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

Small Group Life Episode 4 — Barbarians: A Call to Uncharted Faith is headed to the printer this week! Check out this short intro of what the study is all about from the pen of Brian Daniel, our editorial project leader.

Episode 4 of Small Group Life is a bit of a departure for us. This issue will take you down a path that leads to the deepest places of who you are. We believe that there’s at least a small bit of a barbarian—though probably more—in all of us. But through various degrees of adversity and circumstance we’ve allowed this part of us to become tame and atrophied. This study will challenge you to wake thebarbarian inside and come alive.”

We finished taping the video segments for this episode on Thursday and managed to grab a little behind-the-scenes footage I’m sharing with you here. Maybe next time we’ll let you in on our hair, wardrobe, and makeup secrets!

For more information about all the Small Group Life studies, check out lifeway.com/sgl.

Until next time,
Signe

I spilled a cup of coffee this morning. Not just a few drops mind you, but the entire cup…in my car. This now infamous cup of coffee that I had just filled to the brim landed upside down in the passenger seat. On top of my Bible Study, the book I was reading, Manhood for Amateurs, the CD packet for Behold the Lamb of God I was listening to, a copy of the Small Group Life Ministry Manual, not to mention all over the seat. It was at the worst possible time. Kids were all packed in the car ready for school….we were even on time. And then disaster struck. I spent the next 10 minutes cleaning as best as I could, wiping down the books, CDs, and soaking up the liquid that my car seat had drank up so quickly. Can you guess what my car smells like now? Dusty, cold coffee! Yuck! So in that moment, like it or not, I was modeling for my children what to do when things go wrong. Fortunately no expletives spilled out of my mouth at the moment of impact. We even got to talk about it on the way to school.  Like any good small group leader I ask them questions. “So what do you guys do when something like that happens?” And we got to talk about how we are wired, what responses are good, what are bad, and how does God prepare us and speak into these moments.

It got me thinking about small group leaders and some of the small groups I’ve led. I’m dashing around like crazy trying to get everything ready for group. Vacuuming the living room, getting the coffee going, cookies in the oven, wiping down the counter, and it seems like a million other things at one time….and hoping that nobody shows up early! Without fail it seems something goes wrong, sometimes terribly wrong. I’m trying to empty the vacuum canister and it spills all over where I just vacuumed. I forgot to pick up some cream for the coffee and EVERYONE uses cream. There aren’t enough clean cups for everyone. Someone in the group knocks over their drink. Am I the ONLY one who has experienced this stuff??? So what do I do when this happens? What do you do when things don’t go right in getting ready for group, or even during group? If you find yourself in that position, here’s a few ideas on how to respond:

  • Take a deep breath – This may sound overly simple, but this exercise will help regulate your heartbeat, settle your anxiety and center your emotions.
  • Expect groups to be messy – Just as in life, preparing for group time or even during group time, things can get messy. Recognize that this is a natural part of group life and you are not the only person this happens to. You can also have a relatively high likelihood something like this will happen again, so don’t be surprised when it does.
  • Trust in the Holy Spirit – Make sure you don’t resign to the fear that your group meeting will not be transformational just because things aren’t going seamlessly. Trust that the Holy Spirit is far more powerful than the situation at hand and doesn’t depend on you or me to create the perfect environment to transform lives. In fact, if you look at your own life, it’s often in the messiest of situations where God worked most powerfully to transform you. Do you think group life is so different?
  • Allow yourself to be less than perfect – If you dropped the ball in some way and are less than prepared for your group, it’s important to forgive yourself. Things won’t improve by you constantly admonishing yourself, and it will be a barrier for the group settling into study God’s Word. The same goes for any group member who may have caused a disruption. You would do well to make sure that person (and the entire group) knows that mistakes are OK, this is a safe place to be human. Remember, it’s not up to you to change people’s lives (see bullet point above).
  • Take necessary action and move on – Do what you can in a matter of 5 minutes or less to improve the situation and then move on with the group experience.  If you have a spill or a mess, spot clean and save the deep cleaning for after the meeting. If you’ve forgotten something for the group meeting, call a neighbor to see if you can borrow what you need or call a group member and ask if they could stop by to pick up what you need on their way to the group meeting, if time allows.  The biggest thing is don’t sweat the small things. The reason people are in your group is because they want to do life together with you and allow God to transform their lives through the group experience.  And as good as they may be, people don’t come for your chocolate chip cookies, or your Pumpkin Spice creamer.

These are all simple ideas, but sometime it’s important to remember what’s important. If you needed it, I hope this gives you permission to forgive yourself on those rare meetings when things just seem to go wrong. For more ideas on getting ready for a small group meeting, Randall Neighbor has some great tips for hosting a small group in your home, click here to read.

Because we can learn from others, I’m offering a FREE Canvas DVD Kit by Pete Wilson and 9 Experience Guides ($113 value) for the person who comments with the best story of a small group meeting that went wrong and what you did. Leave your comment by December 13, 2009, and I’ll announce the winner the week of the 14th.

sometimes, you have to wait

sometimes, you have to wait

I used to think I had a boring testimony. I grew up with wonderful, Christian parents. I walked the aisle when I was about 10 after having a strong call to missions. Unlike many of the people I knew from youth group, I never really wavered from my faith. I had doubts, sure, who doesn’t? But there’s never been a time I did not believe there was a God who cared about me. I didn’t rebel. I have often asked my parents what they DID to me to make me not want to be bad? They don’t know. I wish they did!

While Mr. V and I have never had tons of money, we’ve always had enough. We never went through a period where we had to eat ramen noodles. We’ve never argued significantly. While we went through a short period of infertility, it was not too awful. We’ve had a very happy five years and have a beautiful, healthy daughter.

At Thanksgiving, when Mr. V still had no job interviews lined up for January, I remember thinking, “Well, we’ve not had any hard times in our marriage so far. Maybe this is it.”

And it is.

Not that our marriage is not wonderful, but situationally it has just been a difficult nine months.

Mr. V applied for many college teaching positions–many much closer to our parents–and got not one interview. We felt so desperate. He then applied to many private high schools in Nashville. He had one interview. They hired someone else the next day.

But God had something better planned for us. Through the Southern Teachers Agency, a very prestigious school pursued him and hired him almost immediately (one MUCH better than the one he interviewed at here).

We had always assumed we would be moving after five years. And then we thought, hey, maybe we won’t have to! And then, ooh, yep, we do. So our house didn’t go on the market until the second week of June and Mr. V needed to be in Chattanooga middle of August.

Needless to say, it hasn’t sold. We’ve had a small handful of showings and nothing to show for it except a pretty clean house containing a lonely mother and her ten-month-old baby.

I want so, so badly for our house to sell so I can quit my job, go be a stay-at-home mom and freelancer, and be with Mr. V in Chattanooga. I let that get to me. A LOT! It’s a daily struggle to not whine continuously and wonder why on earth God would be “doing this to me.”

I can’t tell you how many Sunday School lessons and sermons I’ve heard on patience in the last few months. (This morning, visiting a church in Chattanooga, included.) And Mr. V and I believe it when God promises He will work all things for good. That He has a plan for us. That to Him, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day.

We’re convinced that God will move me and Libbie to Chattanooga at the exact right time for His plan. Maybe there is a reason I need to be here. Maybe there is a reason I need to move there at some particular time. Either way, we are 100% sure God will allow it to happen in His time if we listen to His Word and obey. Bemoaning all the time I have to be apart from Mr. V does no good. I need to relish God’s plan and delight myself in Him.

Perhaps it’s all a big lesson in patience, faith, and God’s timing. Something I need to learn. And if this is the way for God to knock it into my thick head, I’m OK with that. Because I believe He loves me. Just like sometimes I need to tell Libbie “no” for her own good, sometimes He needs to say, “Not now, dear one. Wait.”

Originally published at Vanderbilt Wife

On Friday night, I washed the floors of my (huge) kitchen on my hands and knees.

I can guarantee that I have never done that before in my entire life. Maybe I could get into this stress relief through cleaning that so many claim.

Why? Maybe by brute strength, sheer will, I could convince someone to come see our house?

Potential selling points to add to the descriptions:
–I use natural cleaners! Well, mostly.
–We have all CFL lightbulbs!
–I’ll cook you dinner if you come see it!
–You can keep our Adirondack rocker, our coffee table…and anything else you want

It’s extremely disheartening to have had no showings in a whole month. I had such a peace during my husband’s job-search process. Now that we know where we’re going, I want to GO. I don’t want to wait on God.

But I don’t think I have much of a choice.

I’m trusting, trusting that His plan is the best. Better than anything I could dream up in my mere little head.

In the meanwhile, I’ll distract myself by reading His Word … and cleaning. A lot.

Originally published at Vanderbilt Wife.