For the first time, LifeWay Small Groups brings you a Bible study inspired by an award-winning novel. Through the power of visual storytelling, teaching from the author, and scriptural truths, Rooms: The Small-Group Experience will guide your group into deeper biblical truth and understanding.

Rooms is the story of Micah Taylor—a young software tycoon—who inherits an incredible beachfront home from a great uncle he never knew. A home on the Oregon coast. In Cannon Beach. The one place Micah loves. The one place he never wants to see again. But strange things happen in the house. Things Micah can’t explain. Things he can barely believe. The locals say that the house is “spiritual.” But Micah slowly discovers the house isn’t just spiritual, it is a physical manifestation—of his soul.

While Rooms: The Small-Group Experience uses story, character, and themes from the novel, it’s been created so that even someone who has not read the book—or who does not intend to—can still find fresh perspectives and strong biblical content. This study is a powerful experience for those who have read the novel as well as those who haven’t.

Rooms: The Small-Group Experience guides participants through the four most significant themes from the novel:

  • Woundedness: group members will have an opportunity to consider the events of their lives that have tended to drive their behavior most
  • Destiny: group members will explore the true desires of their hearts, what makes them come alive, and what they have been divinely designed to do
  • Warfare: helps group members identify the voices of their lives, recognize truth from lies, and realize the potent weapons for combating the enemy that are at their disposal
  • Freedom: takes group members on a journey toward greater freedom in Christ through the sort of healing made possible in Him

I’ve edited lots of incredible LifeWay resources in my almost 22 years here, but I’ve never been quite as excited as I am about Rooms. This study will be available October 1. Click here for a sneak peek.

Until next time,
Signe

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In 2005, precious baby Rebekah was born to my friends Dave and Teresa, two of the godliest people I know. The way they live their lives has always been an inspiration to me, but never as much as in the years since Rebekah’s birth. You see, Rebekah only lived for six days.

I will never truly know what the past six years have been like for my friends. And in totally honesty, I feel guilty that I haven’t been more involved in their lives during that time — especially since I’ve been a recipient of the blessings Dave and Teresa have experienced through their grief.

I never got to meet Rebekah, but the impact her life and death have had on me is indescribable. Her family has allowed her story to live on in a truly dynamic way.

Dave and Teresa, along with their daughter, Lydia, have taught me that God has a significant plan for us — no matter how long or short our lives. I have seen His strength and goodness in the midst of tragedy because this family had allowed me to. They have been open about their emotions — good and bad. They have shown their humanness without shame. I have witnessed them give God the glory through unbelievable sacrifice. I have been challenged and humbled. And I’m so thankful. Dave and Teresa’s message is one of not letting loss defeat us but instead allowing it to change us for the better.

Maybe you are grieving the loss of something or someone significant. Or perhaps you are walking that road with someone dear to you. What an incredible testimony your story can be. I encourage you to share your journey with others in your life—your small group, your community, your tribe. You never know what God will teach them through you.

Six days, one tiny baby, a God-honoring family, and my life will never by the same.

Until next time,
Signe

“Oh yeah, that’s gonna have to come out.”

Now there’s a phrase no one wants to hear coming from a surgeon’s mouth. But those were the words spoken to me a couple of years ago.

Turns out that experience continues to be a truly defining moment for me. And as I wrap up one year and press the start button on the next, my reflections keep turning to how that major surgery affected my life. Bottom line, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I value most.

You know how that works — something comes up that you didn’t anticipate and it challenges all your assumptions of how you thought life should go. And if you’re not careful it can knock the wind out of you.

Well, that experience did knock the wind out of me and still does from time to time. But the reality is that life is messy and we’re never going to have all the answers. So as Christians we’re left with little more to do than trust the One who knows what’s best for us and will settle for nothing less for our lives. And that’s where I’m trying to put my focus.

I’ve decided to put the kibosh on the drop-two-dress-sizes-in-a-month resolution and the get-out-of-debt-quick resolution and adjust my focus to things a little more eternal.

I read an article recently about some great ways to kick-start your spiritual life in the new year, but one seemed to fit my circumstances especially well — it’s about sharing your own unique story.

God can use what I’m going through to help others if I allow Him to. I like how that sounds. And that’s what I want to do differently this year — I want to be more open, more accessible, and even more vulnerable.

As you walk into 2011 and encounter things along the road that you had no way to anticipate, ask yourself if you’re willing to let God use the messy stuff of your life to help others clean up theirs.

You never know when someone else is walking a road similar to one you’ve already been down.

Nobody else has your story. Dare to tell it.

Until next time,
Signe

I always dreamed of growing up to be a kindergarten teacher, marrying an incredible man, and having children. You know the dream — it’s the one with the white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a dog — it’s happily-ever-after. Today I am more than grown up (in other words, I won’t be admitting my age here). I haven’t found that incredible man or the 2.5 kids. But I do have a dog and a white picket fence, so I guess that’s something. Lots of times I have wondered why God took my life in this direction. I’ve screamed at Him, cried to Him, and even stopped speaking to Him because He didn’t give me what He promised He would. After all, He did say He would give me the desires of my heart, right?

Today I know the true answer to that question, and I remember clearly the day I found it. It was one of those feeling-alone-and-sorry-for-myself days and I was talking to some of my close friends about it. Through a lot of tears I remember saying, “I don’t understand why things haven’t worked out for me to get married and have a family. The Bible says God will give me the desires of my heart.” With a heart of compassion, one of my friends looked at me and spoke as gently as he could. “I don’t think that’s really what that means,” he said. Turns out my friend was right.

Somehow I got the idea that “He will give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4), meant God would give me anything I wanted. I missed the point. And missing this point ultimately affected my relationship with the Lord because I came to feel He wasn’t trustworthy. I thought He made a promise to me that He didn’t keep.

But that wasn’t the case at all. My desires were exactly that—my desires. The desires I had held all my life, the ones that had become a part of who I was. Surely God would want those same things for me.. … but what if He didn’t?

Letting go of what I’ve always wanted out of life seemed huge and risky to me, and I fought it with all I had. But freedom came with the understanding that God was stripping me of everything I’ve known and taking me to new, unknown places. He was preparing me for His desires for my life. The ones that are bigger, better, grander than anything I can ask or imagine. So now I ask myself, What more could any heart desire than that? I honestly can’t think of a thing.

So, what are the things that confuse you? I pray you, as small group leaders and members, consider your small-group community a place where you can work through misconceptions and misunderstandings and speak truth into one another’s lives. For me personally, it made all the difference.

Until next time,
Signe

The manuscript for Episode 4 of Small Group Life Barbarians: A Call into Unchartered Faith is making its way into production. (Boy do we work ahead. Would you believe that this doesn’t release until next fall!) Because there’s the sense that maybe we as a culture have become somewhat soft—or perhaps better put, tame—in our faith of late, and because there’s a least a chord of applicable truth in Mick’s words to Rocky in Rocky III, the Small Group Life staff has undertaken production of Barbarians as a means for challenging believers to be more willing to confront life’s messes, challenges, and even opportunities in the spirit of Deborah, David, John the Baptist, Moses, and, yes, Jesus. And so we can address potential blind spots of a barbaric spirituality, we’ll also take up the story of Jephthah and his rash vow. I love this topic.

“But then the worst thing happened that could happen to any fighter, you got civilized.” Mickey to Rocky in Rocky III

One of the challenges of creating a small-group experience of this sort was just how to break this notion of a Christian barbarian into individual study topics—all able to stand-alone in an open group environment yet maintaining some sense of progression. I was planning to include a list with short descriptions, but decided that it might be best to leave that open for the time being. Regardless of where we land, you can expect Episode 4 to be streamlined, missional, and spiritually provocative in that the experience we create is expected to take you and your groups on a journey.

“A barbarian invasion is taking place even right now. They are coming from the four corners of the earth and they are numbered among the unlikely. From the moment Jesus walked among us the invasion began. And just as with those who crossed paths with Him here on earth, those who are most religious will be most offended and indignant.” Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way

Episode 3: FREEDOM is in production, Episode 2: MISSION is being printed, and Episode 1: FORMATION is now available. This is a brand new series created to be affordable, flexible, and easy-to-use yet uncompromising in the biblical content and small-group experience you would expect. Got any ideas about Christian barbarianism or any of the topics, you can comment here, DM IAmAgonistes through Twitter (brand new), or go to our Facebook fan page.

1206351_romansI had never considered until recently that maybe Paul thought he deserved to be persecuted.

He was, after all, a very well-known persecutor of the first Christians. Acts 8 tell us Saul (later called Paul) was “ravaging the church,” “drag[ging] off men and women” and “put[ting] them in prison” (v. 3, HCSB).

Once Christ called him by name and Paul knew the truth of that Christianity he had so hated, how do you think he felt? I can’t even imagine. The sorrow in his heart must have overflowed. The blackness of his heart revealed, he went on to make up for his past life by spreading the gospel as far as he could.

Although he asked Christ to remove his thorn of the flesh several times (2 Cor. 12:7-9), do you think maybe he was a little glad it hung around? He was only human.

Sometimes we revel in our guilt. Like the monks of old who found their joy in self-mutilation through flogging, sometimes we enjoy the guilt that binds us. It makes us feel holy. I think, “Hey, I deserve to feel bad about such-and-such a thing that happened 10 years ago. It was BAD.”

And yet I think that this clinging to our guilt is embarrassing the Holy Spirit. He has to peek over my prideful shoulder and remind me, “Hey Jessie, I came to cleanse you from those sins. By clinging to them–any piece of them–you are not fully embracing the life you could have with Me.”

Maybe I want to make Paul like me. I know he understood this point, because he wrote, “Christ has set us free to live a free life”! (Gal. 5:1, The Message). But Paul also struggled with feelings of self-importance and with doing what he knew was right, among other things. I think that probably, somewhere in his deep mind, he felt he deserved the imprisonment, shipwrecking, torture.

It’s going to be a struggle for all of us. But guilt can weigh us down tremendously. In order to live the life of freedom God intended, we’ve got to get out from under those “yokes,” and get under His. Because it’s easy and light, unlike the ones we make for ourselves.

I don’t have this clicked in my head any more than the next person, but I’m working on it. The most important tool is implanting Scripture into your heart–the Truth. I hope you’ll join me in memorizing these words of Hosea that speak of God’s Truth for us:

I led them with human cords,
with ropes of kindness.
To them I was like one
who eases the yoke from their jaws;
I bent down to give them food.
Hosea 11:4

As I was coming home from the gym last night (and yes, it’s the first time in months I’ve been able to say that. I swam some during my pregnancy, but that was it. It’s one of my bigger regrets and next pregnancy I will try to stay more in shape. Not that I was in shape in the first place.)

Um, where was I?

Oh, yes. I was driving home last night, feeling a throbbing pain on the back of my left heel. I’d worn my ankle brace because I have this tendency to hurt myself, particularly at the Y. My ankle is still healing up from its last sprain and I really did not care to wipe out on the treadmill in front of those bodybuilding guys who I am SURE are always laughing at how fat and out-of-shape I am.

I am an Observer by nature, and although I spent my time on the treadmill watching Good Eats (really, WHO watches Food Network while working out? I’m an idiot), I was also watching those around me. The guy beside me holding onto the side rails of his treadmill and doing a funny walk. The skinny elliptical girls. In my plain sight were two girls doing stretches and ab exercises on floor mats–and taking breaks to text on their phones. (Texting kinda baffles me. I don’t feel the need to be that connected to people, I guess.)

Anyway, the drive home. Right. I was annoyed at myself for wearing a blister into my heel. Earlier last night, I looked down at my foot and said, “I’m bleeding.” I didn’t know how it happened. I’m constantly noticing bruises on my legs from unknown sources. I fall down. I guess I’m just a klutz.

I wondered, driving, what it would be like to be somebody who did not do these things. Someone “cool.” Maybe an elliptical girl, skinny–which I have never been–and someone who doesn’t go to bed at 9 p.m., doesn’t feel like she always wears the wrong thing to work, and doesn’t randomly hurt herself on a consistent basis.

Really, most of the time, I’m OK with being plain old awkward me. I just wonder what’s it like to be on the other side. Do you know? Maybe nobody thinks they’re cool. Maybe everyone deals with the same sense of insecurity.

I’m learning. Learning to be me. Learning that it’s not so bad after all. My husband loves me the way I am, all kinds of crazy and everything. Libbie seems to like me (or at least my, ahem, chest). I have great friends, wonderful family, all who don’t seem to run away when I come near them. And most of all, I have a Father who seems to adore me no matter how much I screw up. In fact, He promises it.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Photo courtesy of Garrison Photo via Stock Exchange

This post was originally published at Vanderbilt Wife, May 2009.