Week 2, 40-Day Challenge Giveaway: Books, Books, and more Books!

Week 2, 40-Day Challenge Giveaway: Books, Books, and more Books!

When I first thought of the 40-Day (Birthday) Challenge, I was concerned that it might be silly or not serious enough given that I write often about serious matters. I quickly remembered an old post I wrote on being a serious Christian and wondered if that ugly sin of the fear of man was motivating my questioning. As I’ve participated and read comments and interactions from the men and women participating through the Facebook group, I’ve realized how the Lord is already using this challenge to restore joy, enable “self-forgetfulness” and thus a focus on others, and build habits of spiritual disciplines. That was my prayer before it launched and I believe the Lord is already answering it!

Each week I will be giving away books and other great prizes as part of our celebration. Yesterday I announced the winners of Crossway’s new Inductive NT and New Testament Scripture Journals. Today, I’m excited to give away a pile of books (see them listed below)!

Today’s giveaway is sponsored by my bookshelf! I often have duplicate copies of books and thought what better way to dwindle down my ever- increasing stack than to give them to you!

Five people will win two books each!

Here’s all you need to do:

  1. Join the 40-Day Birthday Challenge Facebook group to share stories, pictures, and win prizes: https://www.facebook.com/groups/40daybirthdaychallenge/
  2. Commit to doing something (or everything) for 40 days
  3. It began last Saturday, July 28 and ends the day after my birthday, September 7 (You can join anytime!!)
  4. If this is the first you’ve heard of my challenge, check out this initial post: http://www.trillianewbell.com/2018/07/24/40-day-birthday-challenge/

I will draw five names from the Facebook group and announce the winners in the Facebook group on Thursday, August 9. The drawing ends on Thursday (8/9) at 6:00 a.m. To win a prize you must* join the Facebook group (please commit to doing at least one week of the challenge if you join in hopes to win).

Also, don’t forget today’s challenge: Write an encouraging note to someone!

More about the prizes:

Feel free to click on these links to learn more about each book from their Amazon pages!

Fear and Faith by Trillia Newbell

Enjoy by Trillia Newbell

Confessions by Saint Augustine

Faith Among the Faithless by Mike Cosper

Not God Enough by J.D. Greear

Identity Theft by Melissa Kruger (and a collection of contributors)

Joyfully Spreading the Word by Nielson & Furman (and a collection of contributors)

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke

Garden of Truth by Ruth Chou Simons

In His Image by Jen Wilkin

*During one day of the challenge, I may open the gifts up to those not in the Facebook group. But for now, the only way to enter weekly prizes is by joining the group. Although it is noted above, I’d like to ask again that you attempt the challenge for at least for one week rather than joining the Facebook group only for the prize. Thank you so much!


40-Day (Birthday) Challenge

40-Day (Birthday) Challenge

In a little over a month, I’ll be turning the big 4-0. I do not dread the years to come. I absolutely feel older—both in body and mind. My body feels aches like never before while my mind seems to be sharper. Most importantly, I sense in unique ways the nearness of God. I imagine, as there have been every decade, that I will experience both joys and deep sorrows. God has been faithful—it is my song. I trust He will be faithful over these next years, too. I’m excited and grateful.

But today is less about reflecting and more about celebrating! And I’d love to invite you to join me.

In celebration of my 40th birthday, I’d like to invite you to my 40-Day Birthday Challenge. For 40 days beginning Saturday, July 28 and ending on September 7, we are going to complete various activities, random acts of kindness, spiritual disciplines, and goals.

You can choose what you do from my list of 40 things (below) and do or start one per day. A few of these things are meant to help us begin new habits as well, like daily Bible reading and prayer. I will be going straight down the list.

And because it’s a celebration and an online birthday party, I’d also like to give away prizes throughout the 40 days. In order to be entered to win, simply join my 40-Day Birthday Challenge Facebook group. Each week I’ll draw names from that group and announce the prizes.

Here is the 40-Day Birthday Challenge summed up:

  1. Join the 40-Day Birthday Challenge Facebook group to share stories, pictures, and win prizes: https://www.facebook.com/groups/40daybirthdaychallenge/
  2. Commit to doing something (or everything) for 40 days
  3. It begins Saturday, July 28 and ends the day after my birthday, September 7
  4. You can join in any time! This is not a competition.

That’s it!

Here is the list of 40 things you and I will seek to accomplish over the next 40 days (notice some might be repeated, other things you can seek to do every day over the next 40)

40 Things

  1. Choose something to do for 40 days straight
  2. Pray for someone
  3. Fast from something
  4. Pay for someone’s meal
  5. Read the Bible (try for 40 days straight)
  6. Do a random act of kindness
  7. Write an encouraging note to someone
  8. Volunteer somewhere
  9. Take a meal to someone
  10. Leave a larger than normal tip for a server
  11. Memorize scripture
  12. Grab a friend or family to join you for one of the things on the list
  13. Start or do that thing you’ve put off
  14. Do something for your church
  15. Do something for a non-profit organization
  16. Spend the day undistracted from social media, devices or whatever tends to distract you.
  17. Write an encouraging note to someone
  18. Give someone a gift that you would love to have or tell someone something that you would love to be said to you (i.e. love neighbor as self)
  19. Tell as many people as possible who you love that you love them
  20. Fast from something
  21. Pray for someone you’ve been struggling with
  22. Spend the day undistracted from social media, devices, or whatever tends to distract you.
  23. Do something for your pastor and/or his family
  24. Invite someone over for lunch or dinner
  25. Help someone in need (i.e. someone you know or someone you come into contact with)
  26. Grab lunch with a relative or close friend
  27. Do something anonymous (gift, etc.)
  28. Visit an assisted living home
  29. Ask someone how you might serve him/her and then do it that week
  30. Pray for, cheer on, maybe even encourage that person you think is your enemy or rival
  31. Babysit for a family
  32. Take a Sabbath
  33. Do something for your neighbor(s)
  34. Thank someone who served during church (i.e. children’s ministry worker, worship team member, greeter, etc.)
  35. If you have a spouse, hide encouragement notes in places they’ll find it. If you are single surprise a friend similarly (on a windshield or send a surprise gift)
  36. Do something you enjoy—guilt free! Thank the Lord for it.
  37. Repeat the toughest thing on this list for you (Not financially toughest, rather toughest because it stretched you to get out of your comfort zone, etc.)
  38. Repeat the thing you enjoyed doing the most
  39. Make a list of prayers that you think are impossible—pray that list to the Lord
  40. Eat your favorite food with your favorite people. I’ll likely enjoy some ice cream with my favorite people (Thern, Weston, and Sydney)! Thanks for joining me!

Don’t forget to join the Facebook group for sharing and prizes! Join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/40daybirthdaychallenge/

Let the Rivers Clap

Let the Rivers Clap

I recently had the opportunity to visit the mountains of Colorado for a retreat. When I got home, I happened to read a chapter in Tim and Kathy Keller’s book The Songs of Jesus, which was perfect for what I had just experienced. I wanted to share an excerpt of what I read along with a few pictures from my time there.

This excerpt is taken from Psalm 98: 7-9

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.


The Rivers Clap Their Hands. The imagery of the trees and fish praising God (Psalm96:11-12), with the rivers and the mountains clapping and singing (verse 8), is more than just poetry. Romans 8: 18-25 says that nature was made to be far more alive and glorious than it is in its current state. Modern philosophies cannot fathom that the natural world will not come into its own until the human race is made righteous again. Jesus will come to restore this ancient harmony (verse 9). So our future hope is powerful. If rivers and mountains will be like this when he returns, what will we be like (1 John 3:2-3)? *

Today, take time to dream about what it will be like to rejoice with the Lord always in a perfect world where streams flow with pristine water and mountains shout for joy. It’s coming! Weeping will be gone, and we will be full of everlasting rejoicing. Until that day, step outside and remember that the God who created it all is returning to make it all new.


*Excerpt from pg. 244
*Heading picture taken by Tracy Thornton in the Smoky Mountains National Park.
*All other pictures are from various parts of Colorado, taken by me (Trillia).


5 Gifts I’ve Found in My Singleness

5 Gifts I’ve Found in My Singleness

(Enjoying God and all He has given to us can be difficult to understand and abstract at times. That’s why I’ve asked a few friends to share how they have enjoyed various aspects of the Christian life, seasons, and disciplines. I pray you are encouraged by this series of guest posts.)

By Lindsay Swartz

If you had asked my 17-year-old self what one of my worst-case scenarios would be, being single into my 30’s would have been up there at the top. In fact, I don’t think it even registered at the time as a possibility. Like many young women, I dreamed about meeting a wonderful man, getting married, and having a family. I may have even doodled out the names of my future children in my class notes.

Yet, here I am. I’ll be 34 this year, three years past the age when my own mother had me. I’ve wrestled long and hard with singleness. In many ways, I’ve been terrible at being single. Much of singleness hasn’t been fun for me because of the accompanying angst—and not always believing God’s goodness. But, as I look back, it’s almost laughable that this was my worst-case scenario. While I may not love being single, there are plenty of things about singleness that I wish I would have learned to enjoy much sooner. So, if you’re in an unwanted season of singleness, here are a few gifts I’ve discovered in an effort to help us enjoy the Lord.

Enjoy extended time focusing on the Lord.

I have heard plenty of my married friends and those with children talk about how their busyness often keeps them from having regular time with the Lord in his Word and prayer. While singles are busy too, there is a type of distraction we don’t share—one that Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7. There are divided interests and anxieties of this world that can hinder the married person’s pursuit of the Lord.

Now, I’ve said to the Lord plenty of times, “But I want that distraction!” It seems so much better to me than the endless hours of quiet and yet another morning of waking up alone. But until that distraction comes, we have the opportunity to press on to know the Lord in a different way (Hosea 6:3), enjoying uninterrupted time in God’s Word and in prayer that helps secure our undivided (or, as good as undivided gets this side of heaven) devotion to him that will serve us in whatever the next season brings.

Enjoy the freedom of unique opportunities.

It’s pretty neat to actually stop and recount all of the things I’ve been able to do as a single adult. I’ve visited over eighteen countries so far. I’ve lived in four different states. I’ve been able to respond to last-minute phone calls for help. I’ve worked at three different ministries. I’ve been able to pick up and go at the drop of a dime. I’ve had several internships. And I’ve toured with a Christian music group working as a nanny.

While these experiences aren’t the norm for everyone (and I’m pretty sure I would’ve traded most of them for marriage and family), it’s good for me to think back on God’s kindness in the ways he’s made my single years full. In fact, as I think about the prospect of marriage, I can honestly say I’m not afraid to shift my time and attention to a family because I don’t feel as if I’ve missed out on anything. I’ve had the chance to do more than many of my friends who lived out my dream and married young. Each of us has been given a different lot, and enjoying and taking advantage of unique opportunities is just a small way that I can try to celebrate mine.

Enjoy a multitude of relationships.

I tend to forget all the amazing people that I’ve gotten to know over the years until I’m at a conference or an event with work. My time is usually spent saying “hello,” giving hugs, and being surprised by encounters with past acquaintances. Though not all of these relationships are deep or mean that we regularly keep in touch, the friendships and connections add a richness and help me see God’s sovereign hand in each chapter of my single season of life. I know people from all over the country because of the various places I’ve lived, my involvement in several churches, and my work at a few different ministries. It’s truly a blessing to have connections with brothers and sisters from all over the world because of the unexpected ways the Lord has caused my single path to wind.

Enjoy investing deeply in relationships.

It’s not until I’m overly busy or in a dating relationship that I realize how singleness has afforded me the opportunity to invest heavily in a variety of relationships. I’ve worked as a nanny for several families, have friends’ kids I spend time with frequently and who have become like nieces and nephews, get to have frequent time with “just the girls,” and have several spiritual moms and dads. There are families I’ve been honorarily adopted into – many of those I could call in a crisis – and a number of people I’ve been able to spend lots of one-on-one time with over the years.

I know you don’t have to be single to have deep relationships, but I do know the opportunity that singleness provides to be hospitable, provide a support system, and serve without certain limitations. I don’t always live this out well—and I’d like to be more faithful in reaching out to my neighbors and those without Christ around me—but I’m grateful for these relationships that have etched themselves on my heart and provide a constant source of companionship and sense of a forever family in a season that can be so lonely.

Enjoy praying big prayers.

As long as I have breath and a desire for marriage, I’m committed to praying big prayers about the fulfillment of this desire. God exhorts us to ask again and again in his Word (Matt. 7:7), and I intend to take him up on it. It’s true that delighting in God and receiving the desires of our hearts doesn’t mean God automatically gives everything we ask for, but it also doesn’t mean less than approaching his throne like that pestering neighbor in Jesus’ example (Luke 11:5-13). I don’t want to leave room for being able to say that I don’t have because I didn’t ask (James 4:2).

We can also pray big prayers about our singleness too, though I admit that this is harder for me to want to do. We can ask God to help us truly believe that we aren’t missing out. And we can ask for deep satisfaction in him and in our season. Our privilege to ask as God’s children is astounding, and his answers, we’ll come to see, will surpass anything we could imagine.

All of us, regardless of the circumstances in the season of life we’re walking through, are battling to enjoy the gifts God has given—and, ultimately, the Giver himself. Unfortunately, it’s a battle that won’t be over until our redemption is complete. I’m thankful for Jesus who makes enjoyment in God possible and anchors us to a hope-filled future of unending and untarnished joy. May he continually satisfy us throughout our lives with his unfailing love that we may rejoice and be glad all of our days (Ps. 90:14).


LindsaySLindsay serves at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) as the managing editor of content. She completed her Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She loves movies, traveling, good food, coffee shops, girly things, and sports. She lives in Nashville, TN and is loving every minute of living in Music City.




(Learn more about Trillia’s new book Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts)

Savoring What We Love

Savoring What We Love

(Enjoying God and all He has given to us can be difficult to understand and abstract at times. That’s why I’ve asked a few friends to share how they have enjoyed various aspects of the Christian life, seasons, and disciplines. I pray you are encouraged by this series of guest posts.)

By Karen Prior Swallow

Two of the great loves of my life are reading and eating.

Both bring me much happiness, and while only one is absolutely necessary to live, they both seem as natural and as essential to me as breathing.

Yet, although sources of great pleasure, both eating and reading require discipline in order to bring me the longest lasting health and joy.

Some of the best, purest food that I’ve enjoyed in my life was in the North African kingdom of Morocco. There is no such label as “organic” in Morocco because, as an unindustrialized nation, all of its food is produced free of artificial processes or chemical additives. All of it is natural, and you can taste that fact in every bite. From flaky pastille to velvety couscous to goat roasted over an open fire in the Sahara Desert to simply sumptuous fruit, the food I dined on during my several trips there still lingers in the memory of my taste buds. I never even missed the junk food that wasn’t widely available.

Here at home in the U.S. it’s a different story. To be sure, plenty of healthful and natural foods are fairly easy to find. But so is all the junk. And on a day-to-day basis, it’s just too easy to choose the fast, ready and artificially made foods, which I also enjoy, but which end up bringing me far less joy in the entirety of my life than their healthier counterparts (as the roll around my middle can testify!).

I face similar difficulties of late when it comes to reading. When I was young, which was, I suppose, before the internet had even been imagined, I had plenty of reading material at my disposal. Falling in love with reading in my earliest years, I graduated from Little Golden Books, to Scholastic Book Club selections, to daily newspapers (which I still read), to eighteenth and nineteenth century British literature—all paper and ink items I could hold in my hand and immerse myself in for hours and days at a time.

Today, the world still offers these options—and so much more. The internet provides a supply of reading as infinite as the stars in the sky and the sands on the shore. Much of that reading is short, easy, and cleverly curated by sophisticated algorithms so as to cater to my very present and very precise tastes, as scientifically determined by my most recent browsing history. And if I don’t like what I’m reading, no longer must I get up out of my chair, walk to the bookshelf in another room, look for another title, walk all the way back to my chair, and settle in again. No, on my phone, with the flick of one finger, I can swipe, click, or press, and—voila!— I’m presented with a new and vast array of choices. No need to hold a pen in one hand and pause my reading to underline and make a note on the page. Now my eyes skim across the screen of my phone, taking in every third word or so in a millisecond, skipping paragraphs to get to the conclusion at the end. Loathe to skip a page in a book, I triumph over those ethereal electronic words that slide across my screen, feeding and deepening my addiction the way a Diet Coke only increases my hunger for sweets.

I have become far too easily pleased: by the tweets and blogs I read on my phone, by the sandwiches I eat in my car between meetings and classes, and by the gummi bears that so easily replace a meal. These all are, to be sure, good gifts I’m thankful for and would never want to give up entirely.

But I find myself thinking more and more about the differences between those things that bring me ceaseless and instantaneous pleasure and those that bring me deep and lasting joy. The greatest joys usually come only with discipline and sacrifice, focus and attention, intention and investment and love. Such joys are to be savored. Savoring takes the devotion of time and care, things not easy for most of us to give in this world of hurry. It’s too easy to equate efficiency with goodness, to mistake ease with joy.

Food and words are my great loves. Yet even as I try to love them more faithfully and well, I need to let my love of them remind me of my first love (Rev. 2:4). I need to remember that there is no word that can bring me more joy than the Word (John 1:1), no food more satisfying than the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

As I try to slow down more to savor His good gifts (James 1:17), may I slow ever more to enjoy Him.

Karen Swallow PriorMore about Karen: Karen Swallow Prior, Ph. D., is an award-winning Professor of English at Liberty University. She is the author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me (T. S. Poetry Press, 2012) and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist (Thomas Nelson, 2014). She is a Research Fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a Senior Fellow with Liberty University’s Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement, and a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States.



(Learn more about Trillia’s new book Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts)

Faith to Believe God Enjoys My Prayers

Faith to Believe God Enjoys My Prayers

(Enjoying God and all He has given to us can be difficult to understand and abstract at times. That’s why I’ve asked a few friends to share how they have enjoyed various aspects of the Christian life, seasons, and disciplines. I pray you are encouraged by this series of guest posts.)

By John Starke

I wake up and it’s still dark. It’s quiet now but that won’t last long. The kids will be up soon, hustling to pour their Cheerios, comb each other’s hair, and throw their backpacks on to shoot out the door before the 3 Train comes to take us away to our day. But not yet. It’s still quiet. Just me and my coffee.

I have lists and notes scattered around my desk, tempting me to start the day early. There’s a lot to do: people who need care, a sermon that needs some attention, and a few meetings that need some thought. But not yet. There’ll be time for that soon; not enough time, for sure, but time nonetheless. Since there’s never enough time I’m reminded that all I am, all I long for, all my hopes and plans can never be fulfilled and accomplished in time. Time always runs out and leaves me disappointed and my heart doesn’t accept the limitations that Time offers. It has eternity pumping all the way through to the bottom. I need something more than just enough time.

My notes, preparations, and lists will have to wait. I move from my desk to my chair in the corner. Psalm 141 helps me pray. “Let my prayers be counted as incense before you.” Yes, that’s a good way to begin, “incense before you.” Like an aroma that provokes pleasure and satisfaction, that’s what I want my prayers to be like.

But how can they? The Psalms are filled with what seems like the writers’ inner conflicts of knowing (or at least confessing) that God is their only refuge in their neediness and vulnerability, yet at the same time they’re always hauntingly aware of their lack of merit to expect God to listen and act on their behalf. In Psalm 141, the psalmist will get to praying against his enemy, whoever he may be. But surely the psalmist is slightly aware that there’s at least a bit of the enemy in him. “Let my prayers be counted as incense before you.” Counted, reckoned something they inherently are not: a pleasing aroma.

Break my prayers down to their essential elements and you will find contradictory longings and desires. You will see wants I am ashamed of. What are these doing here? If you poke around, you see repentance and hopes of reconciliation, but also cravings to be vindicated and to have an ease of conscience to just get along with my day without the nagging weight of sin hanging around. Let me be washed clean, but is there an express lane? Let my prayers be counted as incense. Let my half-hearted prayers be counted as full-hearted.

A few days ago, I read Psalm 138, which seemed to begin with a running start; “I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart.” “Whole heart”? I look down at my coffee. What did David have for breakfast that gave him this “whole heart” prayer? Who can deliver me from my enemies and who can deliver me from my prayers? Sitting in my old chair with fresh sins, can my prayers truly be counted as incense before you?

Jesus tells me not to think my many words can beautify my prayers enough to be heard. Babbling and going on as if I can impress or charm the Almighty is silly talk more than prayer. But my impulse to babble is, at its root, a sign that my heart knows its shortcomings. My babbling is just my darkness talking, acting like an angel of light again. That won’t work. It never works. It just turns my prayers into court arguments and me into a court jester. But Jesus knows this temptation. He is a sympathetic priest who is acquainted with my weaknesses. “We can go together,” he tells me. “That way you can enter with confidence to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

My prayers will have to be reckoned as incense. Beauty will have to be a gift I receive by faith. My prayers will have to begin in the posture of reception, an active welcome. So here I am, in my old chair with fresh grace again. The blood of bulls and goats doesn’t count me as incense. Violence was enacted elsewhere, once and for all, and beauty has been given by grace.

Now there’s nothing left to do but enjoy this gift and tell him everything that’s on my heart. My whole heart. Faith is believing that he enjoys it too. I have about half my coffee left and 20 minutes until the kids start stretching. But not yet. Eternity has tabernacled with me and given me friendship and company.

Inline image 1More about John: John Starke is the Lead pastor of Apostles Church Uptown in New York City.





(Learn more about Trillia’s new book Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts)

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