Are You Betting on Your Faith? Where’s Your Commitment?

Reblogged from Words in High Def

Faith and Commitment

Gambling has never held much appeal for me. I will be honest and confess that I have certainly visited Vegas and pulled a few slot handles (or pushed buttons now), played some black jack and thrown dice in the spirit of entertainment. But since I hate to lose and I value my money, it’s never long before I find the stores to window shop or just people-watch.

There is a term in poker that I love; all in. This refers to a point in betting in which a player wants to continue but doesn’t have the full amount to match the bet. He pushes all his chips forward, betting everything he has. If he wins, he will be paid accordingly. If he loses, he’s out of the game and leaves the table. Buh Bye Now!

It occurred to me that many of us handle our faith like a poker game. We sit at the table as one who is actively invested, but we hold back a little in case this isn’t really a winning hand.

Some of us give a small percent, others a majority of our lives to God. But if we hold back even one tiny portion, we aren’t fully committed. We don’t fully believe. The Bible says we are to give our time, treasures and talent to serving God. This doesn’t mean every waking minute or every cent of our paychecks, but it means these things have to fit into the equation of how we invest. Have you checked those things lately? How much time do you spend mentoring a fatherless child or serving at a homeless shelter? If you are a talented cook, do you prepare food for those in need or teach younger women how to improve? Are you giving generously to worthy causes that support God’s care of people?

We hold back in other ways as well. We are supposed to treat our bodies with respect but I just saw a survey that revealed a majority of Christians don’t believe smoking or obesity are sins. If you’re actively doing it you couldn’t very well admit to being wrong. It’s easier to hold back and rationalize. I’m sure my life has many of these areas as well, so I’m pointing the finger in my own direction as I write this.

There are also those who hold back in secret. They are fully invested in front of people, but in private they live in a way that is contrary to who they say they are.

Jesus gave everything; his time, treasures, talents, dignity and even his life. It was entirely up to him and he willingly gave it all.  Such joy and contentment come from being thoroughly invested in God’s promises. Commitment.

What about you? Are you betting on your faith? When it comes time for the payoff (blessings and salvation) what will your take be? Are you holding back or are you all in?

Diane Markins

Temptation Trail

*Temptation Trail Reblogged From Words in High Def

Can things be right on one occasion and wrong at another time? Pastor Allan Fuller, Mountain Park Community Church thinks so. He says, “Temptation is the wrong path to a good want.” What does that mean?

Well, for instance, sex is a good want. God created us as sexual beings with an intense desire for sexual fulfillment. But He has made it pretty clear that there is a right way to achieve that (marriage) and a wrong way (sexual gratification outside marriage).

There are many examples of this and I’m sure many come to your mind easily; better self image (the quick fix—like liposuction vs. cutting the junk food and hitting the gym), a job promotion (what are you willing to do to get ahead?), passing that final exam (is there a shortcut or way to cheat?).

Our lives are filled with choices and we filter those through our own matrix. That may include integrity issues, amount of personal sacrifice, and the impact of the gain. Sometimes our wants are intense and drive us, sometimes they are fleeting. Sometimes they are both, sometimes they are less intense but persistent.

When Sarai longed for a child she told her husband Abram to go sleep with her servant Hagar so they could begin a family using her as a surrogate. (Genesis 16:1) Having a baby is a good want, telling your husband to sleep with the maid to get one—well, I’d say that’s a bad way to reach your goal.

On occasion, things are not so clear-cut. I’ve had opportunities presented to me that seemed wonderful and were answered prayers but the timing wasn’t right so I had to pass. Years ago I was offered a glamorous job doing what I wanted to do but I was already over-committed and knew that if I accepted it my family would suffer. I tried so hard to tell myself that God had blessed me with this chance, but deep down I knew He had something better for me if I’d wait. No Thanks. The words would hardly come out of my mouth. I’m so glad they did though.

Things can go the other way as well. When my father-in-law retired and my husband took over the family business, he asked me to help him. I had never worked in this business or even this industry. I hated the idea and was tempted to give him all the reasons why it wouldn’t work. But I knew that was the wrong path for me to get my good desire met. I wanted us to have financial security and I wanted to feel like I was respected as a professional. Going off on my own path would have accomplished those things-maybe even faster-but I would have missed the chance to work as a partner with my husband and would have no idea about the inner-workings of our company.

What is Your Temptation Trail?

Temptation doesn’t always come in obvious forms. It can come in the form of friendships (if they are inappropriate), physical fitness (if true health is sacrificed) and success (if we claim the glory instead of giving it to God).

What are you aiming to get or longing for in your life? Are you pursing it on the Righteous Road or are you on the Temptation Trail? Just remember, you’ll likely get there either way, but the outcome and fulfillment may be dramatically different.

Supernatural Encounter with God

Are you ready for a cheesy bit of truth about me? I like some supernatural movies and books … a few that you may believe are straight from the devil. Most, probably not, but I know there are people who draw a six-inch line in the sand over this.

I read the first few Harry Potter books, then I moved on, but I really liked them. I really loved This Present Darkness, a Christian supernatural thriller. The TV show Lucifer is pretty entertaining (although they make him way too human and likeable).  I’ve seen Practical Magic and Hocus Pocus about 50 times each, and the 1950s romantic classic Bell, Book and Candle still makes me melt. (Pray for me!)

On my honor, I don’t have a quija board or tarot cards hidden in my closet. I keep a wide boundary from the dark side and don’t invite it into my life.

The extreme fascination in our culture with the supernatural is a pretty interesting phenomenon. I think we’d all like a bit of magic to believe in. The lighter side is Santa, Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. They elicit delight, fun, endless possibilities in children and probably (on the DL) a few eternally hopeful adults.

Now I have a question for you: If people are so eager to believe in things that defy the laws of science and want to experience unexpected gifts, why do so many folks not believe in God’s supernatural power, mercy, blessings and answered prayers?

They want to believe in psychics, reincarnation- even magic, despite any evidence. But with all the historic accounts of the completely impossible things God has done in the Bible and the miracles people continue to experience, they can’t get on board with simple faith. I’m not just talking about atheists. I’m talking about the lady sitting next to you in church.

For so many, the idea of God is enough. Church offers inspirational life messages and friendship. Prayer is a part of the deal, but not much is invested and less is expected.

We all know people like this…maybe you’re quietly thinking, that’s me.

I’m gonna throw down a challenge. This week be intentional about looking for God to break the laws of nature. Expect to see a miracle. Also recognize that there is a flip side and when you begin to notice the unseen realm, you’ll need to hold on to your faith and Bible verses. The enemy doesn’t want us to know there is a world at work all around us to which we are oblivious.

When you step up your belief in the supernatural (not talking about vampires and werewolves here)…straight from God’s word, you will begin to grasp the glorious Big Picture in a whole new way.

Have you had an unexplainable, supernatural encounter with God (or His counterpart)? Do tell. I sure have.

Challenge: Be Amazed by God

I go to a fairly subdued church. It’s contemporary but not very charismatic, although the people love God a bunch. So imagine my surprise when the pastor said he woke up one night and felt like God was saying to him, “Be Amazed!”

Now I, on the other hand, experience “hearing” from the Lord in the wee hours fairly often. Sleep disruption isn’t half bad if it comes from heaven. Indigestion, you might be thinking, but I test those midnight nuggets against scripture and prayer before I accept it as more than abdominal distress.

There’s no need to test Pastor Allan’s word from God because He would love nothing more than for all of us to wait expectantly and still be awed by what He does in our lives.

Can you remember something you were desperately worried about two years ago? I’ll bet whatever it was is not at the top of your prayer list any longer. It may not have been taken care of in the way you hoped, but it isn’t likely the same as it was. God is working on it, in His way and according to His schedule. Yet you aren’t amazed.

Maybe it’s because we’re used to things getting accomplished instantly…Do you want chicken pot pie? Reach in the freezer then push a couple buttons on your microwave. Would you like to binge-watch an entire season of Homeland at 3 AM on a Tuesday? Search it on your TV or phone and have at it. Want to know how tall Ryan Seacrest is? Google will tell you in seconds that he’s 5’8” (about what I guessed- and I don’t know why my brain pulled that up as an example- random!).

Our instant-access/instant-results lifestyle has perhaps upstaged God. How tragic. We want it and we want it NOW! Results. Quick fixes. Instant weight loss. Divorce in-a-hurry.

God doesn’t work like Google. He sometimes wants us to wait! Here’s your challenge: Be Amazed by God!

In the waiting we have opportunities to learn so much…patience, mercy, stamina, endurance, courage, peace-that-passes-understanding and most of all BIG faith.

The down-side is that when the Lord takes us through difficult circumstances over a long period of time, we tend to forget His role in the outcome. It seems to have just happened, or resolved itself. We aren’t amazed or awed by the perfectly-time and elegantly crafted plan that got us there.

Make no mistake, I’m right there with ya. I want my pain to stop, my problem fixed and answered prayer this instant. I’d love a burning bush, or even a jazzy LED sign to direct me and reassure my doubting spirit. But I know God’s way is so much better.

He is God, after all. Can you still find a way to open your heart and mind to be amazed by God?

Beauty Not Often Seen

I urge you to take a couple minutes from your busy day to read this guest post by Jonathan Foster. He shares from the depths of his heart about how God shows us beauty through our times of pain and loss. It will take your breath away…it did mine. Be sure to check out his book Where Was God on the Worst Day of My Life and blog

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins

Beauty Not Often Seen (Death and Life)

Almost a year has past since our daughter, Quincy, has been able to join us on a Sunday morning at Mission Church. This past New Years Day death conspired with an icy road, and an oncoming truck to usher her into heaven. Every day I miss her, but Sundays the echoes seem to be the loudest. Quincy was as involved and interested in our church as much as a college kid could be. She served in the nursery, helped us setup and teardown, greeted people, ran the computer, and sang. In fact, the last time she was at Mission Church she led music with her family on Christmas Eve. She found importance in her faith community of which I’m grateful. Additionally she did not appear to resent the work of the faith community.  As her father and pastor, I am grateful for this as well. Being the pastor’s child can introduce stress. But, Quincy seldom complained. She genuinely appeared to be proud of the family work.
These thoughts and more were in my heart recently, when at the conclusion of one our gatherings I invited everyone to participate in an exercise. Before the service, we had written with a dry erase marker, dozens of different sins, issues, and attitudes upon the auditorium windows. After communion, we pulled the curtains and challenged everyone to locate a “sin” they identified with and then erase. The exercise symbolized how God erases and our sins. I went first and then sat in the back and observed. It was moving. Beauty, like fragrance, seemed to ventilate the room. As I watched, I began to shake. Then weep. What was the reason I wept? I suppose it may have been nothing more than a release. Like a valve relieving pressure, from time to time the knob gets turned and emotions escape. This isn’t bad. I am not ashamed to weep.  It’s a part of the grieving journey. But, I guess there were other things at play as well. True, Quincy’s absence even at that moment was breaking my heart but there was also a vast amount of love holding my heart. As the people leaned into the exercise, it appeared the love of Christ was holding all of us in that room, so many who were hurting just like me about Quincy, and others struggling deeply with their own issues. Watching it all, I longed for the moment to last in time.
Abraham Heschel, in his book The Sabbath, says, “All man’s endeavors are an expenditure of time to gain power in space.” The irony, of course, is the power we gain in the world of space is abruptly terminated when our time is over. It follows then; our endeavors should be spent on what will last in and beyond time. How might we find these endeavors? Surprisingly, (why am I still surprised by this) not by the neon-signed buzzing of the world’s obvious, but by a more simple and indirect light. Take my recent experience, for example, when I found myself with my young, startup church, in a glorified warehouse, in an out of the way location. It was an ordinary Sunday morning, but in volitional unity, life-giving worship, the breaking of the everlasting Word, and the celebration of unforced sacrifice I found the power of simplicity. To borrow Heschel’s language, each of the aforementioned are a type of endeavor. But, then again, “endeavor” is much too benign of a word for things so laden with power. For as the splitting of a single atom points toward atomic energy, so these endeavors point toward eternal energy. Maybe Heschel is only partially correct. Yes, all man’s endeavors concern themselves with power, but in the examples I found this morning, the endeavors concerned themselves not with power gained, but power deferred. Maybe wherever the deferment of power lives, so exists the essence of power.  I think it was the beauty of “power deferment” that made such an impression on me. It surprised me (again, why am I still surprised) to consider, that although the sins we confess are actually sick and hideous; the act of confessing is undeniably healthy and beautiful.
Health and beauty are subject matters we talk a lot about in our world.  We are, I believe, confused about their value, but we are not confused about the power they hold over us. Which is why we package them in the ephemeral skin of youth, money or position. And we constantly parade them about in our magazines, marketing, and movies. Yet, our biggest films, costing a quarter of a billion dollars to produce, cannot match the art I witnessed in the 87-year old husband and wife hobbling across the room searching for sins to erase. (Later, she would say it was hard to narrow it down to one!) The beauty spread out on the covers of our most famous magazines pale in comparison to the grace of a single mom I observed humbly and defiantly (yes, these are potentially synonymous) approaching the table of bread and wine.
These are endeavors that construct the beautiful.
These are the atomic building blocks of the unseen.
This is the DNA of heaven.
Which brings me back to thinking about my daughter. In a few days, we are leaving for Haiti… one of her absolute favorite places within this earthly dimension. But, I won’t find her physically there. I won’t find her there any more than I’ll find her in her bedroom, or on the soccer field, or in the mountains. She now participates completely in the unseen…. the beautiful… the timeless. But, we who hope in Jesus, the Christ… we, who expend our time deferring power in this space have one foot in the unseen as well. (Soon, it will be both.)
It’s true, if the death and resurrection of our Lord did not happen then, we should receive pity. But we know it happened. Look around; there is too much beauty! The death is a cold, constricting bitterness. But, the resurrection is a warm, expanding sweetness. This is what lasts in and beyond time. It is only now that I begin to realize… it is only now my eyes are opening…

Marnie Swedberg

This truly moving and inspirational guest post by Marnie Swedberg will rev your faith up. I encourage you to take two minutes to read it!

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins

God’s Vessel

by Marnie Swedberg

She was whispering, the stranger on the other end of the phone conversation. She was asking if we could meet somewhere. She sounded desperate.

I’d been minding my own business, tending to my children, when the phone rang that night. Within thirty minutes I found myself at a restaurant, with a total stranger, listening to a sad, scared, confused woman share her life story.

She’d gotten my name from a relative who knew of me online, and had called me from her bathroom, where she was hiding from her drunk and angry husband.

I had no idea what to say or how to help. All I could do was to listen to her while listening to God as He flowed words of comfort, instruction, and hope through me to her. Some of the words that came out of my mouth shocked me, and I remember walking out of her upside-down life, after two short hours, not knowing if she’d be OK or if I’d ever see or hear from her again. I just knew it was what I was supposed to do.

Over the next several days and weeks, whenever I wondered about her, I’d lift her up in prayer. It’s one of my habits: To think of you is to pray for you.

And then, one day, it happened. I was coming out of a building as she was walking in. We nearly collided. To my shock and amazement, her face lit up like the sun, she gave me a huge hug, and she said, “Oh! It’s you! I can’t believe I get to see you!”

She went on to tell me how things had totally turned around after our meeting. Her husband, who’d been a drunk on the couch for months, had gotten up, found a job, and was participating in the family again. She gushed gratitude as she ran off toward her next appointment.

Stuff like this happens to me all the time as I yield my availability, mind, and body to God as a flow through vessel.

God created us to be His flow through vessels, and the beauty of the process is that anything He wants to flow through you, He must flow to you first.

A stranger needs encouragement? He had flowed life experiences, faith, and encouragement to me first, so I could I share it with her. Someone needs money? Guess what? You can’t give money you don’t have. If God intends to flow anything good through you, He will flow it to you first.

God is far better than our finite minds can fathom and His plans exceed our greatest hopes and dreams. He wants to be our Source for everything and the way He established this possibility is to create us as flow through vessels.

Being God’s conduit—transferring His life, love, and provision from heaven to earth, is the greatest honor available to a human, and the benefits are awesome. They begin with the seed of a peace that passes understanding, blossom into joy that thrives through the harshest storms of life, and reach full bloom as the outcomes of that process are poured graciously into the lives of others.

Dr. Ben Carson Talks about God

When I was asked if I’d like to schedule an interview with Dr. Ben Carson to talk about his new book I wanted to cry because I’m not currently producing new shows (maybe he’d just let me ask him questions for my personal enjoyment? Nah). I was sent the book and they chose the following excerpt to share. If you aren’t familiar with Dr. Carson… don’t waste another second. He is -hands down- the most brilliant man I know of and uses his astounding brain for many wonderful purposes. I know you’ll want his latest book, especially if you have kids. Be sure to post a comment below and share this very direct post with your friends who think that only uninformed idiots believe in God (and be sure they read his bio!).

Bold Living radio show airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins

“God” (Excerpted from You Have a Brain: A Teen’s Guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G)

by Dr. Ben Carson

When I was a child, I imagined God as an old, old man with a long, white beard who lived in the clouds with a powerful telescope that could see through walls. He was always peering down to see what you did wrong and making sure you got punished for it.

My early image of him was that he was distant, uncaring, and harsh, investing most of his time and energy ensuring no riffraff got into heaven. I clung to some of that concept as I grew up. This is why I found myself in early adulthood being extremely conservative about everything — to the point of being puritanical. I was judgmental of others’ actions and attitudes, and I didn’t always enjoy life.

I have slowly matured and have experienced God’s help in many crises. I have come to realize that God does not want to punish us; rather, he wants to fulfill our lives. God created us, loves us, and wants to help us to realize our potential so that we can be useful to others. Gradually over the years, by regularly reading, studying, and depending on the advice in God’s Word, I gained a more accurate picture of God. As a doctor and a scientist, the more I learn about creation and especially the human brain, the more impressed I am with how incredibly smart our Creator must be.

I look through my operating microscope and marvel at the intricate complexities of creation inside a baby’s brain. Or I stand under the stars on a summer night, looking up at a universe made with such precision that you can set clocks by it. I see evidence everywhere of a brilliant and logical God who is unbelievably loving. What else could possibly explain why the all-powerful Creator of the universe humbled himself and came to earth to be spat upon, cursed, even beaten with a whip, before he was crucified and died on a cross for the very same people who did that to him?

A God that loving, instead of being quick to judge and anxious to condemn us for every little sin, is really an almost unimaginably forgiving God. I finally realize that God’s first concern is not about whether we abide by his rules or deserve his grace and forgiveness. His priority is right relationships. This personal relationship is all God has wanted from us since the beginning of time. It is what we were created for.

Eeny Meeny- Choosing a Bible for Your Kid

So many Bibles, so little time to choose! Our kids need God’s word and they need it to speak to them in a style they will fall in love with.  Jeannie Cunnion joined me on Bold Living recently to talk about Parenting the Wholehearted Child. Check out her new post about choosing the best Bible for your child. Don’t forget to comment to win a new Bible for your child. (I’ve got a few to give away!)

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins 

Eeny Meeny- Choosing a Bible for Your Kid

by Jeannie Cunnion

If you’ve stepped into a bookstore lately to purchase a Bible you’ve probably noticed how very many choices exist. And while a vast selection of Bibles is a wonderful option to have, it can also be very overwhelming.

I’ve spoken to countless parents who have gone into a bookstore to purchase a Bible for their child but have left empty handed- not because they couldn’t find a Bible they liked but because they found too many!

And out of fear of buying the wrong kind of Bible, they just simply didn’t buy a Bible at all.

This is why I’ve partnered with Zondervan to launch their “How to Choose a Bible Campaign.”

And this is why I’ve dedicated an entire chapter in my book, Parenting the Wholehearted Child, to leading parents in engaging their children in buying and reading the Bible.

Our hope is to empower parents in choosing a Bible that is right for their children- because a key element in engaging our children in Scripture reading is using a Bible to which they can relate.

And our hope is to encourage parents in how they approach the Bible with their children- because a parent’s attitude about reading the Bible has a profound impact on their kids’ desire to read Scripture.

Oh how important it is that we remember that God’s Word is not primarily about us and what we should be doing. It’s about God and what He has already done through Christ Jesus. Reading the Bible with our children through that lens changes everything!

We are so passionate about encouraging parents to read the Bible with their children because reading God’s Word is one of the primary ways our children will come to know the heart of God.

This isn’t about making the Bible come alive for our kids.  It already is alive and powerful. (Hebrews 4:12)  In the words of R.C. Sproul, “I can’t make the Bible come alive for anyone. The Bible is already alive. It makes me come alive.”

This is about finding a Bible to which your six month old, or your six year old, or your sixteen year old can relate.

And we want to come alongside you to help you narrow your options, make informed choices, and find the right Bible for the children in your life!

So let’s begin with just a few of the questions parents can ask themselves when they are comparing different Bible options:

  • What is my child’s age/ reading level?
  • For what purpose will my child use this Bible?
  • Do we have a translation preference?
  • Does my child prefer items specific to their gender?
  • Is my child drawn to realistic images or cartoon style images?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can narrow down your choices to either a Storybook Bible or a Full Text Bible.

A Storybook Bible is a shortened, storybook style adaptation of the Bible that may include scripture references, photos, or illustrations. This Bible is ideal for preschoolers, pre-readers, and newly independent readers.

A Full Text Bible is a full version of the Bible which features special supplemental devotional or learning elements. Full Text Bibles are ideal for new readers to adult readers. The most widely used translations of Full Text Bibles are the NIV and the NIrV.

To further explore which Bible is best for your child, you will find answers to the rest of your questions a

And here’s the good news! It is never too early and it is never too late to start reading God’s word with your kids.

Did you know that 90% of a child’s brain is developed by the time they are five years old?

Children’s brains are little sponges, waiting to absorb the truths about God’s great love for them. These stories teach our children that the Creator of the universe made them and loves them and is intimately involved in every detail of their lives. The stories reveal God’s faithfulness, his greatness, his goodness, and his grace. The Bible reminds our children that there is no detail too big or too small for our God. And most wonderfully, all of these stories point our children to the one great story woven from the very first to the very last sentence in the Bible — the story of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and his life, death, resurrection, ascension, and his coming again.

While our young children cannot fully appreciate all the story has to offer, we must trust the story and the power of God’s Word. We are planting the seeds and the story will grow in meaning for them as they grow in their understanding of the gospel.

For example, several years ago, on one of the first beautiful days of summer, I packed up our cooler with lots of snacks and drinks and I took all three of our young boys to the beach.  We arrived at our usual spot with our beach toys, balls, and fishing nets.  And while I focused on making sure Owen, my two-year-old, didn’t drown in the ocean, which he was desperately trying to do, my seven-year-old son, Cal, found a group of friends and quickly joined in the quest to build the best sand castle on the beach.

Brennan, however, ran straight for the water’s edge, began throwing heaps of sand into the ocean, flexing his little muscles, and yelling, “Take that, you Philistines — I will defeat you!”

While I’m sure some people were looking at five-year-old Brennan like he’d gone mad, I couldn’t have been more proud. I knew exactly what Brennan was doing- he was pretending to be David defeating the Philistines in God’s strength.

He was acting out his favorite story in the Bible, the story of a young boy who became an unlikely hero when he fought and defeated the seemingly undefeatable giant Goliath—a story in the Old Testament that sets the stage for another, greater hero (Jesus) who would soon come to defeat an even bigger giant (sin and death). Indeed, God’s powerful Word can penetrate tender little hearts.

As we come alongside our children in reading God’s word and planting seeds of faith in their hearts, we will be so beautifully reminded of what the Lord says in Isaiah 55:11, “My word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Open those Bibles, friends. Let it surprise you.  Let it wreck you. Let it empower you.  Let it heal you. There is so much grace, so much hope, & so much freedom just waiting for us and our children in God’s Word.

*Post a comment to win a brand new Bible for the kid in your life.

Put Love into Action

Pastor and mega-author Francis Chan wrote the foreword to Love, Skip, Jump by Shelene Bryan. He said, “Don’t be another person who wastes his/her life by trying to save it. Spend more energy saving lives than saving for retirement. Just comsider the possibility that you might live more if you risked more and gave more. Join my friend Shelene in doing something.”

In my interview with Shelene Bryan, she shares the story of how she began wondering if the kid she sponsored in Africa was actually getting any benefit from the money she sent… or if she even existed. So she did what any crazy, type A woman would do. She went to see for herself.

What she found would change her life forever. So much so that she found, a charity dedicated to providing food and clean water to children in America and around the world.

In the book she talks about how to: Love– with the heart of God, Skip– some of the comforts in life so you’ll have more to give, and Jump into the “Aventure of Yes.”

Shelene has never lacked passion, but through her first experience in Africa, her passion became God’s passion. As with most people who want more from life, Shelene is 100% sold out. Her story is riveting and her sense of humor refreshing.

Listen to the interview. Post a comment and share with friends so they will be inspired to say yes. You might even win a copy of Love, Skip, Jump. While you’re there, subscribe to all my podcasts on itunes and you can listen to the many fabulous guests and impactful topics from Bold Living with Diane Markins.

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (or search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins 

Tea Offers Lessons for Faith – Jennifer Miller

Jennifer Miller is a pastor, author and self-proclaimed tea snob. Look at her post, listen to the interview and be sure to comment to win a copy of the book.[author_info]

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins 

Tea Teaches Lessons of Faith

by Jennifer Miller

I am a tea drinker. I have tried to like coffee, but apart from the occasional almond milk latte, I can’t get into it. I guess you could blame it on my great-grandmother. She had a pot of tea every afternoon. She drank it like the English, with milk in it. I’m hard-core. I drink it straight.

That usually surprises people. I most often hear that they think tea is too bitter or that it just tastes “off.”

The funny thing is that I often hear similar complaints about faith when people find out that I’m a hard-core Jesus lover.

What is funnier is that my response to both claims is pretty much the same. How? How could brewing a good cup of tea have anything to do with your faith? Well, read on…

A good cup of tea starts with the tea itself. Typically, the leaves are dried on top of a stack of screens, each screen getting progressively smaller as you move down. The biggest pieces remain on the top, letting ever smaller pieces filter down through the screens until you are left with dust at the bottom.

The bigger pieces are going to be more expensive, but they are also the best tasting. Many people grab a regular bag of tea and don’t stop to look at what is inside. If you are brewing with dust, then it is going to taste like it.

The same is true for your faith. If you are offering the dusty parts of yourself to God, then that is how it will feel. But, if you offer up the biggest parts of yourself, then it is going to turn out the best. It is just more expensive. It will cost you more to have a faith like that.

But back to the tea. After you have chosen the tea you want to use, the next step is a proper ratio. You have to strike a good balance between the amount of tea and the amount of water. Most people brew with an imbalance which throws off the taste. Too much water and it is weak. Too much tea and it is strong or bitter. You want 1 teaspoon of tea per 6-8oz of water. That’s it. Trust me.

Have you ever stopped to consider the ratio in your faith? Is it balanced, or do you have too much of something or too little of something else? Maybe you have so much fear that your faith is overpowered. Maybe you have too little faith in the midst of your doubt.

Now, once you have the proper amount of tea compared with how much water you are going to use, you need to heat it up. Most people just boil it, which is 212o. That is too hot for tea. Yet, if you don’t bring it to a boil first, it will be too cool to properly brew the tea. If you are able to actually measure the temperature of the water, you want 195o for black and oolong teas. You want 175o for green and white teas. If you can’t measure the temperature, then bring it to a boil and wait a few minutes before adding it to the tea. That will work better than just using boiling water.

Temperature has a lot to do with faith too. In Revelations 3, Jesus said that he would rather us be hot or cold. He doesn’t want anything to do with this lukewarm business. The question is, are you hot enough to keep a strong faith?

So, we have the tea measured and the water heated. Now we bring them together and let time do its thing. Again, this is a pivotal point. Most people put the tea bag in the water and leave it there. Stop doing that! You can’t leave it unattended and expect it to taste good. Black and oolong teas steep for 3-5 minutes. Green tea is 2 minutes. White tea is 1 minute. Once time is up, remove the tea from the water.

Time. It is pivotal to our faith, too. Do we just set up our belief system and then leave it unattended? “I said the prayer to invite Jesus into my heart once.” Is that it? How can we think that we are going to have a solid faith, a proper connection with Jesus if we do the minimum or neglect the relationship.

One last note about the tea. You would think that’s all there is to it. We took out the tea and we are ready to drink it, right? Well… almost. We can still mess things up at the end. I see two specific bad habits all the time and they always make me cringe.

First, no dunking! In and out, in and out. How can the water draw out the flavor of the tea if you keep teasing it? Put the tea in the water and then hands off until it’s time to take it out.

That’s the moment for the second bad habit. No twisting or squeezing the tea bag when you take it out of the water. The tea bag is a filter. What is left inside after you steep the tea is not more flavor. It is the bitter parts that the bag was trying to keep out of your tea. When you twist and squeeze and wring it into your cup, you just put all the yucky flavored stuff into your drink. Just take it straight out and set it aside.

I guess that would be my last point about faith, too. Quit dunking yourself! Faith isn’t the hokey pokey. We can’t put a part of ourselves in and then take it out and think that will do anything for you. Especially if you do it over and over again. In and out, in and out. Pick one! Be all in or all out.

Also, don’t strangle your faith. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus said that the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth can choke out our faith. Are you letting fear and worry take over? Are you letting greed, vanity, wealth, success, and all other forms of pride overpower your faith?

So, that is how a proper cup of tea, as well as a strong faith, is made. I challenge you to try both this week. You can even do both at the same time. Make yourself a yummy cup of tea and then just sit and enjoy it in the quiet stillness of the presence of God. Open yourself up to him and just listen. Give him a big piece of yourself in the proper ratio for a good amount of time with the right kind of heat without dunking or wringing it out.