7.27.2015

What Are You Putting First?

I’m the kind of girl who likes to get her day started bright and early. I want to answer emails, text messages, and be totally caught up on social media hours before the first alarm goes off in my house. And as long as everything I read and see is positive and encouraging and completely wonderful, I can say with enthusiasm, Yes! I can take on this day!

But in reality there’s usually something I click on that is less than awesome. And when I choose to give the first moments of my day to those things… those shouts of the world… instead of spending them with God, I sense my soul getting a bit parched. Small things annoy me. The Lord seems a little farther away from my life that day. And I just can’t shake that nagging feeling that I’m not measuring up.

Even if you’re not an early riser, I have a sneaking suspicion that you know what I’m talking about. I want to start giving my first thoughts of the day to the Lord. So, here are 3 reasons that we should reach for God’s Word in the morning instead of social media, email, and other distractions:

1) What feeds us, affects us. When I wake up, my mind is like a dry sponge. What I soak up first will saturate me most deeply. If I don’t want to be consumed with the stresses of my day, I must soak up what will renew my mind instead: God’s Word. Even if it’s only for 5 minutes, I’ve got to put the world on hold until I’ve checked in with God.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

2) There are scientifically-proven benefits. I read some research by Dr. Caroline Leaf recently that revealed something so fascinating. When we sleep our brains produce baby neurons. How we use those new neurons first thing in the morning determines so much about our patterns of thought for that day. And that process is called… neuroGENESIS! How cool is that?! Giving the Lord our first thoughts – our genesis thoughts – each day can really help us process life in healthier ways. So from a spiritual and scientific standpoint our first 5 minutes really matter!

“ …We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5b (NIV)

3) God desires to help us. He wants to give us the exact instruction and comfort we need to handle all He sees coming our way—how to act and, even more challenging, how to react in every situation. But we can’t experience that if we aren’t spending time with Him. Giving Him our first thoughts each day is the perfect way from the start to receive His protection and direction for that day.

“In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you…” Proverbs 3:6 (TLB)

At Proverbs 31 Ministries, we think it’s so important to give the first moments of our day to God. And our brand new app, First 5, is designed to help you do just that! You can set your morning alarm in the app and when you turn it off, the first thing you’ll read is a 5-minute teaching from the Bible.

We’re excited to announce that First 5 is ready for download and our very first in-app study of the book of John begins TODAY!

All you need to do is download the free app to get started. Find out more at www.First5.org.

7.22.2015

Every Book Starts with a Sentence

(In light of our She Speaks Conference happening this week, I thought a blog post on how to write a book might be helpful! Be sure to read the whole post for a free gift we’re offering.)

One of the most common things people share with me when they find out I’m an author is that they want to write a book. And I believe they should.

Not everyone will be published but having your thoughts, life lessons, and creative stories captured in a place outside your mind is good. I would treasure one page of wisdom written by my great grandmother. But all her words died with her. And I feel that tragic loss in deep places that ache for her godly wisdom.

So, if you feel inspired to write – write.

If not a whole book, one page.

If not a whole page, one sentence.

No time spent recording God’s activity in your life is ever wasted.

But if you do feel called to write a book, how does one do this? Where do you begin?

For me a book usually begins with me paying attention to three things:

* A string of life lessons I’m learning that have a common theme.
* Conversations I have with others where they bring up this same theme.
* A deep conviction that God wants me to park my brain and my heart on this topic for a good long while.

Then I put these initial thoughts about the theme of the book through a filter of questions:

* Is there an audience (beyond just my mom and my best friend) interested in this theme?
* What problem are these audience members having for which my book could be a possible solution?
* Do I have some fresh, unique, and reliable answers to share that meet the felt need of this group of people?
* Have I struggled enough with this theme to be authentically relatable as I write about it?
* Have I made enough progress in this area to handle the material in a responsible and biblical way?

I use these questions to help me hone the concept of my book. And it’s usually in this pondering and questioning of the concept of a possible book that 75% of my possible book ideas die. Because if I can’t make it work in the concept phase of a book, I won’t stay interested enough in this topic to write 60,000 words.

And heaven help the reader of a book whose author has lost interest in their own material 20,000 words in. Have you ever read a book that started off great but then started boring the mess out of you? Me too. It’s disappointing. And it’s usually because the author didn’t hone their concept enough before jumping into writing the book.

Once the concept is fully explored, it’s time to develop the content.

I start with the word count and chapter count. A typical non-fiction book for me is about 60,000 words. I personally like shorter chapters that are pretty consistent in length. So, if my chapters are going to be around 5,000 words… I will need 12 chapters.

As I look at what these 12 chapters will be, I draw a circle with 12 spokes coming out of it. In the circle I write the “focus sentence” of my book. A focus sentence is that one statement that encapsulates the value I want my reader to get from this message.

Note, I didn’t say that I write what the book is about. Nope. I write a sentence that reminds me exactly what my reader will get from this message. For example, for my book Unglued, my focus sentence was:

“This book will help a reader make imperfect progress with their reactions and therefore their relationships as they know with confidence how to better handle conflict.”

Then I start writing possible chapter ideas that stay very true to this pure focus. I use key words from my focus sentence to seed my chapter ideas and keep me “focused.”

So, based on the sentence I shared above I will come up with some chapter ideas on IMPERFECT PROGRESS, REACTIONS, RELATIONSHIPS, EXTERNAL CONFLICT RESOLUTION IDEAS, and INTERNAL CONFLICT RESOLUTION IDEAS.

Then I start writing. With a sentence. And then another. And another.

And as I write these sentences that form chapters, that eventually form a book, I remember each sentence matters. It’s my responsibility to write sentences that are authentic and inspired and true and well crafted. Not English class perfect. More conversational. With threads of personality that clearly demonstrate a consistent voice my readers have come to expect from me.

These sentences, they matter. After all, it’s not often whole books but rather sentences tucked within chapters that change people’s lives.

And at the end of the day, that’s why I sit at my computer and tap these keys for hours at a time. I love untangling thoughts that might possibly be used by God to help another.

It’s a process, this book writing thing. It’s hard and messy and crazy time-consuming. But what a wondrous thing to have words that live on beyond us. Sentences that linger and continue to inspire. Yes, please.

Now, here’s the fun surprise… you can join me LIVE from the Proverbs 31 Ministries She Speaks Conference for my opening keynote this Friday, July 24 at 9:30am EST! Here’s how you do it:

1) Download our new app, First 5, on your mobile device. You can find out how at www.First5.org.
2) Open the app and tune in on Friday to watch the live stream through First 5.

It’s really that easy! Oh, I just can’t wait to have you with us. And if you think of it, say a little prayer for me. As many times as I speak to people, I still get that queasy, nervous, bite-my-fingernails-to-the-nub feeling before going on stage! For real.

Thank you! Now, go write your heart out.

7.6.2015

How to Read the Bible in a New Way

I loved God. I was serving in ministry. I was doing all the right stuff but I felt distant and parched.

I’d been reading the Bible because that’s what Jesus-following girls do. But I was tired of reading my same go-to Scriptures over and over. I wanted more. I wanted to dive deeper. I wanted the Bible to make sense and make a difference in how I lived my life.

I was desperate for a fresh experience with God and His Word.

If you can relate to feeling the deep ache of wanting more for your spiritual life, watch the video below…

(If you’re viewing this post in an email, click here to watch the video.)

Pre-order your Experience Guide today for our study of John and get it for a special price of $13! The 21-day study begins July 27. Click here to purchase your Experience Guide.

I can’t wait to take this journey with you!