The Lenten Tradition: Prayer and Bible Studies To Help You Prepare For Easter

February 18th, 2015

Easter is quickly approaching and I believe the time leading up to that exciting Sunday is important to every Christian. Because of this, I’m offering a great deal on my ebooks and Bible studies that can help you prepare during this season of prayer. But first…

A brief history of Lent…

Lent is known as a time for prayerful preparation for the remembrance of Jesus’s death and resurrection. Christians often give up something during Lent like a bad habit, junk food or, more traditionally, red meat.

The season begins with Fat Tuesday (also commemorated by Mardi Gras) in which one consumes all the stuff one plans to get rid of over Lent.

Then on Ash Wednesday, we enter a time of repenting and prayer. Some attend church services in which they are prayed over and anointed with an ash cross on their forheads, a symbol of penitence.

The culmination of Lent is called Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday,  then proceeds through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to Easter. Each of these days is important in the Christian calendar with Palm Sunday being the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, Maundy Thursday being the night of the disciples last supper with Jesus, Good Friday the day of the crucifixion and, of course, Easter is the glorious resurrection of Christ.

If you want more in-depth information on Lent and its history, you might enjoy reading this wiki.

History is great, but what can I do to prepare?

As I mentioned earlier, people often give up bad habits and junk food during Lent as a way to understand in a very limited way the sacrifice Jesus made for us. However, there’s also another trend in which you begin a new, better habit as a way to celebrate the new life His sacrifice gave us.

Two great habits you can choose from are a consistent prayer life and regular Bible study.

Limited Time offer…

To help you get started, I’ve reduced the prices on my ebooks Simply Prayer and both my ebook Bible studies, Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives and Trust God! No Matter What…, to $.99 on Amazon from Feb. 18 through Feb. 23, 2015.

You can also “Pay What You Want” for the Simply Prayer audiobook and One Servant’s Heart — Vol. 1, a compilation of six inspirational messages.

Scroll down for a list of these books with links to the Amazon purchase page and the link to the audiobook purchase pages.

Front-Cover-25-percent
God promises to be with us through everything,
encouraging us to trust him through every situation we encounter.

Individuals and groups alike will find themselves
discovering that every day is a new opportunity to see God’s touch on their lives as they journey through scripture to uncover that:

    • No Matter Who You Are…
    • No Matter How You Feel…
    • No Matter What People Do…
    • No Matter What Happens..
    • No Matter Where You Are…
    • No Matter How Little You Have…
    • No Matter What You’ve Done…
    • No Matter How Old You Are…

    Trust God!

    Ebook version available for $.99 on Kindle Feb. 18 through Feb. 23, 2015.

     

    Vol1Cover25percent

    Get six Bible based, inspirational messages by Virginia Ripple from the blog One Servant’s Heart all in one .zip file.

    Messages include:

      • Called to Forgive Called to Serve
      • New Beginnings
      • No Fear In Love
      • The Boneyard
      • The Dirty Little Penny
      • The Hardest Commandment

      Pay What You Want for the audiobook.

       

      Simply Prayer ebook

      When we find ourselves stymied by what we think prayer should look like, it’s time to step back and think like a child. God loves each of us and wants to hear from us.

      Prayer can be as complex as we want or as simple as we need, but sometimes we need a little help getting started. In this book you’ll discover the basics of:

        • What prayer is
        • Why we pray
        • How to pray
        • How to know your prayers are answered

        From repetitions to labyrinths to dancing to journals, it is all Simply Prayer.

        Ebook version available for $.99 on Kindle Feb. 18 through Feb. 23, 2015.
        Or Pay What You Want for the audiobook.

         

        Fear Not
        When life seems impossible to cope with, God reaches out to remind us of his promises for our lives. Journey through scripture to meet God in new and unexpected ways as you discover what it means to “Fear Not!”

        Anyone can use Fear Not to meet God in new and unexpected ways.  Each of the eight sessions begins with an introduction, then moves on to a scripture reading (included), questions to ponder, a meditation picture and lastly a list of possible hands-on projects you can do.

        The eight sessions are:

          • Session 1 … God is always with us
          • Session 2 … God is in control
          • Session 3 … God keeps his promises
          • Session 4 … God keeps us safe
          • Session 5 … God provides for us
          • Session 6 … God reveals himself to us
          • Session 7 … God gives us new life
          • Session 8 … God sends a Helper to us

          Ebook version available for $.99 on Kindle Feb. 18 through Feb. 23,2015.

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          Is There Christian Fantasy?

          July 7th, 2011

          book photoI love fantasy. My bookshelves, which I share with my fantasy-loving mother, are crammed two deep with fantasy books. Some shelves even have books on top of books. If there’s a limit to the number of books one can keep on a Nook, then I’m sure I’ll discover it and most of those will be fantasies, too.

          Yet there seems to be a distinct line for many on what is secular fantasy and what is Christian.

          Obviously those stories involving Satan or his demons as the protagonists can’t be considered Christian. The same is true of stories that make obvious reference to the Christian God and His angels as the good guys can’t really be considered entirely secular. Those aren’t the books I’m thinking of.

          I’ve read mostly secular fantasy over the years. Some I can honestly say cannot be classified as Christian even with a lot of stretching of the imagination. Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series would be among those.

          There are others, though, that I’m not so sure can be classified to my satisfaction.

          For instance, in Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Joe Grey Mysteries the protagonists, who happen to be talking cats, often mull over ideas that echo Christian thoughts.

          And what about J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy? Nowhere is God specifically mentioned, though Tolkien himself said,

          “We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. “

          So, if God is not specifically mentioned, does that make LOTR secular?

          And what about magic in fantasy?

          Many people draw the line at magic, saying Christian fantasy cannot contain magic in any form unless it’s evil. Others, like John Edgell in his post The Writer of Christian Fantasy Fiction and Magic, set specific guidelines for magic usage.

          For instance, Edgell says,

          “…if the magic comes from a personal power source, whether outside of or within the one using the magic, that power source determines whether the magic at its essence is good or evil.”

          In Edgell’s opinion, magic that comes from nature (he uses a glowing stone as an example) is neither good nor evil and therefore not at issue. However, if one person can use magic and others cannot, then it all depends on where that ability comes from as to whether the story can be Christian or not.

          Personally, I look at the ability to use magic in a fantasy as simply a talent or skill similar to the ability to sing or write. It is the use of that talent or skill that makes a character good or evil. In this case, a fantasy written from a Christian worldview, as LOTR seems to be, can be classified as Christian fantasy.

          What do you think? What makes a fantasy Christian or secular?

          Photo by zeze57

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          Sleepless In Missouri: The Highly Sensitive Child And Sleep

          June 30th, 2011

          Highly sensitive childrensleep photo have special needs. Obviously I should know that since I am a highly sensitive person myself. The problem arises when my hsc daughter’s needs are at odds with my own — like they have been the last few nights.

          HSCs/HSPs have transitional issues

          I don’t notice it as much in myself, mostly because I’ve found ways to cope, but since my daughter was a baby she has had trouble making big transitions. The most notable difficulties have been with sleep. It’s not hard to get her to fall asleep. It’s hard to keep her asleep.

          When she was a newborn, she would sleep so long as she was held. Laying her in her bassinet, unless she was in a state of deep sleep, was nearly impossible. We coped as a family and eventually she got used to sleeping alone.

          Transitioning from the bassinet to a crib wasn’t as difficult, but we still had a lot of nights where we were up every two hours trying to settle her back into bed. Thankfully, my mother figured out it was Tiny Tot’s sensitivity to being hot or cold that was causing the regular night wakings. Once that was addressed, she went back to sleeping through the night.

          Ah! How I miss those nights…

          Recently, we decided it was time to convert the crib to a toddler bed.

          Oh boy! I wish I had known then what we were in for. I guess, given my little girl’s history of night wakings and nightmares, I really should have been better prepared. I wasn’t.

          So, now we are back to the old routine of getting up several times per night to help her settle back into sleep. Thankfully we no longer have to sleep in a rocking chair with her. Instead we have a nice comfy body pillow on the floor next to her bed. Not quite as comfortable as a real bed, but better than the carpet-covered concrete floor.

          Why put up with the stress?

          In a word: compassion. Although it makes me a tired, grumpy momma later in the day, I know I’m meeting my child’s needs. That is what matters most to me. I understand what it’s like to deal with transitions and it’s my responsibility to help Tiny Tot learn how to cope.

          Of course, meeting her needs would mean very little if I didn’t find a way to meet my own. I need to sleep sometime. I manage to sleep a little better on the pillow than I did in the chair, but, if it weren’t for my wonderful mother who willingly takes care of my daughter so I can get a nap, that wouldn’t be enough.

          It helps to remind myself that this period of transition won’t last forever. I’m hoping it doesn’t last as long as the last one, but even if it does I’ll manage because I have the support of others who understand both my highly sensitive child and me.

          Prayer Journals and Letters to God Another Way to Pray

          June 15th, 2011

          prayer photoSometimes, especially if we’re worried about a situation or are trying to come up with a solution to a problem, praying in our head isn’t enough. During those times I found it helps to write my thoughts and prayers down.

          Like other types of prayer, there really isn’t a specific way to journal. There are no rules you have to worry about breaking. The sole intent is to communicate with your loving Creator and, maybe, find Spirit answering your burning questions.

          While I prefer handwriting in a spiral notebook just a free flow of whatever pops into my head, I know others who would cringe at the mere suggestion of putting pen to paper. For some it’s a matter of privacy, for others the simple dislike of writing.

          That doesn’t mean you can’t journal. It just means you may need to get a bit more creative. Perhaps making a collage would be better suited to your needs. Maybe you’d prefer using a digital recorder or speech recognition software. The possibilities are limited only by your own willingness to go beyond your idea of what a journal must look like.

          A popular type of prayer journaling are letters to God. I remember one year at camp we were asked to write a letter to God. We were to write like we were writing to a friend. It didn’t matter what we wrote about. The idea was to write a letter, nothing more. After we wrote our letter to God, we were to turn the page over and write a letter to ourselves as if God had written it to us.

          Writing from God to ourselves can present a number of challenges. The answer we write could be just our desire to get what we want, turning God into a personal genie. It could also be just the opposite because we don’t believe we deserve what we’re asking for. Or, of course, it can be a highly emotional event, especially if we allow Spirit to show us a glimpse of our loving Parent’s deep love for us.

          Whether you choose to write a letter to yourself or not is up to you. Using a journal for prayer is all about communing and developing a deeper relationship with the One who loves you most of all.

          Photo by Lel4nd

          ***

          There are a lot more ideas and examples on simple ways to pray in my book Simply Prayer. Ebook version available for NookKindleKobo, and Scribd.

          Or Pay What You Want for the audiobook.

          Christian Fiction Indie Authors Continue Success In Kindle Top 100

          June 1st, 2011

          As it was in mainstream fiction, so it is still among a lot of Christian writers. Many still believe the only way to be validated and sell Christian fiction is to be traditionally published. Validation, however, depends on the writer’s idea of what success means.

          What is success?

          If the only way a writer will feel as if he succeeded is to find his book in a brick-and-mortar store, then traditional publishing is about the only way that will happen.

          However, if reaching an audience is the real answer to “what is success?”, then perhaps epublishing is the better choice.

          Mainstream indie authors are continuing to prove the DIY method can lead to satisfying sales, but what about Christian indie authors? How do they fair in the Kindle Top 100’s in Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Here’s what I found.

          Top 11 Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy

          • The first five books listed in Top 100 Paid were by Vaughn Heppneran indie author selling his books for $2.99 or less.
          • In sixth and tenth place was Mary Doria Russell, traditionally published by Ballantine and selling her books for $11.99.
          • Vaughn Heppner reappears in slots 7-9.
          • In the number 11 spot was Angela Hunt, also traditionally published by Thomas Nelson and selling her book for $1.27.

          So what can we conclude from this little snapshot?

          What’s happening in the mainstream is also happening in Christian speculative fiction. The main difference I’m seeing is that some publishers seem to be adapting quicker to the new paradigm: readers want good ebooks at low prices.

          It also means that getting traditionally published will only validate your writing if that is how you view success. Indie authors writing Christian fiction have the same opportunities as any other author, provided we work smart and give it our all.

          Success is a matter of choice regardless whether you choose traditional publishing or indie publishing for both mainstream and Christian fiction.

           

          The Benefits of Meditation

          May 25th, 2011

          meditation photoAlthough I’ve always thought meditating on a regular basis was a good idea, it wasn’t until I read the following article that I understood just how beneficial it could be.

          Apparently, meditating at least 30 minutes per day can alter the brain, creating higher density in gray matter where it counts (i.e. the area controlling memory, empathy, sense of self) and lower density in regions that affect how we deal with things like anxiety and stress.

          All in all, even if there are no other changes within the brain than being able to cope with stress better, doing some form of daily meditation is worth the extra 30 minutes per day we need to squeeze into our already packed schedules.

          How Meditation May Change the Brain

          By SINDYA N. BHANOO

          Over the December holidays, my husband went on a 10-day silent meditation retreat. Not my idea of fun, but he came back rejuvenated and energetic.

          He said the experience was so transformational that he has committed to meditating for two hours daily, one hour in the morning and one in the evening, until the end of March. He’s running an experiment to determine whether and how meditation actually improves the quality of his life.

          I’ll admit I’m a skeptic.

          But now, scientists say that meditators like my husband may be benefiting from changes in their brains. Read the rest of the post.

          Lord, Teach Us To Pray

          May 18th, 2011

          Last Sunday I was asked, “Can you teach someone to pray?” (An interesting question, considering we were studying the first chapter of my book Simply Prayer.)

          The short answer is:

          Yes, I believe you can teach someone to pray.

          The long answer is:

          Yes, you can teach someone a variety of prayer methods, but the praying is up to the individual.

          What that means is, I can give you any number of ways to approach prayer, and I do in my book, but whether you are able to meet God depends on where you are. For instance, if you only choose to give God a list of wants or choose to speak to God only when you need something, then you won’t achieve a very deep spiritual connection with our Creator and your prayer life is going to be less than satisfactory.

          Prayer is about communication.

          God is always there, always listening. God gives us what we need, though not always what we want. Prayer, however, is not just about God meeting our physical — or even our emotional — needs.

          Prayer is about nurturing an ever deepening relationship with the One who knows us better than we could ever imagine. It is about opening our hearts, minds and spirits to the One who can show us what life is about, who can help us grow into what we are meant to be.

          So, yes, I can teach you to pray, but it is up to you to let God into your life. Are you ready?

          Take A Break

          May 11th, 2011

          Maybe it’s just a “man thing,” but both my husband and my father will run themselves into the ground to get a project completed. Given half the chance they’ll drag anyone helping them down, too.

          Case in point: the guys chose a very hot day to put posts under our front porch roof to keep it from sagging, figuring the job would only take about 2 hours. It took most of the morning and the entire afternoon. Getting them to stop, even for a few moments to take a drink, meant needing to become an overbearing, stubborn commander with a voice that would ring across a parade ground.

          Not a happy experience for any of us.

          The reason I was given for driving themselves like that was they “wanted to get the job done.” Not an unreasonable response, but it wasn’t a very wise decision.

          What’s the real problem?

          It’s a combination between wanting to achieve a goal and having little respect for yourself and your body — that thing called a temple in the Bible.*

          Accomplishing something you’ve set out to do is a great high. Finishing a goal takes away, at least for a time, those feelings of inadequacy, of fear, of anything that holds us back from being happy. It’s something like a “runner’s high” where endorphins are released.

          The problem shows up in not respecting the body’s needs. Just like an athlete on a “runner’s high” can injure themselves, anyone driven to achieve a goal can harm themselves by ignoring the need to rest.

          That goes as much for mental labor as physical labor because staying up late to complete a task, like meeting your daily writing quota (guilty!), when you know you can’t sleep in is as bad as pushing through physical exhaustion to finish building a porch.

          Taking a break is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of wisdom.

          Breaks do prolong the time it takes to accomplish a task. There’s no getting around that. However, not taking a break risks injury.

          In the case of my husband and father, it meant possible dehydration and heat stroke. For that sleepy writer it might mean making poor decisions at the day job or saying something to a loved one that you’ll regret later.

          A better solution is to plan ahead. Make sure you add in time to take a few breaks. Expect whatever you’re about to do to take at least twice the time you think it should. If necessary, break it up over several days. There is nothing wrong with taking your time.

          If you have a deadline, planning far enough ahead means no need to “pull an all nighter.” The other positive outcome is that you might come in ahead of your deadline. That feels even better because, not only are you ahead of schedule, but you’re not too tired to enjoy it.




          * “Don’t you know that you are a temple of God, and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” — 1 Corinthians 3:16 The World English Bible

          God Hears Even When We Don’t Pray

          April 20th, 2011

          One of my tweeps recently shared that she hadn’t been able to pray like she would like and that she was in a bad place. My first reaction was to want to help her somehow, so I prayed. My second was to share what I knew about God and prayer — God hears us even when we don’t have the words to pray. My third was a to wonder how many others, like my friend, held onto the idea that prayer is something we must ritualize in order for it to be effective.

          There is a misconception that prayer is something we must make a lot of time for in a quiet place with a certain ritual. Not so. Prayer can happen in an instant and doesn’t need quiet or ritual. In fact it doesn’t even need words.

          In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered. –Romans 8:26 (The World English Bible)

          God hears us even when all we can do is nothing. Our hearts and souls shout to the Heavens when our minds and lips remain mute. If you’re in the midst of crisis, don’t wait until you have a quiet moment to pray. Simply focus your feelings and “shout” them to God. Spirit will do the rest.

          Christian… Horror?

          April 6th, 2011

          My husband thinks I’m a bit weird. I suppose he could be right, but then the feeling is mutual. You see, I enjoy watching ghost stories and reading about things that go bump in the night. I used to be a huge Stephen King fan until I figured out the increase in the number of nightmares I was having was directly related to his books. Go figure. My husband, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with “that stuff,” so his reaction to my latest discovery wasn’t surprising at all.

          There is such a thing as Christian Horror.

          Now, before anyone leaps to the comments section to say I’m out of my mind, please keep reading. Mike Duran, a writer in this genre, has some excellent things to say in The Argument Against “Christian Horror” (a Response) by Mike Duran, which was featured on Sarah Sawyer’s blog. The following is an excerpt from that post:

          The Argument Against “Christian Horror” (a Response) by Mike Duran

          March 2011 Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour

          Is the horror genre incompatible with the Christian faith? Many would say so. But a closer inspection of the arguments reveals flaws.

          What are those arguments? Perhaps the most common is the one that centers around this verse:

          Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

          The argument goes like this: Stories that involve ghosts, demons, gore, and occultism draw our minds away from the things we should be dwelling upon. The Christian who spends too much time contemplating evil will be corrupted by it. We are commanded to focus upon “good” things, which is why Christian fiction has no business flirting with “horror.”

          At first glance, this argument sounds reasonable. There should be a qualitative difference between what Christians write and the mindless splatter and occultism that defines much of today’s horror. Furthermore, Christians who “dwell” upon what is untrue, dishonorable, and impure are indeed setting themselves up for problems. But does this verse actually say what the “Christian horror” objectors intend? Does Philippians 4:8 teach that believers should “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”? I don’t think so. Let me offer two responses.

          Read the rest of the post here.

          So, now, what do you think? Is there a place for the thrills and chills of horror in Christian fiction?