Women and the Word

Intentional Advent: Over 20 Ideas and Resources to Prepare our Hearts for Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner.

Leaves change, branches become bare, Thanksgiving approaches, and we know there will soon be trees to decorate, lights to hang, cookies to bake, gifts to buy, stockings to stuff, and special meals to prepare. In all of the excitement and busyness, it’s easy to forget what the fuss and hustle is really about.

Many of us long to soak in the real reason we celebrate, but it takes intentional planning and commitment.

For centuries, Christians around the world have set aside the four weeks before Christmas (Sunday to Sunday) to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. We call this Advent, meaning “the arrival” or “coming,” and embrace it as a season of anticipation for both the birth of Christ and the glory of God still to come. It’s a time to ready our hearts and honor God’s gift to us through our Savior, Jesus.

The first Sunday of Advent is on November 27th this year, so some activities and observances will begin then. Daily devotionals traditionally begin on December 1st and end on Christmas Eve or Christmas. Read through the following suggestions for individuals, groups, families and children to find something that works for you. Above all, let’s accept the gift of a slow and meaningful season, rest in God’s promises, and ready ourselves for the wonder of Christmas.

Ideas for Personal, Family, or Small Group Reflection

We love studies and daily readings that keep us close to the Word and guide us toward Jesus. The Bible should always be our primary resource. The gospel of Luke has 24 chapters and tells the story of Christ from the manger to the cross. Consider reading one chapter a day alone or with family, then end your time with a prayer of thanksgiving. Find some of our favorite Bibles here.

Below are studies and devotionals geared towards personal use, but that doesn’t mean you can’t meet with a small group to discuss what you’re learning. We think that’s always a good idea! Some of these resources will work with older children or families. Read our notes about the books and check out our IGTV with Angie and Janell to learn more.

Emmanuel: An Invitation to Prepare Him Room at Christmas and Always  
  • Author – Ruth Chou Simons
  • Timeline – 25 day devotional
  • Framework – This devotional includes four weeks of Advent readings. Each day includes a passage of Scripture, a written reflection, a question to ponder, a suggested Christmas song to sing, and a prayer for each day. Ruth’s paintings give it a beautiful aesthetic that families might enjoy, but it’s a fair amount of reading/listening for young children (one to two pages each day).

 

He Will: A Study of Luke 1 & 2 
  • Authors – Eryn Kesler & Mary Straker
  • Timeline – 4 week study
  • Framework – This is an in-depth Bible study that focuses on the first two chapters of Luke. It will help you glean new revelation from the well-known Christmas story and better understand the prophesies, context, and events surrounding Christ’s first coming. Work through the weeks at your own pace to discover character traits of God revealed in both the Old and New Testament while practicing an inductive Bible study method. Do this one on your own or with a group of friends, and be sure to download our free printable Scripture cards that coincide with the study.
Shadow & Light: A Journey into Advent 
  • Author – Tsh Oxenreider
  • Timeline – 4 weeks of short daily devotionals
  • Framework – This is an amazing resource for both personal and family reflection. Drawing from liturgical tradition, Tsh provides a daily Scripture passage, a short reflection, a discussion question, and a simple activity to engage the senses. We love the ample introduction that includes commentary on Advent and additional ideas/resources. Each day is short enough to hold a child’s attention and lends itself to entire family participation.
The Weary World Rejoices: Daily Devotions for Advent
  • Author – Various; edited by Melissa Kruger
  • Timeline –  25 daily devotions
  • Framework – Each day is about two pages of writing and includes a Bible reading, longer reflection, questions for response/discussion, and a hymn stanza for rejoicing.  It’s a great way to hear from different authors. The weeks are structured around traditional Advent themes – hope, peace, joy, love, and faith.

Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional
  • Author – by Paul David Tripp
  • Timeline – 25 day devotional
  • Framework – These daily Advent readings are suitable for both individual and family devotions. While some of the daily reflections are longer than others, the stories and themes are captivating enough for young listeners. Each day includes a short activity or follow-up discussion question.

 

 

 Love Came Down at Christmas: Daily Readings for Advent 
  • Author – Sinclair B. Ferguson
  • Timeline – 24 day devotional, about 15-20 minutes per day
  • Framework – Based on 1 Corinthians 13, this Advent devotional focuses on the transforming love of Jesus. The readings are longer than some of our other recommended resources, so we think they’re more suitable for individual reflection. Each day includes a beautiful prayer and a contemplative questions.

 

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional 
  • Author – Asheritah Ciuciu
  • Timeline – 4 weeks
  • Framework – Asheritah leads readers through the four weeks of Advent  with five short daily reflections that focus on that day’s name of Jesus (the Vine, the Lion of Judah, the Bread of Life…). Each week begins with an interactive devotional that may take a little longer. We love the author’s suggestions for fun-filled family activities or service projects and think it would work well for both personal and family worship. If you have younger children, use this alongside Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids.

 

The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas 
  • Author – Ann Voskamp
  • Timeline – 25 days
  • Framework – These are long and beautiful readings that lend themselves better to individual reflection or read-aloud with young adults. Ann leads readers through the Old Testament to explore “The Jesse Tree” lineage of Jesus. A family edition is also available, and was a favorite for our own families. Read more about the different variations and accessories below.
Ideas for Families with Younger Children
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas
  • Author – Ann Voskamp
  • Framework – Ann’s “Jesse Tree” experience was a favorite for all of our families. It became a rich Advent tradition that we looked forward to every year, so we highly recommend it if you have young children at home. What began as an online version is now a vivid book with full-color illustrations and downloadable ornaments. The book includes daily Scripture readings, discussion questions, and meaningful Advent activities. These wooden ornaments are a long-lasting option if you think you’ll make the Jesse Tree a tradition and don’t want to print and laminate the ones from the book. Families with young children may enjoy the interactive Wonder of the Greatest Gift: An Interactive Family Celebration.  See it in action on our IGTV, along with the beautiful Cradle-to-Cross Wooden Advent Wreath (which can also be used for Lent). Ann has additional suggestions for how to engage your family in rich Advent tradition on her website.
Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Daily Family Devotions for Advent
  • Author – Nancy Guthrie
  • Timeline – 30 days
  • Framework – With devotions for every day in December, this resource is suitable for families with kids of all ages and includes a short reflection, discussion questions, and even explanations of some hard-to-understand aspects of popular Christmas carols.

 

 

Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus Family Devotional
  • Author – Marty Machowski
  • Timeline – 4 weeks, 3 readings/activities per week
  • Framework – This resource includes an excellent introduction to Advent and even has directions for how to create and use your Advent wreath. We love the simple instructions throughout, and think the model of three readings per week could work well for many families. Each of the readings includes discussion questions, a prayer, and an activity.

 

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus For Kids
  • Author – Asheritah Ciuciu
  • Framework – Geared towards children 5-8 years old, this storybook complements what families will hear and discuss in Asheritah’s family devotional (see above). It’s a theologically rich story and full of engaging illustrations. Find more about how to use this book and other Unwrapping the Names of Jesus resources here.
Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook for Advent
  • Author – Arnold Ytreeide
  • Framework – This short novel is part of a 4 storybook series designed to be read over the Advent season. The main characters are all children that endure some peril, so gauge the maturity level of your own family and provide ample time for discussion. We think this is well-suited to 2nd to 3rd graders, but could easily extend beyond that. An audiobook is also available, so consider using it on long drives this holiday season!
The ADVENTure of Christmas: Helping Children Find Jesus in our Holiday Traditions
  • Author – Lisa Whelchel
  • Timeline – Activités spanned over the 4 weeks of Advent
  • Framework – Young families will enjoy stories and hands-on activities that bring tradition and theology to life. We suggest looking through the book to choose a few of the ideas rather than becoming overwhelmed by trying to do them all. There is an excellent introduction with suggestions for how to use the book, how to create an Advent wreath, when to light the candles, and much more.
A Few More of Our Favorites
  •  Listen to music – Singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson teamed up with author Russ Ramsey to create Behold the Lamb of God. The music takes listeners through the Christmas story beginning in Genesis, and was a favorite for all of our families. We loved listening to it in the car on all of our seasonal errands and travel. The accompanying book is harder to find right now, but is a great read for adults if you can get your hands on one.
  • Use Scripture cards – Memorize or meditate on Scripture alongside friends or family this Advent. We suggest printing these  free Scripture cards by artist Anna DeRoos (especially if you’re working through our He Will Advent Bible Study), or purchasing this set by Emily Lex. Both are a simple and beautiful way to incorporate the Word into your daily Advent journey. Post them on a mirror, refrigerator, nightstand, or anywhere else you’ll see them every day. We love the idea of tucking one or two in a note to a friend, or including them in your Advent countdown. 
  • Make your own Advent wreath – Create your own simple and budget-friendly Advent wreath by purchasing something pre-made and adding your own fresh greens every year. The Advent wreath is traditionally an evergreen wreath with four candles on the outside, each lit on Sundays during Advent readings. Consider adding a pillar candle to the center to light on Christmas. Some variations of the Advent wreath include different colored candles to represent different themes, while others keep the candles a simple white. Follow instructions for lighting the candles in one of the Advent books we shared, or get a quick summary and weekly readings here.
About Our Contributors

Lisa Da Silva 

Lisa is a wife, mom of two young adults, and advocate for women to love God with their heart, soul and mind as they engage in responsible study of His Word. As the founder and director of Arise, she writes, speaks, and teaches the Bible to anyone who will read or listen.

Lisa is a teacher by trade and passion, recovering striver, and lover of simplicity. She enjoys thrift store shopping and often has to convince people she’s an introvert.  Just a loud one.

Loving Jesus and making Him known really is her everything.

 

Angie Forrester

A northwest native, Angie enjoys spending her time cultivating gardens and young minds including her five “free-range” children.  She has been a home educator for over a decade, working alongside other mamas to build community for homeschool families.  As a lifelong learner you may find her reciting Latin, reading aloud to her children, or applying National Park stickers to her water bottle from her most recent adventure.

 

 

 

Janell Sorensen

Janell is a follower of Jesus, a wife to her best friend David, and a mother to five gifts. She has a heart for women, women’s ministry, and the study of God’s Word. You can find her most days sitting at her farm table schooling her kids, telling punny jokes, and resting in the beauty and grace of her race because of Jesus. She occasionally writes at janellsorensen.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

 

 

“Poured Out: Reflections on the Alabaster Jar” by Ali Gadbaugh

The symbolism and significance of an alabaster jar is beautiful to me. Luke 7 tells the story of a woman who learns that Jesus is eating at the home of a Pharisee. Specifically called out as a “sinner,” the woman displays a beautiful act of reverence and repentance when she enters the house:

And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.” (Luke 7:37-38, ESV)

I could go on several rabbit trails and seriously geek out on dissecting this passage: the significance of wetting His feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair, kissing them and anointing them with oil…SO. MUCH. to unpack.

But for the sake of this article, I want to focus on one thing: the sacrificial offering she made by pouring out the (most likely very valuable) contents of the alabaster jar. 

I love tattoos. I have several; almost all of them are Scripture-based, and most are results of careful, thoughtful planning and consideration. My most recent one from August 2021 (pictured) is a broken alabaster jar. I intentionally placed it on my inner right forearm, with the fractured jar and spilled puddle pointing downward toward my wrist and hand to symbolize the costly, precious ointment poured out as an offering. Nice, right?

Shortly after getting my newest piece, I felt a strong conviction from the Lord:

“It’s not enough to just keep putting pretty tattoos on your body to show how pious you are. How are you actually living out the messages and images you have chosen to brand on your body?”

Ouch.

This forced me to seriously pause and ask myself:

What am I holding onto that God may be asking me to release to Him?                                                           What do I need to let go of and fully surrender to Jesus?                                                                                    

What is in my alabaster jar?

Before I continue, I want to make this disclaimer: anything that is written in this article is as much directed at me as it is to the reader. This topic is a result of my own convictions, and the questions that I am posing are ones that I have been wrestling with and continue to wrestle with. 

What each of us considers precious may widely vary. If you are a wife, mother, or working professional, you may include your spouse, child(ren), or your career in your jar. Perhaps certain friendships, memories, or healthy routines and habits are in there too. These are all sound answers, especially since you cannot put a price tag on most of them. The absence of these things from your life would undoubtedly be detrimental (or devastating) to some degree. All these things require surrender, trust, and faith. Letting go of our children as they grow, make mistakes, and mature; trusting the Lord with our marriages and careers; and faithfully stewarding our time, treasure and talent are all easier said than done. 

Are there things in your life that you are holding onto (maybe even subconsciously) that are holding you back? Keeping you up at night? Causing you great anxiety, fear, or anger? What barriers are you putting up around your heart that you need to allow Jesus to break through and tear down? Things that you wouldn’t typically consider “precious,” but are taking up a huge amount of space in your life?

Sometimes, the costliest things we need to pour out at the feet of Jesus require our humility, confession, and repentance.

Do you harbor resentment toward someone you love? Is there unresolved conflict with someone in your life? Who do you need to ask Jesus for help with forgiving? Have you grieved something or someone at length? Do you need to humbly acknowledge an addiction or destructive behavior or pattern and courageously ask for help? Are there idols that need to be removed?

The sinful woman in Luke 7 certainly didn’t think twice about the cost of the fragrant perfume in her alabaster flask; she willingly shattered the jar and emptied the valuable contents at Jesus’ feet. As fellow sinners, what’s holding us back from doing the same?

Proverbs 28:13 tells us that “whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (ESV). I have a feeling the author wasn’t referring to prosperity in the typical sense here (i.e., confess your sins and you’ll be wealthy and happy). But what if the trade-off for not humbly confessing the dark corners of our hearts and minds is being robbed of our ability to prosper in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV). 

If I’m being totally honest, there is not one fruit of the Spirit that I feel like I embrace. Not one. Why? Because if I’m being real with myself, my alabaster jar is overflowing with feelings of bitterness, resentment, anxiety, and fear. I think the root of all of these is the feeling of inadequacy. I never feel (and don’t know that I have ever felt) like I am ENOUGH. Just as I am. I have always tried to do more, be more, buy more. Stretched myself to maximum capacity, once nearly to the point of death. I have never actually fully stepped into my identity as a beloved and treasured child of the Most High King, choosing rather to focus on the things that limit me rather than my professed faith in a limitless God.

So…what then? What am I doing about it? How am I answering the Lord’s call to live out the art I’ve forever chosen to put on my body for the world to see?

It’s a daily choice. A choice to commune and converse with Jesus, not just to check a box and not out of obligation. A choice to read and study His Word and seek first His wisdom and perfect promises. Most of the time I’m terrible at it, and because of His lovingkindness He gently continues to nudge and pursue me as if to say: “Keep choosing me.” It’s a choice to be completely honest and transparent about my feelings and struggles because He’s not afraid of my anger, my imperfections, and my shortcomings. 

There is something so liberating about confession. Brutal honesty and transparency can cut like a knife, but it can also break chains and lift heavy yokes of burden from our shoulders. The beautiful relief is nothing is going to catch Jesus by surprise. He already knows everything. He’s just waiting for us to realize these things for ourselves and come to Him with hands open. 

So bring your jar full of your marriage, your children, your possessions, your career, your body, your health, your mental health, your treasured memories. Bring your flask full of anger, bitterness, resentment, apathy, unforgiveness, selfishness, fear, uncertainty, and addiction. It doesn’t matter what you’re carrying, where you’ve been, or what you’ve done. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. 

 

About Ali Gadbaugh: Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Ali is a homebody who counts coffee, her husband and daughter, and Jesus as a few of her favorite things. She likes to add a little sarcasm and humor to life, and is passionate about growing and deepening her relationship with her Savior.

 

 

 

Summer Psalms to Help Us Praise ( & Printable Scripture Cards)

Too many followers of Christ feel bad for displaying any emotion besides peace, gratitude and contentment. Fear, anger, resentment, and even grief are hidden and remain unexpressed. But the psalmists exhibit a completely different approach. They lay their hearts on the line. They experience (and share) a full range of uninhibited emotion and pour it out to God. They question, beg, wonder, protest and mourn. They celebrate, exalt and praise. They proclaim the power, greatness and worth of God. They come to Him honestly and with humility.

A Little Background

Written over a number of centuries (probably between 1440 BC and 586 BC), the book of Psalms is composed of 150 sacred songs. Created by numerous authors, they became an integral part of Hebrew rituals and worship. Although many of these songs are cries of disdain and pleas for help, the traditional Hebrew title of the collection is tehillim, meaning “praises.” 

In their raw emotion, the psalmists remember God’s character. They recall his generosity, forgiveness and faithfulness. They ask Him for grace and vengeance. And as they do, their awe and fear of God grows and brings Him praise.

Our Response

We want to model the psalmist’s praise and come to our great God with anything and everything on our minds and in our hearts. We want to trust that He is listening, that He sees, and that He will guide us to His truth. We want to grow in our love for Him and be reminded of His goodness.

Our very own Nancy Tauzer has created printable Summer Psalms Scripture cards to help. Commit to reading and meditating on an entire Psalm, then use these poignant passages to remind you of what you’ve learned. Memorize them, frame them, or send them to friends. Tape them to a refrigerator, bedside table, bedroom mirror, or anywhere else you’ll see them every day. However you use them, remember this: “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). He already knows what you’re feeling and can handle your honesty. Trusting that He’s good enough to handle your emotions brings Him great praise.

With great expectation, 

Links I Love
  • Understand more about the history of the Psalms at The Bible Project and by clicking here
  • Pam Forster has a few simple studies that help unpack Psalm 37 and Psalm 103 using the inductive method. The title says they’re for “busy moms,” but I think they’re great for everyone and have learned a lot from them both.
  • I’m a huge fan of reading plans. They keep me organized, motivated, and are a great resource for studying alongside others. Try this 28 day plan. It doesn’t cover every Psalm, but I love the direct links to passages for easy access through the Summer. 
  • Psalm 34 is another great Psalm to Study! Use this resource to help, and read about my own experience with the Inductive Bible Study Method here. You can also download and print these GORGEOUS Psalm 34 Scripture cards from artist Anna deRoos.

 

About the Contributors

Lisa Da Silva – Author

I’m a wife, mom of two teenagers, and advocate for women to love God with their heart, soul and mind as they engage in responsible study of His Word.

A teacher by trade and passion, recovering striver, and lover of simplicity, I enjoy thrift store shopping and often have to convince people I’m an introvert. Just a loud one.

Loving Jesus and making Him known really is my everything.

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy Tauzer – Scripture Card Creator

I am fond of trying new recipes and projects. I am a giver. Good listener. Softhearted. Loyal.

I’m a wife and momma of two boys who is probably drinking coffee and waiting for the laundry to fold itself. I enjoy hiking, dancing and organizing all things.

Growing up, I thought being a follower of Christ was only going to church on Sundays. Fast forward to today and I have an intimate relationship with God; continuing to grow in awe of his love for us.

 

 

Podcast 036 – “Trust, Passion & Perseverance” With 18-Year-Old Adventurer Lucy Westlake

 

 

Lucy Westlake has been climbing mountains since she could walk. With a deep love for the outdoors and a
the ability to push physical and mental limits to new heights, this 18-year-old adventurer has her sight set on breaking records for God’s glory. Join Lisa as she chats with Lucy about her quest to become the youngest female to complete the Explorers Grand Slam, her passion for making safe drinking water accessible to all, and how her faith in Christ is at the root of all her goals and accomplishments.

Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see how you can support Lucy as she heads to Everest this month. This is a story you won’t want to miss!

Noteworthy Quotes

“During my travels, I’ve seen first-hand how many people don’t have access to safe drinking water. My goal is to become the youngest female to complete the Explorers Grand Slam. And with that I hope to gather the support needed to make safe water more accessible to those who need it. Raising awareness is key.”

“As I watched the daily procession of my pen pal and other women and young girls in the community walk
two miles to a hole in the ground, wait among hundreds of people and animals for their turn to draw water, and then carry the heavy jerry can filled with contaminated water back to their village on their heads, my heart was burdened. I heard a cry from millions of thirsty mouths and dying children that resonated deeply in my heart. This cry echoed across many lands, many cultures, and many beliefs, and I knew right then that this was my calling: to help solve our world’s water and sanitation crisis.”

“I knew God had given me this gift, but I didn’t understand why… When I let go of the resentment of Denali’s failure and truly learned how to trust God in every aspect of my life, my longing for the mountains returned, but this time, not for the summit or breaking records, but for pushing my limits and relying on God. So now when I climb mountains, I continually remind myself, “Your ability is God’s gift to you, what you do with it is your gift back to God.” So when the moments get really hard and I get really weak, God grabs my hand and keeps me climbing.”

“When I reach what I perceive as the limits to my physical, mental, and spiritual being, I can feel God take control and fill me with His strength and power. My flesh is weak, but He is strong. Alone, I could never accomplish what I have, but with God anything is possible.”

 “It’s not about breaking records. It’s about pushing limits.”

“Don’t look at the whole mountain. Just look at one step at a time, and trust God for the next.”

“Maybe you can’t, but He can. You aren’t alone. I could never accomplish what I have through my own strength alone. Many times at the beginning of a day with a long hike ahead of me, I look down at my backpack and I feel so hopeless. It looks bigger than me and I think “how in the world am I going to lift this, let alone carry it on my back for 7-8 hours.” But don’t let those types of doubts and fears creep in – those are the devil’s attacks in your mind. Even when it seems impossible, I lift my backpack onto my back and start hiking, and each step He gives me the strength for another.”

Ways to Follow and Support Lucy

To read more about Lucy’s failure on her first attempt on Denali, read Katie Arnold’s article in Outside Online, “Lucy Westlake Is the Grittiest 13-Year-Old Mountain Climber We Know.”

To learn more about Lucy and follow her adventures, visit her website and Instagram (@Lucy.westlake.22)  

By purchasing a sweatshirt on Lucy’s Etsy shop, 100% of profits go directly towards safe water projects she is personally connected to in Uganda and Kenya.

To help Lucy fund her upcoming Everest trip, consider making a donation on her GoFundMe page. She committed to this trip on faith that God would provide the funds to cover it. 

 

You Really Can Lead a Bible Study: Tips and Resources to Get You Started

Do you wonder if you have what it takes to start or lead a small group Bible study? Are you willing to try? With a few vital but simple commitments, you can play an instrumental role in leading others through the Word of God. People are longing to learn and be part of a community. They may just need someone willing to guide, facilitate, be a humble example, and learn alongside them. Prayerfully read through the following suggestions and give it a try. Remember, there is a lot of grace as you model life-long learning, but skill and competency require practice. Your ability to facilitate a small group will only get better once you start!

Tips for Leading a Meaningful Small Group Bible Study

Pray – The most effective Bible study leader prays for guidance and asks the Holy Spirit to bring understanding. Submit to God and seek Him daily as you prepare and study. Commit to praying for all of the people in your group on a regular basis. 

Be prepared – Do your homework in advance and have a thorough grasp of the content. Review the discussion questions to see which ones best apply to whatever you studied that week. Participants will know if you’ve cut corners. I’ve found that a leader’s effectiveness is largely related to his or her integrity. While things come up and grace prevails, preparation shows participants that you’re committed to doing the hard work and learning alongside them. 

Keep in touch – Communicate with your group throughout the week. People love to know you’re thinking of them. Tell them you’re looking forward to seeing them and hearing about what they’ve learned. When someone knows you’re expecting them to show up, they often do! 

Start and end on time – Being prompt shows respect. Begin on time even if only one person is there. Participants will quickly learn that you honor their other commitments and will respond by honoring yours. Consider adding 30 minutes before or after the meeting as an optional social time. Your group may choose to gather from 9:30 to 11am, for example, but participants can come early for coffee at 9am if they want to visit and chat.

Share expectations – People want to know their small group is safe. Affirm that things shared within the group are not to be discussed with anyone else. Begin each meeting with this reminder, and consider asking participants for a verbal agreement. It’s also helpful to talk about group discussion dynamics. Encourage everyone to be sensitive to others and to ask themselves the following reflective questions: Do they dominate the discussion? Are they attentive to others and giving them a chance to share? Do they listen well? Are they taking risks and offering thoughts and ideas? Routinely sharing expectations for a healthy small group will save a great deal of time, energy, and possible hurt in the future.  

Be a good listener – Don’t do all of the talking. Leading a small group doesn’t mean you’re the expert. It simply means you’re engaging in the discussion, encouraging accountability, being reliable, and listening well. Model good listening by mirroring what’s been shared and validating others’ observations.

Ask great questions – Some Bible studies come with discussion questions to help guide your group time, but I’ve found that they’re not always helpful. While review questions are fine and may clarify content, I appreciate more open-ended questions that generate thoughtful observation, interpretation, and application of the Scripture (learn more about the inductive method here). The following are questions I filter into almost every Bible study discussion. I’ve also included a link to a printable PDF so you can download the style works best for your group. Consider printing your favorite (bookmark, full-page or half-page) for group members in advance. This will help them feel prepared, know what to look for when they’re studying, and be better equipped to use the questions in future small groups. Who knows? Maybe your Bible study is just what they needed to gain the experience and confidence to launch something new. Maybe your risk and obedience will impact many for God’s glory and the understanding of His Word.

5 Great Questions to Help Guide your Bible Study Discussion
  • Did you learn anything new or see something in a different light through your study today/this week? 
  • What does this passage reveal about the character of God? 
  • What biblical truths were revealed and how might these look in action today? In your own life? In your family? In your ministry? 
  • What do you need to do in light of your new understanding? Is there an action you need to take?
  • Is the Holy Spirit bringing any specific people, circumstances, conversations or sins to mind for prayer, repentance and reconciliation?  If so, take time to lay them before Him. Consider sharing and asking for prayer/accountability.

Consider using these questions and tips to guide a small group through our newest study, What the Lord Requires: A Six Week Study of Micah 6:6-8.  All proceeds from the sale of this book be used to support projects that combat modern day slavery and set women and children on the pathway to freedom. Use this study calendar if you hope to join us for the April 20th launch, and let us know if you’ve decided to start your own group. We’d love to cheer you on!

With great expectation –

 

 

 

Podcast 034 – “Book Talk, Biblical Justice and Togetherness” With Tracy Daugherty – Part 1

 

Join Lisa DaSilva and director of The Freedom Challenge, Tracy Daugherty, as they reveal their new Bible study and talk about what it was like to work TOGETHER. This is the first episode in a two part series.
Co-authors Tracy and Lisa model togetherness and taking risks. Tracy applies ointment to Lisa’s inflamed bug bite at the end of a two-week mosquito infested mission trip.


Get your copy of What the Lord Requires: A Six Week Study of Micah 6:8 knowing that all proceeds from the sale of this book will support The Freedom Challenge in its mission to set more women and children on the pathway to freedom. Download your study calendar here and join us live @ariseministriescollective beginning April 20th for weekly study sessions. Stay tuned for more resources and updates coming soon!

 


About the Hosts:

Lisa DaSilva is a wife, mom of two teenagers, and advocate for women to love God with their heart, soul and mind as they engage in responsible study of His Word. With an M.Ed in Curriculum Development and a teacher by trade and passion, she writes, speaks, and teaches the Bible to anyone who will read or listen. As the director of Arise Ministries Collective in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, Lisa believes every woman has a voice. She longs for the day when they find freedom to use it for the glory of God and the furthering of His Kingdom. Lisa is a recovering striver, lover of simplicity and thrift store junkie. She often has to convince people she’s an introvert. Just a loud one. Loving Jesus and making Him known really is her everything.

Tracy Daugherty, the director of The Freedom Challenge, has more than 30 years of experience in pastoral ministry and church planting with her husband, Dan. Working for The Freedom Challenge combines the two biggest passions God has placed on her heart: to affirm the significance of women and to expand the biblical worldview of the church. Based in San Diego County, California, she holds a bachelor’s degree in theology and is an experienced Bible teacher and speaker. She readily admits that her most fulfilling ministry has been as a mom and seeing her three children (and one son-in-love) grounded in their confidence and calling. Before being appointed director of The Freedom Challenge in 2017, she was friends with its founder Cathey Anderson (now in heaven) and a self-proclaimed “girly-girl,” but she traded in her high heels for hiking boots because she was drawn to the cause of championing women. Now, after hiking and flying countless miles around the world with The Freedom Challenge, she’s witnessed the power of women as environment changers, as culture setters and as forces of good in the world. Seeing the impact that she and her fellow Freedom Sisters have made has only further fueled her commitment to leading The Freedom Challenge to its goal: setting 1 million women and children on the path to freedom by 2030.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What the Lord Requires” – Our New Bible Study Book!

What would it look like to act justly, love kindness, and walk humbly with God? How would this change the way we interact with one another and further Christ’s Kingdom here on earth? 

If you’re weary of all the sadness, contempt and division in our nation and world right now, you’re not alone. 

I am, too. That’s why I spent nearly a year studying, praying, dreaming and writing alongside the director of The Freedom Challenge

The Study

What the Lord Requires is a six-week (5 days per week) labor of love and conviction. It uses an inductive approach and invites participants to do the wonderful work of observing, interpreting, and applying Scripture while gaining the skills to understand other passages the same way. Whether you’re new to the Bible, a seasoned woman of the Word, have young children running around in the background, or are just trying to hold it together, expect to:

  • Spend 25 minutes a day studying the Word in a way that reveals God’s truth
  • Hone your Bible study skills by exploring cross-references, determining context, making lists, marking the text, paraphrasing, and more!
  • Commit to FINISHING and create an action plan to apply what you’ve learned
  • Glean from all the extra material we’ve included in the Appendices of the study
  • Be transformed by Micah 6:6-8 as you seek to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God
  • Check in with Tracy and I weekly via Instagram beginning with an introductory session on April 20 (stay tuned for more details along with additional resources to help you study)
  • Know that your purchase is saving lives! ALL proceeds from the sale of this Bible study will support The Freedom Challenge and its mission to set more women and children on the pathway to freedom
The Team
Tracy and I (along with some other Freedom Challenge sisters) in a Muslim nation teaching the Bible and visiting programs that prevent and free women and children from oppression.

 

The dream of doing it together came from a sisterhood between Tracy and I – A trusted exchange of shared hearts, experiences and purpose. Our intention and desire is that you see this modeled in these pages: a powerful unity from the Arise and Freedom Challenge teams that truly represents the oneness of the Kingdom at what we believe is just the right time. 

How we hope that with each turn of the page comes deep understanding of the Word and the commitment to live in its truths.

I can’t wait for you to hold this study in your hands and work through it alongside us.

 

 

{available NOW on Amazon}

 

 

He Is Love: Our New Book & Other Resources to Help Celebrate Lent

Christians around the world set aside the six weeks before Easter to prepare for Christ’s death and resurrection. This season of surrender begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Silent Saturday – About forty days of remembering, fasting, and giving. ⁣

This Lent, we want to cultivate a rhythm of Bible-centered meditation, reflection and personal response. Our new book, He is Love: Daily Scripture & Prayer From Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday (and Beyond) provides a simple and practical way for us to do just that. Using carefully chosen passages that are foundational to our faith and propel us to live in ways that honor Christ’s sacrifice, author and Arise board member Sarah Bulkley has partnered with her artist mom and designer brother to give us over 40 days of  Scripture and prayer. Each day leads readers through a countdown to Easter, with additional space for crafting our own responses to key passages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A set of six FREE printable Scripture memorization cards by @sheletterstruthco correspond to the book and are available through this link. They’re the perfect size (4×6) to frame, post on a refrigerator, tuck into your Bible, or mail in a note to a friend. Commit to reading them, meditating on them, and memorizing them on your own, with your family, or alongside other women as you move through this season of Lent and the He Is Love resource.

May this season of repentance and beginning again yield sweet communion with Christ. Our sacrifice for His glory.⁣

 

 

 

**Note for readers in the greater PDX/Arise area: Feel free to contact one of us if you want to save on shipping and do a porch pick-up. Suggested donation for local copies is $10, but let us know if this doesn’t fit your budget. As always, our goal is to get Scripture and resources into as many hands as possible. We should have hardcopies available locally by the last week of February. Just send us an email or PM via social media. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While We Wait: An Advent Reflection

The Wait

Gifts are wrapped and stockings are stuffed. Lights twinkle on the tree and candles flicker in homes and church candlelight services across the country. It’s Christmas  – one of my favorite times of the year. I love seeing little ones giddy with excitement. They’ve been waiting since before Thanksgiving when store shelves abruptly traded turkeys and leaves for Santa and snowflakes, and hope the wait will be worth it.

As children of God, we’re waiting too. Every one of us.

It’s why we celebrate Advent through the Christmas season.

Since the fall of man, the faithful in the Old Testament waited for the promised Messiah. They were waiting for a King. Their savior. Because many had their own ideas and assumptions of who He would be and what He would do, they missed the blessing. They failed to see Jesus as the Savior of the world and are still waiting for His first appearance.

Now, as Christ-believers, we wait for our Savior to return and make all things new – forever bridging the gap between our sin and the glory of the Father. Oh, what a day that will be!

Because we live in a broken world until Christ’s second coming, we wait for earthly dreams or needs to be fulfilled as well.

As you read this, you’re likely waiting for something.

Waiting to feel known. Waiting for a wayward child. Waiting to experience love. Waiting to be forgiven. Waiting for healing. Waiting for the fulfillment of a promise. Waiting to be understood.

The list is endless. And exhausting.

Waiting tries my patience and throws me into dependence. I can’t control the outcome in a waiting season and, to be completely honest, that’s the part I like least. My fleshly desire is to meddle – to open closed doors and close the open ones. I rush through the wait to find answers and create quick solutions.  

But what if we entered our time of waiting with a sense of eagerness instead of animosity?  What if we leaned in with anticipation rather than anxiety? What if we waited with hope instead of despair?

What if we changed our perspective entirely, and began to see the wait as part of the promise instead of a means to the end?

What if we believed that God was up to something and that the result would be as good as He is?

If we trust that God is sovereign, we need to trust that the wait fulfills a purpose. It may not look the way we wanted or prayed for, but the process itself can draw us into a deeper relationship with Christ, grow our faith, and refine us into something more beautiful than we imagined.

5 Things To Do While We Wait

Honest truth? I often don’t feel like reading the Bible, praying, or worshipping God in my waiting season, but these are imperative disciplines to growing our faith and, ultimately, glorifying God. If we want the wait to be productive, we need to be proactive. Setting healthy patterns and habits in our lives will ensure we are ready for the wait when it comes.

Here are things we can do in both preparation for a waiting season AND when we’re smack dab in the middle of it.

Meditate on the Word – 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  It’s ALL USEFUL. Read it, memorize it, meditate on it, sing it, study it.  It will teach you, rebuke you, correct you, and train you in righteousness. It will focus your attention on the truths of heaven rather than the things of earth.

Commit to a Bible Study in your church or with friends and keep “Study my Bible” at the top of your “To Do” list. If you need a place to start in your waiting season, try the book of James (be sure to look into what it means to have true joy when reading the first chapter) or an Old Testament book like Exodus or Daniel that speak of God’s sovereignty. Use one of our favorite Bible Study methods such as the Inductive Study to understand the incredible depth and truth of Scripture.

Pray – Seek God with your requests and be honest about your struggle through the wait (He really can handle it), but also ask Him for an open mind and heart as you wrestle through the uncertainty.  Be open to seeing things a different way and tell Him you trust Him with the process and the outcome.

Remember that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness – He hears our groans and intercedes for us when can’t find the words to speak (Romans 8:26). My favorite prayer of all time is known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and can be found in Matthew 6:9-13. It gives all glory and rightful dominion to God while asking for His Kingdom to come and will to be done. It gives me peace and security during a time of waiting.

Worship – It’s easy for me to worship and praise when things are going well – A whole lot harder when they’re not. Go ahead and blast that music in the car and let the tears fall. Praise Him anyway.

I have absolutely been that lady at the red light with hands raised high and snot pouring out of my nose in worship.  On one occasion I even rolled down my window to assure a concerned woman in a neighboring vehicle that I was indeed OK – Just praising God.

Here are some songs to sing during a time of waiting:

Talk to a Trusted Friend – Emphasis on the word trusted here. Choose people who are valiant prayer warriors and gifted secret keepers. Be candid about your wait and ask them to wage war with you. One word of caution, though – Be sure to meditate on the Word of God, spend time in prayer, and worship the Almighty God yourself instead of just asking others to do it for you. Preaching to myself here, friends. I’ve been guilty of calling or texting a friend to pray and then not even doing it myself.  I’ve welcomed encouraging scriptures from sisters before seeking truth in my own study of His Word. Let’s just be sure to be women of discipline in the waiting season instead of idle women of chatter… Just sayin’.

Reflect – Use a journal or quiet time to remember what God has done in the past. These can be personal stories of His faithfulness through other waiting seasons, or ones that resonate from Bible study and meditation. If you’re a regular journal-keeper, spend time looking over past prayers/entries and look for the ways God blessed you in times of waiting or difficulty. Keeping a journal can be a beautiful way of accounting for the things you’re learning and giving Glory to God for His ongoing faithfulness.

The End

Maybe you’ll wake up Christmas morning and find that everything you’ve been waiting for is right in front of you. But probably not.

And it’s OK. Transformative, even, if we allow the wait to mold us and make us into new creations for His great glory.

As followers of Christ, we can be assured that the wait will end.  

In great glory.

Revelation 21 testifies to the abundance we’ll receive after Jesus returns to make all things new:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

Until then, my friends, wait well. It will all be worth it in the end.

With great expectation,

Lisa

 

About the Author:

Lisa DaSilva is a wife, mom of two teenagers, and advocate for women to love God with their heart, soul and mind as they engage in responsible study of His Word. With an M.Ed in Curriculum Development and a teacher by trade and passion, she writes, speaks, and teaches the Bible to anyone who will read or listen. As the director of Arise Ministries Collective in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, Lisa believes every woman has a voice. She longs for the day when they find freedom to use it for the glory of God and the furthering of His Kingdom. Lisa is a recovering striver, lover of simplicity and thrift store junkie. She often has to convince people she’s an introvert. Just a loud one. Loving Jesus and making Him known really is her everything.

 

You Are God’s Masterpiece

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” -Ephesians 2:8-10, (emphasis added)

 

 The greatest artist of all calls you His masterpiece. The very one who took a desolate void and created light, separated land from sea, and spoke abundant vegetation and livestock into being then stood back in pleasure (Genesis 1) looks at you with the same admiration.

Take a moment to let this sink in, sister. Close your eyes and imagine yourself just as you are—every mistake, every joy, every heartache, and every scar. Now picture God in all His glory and perfection stepping back to admire each bit of you as His newest and most beautiful creation. He is the artist and the potter. You are His canvas and clay.

But it doesn’t stop there.

The Apostle Paul exhorts the church in Ephesus to take action. Understanding that each was exquisitely formed in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16) then birthed into a new creation upon belief and surrender to Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 2:10) was just the beginning. These masterpieces were not meant to simply hang on a wall, be placed in a cabinet, or set on a shelf to be admired.

They are masterpieces with a purpose.

There are things God planned and ordained for them to do.

 And while the Ephesians were created in that space and time for particular purposes, so were you created for this time and for specific good works.

It is not a mistake that you are alive and living in this season. It is not a mistake that you bear particular burdens and scars. It is not a mistake that you are unique and sometimes feel different and out of place. It is not a mistake that you have the neighbors, sphere of influence, gifts, talents, circumstances, and experiences that you do. Our great God has purposed and ordained you for such a time as this. A masterpiece designed to do “good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10).”

Take a moment to be silent before the Lord. Let images of past experiences, joys, traumas, or sorrows flood your mind and heart. As they do, lay them before your Father, and praise Him. Each and every one of those experiences has prepared you for the work He wants you to do right now. In this very moment. For His glory.

Ask our great God to reveal the specific role He has for you today and in the days to come. Wait quietly and listen to His voice. Make note of the people, places, and situations He brings to mind. Who needs to know Christ as their personal Savior? Where can you serve and bring the light of Jesus? How can you be the Church, and who can you invite to come alongside you? What do you need to say or do to bring glory to God and make His grace and truth known to others?

As you begin to process God’s particular purpose for you in this season, be assured that He is raising up your fellow sisters to do their own good works for the Kingdom. The author of Hebrews reminds us to “hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works (Hebrews 10:23-24, NLT, emphasis added).”

While Scripture is clear that we have the same Missio Dei—the mission of God to bring Him glory and make that glory known to the world (1 Corinthians 10:31, Matthew 28:16-20)—the way He uses us as individuals to manifest that calling will be different for each (1 Corinthians 12). We must rally around one another and spur one another on as we seek to love the lost, love the Church, and share the gospel.

Prayer and Worship

Close your time today by listening to this song. Use it as a prayer and resurrender your life for His Kingdom purpose. And then, sweet sister, take a step down from the shelf and let Him take you where He wants you to go. Start living as the unique masterpiece you are.

“Sails” by Pat Barrett

“Canvas & Clay” by Pat Barrett

About the Author – Lisa DaSilva is a wife, mom of two teenagers, a teacher, and an advocate for women to love God with their heart, soul, and mind as they engage in responsible study of His Word. Loving Jesus and making Him known really is her everything.

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