Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Praise’ Category

Two brothers, one blessing, and a mother who effectively turns one against the other. Family dysfunction forever recorded in the pages of Scripture.
How would you like to leave that as your legacy?
cookdishwashing001Legacy.
Does that word make you cringe? If you’re a parent, I’m pretty sure you’ve struggled

with guilt, fear, and feelings of defeat on more than one occasion. Maybe daily! As I was listening to my Pandora this morning, lyrics I heard really encouraged me. Of course, now I can’t recall them, but in essence, the singer said each day he’d give all he had, and that would be his legacy.
Pause to consider that for a moment. When everything goes crazy and it’s all you can do to keep those nasty thoughts from flying off your tongue, give your all.
When your kids are sick, or crabby, the air conditioner breaks, and your bank account dwindles, and you haven’t got a dime to spare. When it’s all you can do to share a smile and maybe a cup of tea with a lonely neighbor, give your all.
When you want to serve in a half a dozen places but time, young children underfoot, or a failing body holds you back, and it’s all you can do to send out emails or phone calls or encouraging texts, give your all.
That will be your legacy, and that is enough. Because worship and surrender is a heart issue.
Today my sweet friend talks about giving God our all when our self rises up, demanding our full attention. As you read her thoughts on perhaps the most famous feuding brothers in all history, consider her question: How do we–how do you–know when we’re seeking God’s best?
beth picSeeking His Best by Beth Farely
There is such deception that takes place between Jacob and Esau. The brothers both wanted their father’s blessing, but Jacob eventually stole Esau’s blessing. They were seeking their own selfish best, not God’s. Genesis 25:29-34
How do we know if we are seeking God’s best for our lives and not seeking self-gratification? I admit there have been times in my life where I get into a mood and feel that I can do whatever I want and convince myself it will work for me. That is not an example of seeking God’s best for my life.
Stay Focused
When I am focused on something I’ve desired, it always has a way of showing up. A huge piece of cake, an over-spending shopping trip; a white lie…yup, there they are right there in front of me.  Are they God’s best? Absolutely not!
Stay in the Word
What does it mean to seek God’s best? It means seeking His will by being in His Word–reading the Bible daily. It really means giving up of self and adding more of Him in your life. Like Esau and Jacob, we can become jealous of others and allow that jealousy to rob us of God’s best for our lives. Unbelievers may see this as God being the dictator of our lives because He calls the shots. But He is not a dictator; He gave us the free will to choose. Jacob and Esau didn’t have to be so jealous and evil toward each other; God did not choose that for them.
Stay in His Will
God holds the key to an abundant, joy-filled life. His way is really the best way. The world tells us to make our own path, to do it “my way.” But the Bible teaches that true freedom comes from living under the loving care of our heavenly Father. Understanding how God’s sovereignty impacts our lives helps us enjoy a life of greater meaning and purpose; His perfect purpose.
Beth Ann Farley lives in Kansas City, MO with her husband and six grown children and 13 grandchildren. She wrote for www.bookfun.org., Toot n’ Town magazine. She has recently been published with Landline magazine, Teachers in Focus, Horse & Rider, Mature Years, Indian Life and Wesleyan Publishing.  Her poetry has been featured in Sweet Freedom written by Jennifer Slattery. She’s guest blogged on thewriteconversation@blogspot.com by Edie Melson and Poppy Smith’s Inspiring Women to Thrive blog. Beth is a co-host on Living by Grace, a faith-based Facebook community. She often writes for the Senior Smart Network; a network devoted to senior citizens. Visit her online at FirstHalfDay.
LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Do you ever wish you could do more for God? What are you doing with what He’s giving you today? Are you seeking His best in every moment, in the gunk and the joys? Because he who is faithful in the little things will also be faithful with the big. ;)
As a fun aside, I recently learned my novel is now available for purchase in ebook form and at a discount–under $8 in fact! You can get your copy from CBD here.
Other news and updates–seems I’ve been all across the web this week. Join me on fellow LbG hostess Maria Morgan’s blog as I talk about my novel and what God’s been showing me about faithfulness. You can read that here.
On Internet Cafe’ Devotions I talked about our need to cultivate listening ears. You can read this here.
With school starting and all the chaos that brings, I wrote an article for Crosswalk on how we can live by the Spirit when life gets crazy. You can read that here.
Last Friday I chatted with another LbG hostess, Jessica R. Patch about my writing and my debut. You can read that interview here.
On Saturday I visited with Crystal Barnes from Stitches in Time. Join us here.
Monday I chatted with fellow ACFW author Casey Herringshaw. Join us here.
And finally, yesterday I camped out over at Takin’ it to the Streets where I talked about slipping and falling, and responding to others who do the same. You can read this devotion here. (And don’t forget to mark your calendar for our first annual Hope for the Homeless event, coming next month!)
That’s all that’s new with me. :) Now it’s your turn! Share your thoughts, your news, your celebrations with us over at Living by Grace on FB or in the comments below.

Read Full Post »

shutupSometimes I think I’d do well to bind my mouth with duct tape before going out. From blurted inconsideracies to complaints and arguments over trivial things that, when pointed out, reveal more about me than the actual issue.

Why, oh why is the tongue so hard to tame? Or am I the only one eating my feet a good chunk of the time? footnmouth-1

If only I’d remain safely behind my computer with its delete key.

My biggest problem? OJM disease–overactive jaw muscles and a very me-centered brain that likes to believe I have the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, and necessary input for every debate.

The problem with this? Proverbs 10:19 puts it so well: “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut” (NLT).

I suppose it’s a law of averages thing–you spew enough words some of them are bound to be sinful, hurtful, not productive or effective.

So what’s the solution? Invest in duck tape? Hide out in my bedroom? Throw up my hands with the concession that this is who I am?

None of those options progress the gospel, which is a huge problem, me being Christian and all as quite frankly, it is for the sake of the gospel I–and other Christians–are still here. On earth, I mean.

So once again I ask, what’s the solution?

Gritting my teeth and proceeding with the utmost determination won’t solve this, not long-term, anyway, because the moment I relax or get distracted I’ll revert to my old, verbose ways.

PrayerwThe best, the only solution is to continually draw near to God, allowing Him to work in and through me.

Pausing to acknowledge Him while I wash the dishes.

Praying while I fold the clothes.

Singing songs of praise, out loud or internally, while I go about my daily tasks.

Checking negativity and consciously focusing on my Savior and all He’s done instead.

For Christ-like behavior comes not from me but from Him.

Consider David’s words in Psalm 139:4 “You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD” (NLT).

In other words, God knows, the moment you sit down to read your Bible each morning, when you’re going to flub it in the day ahead.

And He’s already got a plan in place. More than that, He’s ready and able to communicate that plan, to guide you, your thoughts, and your words to those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. (Phil. 4:8)

God is true. God is honorable. God is right, pure, lovely, and admirable.

See where I’m going with this?

What’s the solution to a wayward tongue? To fix our eyes–our thoughts and focus–on God, checking in with Him throughout the day, pausing to acknowledge His presence when we’re stopped at a stop light or waiting in a check-out line. Listening to His soft, gentle whisper that guides us throughout the day and continually draws us to Himself, the only place we’ll receive the strength and peace needed to speak words of love, grace, and truth.

Because living the Christian life isn’t about trying harder but rather, drawing closer to our Savior.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. What is your greatest struggle? How might checking in with God throughout the day help you in that area? How might centering your thoughts on Him fill your heart with praise and peace?

How much room is there for angst, frustration, or ungodliness in a heart filled–saturated–with praise?

If you enjoyed this post, you might find the following helpful:

Grabbing Hold of God Moments

Don’t Try Harder, Love More

Cultivating a Thankful heart

Oh, and since my book launch is but a few days away, and since some of you aren’t on Facebook, I thought you might want to know where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Yesterday I chatted with the editor of Family Fiction about my book, where the story came from, and what I hoped y’all would gain from it. You can read the interview here.

On July 4th and 11th, fellow ACFW writer Janet Sketchley interviewed two of my characters from Beyond I Do. You can get to know Ainsley here and Richard here.

On July 7th I chatted about books in general (and my addiction to them) on Writing For the Soul. You can join the discussion here.

On July 28th, I was honored to be on June Foster’s Author Spotlight. You can join me here.

My sweet friend Jennifer Hallmark was interviewed regarding her contributions to Sweet Freedom, the book itself, and her writing journey. You can read about all that here.

Next month, book launch month, I’ll be all over the web, but unfortunately, I’ve run out of time for link posting. ;)

As a fun aside, I recently finished plotting book three in my Midwestern Romance series, two stories that continue where Beyond I Do leaves off. Here’s hoping my publisher loves the plot and premise for books two and three as much as I do! I should also add, with my books release but days away, the pre-release discount will soon be over. So… if you were planning on buying the book, now’s a great time.

 

 

Read Full Post »

ID-100208307Ten years ago, one could go to a restaurant and see families actually talking. They could hold a conversation–like a full, twenty minute one–without the beep of an incoming text or emails halting it.

But then came smart phones and Facebook and all those alerts and instant messages that come with it, and suddenly, these things that we thought would free our time actually hold us in bondage. Those devices that we believed would keep us connected actually distract us from the very people we most want to connect with.

And I am by far the most guilty of this. I think it’s the instant ID-100103470gratification thing. Or maybe some sort of conditioning–you know, like Pavlo did with dogs and dog food. The bell rang; they got dog food until the bell alone could make them salivate. Now swap dogs and dog food with humans and instant messages. ;)

This week, I’ve been focusing on living fully present in the present. This started on a particularly hum-drum day when my body decided to rebel but my mind wanted it to behave like it had five years ago. I think that’s maybe the hardest part of chronic illness, well, the hardest part of adapting to it; realizing that life has changed. And that you can still find joy in that.

Unless you’re consumed with thoughts of what once were or what one day might be.

Because you can’t live–fully live–in the present if you’re always searching for a way back to the past. Nor if you’re trying to leap up ahead. It’s like maybe we feel we’re missing out on something.

Which we are. If we’re not living fully present in the present. We’ll miss out on a lot.

And we’ll never really enjoy the blessings God is giving us now.

Today I focused on doing just that. I put my to-do list, hum-drums, concerns for tomorrow or thoughts of yesterday aside and spent a wonderful afternoon with my princess.

It started with a trip to the UP building to join my hubby for lunch. The weather couldn’t have been better. Overcast, a slight breeze, maybe 75 degrees. Plus, I had annoyed my daughter a total of 0 times on the drive over. (If you didn’t believe in miracles before…)

We get there to find my husband waiting, inching toward the exit. We’d fully expected to eat in the company cafe’, which is lovely.

But he–and God–had other plans.

My husband surprised us by asking if we’d perhaps like to eat somewhere else, saying he “had time”. Guiding us out of the building and toward the historical Old Market area with it’s cobblestone streets, amateur musicians, eclectic stores, and every flavor of cuisine one could imagine.

We chose to eat at Blue Sushi Sake Grill as sort of a thank you for the generous donation they gave to the Hope for the Homeless event. Then my husband returned to work and my daughter and I spent the rest of the afternoon being silly-goofy.

Being fully present in the present.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. You can’t fully enjoy today if you’re trying to cling to the past. Nor if you’re always looking ahead for what might be. And it’s easy to allow all those momentary distractions to occupy our time, but though they may give us “pleasure”, they’ll never give us joy. Rather, left unchecked, they’ll steal from us those very things that do bring joy: close relationships, peace, solitude, gratitude, and praise.

In what ways are you living a partial life? What have you allowed to hinder your joy of today? What can you do today, right now, to live fully present in the present?

For those of you wanting to go deeper in your friendships, you might find my latest Crosswalk article helpful: How to Maintain (Imperfect) Friendships.

 

 

Read Full Post »

WhiningThat noise! It grates on our every last nerve and sets the hairs on our neck on edge. It’s worse than nails scraping on chalkboard or our spouse grinding their teeth at night. It’s that high-pitched, face scrunched, body slumped whine. Parents, you know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you?

God does, too. Only He gets it not from one child but from oh, a few billion. Nonstop.

Kinda makes you cringe, huh?

We’re all guilty of this. We have times, more than we’d like to admit where, surrounded by blessings, we zero in on the inconvenience or struggle and soon our heart’s a mess of frustration and discontentment. Even in our greatest struggle, we’re surrounded by blessings. Always. We just lose sight of them, is all.

This is why we are to thank God with ALL of our heart–every last nook, cranny, and crevice. Leaving no room–nada–for angst, frustration, or discontentment.

This has been my focus this week, and to help with this, I’ve posted Psalm 111:1-3 throughout my home:

“Praise the Lord!gratitude-2

I will thank the Lord with all my heart
    as I meet with his godly people.
How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!
    All who delight in him should ponder them.
Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty.
    His righteousness never fails” (NLT).

I will thank the Lord with ALL my heart. Every last crevice and fiber, pushing the discouragement, worry, fear, angst, frustration–everything other than gratitude–away, choosing to praise.

And I will surround myself with people who do the same, because gratitude and praise is contagious. (v. 1b)

In fact, since gratitude and praise are contagious, I will determine all the more to cultivate a thankful heart, so that my words can build up and strengthen others.

When I am tempted to fret or fall into a rut of negative thinking, I will ponder the deeds of the Lord.

This week, I’ve been doing just that, and I’ve found, if I were to attempt to list all God has done, I’d never finish!

Perhaps that’s the point. ;)

Finally, as I’m contemplating the deeds of the Lord, I’ll pause to reflect on who He is, for everything He does, big and small, reveals His glory and majesty.

This week I challenge you to cultivate a thankful heart, pondering all God has done in your life, then consider what each deed reveals about God’s character. At our house, we’ve made a list. During dinner, we reflect on Psalm 111, sharing two things God has done–one from the past and one more recent–and then we discuss what this tells us about God. Through this, we’ve seen His incredible faithfulness, noting even our times of greatest struggle turned into wonderful blessings.

Because as Ephesians 4:6 says, God is over all and in all and living through all.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. How have you seen that to be true in your life? Pause to reflect on the past year. In what ways has God been faithful? How has He revealed His glory and majesty to you? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Other resources, articles, or posts you might enjoy:

Are You a Complainer or a World Changer

Joyful Living by Rhonda H. Kelley

True Contentment by Rhonda H. Kelley

Read Full Post »

ID-100111933Each day, I fight a battle: will I choose joy and surrender or despair.

With every thought, I teeter in one direction or another. Right now, I’m in more of a grit-my-teeth mode as a busy weekend and what appears to be an unsuccessful attempt to wean off some meds have set me back.

Last night, as I lay in bed, in pain from the tips of my toes to the top of my head, praying for the reprieve that would allow sleep to come, I thought, “No one understands.”

Which is true of whatever we face for unless one has been in that same spot, they’ll never truly get it.

But then a second thought came, just as quickly. No one needed to understand, for God knew. He knew my every struggle, my every tear. More than that, He was and always has been walking this journey with me.

He reminds me of this each and every morning I meet with Him in His Word.ID-10021187

This morning was no exception. I follow a habitual reading plan, going verse by verse, chapter by chapter: one from the Old Testament, one from Psalms or Proverbs, and one from the New Testament. When I come the end, I begin again.

Today, I landed in Psalm 39, written by David during a time of chastisement. He begins the psalm by saying–by determining within himself– not to sin in what he said. The notes in my study Bible say David was determined not to complain to others about what he was going through. David goes on to say, the more he thought about “it” (which I believe was the struggle he was enduring), the “hotter” or more upset he became.

Oh, how true this is! The more we contemplate our problems, the bigger they become until we are pulled into a pit of despair. So what is the answer? What can we do when our mind and our body is in revolt?

We put our hope in God”

“And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in You” (vs. 7 NLT).

As some of you know, I have two chronic illnesses, both of which can lay me out, and on good days, make normal life more of a struggle. When I was first diagnosed, I spiraled into poor-me mode. It wasn’t pretty; it was counter-productive, and it kept me from fulfilling God’s purpose each day.

I’ve learned I must be extra diligent with my thoughts and consistent with my praise. No matter what’s going on physically, I always have a reason to praise–for God’s ever present comfort; for His Word, which I can always turn to for strength and peace; for the promise of eternity when pain and sorrow will be no more; for the blessings He’s given. For His strength made perfect in my weakness and for His purpose, even in my struggle.

The last truth is one I camp out on. I believe God is sovereign, faithful, and good, even when things get bad, and because He is sovereign, I believe everything has a purpose. Therefore, I can keep walking, knowing He will perfect that which concerns me, and that He *will* use every tear and struggle for His glory.

Today my sweet friend and sister in Christ, Delia Latham, wrote a devotion that really resonated with me. I know many of you have way more difficult struggles than I, and I know you, too, fight a daily battle between peace and despair. If that’s you, I encourage you to stop by Faith-filled Friends to read about our tendency to worship a sometimes God, and why we need cognitive rerouting. You can read it here.

I also encourage you to listen to this song. I find it simply beautiful.

 

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. Do you ever feel as if no one quite understands what you’re going through? During those times, do you tend to draw closer to God or pull from Him? The beautiful thing about grace is, whether we draw near to God or pull away from Him; whether we’re faith-filled or faithless, He remains faithful and faithfully near.

Like the song above says, never once has He or will He ever forsake us. Let that truth sink in today.

How does that make you feel? Do you still feel alone?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Read Full Post »

Sometimes you pray and pray and pray for something to come about, only to be led in a different direction. Or maybe that moment that seems so perfect for a dream, goal, or long-desired outcome to occur comes and goes. And were left wondering, why? When? We know intellectually that God’s ways are quite different from ours, but moving that knowledge to our hearts can be a different matter.

twitterToday Jessica Everingham, author of Open Your Eyes talks about all those questions that mill through even the most faithful of believers, bringing hope and peace to our chaotic hearts.

But first, let me announce the winner of last week’s book give-away! Heather Day Gilbert, congrats! You won a copy of Saving Yesterday by Jessica Keller! I’ll be contacting you soon to get that intriguing novel to you. :)

Trust, by Jessica Everingham

Me to God:

“I don’t believe Your timing is right.”

“I don’t believe You can accomplish Your purposes through my life and writing.”

“I don’t think You can reach the hearts that are ready for You.”

“I don’t think You can take care of my financial needs.”

Have you ever caught yourself saying this to God?

Probably not. Few people say these things out loud, or even in their heads. But the other day I realized that I was saying all that to God through my actions.

It started with a meeting of my local writers’ group. Our topic this week was offline marketing. We shared our ideas and experiences for about an hour, but as I drove home I felt more stressed than when I’d arrived. The whole marketing thing freaks me out—it’s just so hard.

Apart from grabbing someone by the ear and marching them into a bookstore, I don’t know how I’m going to create an effective marketing strategy. I picture my beautiful book, (once it gets published), languishing on the bottom shelf of a bookstore. The publishing industry is difficult, and it scares me that I can’t control my own success. Even some bookstore-2-359139-mawesome books just never quite break out.  And so I stress that I’m not writing fast enough, I’m not good at marketing, I’ll go broke,  and no one’s hearts will be drawn closer to God through my work.

When I got home from the meeting I flopped onto the lounge with my journal and thought about my fears. God’s been teaching me about trust lately, so I reflected on what my worries were saying about my belief in him. All those ‘’I don’t’s’’ are what I came up with.

When they were just fears floating around in the back of my head, they seemed so big and scary. But when I wrote them down I saw them for the silly lies they were.  I should know better than to believe them.  God’s timing is right—and always better than mine. He is certainly powerful enough to ensure that His purposes are fulfilled whether I have experience in marketing or not. He can reach all the souls He pleases. And if I’m “seeking first His kingdom and righteousness”, then my needs will be sorted. End of story. End of worry.

Stressing about things I can’t control has been a pattern throughout my life. But I’m sick of losing my peace of mind to worries that I can’t control. I don’t think God intended for us to live this way; in fact, I’m confident of that. Jesus came to give us “life, and life to the full”. I don’t think repeated freak-outs fit under that description.

So now I’m learning how to break that pattern of stress. God’s helping me grab the thoughts that aren’t from Him and throw them out the door, then replace them with His truth. He’s reminding me that He loves me, His purposes are greater than mine and I don’t have to rely on my own strength. And even though I slip up occasionally, I have more peace and joy than ever before

***

Jessica Everingham is a blogger, journalist, boarding school mistress, youth leader and aspiring author. She loves writing articles and stories that peel back our subconscious attitudes and reveal God’s truth.

Connect with her via Facebook at www.facebook.com/jessicaeveringhamwriting, Twitter (@JessEveringham) or her blog, Consumed By Him, at www.consumedbyhimblog.wordpress.com.

Official book cover image unavailable at this time

Official book cover image unavailable at this time

Open Your Eyes:

What if someone could see into your soul?

All your wounds. All your darkness. All your potential. All your beauty.
How would you react?

Nathan Scott’s eyes see more than most. Penetrating past flesh and bone, they slice down to the very soul.
So when he moves to the small Kansas town of Grangeville, Nathan sees that jealously, suspicion and fear are tearing the local church apart. What’s more, the minister’s intriguing niece seems determined to avoid him.
While the congregation knows about Nathan’s sight, no one is aware of his secret mission—to find his estranged father.
While tensions build and relationships grow more complicated, Nathan is faced with two of the greatest challenges of his life.
Can he love a father who has done nothing to deserve it? And can he unite his church before it self-destructs?

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Forgive the cliché’, but they say hindsight is twenty-twenty. This has certainly been true in my faith journey. So many times a situation that seemed hopeless or a prayer that seemed to go unanswered later turned into a beautiful blessing. The trick is reminding myself of all those times when the next hurdle or period of waiting comes. I’m sad to say, when chaos hits, I often spend more time what-iffing than remembering, and I suffer for it! But praise be to God, He is ever faithful to lovingly and gently call me back to Himself, reminding me He’s ever-watching, ever-helping, always sovereign.

What about you? Are you in a time of struggle or waiting? Pause to remember a time when you felt broken, fearful, or as if things were hopeless. How did God bring you through? What did the time-table look like? What did He do in your heart and the hearts of those around you while you waited?

Maybe  you’re in a period of blessings. Record them! Write down what God’s done and ways He’s revealed Himself to you, then when the struggles hit (which they will), you’ll have something to remind you of that firm foundation you have in Christ.

Read Full Post »

Mankind can be insanely cruel. From political leaders who murder entire races to parents who abuse then abandon their children, it seems there is no limit to the atrocities inflicted upon man by man. And yet, humans can also be incredibly empathetic, looking deep  into the wounded heart of another, a heart that touches their own and moves them toward active compassion.

EleanorGustafsonAs I read today’s post by Eleanor Gustafson, author of Dynamo and The Stones, I thought back to the movie she referenced. I only saw portions of the Elephant Man, but even short blips were enough to break my heart as I imagined what it must have felt like to be that man. Alone. Isolated by the repulsion of others. Nothing stings quite like rejection. To be accepted, warts, deformities, and all. More than that; to be loved. Isn’t that what we all want?

Today, Eleanor discusses a scene from this poignant, though-provoking movie, bringing it home on a deeper level. As you read her post, pause to honestly, prayerfully evaluate your human condition, scabs and all. Then, consider God’s grace. I believe God’s mercy will appear all the more beautiful. :)

Note: Eleanor is giving away a copy of her latest release, Dynamo. Winner will be selected randomly from the comments left on this post or at Living by Grace on Facebook

 

Elephant Man and Communion by Eleanor Gustafson

Some time ago, I happened on a TV rerun of The Elephant Man.  Just the thing to set a person up for Communion the following Sunday.

In the Apostles’ Creed, which our church recites on Communion Sundays, is a phrase, “I believe in . . . the communioncommunion of saints.”  As the Communion elements drifted among the pews, I mentally looked around the congregation (head bowed, eyes closed, of course).  Saints?  Mostly sinners here, the whole lot of us, from the pulpit on down.  Yes, of course I know the phrase doesn’t intend what I’m making it out to mean.  I know it refers to the fellowship of believers made righteous by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  But at that introspective moment it seemed that “communion of sinners” might be more appropriate.

My thoughts eased onto “The Elephant Man”.  The film is based on the account of a real person who lived in England around the turn of the 20th century.  His physical deformity led to years of exploitation as a miserable, autistic, sideshow freak.  A doctor, initially motivated by scientific curiosity, befriended him, moving him to a hospital and caring for him physically.  In the process of trying to help him, the doctor encouraged the man to talk and discovered an amazing intellectual capacity.

The doctor began introducing his patient to friends, showing off this great scientific find.  He dressed him as a gentleman, took him to his home and to other social gatherings, with gratifying response from this cultured audience.  (Never mind that his protégé had become a freak of a different order.)

The drama turns on a scene in which the Elephant Man, in the privacy of his room, begins to indulge in posturing pretension, rehearsing erudite phrases and poses.  At last, he feels, his innate gifts, so long-buried, have gained him social acceptance.

In this moment of pride, a disgruntled “sideshow” huckster, hungry for the fast buck, breaks into the room with his clientele of bar patrons and whores.  Their “fun” lies in observing the shock effect of this monstrosity on women.  In an ultimate act of cruelty, the entrepreneur holds a mirror for the Elephant Man to see his face for the first time. This act totally destroys him, and shortly after, he lies down to die.

mirrorfreflectionCommunion is a mirror.  It reminds us from whence we have come, of our wretched state under that robe of righteousness.  No room for posturing here; we are brought face to face with the enormity of sin.

“Communion of sinners” does seem more appropriate here than “communion of saints.”  We must not forget this dimension of our human condition.  But it’s not the entire picture.  There’s more to the creed than that one phrase.  The whole thing is set to rights at the end with the breathtaking declaration that “God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” grants us “. . . the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.”

Here indeed is grace and hope for all us elephant people.

 

Dynamo:

dynamoCOVER_FB2Jeth Cavanaugh is searching for a new life along one of Pennsylvania’s mountain ridges when he stumbles upon a stable of show jumpers owned by Rob and Katie Chilton. Throw in a volatile gaited stallion named Dynamo, and Jeth will do anything to work there. Jeth earns his living by training and showing Rob’s jumpers, but Dynamo is his primary passion.

Everything changes when God enters his life—in the unconventional form of a hard slap by an old girlfriend—and ignites a new, greater passion within Jeth. But along with fervor comes fear at the undeniable evidence of God’s hand on his life. Inexplicable events, both good and bad, make him moan plaintively, “Why does God do this to me? I get the feeling I’m being set up for something.”

He is, indeed. Jeth’s life is anything but predictable, much like the God he serves. The real Dynamo and his ultimate trainer emerge out of an excruciating mix of disaster and brokenness, which are never beyond the reach of redemption.

This story is God in your face: Who is He really? What does He ask of us?

Eleanor K. Gustafson began thinking up stories when she was five or six. When she started to read, God drew her to Himself with, yes, a story. Her fascination with story continued, but after reading early written attempts, friends and even her mother told her straight-out to stick to music as a career. She pushed manfully along, however, and began publishing both fiction and nonfiction in 1978. Dynamo is her fifth novel and builds off her lifelong love of horses. Her previous title with Whitaker House is The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David.

A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, Eleanor has been actively involved in church life as a minister’s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. Additional experiences include gardening, house construction, tree farming, and parenting—all of which have helped bring color and humor to her fiction. One of her major writing goals has been to make scriptural principles understandable and relevant for today’s readers through the undeniable power of story.

Readers can find out more about Eleanor on her Web site, www.eleanorgustafson.com.

***

Let’s talk about this! Grace is amazing, and it’s important we live in LivingbyGracepicgrace, forgetting what is past and moving toward that which lies ahead. And yet, I also think it’s important that we remember where we came from–who we were when Christ grabbed hold of us and where we’d be without His grace. This is humility–recognizing our utter need for God. This, my friends, is what brings us to and keeps us on our knees.

With my book, Beyond I Do’s release approaching, I’ve been preparing for interviews and such, and in so doing, I’ve been contemplating my past–where I was and all God’s done. It can be painful to remember the pit I’d gotten myself into, and yet, it’s also immensely beautiful because it reminds me afresh of God’s radical love, power, and grace. (You can read more about my grace-saturated journey here.)

What about you? Pause to reflect your sin in light of God’s grace. What kind of responses does it evoke? Have you had an “elephant man in the mirror” experience? If so, tell us about it. Not just that moment of self-revelation, but whatever grace God showed you after. Do you believe your experience of that grace was deepened by the revelation of your depravity? How so?

Join the conversation here, in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 726 other followers