What Makes Sweet Sweeter?

Summer is sweet, isn’t it? But it’s also buuuuuusssssyyyy! I’m going to do a series called Summer Slice : 2 Minute Truths until the end of July that’s a series of 2 minute videos with a big truth from Scripture in each to keep you going.

Know what makes sweet taste even sweeter? Surprisingly, it’s not sugar! Watch the video embedded below or click here to watch on the website and find out what makes sweet sweeter.


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Are you looking for a summer study that you can do at your own pace? You can study Breaking Up with Perfect for FREE right here on the website!

Here’s what one friend who did the study had to say… “I am not alone. Other people think like me. There have been times I’ve been reading with tears rolling down my face. I have wondered how a person I have never met got inside my head and wrote it all down!” ~Desiree

Click here to see all the details and get started.

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How Could This Happen?

How could this happen?

So often that’s our first question when something occurs that rocks our soul… that doesn’t make sense… that sends a stab of pain into the center of our heart.

How could this happen?

It’s been the question in my mind and mouth the last two mornings as the waves of two events shook my underpinnings. The once-settled dust of Big Questions scattered and flew in the winds of tragedy.

On Tuesday morning, I heard Lysa TerKeurst tell our team through sobs that her marriage was ending. If you haven’t already, you can read her post Rejection, Heartache and a Faithful God.

This morning I turned on the morning news to the shocking scene that all of America knows of by now– a baseball field littered with the bodies and blood of our politicians.

How could this happen? thundered over and over in my heart in the past two days, and I’ll bet you feel the same grief. The same confusion. The same anger over things that should not be.

I have to admit that I’ve come a long way just to ask the question. In my pre-break up days (with perfection), I would have tried to find the silver lining. I would have tried to slap a label on it that seemed to shove everything back in order. I would have pulled out a few falsely shiny platitudes and scattered them like poisonous seeds. I didn’t deal well with pain and senselessness and fear.

But I’ve learned to take David’s advice. “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62: 8)

Instead of hiding our tears, tremblings, and terrible questions from God, let’s run to Him with them. Let’s bust down the door of His divinely offered refuge and bring it all in with us. There, in the warmth and comfort of His Presence, let’s pull out each sharp-edged query one by one and ask Him. Not with an accusation or a clenched fist but with the  tear-stained and trusting face of a child.

And then let’s listen because He still speaks. Let’s listen to His Word. Let’s listen to His Spirit. And then let’s rest in the love of our Father Refuge and in the sometimes-mysteries of His ways.

He loves us. He really does. Lysa reminded us and so did many on the news today. He loves us, and He’s not afraid of our questions. He wants to fill our seeking hearts, not always with the answers we want but always with the comfort we need.

Run to the Refuge with me today, and let’s seek the Lord together, asking the questions and praying for all those in the middle of the maelstrom.

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In a season of terrible grief after I lost my precious friend Linda to breast cancer, God sent two of His people to me with books that answered lots of my questions and gave me comfort where there were no answers. I highly recommend these if you’re suffering and grieving.

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss by Jerry Sittser

Where Is God When It Hurts by Philip Yancey

 

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How to Reach Every Beautiful Face and Heart

Did you know that Proverbs 31 Ministries’…

First 5 app has been downloaded in 115 countries in the world–including the UK, Singapore, the Philippines and Nigeria?

Devotions are distributed worldwide and that our top 11 countries include 2 in North America, 1 in Europe, 3 in Africa, 3 in SE Asia, and 2 in the South Pacific?

Online Bible Studies + Devotions + First 5 + website and social media reach = 192 countries total?

Y’all those statistics leave me in tears. Those aren’t just numbers. They’re faces.

Can you see them?

They’re every skin hue you can imagine. The variety and beauty of those faces are dazzling, and just below each face beats a heart. A heart created by God to be returned to Him.

I love Proverbs 31 Ministries for so many reasons, but the main one may be our desire to reach every heart around the world with the transforming gospel of Jesus. I’m proud to give of our family finances to support such an effort.

Will you click here to read my devotion today, and will you pray about giving to support the teaching of God’s Word that’s spreading through the world via Proverbs 31? I’d be so proud to have you stand with me!

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Knowing I’m Chosen

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. ” I Corinthians 1: 27-29 

Most of us aren’t people our world would consider wise. We’re not physically powerful like those who competed in the Olympics or unimaginably rich like so many in Hollywood. I know I’m not!

But watching how God is at work in the weak, poor, and most vulnerable of this world has taught me a critical lesson. Even when we don’t have much, our desperation for God is enough. It’s where He shows up.

Our key scripture tells us that God doesn’t just tolerate the foolish, weak, and lowly. He chooses them.

God delights to show His majesty to the meek. He longs to pour out His sufficiency on the suffering. He wants to reveal Himself to the poor in spirit, to those who mourn, and to those hungering and thirsting for righteousness.

It’s our desperation displayed through these characteristics that summon the power of God. Even though the world may tell us that we’re unworthy or unqualified for God’s glorious Presence, He can take a life like yours and mine and show up there. Our surrender is all that’s required to experience God’s power.

Prayer:

Lord, I’m desperate for Your Presence, and I surrender my whole self to You. I know that what I’m offering is humble and  lowly, so I praise You now that You choose the poor in spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

This devotion is part of It Starts with Him: A 30-day Prayer Guide to End Human Traffickingproduced by my amazing friend Abbi Tenalgia, founder of Transforming Hope. Click here to access this beautiful and helpful resource.

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Helped AND Happy

Even though Ben Saunders, polar explorer, attained a goal that no human had ever attained, he still struggles with disappointment. Why? Because he needed, asked for, and accepted help.

For a total of 105 days, Ben and his partner had pursued their goal, walking 1800 miles from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back. They were traveling in some of the harshest conditions on earth. There was 24 hour a day sunlight with no dark to mark their sleep. The sledges they hauled were over 400 pounds each. There were almost constant white-out conditions that Ben described as “like being inside a ping pong ball,” and the temperatures dipped to -70 degrees wind chill.

I listened to Ben’s story on the TED Radio Hour through my earbuds as I walked. I was awed, and I identified.

I’m not an athlete, so I couldn’t identify with him on that level.

I haven’t had an epic adventure like Ben, so I couldn’t identify with him on that level.

This southern girl’s warm blood would surely never survive that kind of cold, so I couldn’t identify with him on that level at all!

When Ben got to the end of his story, however, I suddenly had a flash of understanding. We’re not so different.

When Ben and his travel partner were almost to their destination, a storm came that slowed down their progress to the point that they ran out of food. Suddenly, they had a decision to make. Should they press ahead and face the potential of starvation or ask for help?

Ben really, really didn’t want to ask for help because he had patterned his trip after the Scott expedition from the early 1900s. The expedition goal was to do it “unassisted” meaning that they’d only survive on the food they brought or could retrieve that they had stashed along the way. They were miles away from their nearest outpost, and Ben knew that they had to call for resupply. After all, the Scott expedition hadn’t gained the record because the whole team died on the return from the South Pole. They didn’t want to meet the same fate.

So Ben and his partner used their cell phones to call for help, and a plane brought food–sumptuous food that tasted like the best meal they had ever eaten! They finished their journey and today hold the record for the longest-human powered polar journey in history.

It was when Ben was explaining that needing to ask for help still bugs him that I started to identify deeply with him. He said, “It’s something my ego is still struggling with. It was the biggest dream I’ve ever had, and it was so nearly perfect.”

I have that mentality too. I have thoughts like It only counts if I do it by myself. Or People will think I’m weak if I ask for help. Or Doing it perfectly means doing it alone.

I saw that attitude in myself even this week. I chose to go to a doctor’s appointment alone where there was the possibility of bad news. When I told a friend that I went alone, she said, “Why didn’t you ask me to go with you?!”

Thankfully, I had good news from the doctor, but I had to think about her question. I didn’t like the answer. I didn’t ask her because I didn’t want to be a bother. (My perception, not hers) Because I thought I should be able to handle it myself.

How silly of me to have such a great friend and not ask for her help!

At the end of the interview, Ben ended with this quote:

“Happiness is not a finish line. And if we can’t feel content on our journeys amidst the mess and the striving that we all inhabit– the loops, the half-finished to do lists, the could-do-better-next-time– then we might never feel it.”

Happiness and help. They’re not mutually exclusive. Not only can we have happiness AND help, I’m coming to believe that we’re happier with help. As I said in Breaking Up with Perfect,

“There is truly a time and a need in our souls for giving, but there’s also an often-neglected but necessary time for receiving. Sharing is a concept that implies both giving and receiving. Giving is the mark of charity, and charity is a virtue; however, always giving while never receiving is a lonely, one-sided deal. In contrast, giving and receiving in season creates community.” (p. 112 Breaking Up with Perfect)

To be connected with others in community and friendship brings happiness. To have this happiness, sometimes we need to be ready to ask for and receive help. I’m not ready for an expedition to the South Pole, but I’m ready for help and greater happiness!

If you’re like me and have a hard time asking for help, Breaking Up with Perfect might be just the book for your summer reading. Click here to see where it can be purchased, and then enjoy the free Online Book Study right here on the website!

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Something Sweet

We’re women, so by definition we wear lots of hats.

Nurturer

Employee

Domestic consultant

Family CEO

You know the deal, and I’m sure if you made a list of all your rolls, you could fill pages with all your gifts, responsibilities, and life investments. Sometimes the enormity of it all can make your head spin!

Last week I spent the week in FL with Barry. While he was on the road in his new territory, I worked at my computer in the hotel room, but I also took advantage of the workout room. And I worked HARD.

I sweated and toiled on the treadmill (thank goodness that Chip and Joanna were my companions to mix in some fun with the work), and by the end of the week, all my discipline really felt good. My pants were a little looser too. That’ll make a girl say hallelujah!

Whether you’re running on a treadmill or creating at your work or vacuuming in your home, I know you’ve been working hard too. We’re fulfilling the God-created blessing of work and this scripture…

She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks. (Proverbs 31: 17)

All that work and discipline and work felt good, but late in the week, Barry and I were walking along through the business district near the hotel when we spotted a sign that said “French bakery” across the street. Oh dear.

I agonized for a bit, but then I decided that all that work deserved a little something sweet. The 80/20 rule, you know?So we hoped right across the street and bought this little box of goodness.

I’ve had macarons bought in a store before, and they’re ok, but they in no way compare to the scrumptiousness of these little jewels. We truly shared them one at a time because the yumminess of each bite was so satisfying. I’m grieving that I’m now home and so many miles away from more, but that’s probably God’s provision for my waistline! Enough about macarons already….

Here’s my profound permission for you:

Do something sweet for yourself today.

Seriously. Work hard at all the Lord has given you to do. Sweat and toil, because He’s embedded joy and satisfaction in it. But He made life sweet too. It’s to be enjoyed, not just endured, so do something to add a little sweetness today.

Cuddle with a grandchild.

Lay in the sunshine with a book.

Make your favorite cookies.

Turn up the radio and sing out loud.

Dance.

Whatever delights your heart and seems sweet to your soul, take a little time to indulge amidst the work of your day.

 

An exciting announcement:

You know me as mom, wife, speaker, writer… but maybe you don’t know I’m also a speaker coach. (Those of you who aren’t speakers or writers probably have friends who are, so would you hang in there with the post and consider sharing? I’d be so grateful!)

This week my partner Melanie Chitwood and I launched a brand new home for Next Step Coaching Services where we serve speakers and writers. I’m so, so excited about the new site, because it was designed to share lots and lots of free help along with information about our individualized coaching.

If you haven’t seen the site yet, I invite you to click on the graphic below and take a peek. I hope it encourages you, and I’d be so honored if you’d share it up.

Love being in community with y’all!

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For the Woman Trying to Do It All

I’m so excited today to introduce you to my friend Katy McCown! Just like all of us, she has imperfect days sometimes–those days that seem overwhelming and un-doable. Katy’s found some solutions though, and I’m excited to share her perspective and help.

Please welcome Katy!

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I wandered into the kitchen while the sky was still black. The hood pulled over my head signaled my desire to be left alone.

Yes, the day beckoned. Yes, I was awake. But yes, I would have much rather stayed in bed.

The hours gave way to demands that included scouting the spider outside the window, searching the internet to find out how to unclog a toilet, and crafting six peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my little tribe.

Oh, and when I say spider outside my window, I mean a spider as big as my hand that basically held us all hostage inside the house. And when I say a clog in my toilet, I mean the kind where a plunger just won’t cut it and it may mean investing in a plumbing snake.

I also studied the owners’ manual for my van to identify the warning light above the steering wheel and decide how to make it go away. And with half of my crew either sick or sleep-deprived I found plenty of teachable moments along the way, too.

We all have days like these don’t we?

You wish for more hands on your body or minutes in the day or brain cells to spread across the endless demands. Your thoughts feel scattered and you may even wonder if what you’re doing actually matters. We long to make a difference and end each day satisfied, sure of what we’ve accomplished, but we’re not always sure that’s possible.

Years ago, on a day much like this one, I wrote a prayer. A prayer that I’ve prayed many times since then.

This prayer brings me I peace and confidence today.

I thought maybe it might do the same for you …

Lord Jesus, my day belongs to you. 

I expect You will provide ample time for me to accomplish all that You desire. Align my direction with Your desires. 

I commit every minute to You, that I may work willingly and with all my might. Set my pace that it may compliment, not compete with, Your purposes. 

I’m excited to see what You have planned for me today. I trust You will give me all I need and use every moment, big and small. 

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Days when nothing seems to go right are not wasted.

In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite. Theses days are an invitation to fill our lives with God to the point we’re overflowing into the world around us, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV).

I eventually pulled the hood off my head and tackled the day. I met surprises and challenges, but I finished the day resolved and encouraged.

As I prayed this prayer and trusted God to lead me and use me for His glory, He filled even the most basic of activities with His purpose and power and love.

If you’re praying this prayer with me today, leave a comment! Let’s pray together. Or if you know someone trying to do it all, share this prayer with them.

Your Life: Simplified

I’m also excited to share with you my new online course, Your Life: Simplified, Living Focused When You’re Trying to do It All.

In this 5-session online course, we’ll dive deeper into the prayer above and find practical ways to apply it. We’ll also learn how to throw off what hinders us and live each day free, focused and fulfilled.

You can pre-order this course today at yourlifesimplifiedcourse.com. But don’t wait! The discounted pre-order price will only be available for a few more days!

I’d love to share this journey with you as together we learn to simplify our lives and live focused on God’s glory and purposes.

 

Katy McCown is a writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries, wife to NFL quarterback, Luke McCown, and mom to 6 energetic (sometimes wild) kids. Katy left her job as a television news reporter to join Luke on their adventure in the National Football League. Twelve years, 6 kids and 5 teams later, it’s safe to say the road has been anything but predictable. Along the way, Katy has learned to hold on to God’s promise in Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”

Katy recently launched the She Laughs Conference and seeks to empower women to walk the established steps the LORD lays out for them, even if everything else feels shaky.

The everyday Katy loves a strong cup of coffee, or two. She works hard to perfect the art of pushing multiple children on swings all at once (without anyone falling out), and her car is never clean. Never ever.

Connect with Katy on her blog at www.katymccown.com.

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A Cathedral or a Tent

Last weekend, Barry, my parents, and I visited our oldest son, Anson,  in Cincinnati where he goes to school. It was a wonderful weekend full of the joy of being reunited and the fun of experiencing the pieces of his life.

We went to his concert…

And we toured a fabulous sign museum (who knew there was so much history and so many stories associated with signs?)…

And we visited a beautiful cathedral where Anson played a concert last semester. (No pictures since mass was about to start.)

That visit was actually a surprise, but there was something there that had moved my boy so much that he wanted to share it. Truthfully, I wasn’t too excited about this stop until I went inside. Once there, I understood exactly the awe that he wanted to transmit.

I walked around in the hush craning my neck to see the tops of soaring ceilings, examining the tiny tiles that composed mosaics of exquisite beauty, and soaking in the light shining through dazzling stained glass windows. The space was breathtaking. The stories told all centered on Jesus. The people there were all bent in prayer, and there was an air of expectancy… of wonder… of awe.

In the midst of it all, I was overcome by the weight of the majestic presence of God. My mom even shed a few tears when we got in the car, talking about God’s presence there, and I welled up too. It was a space where He undeniably resided but also where I felt His Kingship acutely. It was a place that inspired worship, and I felt the pleasure of God in that truth. Worship was chiseled into every stone and carved into each altar.

I’ve been thinking about that space ever since, and it’s made me wonder. Have we gotten far too cozy with God? Has our embrace of our friendship with Him made us neglect the reverence of Him? Is God pleased with our jeans-on-Sunday attitudes in a room that’s far more often lit by stage lights than candle light?

Before you jump in with a comment about your preference, please ponder with me for a minute. We need to remember reverence. We need to bring our best to His Highness. We need to make Him center of our worship arts and everything else.

Today, however, as I read in II Samuel 7, I realized that my thoughts had carried me slightly in the wrong direction.

Here’s what God Himself said to David who longed to build God a house that he saw as worthy of Him,

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ (II Samuel 7:5-7)

I grinned a little when I thought of this exchange between David and God, and I cried a little too. It sounds like David might be a recovering perfectionist. His heart was in the right place, and he wanted to do things the right way. Surely, surely he shouldn’t live in a nicer house than God, and he wanted to set things “right”.

But our “right” and God’s true right don’t always match.

Yes, we need to pursue God and long for His presence.

Yes, we need to focus our gifts and their products on Him.

Yes, we need to bring our best to Him in worship.

The way this needs to be done–the specifics of where, when and how–need to be set by Him, though. David thought God needed a temple. God was content and present in the tent.

He doesn’t reside in a place of our prescription. He isn’t summoned by our methods. He isn’t please with what we decide to bring.

He wants us to seek Him and follow Him. That’s it.

He shows up in cathedrals and tents. He comes to us when we’re in suits and when we’re in jeans. His Presence falls when we’re on our knees or stretching with lifted hands.

“The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you.” (II Samuel 7: 11b)

He has established a house for Himself. It’s us! It’s His indwelling Spirit in the human temple of His children.

The Spirit of God didn’t reside in that cathedral just because it was grand. He was there because I was there. He was there because my mom, and my dad, and my husband, and my son were there. If you’re a believer, He would be there if you were there too!

Rest today, reforming perfectionists. You don’t have to build the temple. You are the temple. He’s with you. You don’t have to work harder or figure out the “right” formula. Let’s bask in the overcoming, weighty Presence of our majestic God.

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Note: I’d be negligent today if I didn’t tell you how much I LOVE First 5, Proverbs 31’s Bible study app. That’s the study that sparked all of this in my heart today, so if you haven’t joined, click on the graphic below to find out more.

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The Blessings of Believing

As I’ve written here, I’m working through the Bible this year studying all the times the word “believe” or “belief” is used and trying to understand God’s perspective on the word He gave me for 2017.

Today I got to the verse that’s been tied to my word for the year for 2 years.

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” (Luke 1:45)

Do you see how God did that? He’s so amazing! In 2016 my word was fulfill, but I wrote here about how much I struggled with that word. It was a hard year of wrestling with my word, so I thought I might need a do-over.

No, God clearly dropped “believe” into my heart for 2017, but when I went looking for a key verse, there it was. The same verse as last year. I got a new start and a do-over all in one. Woot!

Imagine how excited I was this morning to scroll down in my BibleGateway search to find that today’s verse is MY verse. I mean it’s Elizabeth’s and Mary’s too, but I know they’re sharing it with me. 🙂

I want to testify one more time at how vibrantly alive and active God’s Word is. When I dug into this verse for the hundredth time this morning, I got a whole new message.

We have to believe before God fulfills His promises to us.

I was struck again this morning with how hard that is for a reforming perfectionist. I wouldn’t ever say out loud that I think God needs help. I’m too church-girl for that! My actions, however, reveal what I really believe. I rush ahead into the fulfilling part, trying to make it all happen, when that’s God’s exclusive job. My job is simply in the believing. And patiently waiting.

Belief is confident resting.

That’s not to say belief is passive. It’s resting and watching just like the Israelites did in the dessert. They camped and rested until God moved, and then they followed Him until it was time to camp and rest again.

How does that perspective change things for us? It means that we don’t have to rush around trying to make things happen. We simply respond as Jesus leads. It means that we don’t worry. We trust God to move us into the fulfilling of His will in His perfect timing. It means that we don’t sink into despair when things aren’t going our way. Our hope is firmly in God Himself and not our circumstances.

Even as I write these things I know they’re my biggest challenges. Rest is hard for me and trust has been elusive, but these are the essential elements of belief. I’m seeking God for no less that full belief, complete confidence, and total rest.

Blessings follow belief, and these are the blessings I want for my worn out perfectionist heart and for the people around me to share.

Let’s all use this verse for ourselves. Go ahead, and put your name in it.

“Blessed is ___(your name)___who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” (Luke 1:45)

What promises has God whispered into your heart?

How can you move into your believing job today and out of God’s fulfilling job?

O, my soul, believe! O, sister, believe! Let’s move into confident rest together.

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Congratulations to the winners of the book giveaways!

Janet (4.6.17 8:32 am) is the winner of Unsinkable Faith by Tracie Miles.

Cynthia Bashaar (4.10.17 5:28 am) is the winner of Out of the Saltshaker by Rebecca Manley Pippert.

I’ve sent emails to both of you, so please reply to me with your mailing address. You’re going to love these books!

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God, Give Me Your Heart for My World

Sometimes writing a devotion is hard. I labor for hours over the right story and the right words to express God’s truth. The devotion published today was different. It flowed out of me quickly, because it’s right where God has been stretching and growing me.

Our church has been doing a series about sharing our faith that has been excellent, and God has been calling me to be both broken and bold as I move through this world interacting with people. It’s amazing the conversations that God sparks when you want to share your faith, and I’ve been excited as I’ve watched Him move in my own sphere of influence.

You have influence too, and the people around you need Jesus’ hope. Maybe you’re excited to share, but you’re a little afraid too. (So normal–me too!) You feel unequipped to talk about Jesus to others.

I want to leave you today with some ways to feel more confident about sharing your faith. It’s my desire that you feel passionate about investing the Greatest Gift ever given–salvation– in someone else.

Several years ago, I did a blog series about sharing your faith story in a simple way. Here are the links to that series as a free resource for you:

Sharing His Story in Your Life

Step 1– Tell Your Story

Step 2– Connect Your Story

Step 3– Make Jesus the Hero

Step 4– End with Inspiration

Also, I have a GIVEAWAY today of my all-time favorite book on evangelism, Out of the Saltshaker & Into the World by Rebecca Pippert. It’s an oldie but goodie that changed my life and my way of thinking in college.

Leave a comment for a chance to win Out of the SaltshakerYou can tell me about a time you’ve shared Jesus with someone or if you’re living life on the fly, you can just put the first name of the person that you want to reach. I’ll be praying for openings for conversation over this Holy Week!

If you love freebies (and who doesn’t?!), you can get a free chapter of my book Breaking Up with Perfect by clicking here. There are also adorable free screen savers on the site that you can download when you click here!

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