#FINDTHEBEAUTY Challenge: A Fourteen Day Bible Study and Photo Experience

#FINDTHEBEAUTY Challenge: A Fourteen Day Bible Study and Photo Experience

Friends, I am SO thrilled to invite you to a 14 day Bible Study and Photo challenge experience beginning tomorrow, June 20th! A friend and I did this together as sort of an experiment a few weeks ago when God stirred my heart about being intentional every day to find traces of where He had been and it was INCREDIBLE. Moments that touched my heart, encouraged me, refined me, or just took my breath away. What I found was that seeking the beautiful things in the everyday pointed me to Jesus over and over again. Traces of the Gospel and God’s love for me is so present in countless moments throughout the day, and I just felt God prompt me to commit to looking for the evidence of His goodness in the everyday.

I asked my friend Amy to do this with me and she said YES so willingly and guys–I cannot tell you how much it blessed me every day to hear what God was showing her. He used her to refine me and several times what she sent (out of what God showed her) was just what I needed to hear. The accountability we had was instrumental in this experience. There were some days that were really, really hard. And at the end of the day, we had to CHOOSE to find the beauty, because we knew we had committed that to one another. And we knew the other person was waiting for it from us every day! And without this challenge, I guarantee you that I would have went to bed with my heart in the wrong place–sin unchecked because I would not have been in the Word every night like I was when I was committed to this challenge. I am generally consistent about spending time in the morning praying and studying, but there was something so pivotal about this additional time each evening as I reflected about my day. It forced me to lay my heart bare before the Lord, and let the Cross do its work in me through His Word. And a lot of times, it was painful. But it was also FRUITFUL. Every. single. time. Find your tribe and invite them to do this WITH you. It will be much easier to stay accountable with people you actually know and see in person. You won’t regret it!

HERE’S HOW I DID IT: This experience cultivated an awareness throughout my day to keep my eyes open for the goodness of God, and when my heart was stirred I would take a photo of something that symbolized the moment. Sometimes I would take multiple photos throughout my day, and then at night after my kids would go to bed I would choose one to pray though and find the verse that I felt like best represented my experience/feelings/reflections. Sometimes I would google “verses about _______” and go from there. Sometimes I would look up a word in the concordance in the back of my Bible (the YouVersion app has this feature too! So helpful). And sometimes a moment would immediately remind me of a verse that I had written on my heart, or God would bring a certain Scripture to memory.

He uses EVERYTHING to let us know He is here, friends. It’s so evident, yet sometimes we neglect to even notice the miracles He does right in front of us. This has been such a game changer. If you commit to this challenge wholeheartedly, you will not be the same, in the best way. You will: 

–Experience the Word coming ALIVE in your life.

–See God moving MORE in your life, because you are actively LOOKING for His hand.

–Cultivate a lifestyle of INTEGRATING God’s truth into your everyday life.

Reflecting on my first 14 days, this is what I felt like I experienced in my own life:

“18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. ” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19, NIV) 

That passage has always sounded a little intimidating to me, even overwhelming at times. But friends, it wasn’t. I was literally doing this every day, God’s word was running in the background of my mind ALL day and it wasn’t draining at all. It wasn’t hard. It wasn’t daunting. It was LIFE-GIVING. I want so badly for everyone to give this a shot, because it is SO worth it.

Are you ready to step up your personal Bible study and spiritual growth this summer?! 

Here is the challenge: For 14 days…

  1. Find the beauty in the everyday. Keep your eyes open for God’s goodness, and document it. Take a picture. 
  2. Think about why that was beautiful to you, the meaning behind the evidence. What does this say to you? Why did it get your attention, stir your heart? What does this say about God? Find/share a Bible verse that reflects what you felt/learned/etc. from that moment. 
  3. Upload it to Instagram or Facebook.  BE SURE TO include #FINDTHEBEAUTY at the end of your post and tag me (@rachelsweatt) so I can see what God is teaching you! (There’s a ton of our hashtag already out there, so tagging me helps me not miss your post!)

**Here are some examples from our 14 Day trial! example3Find the Beautyexample 4Find the Beauty

Here are some extras to take this to the next level: 

*Dig deeper into God’s word. In one example below, Amy wanted to dig into different verses that used the word “vast”, because she was inspired by the vast sky one evening and how big God felt to her in that moment. What she learned was so powerful. Take time to ask God to show you NEW things about Him and His Word, and be willing to go the extra mile to find it.

*Take the Scripture you are correlating with your picture, and pray it back to God. Pray it over your circumstances, your relationships, your friends, even your enemies. Praying Scripture is POWERFUL and His word does not return void!

Every person that does this for the entire 14 days will be entered into a drawing for a great giveaway! This is really just a way for me to say thank you for doing this with me. It is so encouraging to me and I do not take your partnership in this ministry for granted!

After our first 14 days, I want to invite you to KEEP your eyes open for the beautiful things of God. Share pictures that represent His goodness in your life. Every month,  I am going to try to do a “BEAUTY ROUNDUP” and share all the photos that people post and tag me for everyone to see and be encouraged by.

Are you ready to invite God to do His thing in your life through His Word?

Let’s do this! If you are IN, let me know in the comments so I can be looking for your pictures!

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If you are weary, this is for YOU.

If you are weary, this is for YOU.

Have you ever been so weary you just couldn’t take another step? I know I have. And if you’re like me, those moments that feel so utterly defeating are often the catalyst for exposing an ugly truth: I have been been relying on something to sustain me that wasn’t the only One who could sustain me.

I was praying through this the other day and realizing it is not enough to pray that God would establish our steps. We need to ask Him to sustain our every step, after He shows us where to go. Are we following His lead, only to depend on something else to get us where He wants to take us?

This could play out in a billion different ways for each of us, and I know for me the temptation to do this has looked different in every season. At the end of the day, if we are looking to anything or anyone but God to sustain us, we will not make it.

We weren’t built to endure this brokenness without the only One who can repair it. We don’t have the capacity to do this life on our own and nothing of this world is strong enough to endure the things that happen on its soil. Nothing temporary can endure what was only meant to be sustained by something eternal.

Our friends cannot sustain us. Our pastors are not here to sustain us. Our spouse is not created to sustain us. The keto/paleo/whole30 diet, job promotion, (insert your own thing here) will never withstand the heat of whatever the enemy intended for evil that God will use to refine us.

If it’s been a while since you trusted God to be everything you needed, take some time to do that. Say this, (out LOUD if possible): God, today I trust YOU to sustain me today. Forgive me for trying to make it without you. Teach me how to trust you to carry me. Show me where you already have. From this day forward, make it undeniable that YOU are my helper.

And if you’ve been faithful to do so but it’s still been hard, be encouraged: God is the one who sustains you. You aren’t done yet. You’re going to make it because the Lord is your helper. He’s got you.

If you are looking for HOPE today…

If you are reading this and you know that you could use a little more HOPE in your heart these days, THIS is for you. If there is so much weighing you down that you can hardly catch your breath, THIS is for you. If you are looking for an encouraging word of truth today, no matter where you are or what your life looks like right now…THIS is for you.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

Friend, I have GOOD news for anyone looking some good news today. The God of HOPE lends us the Spirit, who freely gives us HOPE so that our own hope many ABOUND, limitless. Because of His Spirit, who dwells in us, our very own hope abounds from an endless resource, a well of hope that would never run dry.

I just love that word ABOUND. It feels like a breath of fresh air to my soul, almost like a deep sigh of relief. Anyone out there looking for some ABOUNDING in their life? (raises hand.)

We were created more than just to make it through the day, we were made to ABOUND. Abound in joy, in thankfulness, in love, and in HOPE. I know this because we were made in the image of a God who ABOUNDS, this is part of His character. And because of Jesus, it is part of our DNA. We literally have hope running through our veins. 

Can you feel it?

If you had forgotten for a second, doesn’t it feel good to remember? Oh how the enemy wants us to forget. To forget about our eternal lifeline to hope. How cleverly darkness invites us to live in despair. Don’t be fooled, friends.

The God of hope sends the Spirit who gives hope, so that our own hope may ABOUND. Our hope springs eternal because of the God who gives it.

Looking For Hope

SPRING 2018 Playlist

SPRING 2018 Playlist

One of my favorite things about Spring is the hope for new things that come with it. It’s new life after everything has been dead for so long. Fresh hope. Renewed strength. Plants and trees and people, all coming back to life after a long winter, often figuratively and literally. In fact, one of my favorite verses in the Bible is from Isaiah 43:19, where God reveals that doing new things is part of who He is and what He does.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” 

One thing that I have always loved throughout the year is finding songs that echo the seasons. So, I thought I would share what I have compiled so far for this spring! I’m always adding to this list so leave me any song suggestions you have! Happy listening and happy SPRING!

Pep Talk for Life

Pep Talk for Life

I was moved almost to tears by this verse in Psalms the other morning and have wanted to share it here ever since:

“Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.”

Pslam 37:3

It caught me completely off guard, in a beautiful, captivating way. I don’t know why, other than maybe it felt like a tender yet strong call to action from God Himself. Kind of a “Keep on keepin on” pep talk from Jesus. Almost feels like he was reminding my soul what to do, setting the eyes of my heart on my task at hand. If you needed a “keep on keeping on” nudge today, here it is. Keep on, friends. TRUST HIM. Do good. Dwell well. Stand firm in your faith. 💛

 

When Your Kids See Your Struggle

When Your Kids See Your Struggle

As parents, we often only want our kids to see our “best” side. The part of us that is calm, cool, and collected all the time. The part of us that is fun, with an ocean of patience, and speaks only life and encouragement to those around us. This is a good thing to want our kids to see in us. That means you love your children and want only the best for them!

But what happens when they see something other than your best? 

What happens when we lose our patience, or we are heartbroken and they witness our tears? 

Something that I’ve learned as a mom of toddlers is that I am going to be undone more often that I’d like to admit, and my kids are going to get a front row seat. Whether that is from losing my patience or mourning over the consequences of sin in the world.

And I can see that as failure or as a chance to continue doing the one thing God has entrusted me to do with those sweet little image bearers of God: keep pointing them to Jesus.

When my spirit is weaker than my flesh and I give into temptation, handing over control to my emotions or selfishness, I have the hard, holy, privilege of asking my kids for their forgiveness. I get to CHOOSE to say yes I am your mom, but I am not the goal: HE is the goal. He is the prize. I am your mom and I love you more than the stars in the sky, but I will mess up. Because I need Jesus just as much as you do. And even as much as I love you and want the best for you, God’s love for you is greater still.

When tragedies are on display right and left, and the rubble of death is almost too much to take, I have the prime opportunity to show them how I run to God, not away from Him with my questions. When we pray at the end of the day and our family or community is mourning the loss of a friend here on earth, I get to show them how I tell God in prayers that I know He is still good even when we don’t understand, and ask Him to show us He is near.

If you have someone in your life that God has entrusted to you–maybe it’s a child, a friend, a student–you too have the immense privilege to be a flashing light, using every moment, every weakness, and hurt and every opportunity to keep pointing those around you to Jesus. This is your ONE GOAL. By offering these moments as road lights for others, we get the chance to say with our lives that we are desperate for Jesus. 

When Your Kids See Your StruggleEven after all these years.

We still need Him too. 

Paul writes something astoundingly beautiful regarding this in 1 Corinthians 1:11, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” THIS IS OUR GOALMay our lives never look like anything but Jesus, even when we do fail or grieve or struggle.

Yes, follow us as we follow Him. When we fail, watch how we run to Him. When we hurt, watch how we run to Him. When we celebrate, watch how He is the first we run to in praise. Our eyes are fixed on no other. Watch us. Then join us.

How do you point to Jesus with your life? Who may be watching you be anything but your best? Let’s keep this conversation going in the comment section, share with us how you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus throughout your day! 

Face to Face

Face to Face

It is no secret that people are looking down more than ever. It is interesting that while looking down at say, their phones, they have access to every piece of the world via the internet. But while looking down at a virtual world, we forfeit the privilege of seeing the world in person. Face to sky. Face to sun. Face to mountain. Face to ocean. Face to crowd. Face to face. 

Quick poll/personal inventory: How many times did you intentionally look up today? How many of you have felt lonelier/discouraged/less connected to others the more you are trying to connect on social media?

It’s ok… take a few minutes to do some personal reflection. I’ll wait. This could be big for us–it’s totally worth the lack of comfort.

About a year ago, I realized that the more time I spent online (specifically on social media venues), had a direct correlation with how tired and groggy I felt throughout the day. It wasn’t like I was just wasting time online (lets be real–I have toddlers at home so I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to!) although I absolutely have been sucked into the blackhole of Instagram on more than a few occasions! However, the reality is my work is largely based online and social media is a huge piece of that. But I was realizing that investing so much energy in that online space left me with significantly less energy to ACTIVELY engage in the actual world around me the way God had created me to. 

Now before I go on I want to say how incredibly thankful I am for the progress of technology and advancement. You guys- God is the most creative being EVER. He is the source of creativity and inspiration, and uses absolutely everything for His good. I have seen this abundantly with sharing the Gospel online. Bible studies, testimonies, news on other believers around the world and how to PRAY for them and ways to serve and give–that was absolutely not a mistake or an accident or coincidence. God intentionally put that burden in the hearts of men and women He created, to do that very thing so the name of Jesus could literally be more accessible to the ends of the earth.

That being said, I can no longer neglect the tension we are currently experiencing where online or even text-based acquaintances/friendships are often replacing intentional community Jesus was so passionate about. I recently found myself reading the short letters from John in 1, 2, and 3 John. As a writer, I often am captivated by words. I write them to my kids on their birthdays, I write them to Jesus in my prayer journal, and I write things that God lays on my heart to share online. As a millennial follower of Jesus, these words I am about to share with you from John challenged me so deeply and stirred my spirit in such a way that I can’t say that I’ll ever be the same. And friends, while growth is painful and awkward, there is not one moment that is not worth it. So I am praying you find yourself drawn in by His loving kindness and nudged to a new, life changing perspective as well.

At the end of 2 John in verse 12, as a closing to his letter, John writes these words:  

“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

Likewise, at the end of 3 John in verses 13-15 we read a similar sentiment:

“I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink.  I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.”

You can almost hear the urgency in his voice. His longing to be with his people, in their presence. Face to face. It’s like he knows that there is just too much that he might miss out on by not doing life in person. Together.

FACE TO FACE. 

When I read those words, I was immediately inspired by the authentic friendship John had with these people in the early church. He knew the times were turbulent. He knew the struggles his friends (and himself) were facing were immense and their grief so deep and real that they could hardly catch their breath before the next blow. The urgency we hear in his voice comes from in importance of what he had to tell them. Their days were numbered. Their conversations were sacred. Their friendship holy.

John knew that what he had to tell them was way to important to tell them any other way than face to face. Here’s another quick poll for personal  reflection: How many of our conversations are deeper than the shallowness of our flesh? How many conversations do we see as sacred? How many of our moments face to face with others are are accounted for as worth the time? How many of our conversations are making an eternal difference?

John not only wanted to visit these people face to face so he could tell them something sacred, but because he knew the unspeakable JOY that comes with authentic friendship. John knew that our joy would never, could never be complete without community. I have found this to be so true in my own life. I have found the longer I go without intentionally meeting face to face with other believers, the easier it is for me to make excuses to stay under my rock of comfort + selfishness (especially with my time). And the longer I go without community, whether that is coffee with a friend, a bible study group, or worship with my church family, the more negative I become without even knowing it.

I’ve seen that I become comfortable in my selfish worldview that I established within the walls of my home or heart, because I never invited anyone else in. When we sacrifice real community for anything other than God intended it, we are selling ourselves short on the JOY God has for us. Every time it has been hard to get out of the house, out of my comfort zone, etc. it has been 100% WORTH it in more ways than I can count. Trust me. Our joy will NEVER be complete without community.

These are the things we can no longer ignore. We are so good at being busy we are simultaneously LAZY at the same time.  And then we wonder why we feel like something is missing? Like the joy in our daily life has just up and left? No, it hasn’t left. We just haven’t SHOWED UP. We are missing the ABUNDANCE of life we were made to enjoy (John 10:10) because we won’t go where the FACES are.

One more thing before we go. John says “GREET THE FRIENDS BY NAME.” Why would he say that? MAYBE BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT. And I am asguilty as anyone here. I am the WORST at remembering names. But there is no excuse for not treating an image bearer of God as such. If you take one thing from this (long) post let it be this challenge:

Let someone know you are there, that you see them. And by see them, I mean you see their face with your actual face. Not just a text. Tell someone you know they are there. They are worth looking up for because Jesus said they were worth dying for. 

Leave a comment if you are up for the challenge, and share your experience with us! I am praying for you guys today and look forward to hearing from you! I can’t wait to hear how God moves through those willing to let Him use them. And don’t forget. Look UP. That’s where the faces are.

Look UP