrow is a hope yet unrealized. I want to be a good steward of today and the resources God entrusted to me within it. There is pressure in this knowledge, but also freedom.

In these days of uncertainty with our foster child, Little E, I very easily become discouraged and drained. I fear as we start a year of homeschooling in the coming weeks that I will  not be able to keep up, perform, be the mom, wife, writer, teacher child of God that I am called to be.  I am overwhelmed and fearful because of the domestic demands, motherly demands,foster care demands, and self-inflicted demands that I place on myself. Putting one foot in front of the other, one load in the wash after another, one dish in the dishwasher after another can seem so mundane and, even worse,  never ending.

It is okay to confess these feelings of drain fellow parent. To pretend it is not so is to live a lie. To accept it and not try to take these feelings to the foot of the cross is selling out for a lesser life. He wants us to live in abundant, holy joy.

I must remember that in this small piece of a breath of life, the thing my children will remember more than all else is the love and affection they did or did not receive. The pieces of  daily offerings added over time may not be remembered in vivid accounts but more as a picture of wholeness. For they were wholly…holy…loved.

Dear Father,

Please teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Help us to live for the eternal, hold onto things loosely, and work for Your glory and fellow man’s good. Help us to seek the things that are above and remember that all victories or defeats in this life are but fleeting. Help us to delight in You and spread your fame through all the earth. Help us to be rich in good deeds both within our home and without. Help us to pursue a godly and peaceful life. Let us do the work you give us with joy and sow a godly heritage in the children you have blessed us with. In Jesus Name, Amen.

 

*An edited re-post.

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Of Rocks and Hidden Sin

I saw him digging in the dirt and thought that his hands were instinctively finding more yard-work to tackle. It wasn’t until the rocks began to pile in the back of Joshua’s metal dump-truck that I realized what Ron was working on.

He was clearing the dirt of the unyielding hard surfaces of rocks; making room for roots to run deep.

The next day I was adding space to breathe in our outside storage closet. I walked around the corner to assist the children with their play, when I noticed the new edging that Ron had carefully constructed in first one corner and then along the bend of another. The rocks that, had they laid buried, could have prevented growth within our flower beds, now lay as a shining washed border to mark the boundaries of the beds.

The rocks that lay in the dark were washed and exposed to the light. They were given a new purpose as a boundary with distinction. 

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What if  we view those rocks as our hidden, or deeply buried, sin? Are we presently digging them up or pushing them further down into the layers of dirt? Are we covering them with the fertilizer and mulch of excuses, blame, denial, or avoidance?

When we unearth the rocks of sin through confession and repentance Jesus washes us clean. He will use the past experiences to lay boundaries in our present paths. Experiences of unwise, unhealthy, and flagrantly wrong choices are a painful teacher.  However, after we identify the rocks, sin, for what they really are, He can use them to lay boundaries or guard rails in our lives so that we need not experience the dark, lonely confines of a life buried in the consequences of sinful choices again. Rather we can soak in the Son and glisten with newness of life as we walk in a new way of life.

The rocks that were a suppressed reminder of our sinful demise, are re-purposed into a protective border of choices for today and guidance to those who happen to walk our path.

One day a stone was rolled away that all who believe on Christ Jesus may have new life in Him. (John 20) The same Jesus who rolled away the stone, and rose from the dead, wants to take the rocks from your soul-laced soil and breathe new life into the dead places too long buried.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:13-16, NLT)

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Enter Here

Pictures of doors from around the globe often captivate me on Pinterest. Vivid colors, adorning flowers, and unique shapes of doorways stand out among the mirage of images to pin.

Prayer opens the door to communication with God. God speaks to us in a variety of ways: the Bible, His people, our circumstances, etc….as directed by the Holy Spirit. However, we initiate communication with God through prayer uttered with our minds and mouths. When we pray, we invite the ever-present God to join in the conversation of our very lives moment by moment.

The goal of prayer is to live all of my life and speak all of my words in the joyful awareness of the presence of God. ~John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be

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Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation, Jesus instructed his disciples (Mark 14:38). Watch and pray. Seek wisdom with your whole heart (Proverbs 2). Whether you turn to the right or to the left you will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk in it (Isaiah 30:21).”

God actively instructs, watches, and listens to us. We determine if we go about our whole day without a God-ward thought, or if we open our eyes and lift our thoughts in continual communion with the One who never leaves or forsakes us.

To make prayer a continual conversation is to truly take every thought captive and make it obedient to God. At the gym, in the car, at the job or while correcting our children, we take captive our thoughts and purpose them to prayer. It is a matter of our will and a matter of restoring our redeemed minds to the mind of Christ-likeness– the one in whose image we are made.

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7, NLT)

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Often we might want to shut the door on certain thought patterns. God knows the needed areas of change. He will not stagger in astonishment at our repentant confessions and pleas for help. He delights in humble, contrite hearts– not the hearts of the religious pharisees whose cups are clean on the outside only (Psalms 51:17, Matthew 23:25-26).

In our day, most people close their eyes when they pray. But praying with one’s eyes open was common for Jewish people in that day. Among other things, it reminded them, God is right here, right now, in my real world. ~John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be

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How often do you open the door to communication and communion with the Spirit of the Living God?

Today, may we pray with eyes wide open. May we look for opportunities to speak with the Spoken Word made flesh (John 1:14) that His  presence may be manifested to us as He dwells within us (John 14:26).

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Excerpts taken from:

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The Challenge of Change

I am sure that you have felt it…that gentle push into the deep. The pressure to go further than you have gone before. More resistance.   A steeper incline…or a seeming free fall.

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When we are challenged to step out of the boat, into the ring, take center stage, or serve in the most humble of ways, it is all for the glory of God and the transformation of a spiritual life.

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Humans need change. We need to be pushed past our known limits so that we can achieve the unmet goals of good works that God has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). This looks different in every life. Likewise, the cost of change will be felt somewhat uniquely by each individual.

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Routine and familiarity breeds comfort, but trust in the midst of change breeds faith and rejoicing.

In what areas are you being asked to make changes? Step up? Step out in faith? To endure beyond what you thought was possible?

Choose joy in this:

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6, NLT)

Take heart my friends and serve faithfully. In prayer, I will do the same.

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We Have Been Published!

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Five years ago, Ron took our first group of students to Student Leadership University (SLU). This fabulous leadership program for today’s youth is headed and founded by Dr. Jay Strack.  Dr. Jay has been a youth evangelist for over 30 years. I had the privilege of hearing him myself as a youth growing up in the 90’s. His experience and expertise in the youth industry is in a league of its very own.

SLU has proven to be a wonderful tool to train young people to be the godly leaders with integrity that our country desperately needs today. Back in the fall of 2012, Ron received an e-mail from Dr. Jay asking him to be a contributor for his newest book, #CriticalIssues #AbsoluteAnswers. Ron was delighted with the offer and made one additional request…”Can my wife write two chapters as well?”

Think of the humility and the selflessness of my husband! How many people, either male or female, would put the heart’s desires of their spouse for publication equal to their own? Not many I would sadly say, but that is the level of servant leadership which Ron possesses. Praise be to God!

Dr. Jay agreed to having both the Cooney’s as contributors and, with thrilled hearts, we set to writing our respective chapters.

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After months of editing and ordering the chapters written by contributors such as Dr. Jay Strack, Chuck Allen, Dr. Danny Akin, Brent Crowe, and Dave Edwards; Jack Countryman and the team at Thomas Nelson have packaged a wonderful resource for youth, parents, and youth workers to benefit from. #CriticalIssues #AbsoluteAnswers tackles 70 issues that teens face and the questions concerning them. This book provides Bible-based answers to such questions surrounding identity, self-esteem, leadership, missions, faith, pain, sex, divorce, homosexuality, and discipleship, plus much much more.


It is with humbled and excited hearts that we are proud to share this wonderful, newly published resource with you. Our teens are bombarded with the pull of the world and it is our hearts desire that they acquire biblical answers and direction to choose the narrow path towards Christ-likeness and ultimately home.

You can purchase a copy by clicking the link below. Ron and I would love to send this wonderful resource to you! If you would like to make a bulk order for your youth-group or for graduation gifts, please e-mail me at Brooke.Cooney.1@gmail.com and we would love to make that happen for you.



 

God bless you and the lives of the youth that you influence! For His Kingdom’s glory!

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The How and Why of Blogging

“Human creativity is derivative and reflective, working within the bounds of what God has formed,” writes Os Guinness. As. C.S. Lewis put it, “an author should never conceive of himself as bringing into existence beauty or wisdom which did not exist before, but simply and solely as trying to embody in terms of his own art some reflection of that eternal Beauty and Wisdom.” Because of the Fall, we do not have a clear glimpse of Beauty or Wisdom; we see only a poor reflection. But because of Christ’s redemption, the arts can be restored. (How Now Shall We Live, Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, 1999)

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I have not always considered myself an artist, nor, for that matter, a writer.

In 2008, I began a family blog to chronicle the life of our first child, Emily, in such a way that relatives in neighboring states could observe her growth and development. That blog consisted primarily of captioned pictures and a smidgen of video clips. Later, in August of 2010, I began writing a ministry blog: Raise the Risk. Fairly quickly I came to love the art and craft of writing. I began reading other more popular bloggers and learned more about this creative outlet I am called to.

In 2011, I decided that writing two blogs was too much. I wanted to graft my family blog and ministry blog together. I also wanted the freedom to write about all aspects of my life; not only the ones that involved everyday risks. As a result of that decision, This Temporary Home was born. I now consider this blogging home a place where I can capture the days and express my thoughts through the lens of  a Christian worldview. It is my way of embracing everyday beauty.

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Interested in starting a blog of your own? There is no one way, however, I would love for you to learn from my past experiences in blogging and shorten your learning curve a bit.

  1. I suggest starting with your own website versus a Blogger or WordPress blog. I have used all three and would forgo the headache of transitioning from one to a dot com. To do this you need to purchase a domain name and secure a server. BlueHost is the server that I use. A detailed description of how to go about this can be found here on Amy Lynn Andrews’ helpful website for all things technical on blogging. As you decide on your domain name (web address) the easiest thing to do is use your name as a dot com. For example: www.brookecooney.com. I did not choose this for various reasons, however, in retrospect this may have been a better option. Using your name gives you the flexibility of changing your blog’s name without purchasing another domain.
  2. Next, begin writing. Once you establish a regular writing schedule, you will discover the theme connecting your posts together. You may begin a food blog only to discover you continuously write about the guests you have over for dinner! Once you develop your writing style, and the theme woven into it, then you can begin working on your branding. More about that next.  The most important element of writing a blog is consistency in posting. The more you write, the better you will become.
  3. Branding. By this I am referring to the web design and overarching message of your posts. These YouTube vlogs may be helpful in pursuing this idea further. I hired someone to design the look of my blog. I have no regrets for doing so. For a very reasonable cost, and much less anxiety on my part, a beautiful space was created for me to call my writing home. I would suggest that you look at your favorite blogs and websites and determine what exactly draws you to the look of those blogs. The look draws you, but the content is what makes people return again and again.
  4. Next, once you have blogged for a year, I would highly recommend converting your blog into a book. The company that I use each year is the Cutest Blog on the Block. These books are our family’s “scrap book” and also make for great gifts!
  5. One last piece of advice. When writing your blog and pursuing a reader base, always write with your audience in mind. In other words, try to tie in how the lessons you learn can impact your readers lives.

If you sense the Holy Spirit calling you to pursue blogging, be it writing, photography, cooking, or a creative how-to website, then I hope that the above suggestions will be of benefit to you. May you blog for His glory and for beauty!

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*Photography by Ron.

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