Coffee Break Bible Study: Luke 17-21

Read Luke 17.

Think about what verses 5-10 might mean in terms of being humble about what we do.

What does it mean that “the kingdom of God is within you?” (v. 21)

Read Luke 18.

What do you learn from the Parable of the Tax Collector?

What was the rich young ruler’s struggle? Do you have any similar struggles?

Read Luke 19.

What do you think Jesus was getting at in the story shared in verses 11-27?

Do you think verses 45-46 mean that no one should sell anything in a church?

Read Luke 20.

How does verse 17 describe the life of Jesus? How do you handle rejection?

What is Jesus’ direction about paying taxes? (verses 20-26)

Read Luke 21.

Why do you think Jesus felt the widow was more generous than others?

Have you ever experienced hate as a result of following Jesus? What encouragement does Jesus offer? (verse 17-18)hope leaves


All Organized Ebook Bundle

Note: The sale has ended. A big THANK YOU to those who purchased the bundle. I received a blessing from it!



Today I am introducing you to a bundle of e-books that is on a limited sale through April 7. It’s the first e-book bundle that I have been invited to be part of, and my book, An Excellent Life, Five Simple Strategies for Doing Life Well, is included.

Many of you may already have my book, because I offer it free to blog subscribers. However, there are 22 other books in this bundle that focus on organizing, scheduling, and managing life well.

My normal practice is to only recommend items that I have personal experience with or have read. Obviously, it was not realistic for me to read 23 books in the time I had between becoming part of this and sharing about the limited-time sale. So, I decided I would choose several books to read, knowing that if you based your purchase on my recommendation you’d be getting at least $20 of information and motivation, not to mention the additional 14 books (including mine) you could also read.  Here are the nine I read with a quote from each one.

  • 10 Steps to Organized Paper by Lisa Woodruff – “In organizing your home paperwork, you will gain clarity and purpose.”
  • GTD for Homemakers by Mystie Winkler (based on the concepts in Getting Things Done by David Allen). “GTD is about managing your stuff and your actions, and once those are under control your mind is left more free and clear to focus on the present moment with your family.”
  • Creating a Schedule That Works by Marlene Griffith – “The key to creating a schedule is doing it in bite-sized pieces.”
  • Clean Enough by Jenni Mullinix – “Because life is so much more than a clean house.”
  • Simple Living: Thirty Days to Less Stuff and More Life by Lorilee Lippincott – “Sometimes just keeping the small areas of our life organized can make us feel like we are in control of much more.”
  • 100 Days of a New Year by Jennifer Tankersley – “…daily navigation to set goals and establish healthy habits.”
  • Productivity 2.0 by Prerna Malik – ” ‘ Systems’ is just a fancy term for automated or semi-automated processes that help you do more in less time and with less effort.”
  • Project Organize Your Entire Life by Stephanie Morgan – “It was by no means the most visible space in our home, but it was the spot that frustrated me most.”
  • 28 Days to Timeliness by Davonne Parks – “You are not a victim of your own lateness. You are taking charge of your time.

Most of these books are short, easy reads, so you can get helpful information (i.e. access to printables), ideas and motivation without having to devote hours to reading the book.*

 Should you decide to purchase the bundle, I receive a portion of your purchase. I welcome your feedback on the product. It is an honor to serve you and provide information and encouragement to help you excel. 


But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. 2 Corinthians 8:7 ESV

Coffee Break Bible Study: Luke 12-16

These studies are provided to help you stay in God’s Word during your busy week.  We are travelling through the entire New Testament in 2014. To view the other Coffee Break Bible studies, visit the elevate page.


Read Luke 12.

In what areas of your life do you struggle with hypocrisy?

Why should we not worry?

Read Luke 13.

How does the word picture of the kingdom of God being like a “mustard seed” speak to you?

Why is following Christ like walking through a narrow gate?

Read Luke 14.

How did Jesus respond to the rule not to heal on the Sabbath?

Think through verse 27 in relation to your life.

Read Luke 15.

Think about verse 10 and how God rejoiced over you!

What stands out to you regarding the parable of the lost son?

Read Luke 16.

Why is it important for us to be faithful in our work for others?

What can you apply from verse 15 to your outlook on life?

Please use and share these studies! hope leaves

How to Write a Thank-You Note They Will Thank YOU For

When is the last time you received a sincere thank-you note (electronic or written)?

I’m not talking about the quick “thank you” many of us add to the bottom of our emails, or the one sentence text (meaningful though it might have been.) I’m talking about a warm, inspiring note that caused you to pause and almost want to thank the writer for making your day.

Quality thank you notes are a lost art. We are living in a day of quick communication when people are juggling so many details in their heads that they may simply forget to write a thank you note for a gift, experience or favor. But it’s not as hard as you think. Here is an effective three-part formula to help you write the type of thank you message that will have the recipient thanking YOU.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:18

The “You-Me-You” method goes like this:

YOU – point out the actual gift or thoughtful gesture you experienced because of someone else. It could be a tangible item, a service provided, or their presence at an event.

ME – write a brief acknowledgement of how you were affected by the gesture, how it made you feel, and the difference it made in your life (i.e. what memory it will bring up.)

YOU– compliment something specific about the person that is not necessarily related to the gift they gave you.

Now let’s practice. Let’s say Sally took Brianna to lunch for her birthday, and also gave her a cute necklace in acknowledgement of the special day.

Brianna could use the You-Me-You method in this way:


Thank you for taking time to take me to lunch for my birthday. I really enjoyed spending time with you at a favorite restaurant, and the cute necklace was a nice surprise. When I wear it, I will fondly think of you and our friendship, and how much we laughed!

I am grateful for you. You may not be aware of this, but your cheerful spirit uplifts me and I frequently gain wisdom from our discussions. I am blessed to have you as part of my life.

Warmly, Brianna

Another tip: be careful in using superlative or trite words in a note. This can come across as over-flattering, insincere or cliche. Sally could have added words such as “always uplifts me” or “phenomenal necklace” but it might have sounded forced. Just be warm and honest without embellishing.

Now, how does that compare with:


Thanks for taking me to lunch and giving me a necklace for my birthday. I really appreciate it.


While any thank you is nicer than none, do you see how enriching the first note is compared to the second, without being much longer or time intensive? Which would you rather receive?

Tip: Don’t get caught up in the medium for the message…these days an email, text or phone message can also be a means of saying thank you, although a handwritten note is an unusual and special gesture. Whatever you choose, use the You-Me-You method and you are sure to bless the recipient almost as much as they blessed you!

Question: What’s the best thank-you note you ever received?

This book will remind you to watch daily for things for which to be thankful.  hope leaves


Coffee Break Bible Study: Luke 7-11

For earlier Coffee Break Bible Studies, visit the elevate page.


Read Luke 7.
How did the Centurion demonstrate faith?

Why do you think the woman anointed Jesus?

Read Luke 8.
What do you think Jesus was teaching through the story of the seeds?

What do you make of Jesus’ relation to family in verses 19-21?

Read Luke 9.

Jesus sends out the 12 here. What were some of His guidelines?

Referring to verse 23…what does it mean to “take up your cross”?

Read Luke 10.

Try to read the story of the Good Samaritan as if for the first time. What new thing stands out to you?

Now do the same with the story of Mary and Martha.

Read Luke 11.

Write out the Lord’s prayer, considering its meaning more deeply as you write.

How are you encouraged by verses 9-13?

If you like having questions to help you think about the chapters you are reading, you might be interested in my book, A Light for Your Path: Helping You Reflect on Each Chapter of the Bible. This book contains one question or thought prompter for every chapter of God’s Word.hope leaves


10 Tips for Less Stressful Plane Travel

My favorite plane trip was when I was the only one on the plane. I had a speaking engagement in a small town in the midwest, and my flights to and from Minneapolis were on one of those small turbo prop planes. On the trip there, the only other passenger was an extra pilot. On the trip back, I was literally the only passenger being flown by my two “private pilots.” I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the back of the plane looking out onto the gorgeous clouds and enjoying some private time with God.

But not all my plane travels have been as pleasant. I’ve also had other experiences such as unsettling turbulence. Crowded planes. A nine-hour delay.

Plane travel can be fun and exciting–and I’m blessed that most of my experiences have been–but it can also be frustrating and tiresome. Here are a few tips to make your next trip a little simpler.

1. Pack a change of clothes in your personal carry on bag. A crowded flight may demand that your suitcase-style carry on be checked at the gate. Be prepared for at least 24 hours in case of unexpected delays. Pack these extra clothes in a sealable plastic bag.

2. If your carry on bag has outer pockets, pack flat items in those pockets. If these pockets protrude out they can cause your bag to not fit into overhead compartments. (On one flight I was on, this problem caused a passenger to have to check his baggage to Bermuda, when he had preferred to keep it within reach.)

3. Ladies, carry a bit larger purse than you normally would. Include your quart-sized toiletry bag in it. This will make it easier to take out for scanning and you’ll be able to keep personal items with you in the event they ask you to check your bag at the gate.

4. Bring simple things to do that you can easily dig out, i.e. crossword puzzles or a tangible book. In regular seating there isn’t always enough room to pull out a laptop or large tablet.

5. Choose food wisely. If you know a certain type of food may not agree with you, or um, cause you to need more frequent restroom breaks–stay away from it for a few days prior to your trip and certainly on the day of travel. Drink water throughout the day but time your restroom breaks so you aren’t stuck having to maneuver through a crowded plane to a tiny restroom.

6. Select practical jewelry or ties/scarves. You’ll often be moving fast, may have to take off outer coats or sweaters, etc. Long necklaces can easily snag and break, and elaborate jewelry may hold you up in security. The necklace I have on in this picture is not one I would wear again while flying.

7. Wear non-bulky layers that won’t wrinkle easily. You may experience extremes of temperatures and it helps to have a sweater you can stuff into your bag or pull out to wear as an extra layer and it’s even better if it is wrinkle resistant.  The black sweater I am wearing somewhat fits the bill for this, but I would get one with longer sleeves to use in the future.

8. Wear comfortable shoes that you can easily remove at security scanning. If possible, avoid shoes that have to be tied. If you don’t like the idea of going barefoot through security, be sure to wear socks. Notice I am wearing sneakers that slip on and off quickly.

9. Be nice. While boarding a crowded flight, I expressed willingness to check my bag and the attendant said she wished she could reward people with miles for doing that. Instead, she probably has to deal with complaints. Most of the time, attendants are just implementing safety rules or trying their best to get you where you need to go. They are not the ones to complain to about delays they can’t control and negatively only makes the situation worse for everyone.

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

10. Try to plan for time to get from gate to gate. On one trip, I had a relatively lengthy layover and was able to plan lunch at an airport restaurant with friends from the area. However, to meet them, I had to leave the secure area and then go back through security check afterward. I didn’t bank on the time it would take and, of course, that was the time the TSA agents stopped me for a more detailed bag check, even opening it to search by hand! Once I was cleared, I had to hurry to a gate that was some distance away. I made it, but if I’d planned better or more realistically, I wouldn’t have experienced quite the stress I felt during that layover. I learned not to bring unusual items. The item causing the search was a neck wrap filled with rice that can be heated in a microwave.

So, now it’s your turn. Comment below or visit the blog to answer:   What is one of your top tips for plane travel?

Recommendation: This is a fun and unique style of crossword puzzle that could be enjoyed on a plane.


hope leaves

Coffee Break Bible Study: Luke 2-6

Catch up on our past Coffee Break Bible Studies at the Elevate page.

Read Luke 2.
What is your favorite part of the Christmas story?

Referencing verse 49, what part of the “Father’s business” should you be concentrating on this week?

Read Luke 3.
How did John point people to Christ?

How old was Jesus when He started His public ministry? Do you think there is an ideal age to start?

Read Luke 4.
How did Jesus handle Satan in verse 8?

Why was Jesus sent to earth? (vs. 18-19) How does this comfort you today?

Read Luke 5.
In what practical way did Jesus minister to the crowd?

What do verse 31-32 point out? How do they apply to you?

Read Luke 6.
We see early in the chapter that Jesus “broke the law.” What thoughts do you have about this?

Which beatitude touches you most and why?

Be part of a discussion by visiting the blog and commenting!hope leaves

Five Cautions about Facebook

Although I’ve been cutting back, I’m still quite involved in social media, especially Facebook. My husband, Keith, is not. He and I were discussing Facebook one day and he made some wise observations that prompted me to write a blog post. Here’s are some of the thoughts we’ve had about what Facebook allows and encourages its users to do–which may or may or may not be wise.

Facebook makes it “okay” to: share an opinion about anything with just about anyone, even if it isn’t the wisest thing to do.

Is it wrong to share opinions? It depends. The environment of Facebook makes it easy to share, but also easily overlook applying a filter of, “Is this necessary to share?” “Am I becoming too defensive?” “Am I always right?”

Challenge: When tempted to give an opinion, stop and ask, “Is it necessary for me to share this? How can I share graciously?” “Will my opinion help others?”

Facebook makes it “okay” to: advertise details of your life, sometimes to the extreme.

We’re amazed by how many people provide a blow-by-blow of their trip out of town while their home probably sits empty. Young moms mention that their husbands are out of town. I’ve seen more selfies than I’ll ever need to (and taken a few myself.) While it’s fun to know what’s going on with my acquaintances, I’m not sure how much wisdom there is in knowing so many details.

Challenge: The next time you are tempted to take a “selfie,” stop for a moment to reconsider how often you do this. If the majority of wall photos are “selfies,” there could be a lack of balance. Sometimes it’s more fun to let someone else share a photo of you instead.

An interesting thing happened to me some time ago in regard to selfies. I had the fun opportunity of of having a photo taken with a well-known figure. I would be inclined to share that type of thing on social media, and have done so since. However, for this particular occasion, I felt God did not want me to put it on my wall. I admit that it was a challenge to obey that prompting!

Later that day, my photo with the individual got on my wall anyway when someone else who had also been at the event, shared it and tagged me. I had to smile. God was teaching me through this. I had obeyed in this one small thing, and He still allowed me to share the experience anyway…just in that someone else blessed me with it, not me.

Facebook Makes it “okay” to: eavesdrop

Eavesdropping used to be frowned upon. In person, it is still considered rude to listen in on conversations that don’t directly involve you. But on Facebook, all bets are off. We can lurk and watch conversations, never participating. We can see what mutual friends put on each other’s walls. (Has it ever felt strange to watch a conversation between two friends?) Would I go up to listen in on their conversation in a coffee shop even if I knew each of them personally?

Challenge:  Think twice about entering conversations that are obviously between two of your friends. Does it really involve you? If you would not walk up and insert yourself into their private conversation at a restaurant, don’t do it on Facebook either. (Note: I’m talking about commenting on posts where one person directly puts something on another person’s wall, or is having an obvious semi-private conversation. Commenting on a person’s status update is different. They are inviting you to the conversation in that case. I also don’t mean that you shouldn’t greet others in public. I’m referring to interrupting the course of their conversation.)

Facebook makes it “okay” (well, maybe a better word is “easy”) to: be a jerk behind a screen.

We’ve all seen this in action. You wonder if that person would have said that mean, rude, or crude thing to your face. There is less accountability for words when the face can’t be seen.

Challenge: I hope most of my readers aren’t the “jerk behind the screen” but if you’ve ever written a comment more harshly than you would have said it to someone’s face, maybe an apology is in order.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, that fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 1:29 ESV

Facebook makes it “okay” to: rub it in.

Facebook allows us to share the highlights of our lives, often skipping the frustrations or low points (unless someone uses Facebook to air complaints and dirty laundry—we’ve seen that, too.) Have you ever scrolled through the news feed and sighed because so many of your friends were going to the beach or leaving on a cruise or having dinner with their clique of friends or got to meet someone “important?” It can get discouraging and open the door for a lot of comparison.

The thing is, as much as Facebook opens some doors, it only allows for a one-dimensional portrait. We share only what we want others to see or know. We want to feel inclusion, sympathy or admiration, so that can affect what we share.

Challenge: Consider how often you share details of trips, purchases, or opportunities. It’s reasonable to share something you are proud of or happy about, but do it with discretion and balance it with a genuine interest in others. For example, how many of your posts are directly about you and how you are feeling or about yet another accomplishment of your child? Balance your “here’s what’s going on with me” updates with posts that provide info and encouragement that serves others or that starts a meaningful conversation.

Recommendation: If you, like I, find yourself tempted too much by social media, there are tools you can use to restrict your time. I’ve been experimenting with a Chrome extension called “Stayfocused.” Using it, I set up the amount of time I wanted to allot myself to be on Facebook during the day. For example, since I often work from home, I set up a time limit to adhere to between 9 and 5. Whenever I log in, OR whenever I click a link to another page from Facebook, it docks my time. The extension is a tough taskmaster. You have to log completely out AND leave the entry page as well as close out any pages you linked to from Facebook in order for the clock to stop. Also, you cannot change the settings the same day you run out of time. This extension has helped me budget my time on Facebook and keeps me from leaving Facebook open in the background during the day.

At this time, I only use this extension for my daytime hours on my home desktop. I still have to be personally disciplined because I CAN skirt the system by using other devices or browsers. However, it still helps me be more mindful of the time I spend on Facebook during the day.

Question: How about you? What have you learned about Facebook? Visit the blog to comment or press the comment button if you are already there!hope leaves



Coffee Break Bible Study: Mark 13-16; Luke 1

If you’d like to catch up on earlier Coffee Break Bible studies, the Elevate page has them all.

Read Mark 13.

What type of events should we expect during the end times? Can we predict Christ’s return?

How should we prepare in the meantime?

Read Mark 14.

Consider what it was like during the Last Supper. What stands out to you?

What did Jesus know Peter was going to do? Did Peter do so?

Read Mark 15.

How did Jesus respond to Pilate?

Consider the crucifixion and death of Jesus. How does Mark report it?

Read Mark 16.

What is the wonderful focus of this chapter?

What command did Jesus leave His disciples (including us) with?

Read Luke 1:

How would you describe Luke, based on this first chapter?

Refer to verse 37. What situation in your life feels impossible? Commit the circumstances to the Lord today.

Visit the blog to comment! Share what you are learning as we go through the New Testament.

hope leaves