God Sees and Cares, Always

picture of a bearMy family calls me Mama Bear for a reason. I love deeply and fiercely, especially when someone hurts those I love. I can also struggle with the ability to let go, long after the incident has passed. Something deep within me cries out for justice—for the offender to acknowledge and take responsibility for the damage they’ve caused. When that doesn’t occur, I take comfort in knowing God sees and knows all, my and my loved one’s hurts included, and will one day make all things right.

When my daughter was young, a teacher spoke ugly things into her heart and hurt her deeply. She had entered the school with a love for learning and a hunger to explore. By the end of her fifth grade year, she became paralyzed by a growing fear of failure. She grew so afraid she’d get answers wrong, she got to where she couldn’t write anything.

In a year’s span, I watched the spark within her grow dimmer and dimmer. It took some time for this hurt to heal. Years of loving and kind educator speaking life into those wounded areas. Witnessing the long-lasting effects of my daughter’s pain triggered protective anger within me. I wanted the harsh teacher to know precisely what she’d done.

I imagine there have been times when you’ve felt the same.

When we’re in that place, it helps to remember our God sees. He Quote from post on a teal backgroundsees every hurt, every callous word, every unloving act. He sees, He cares, and promises to, one day, make all things right. While this truth doesn’t negative the pain we all experience in this broken and often unjust world, it does help cushion the blow knowing we and our loved ones aren’t alone. God sprinkles reminders of this throughout Scripture, of times when He demonstrated His love for justice and those who likely felt discarded, betrayed, and abandoned.

I wonder if that’s how Bathsheba, the woman from 2 Samuel 11, felt when she first learned of her husband’s death. Some of you may be familiar with the story. Scripture tells us one day, King David was walking about on his palace roof, likely gazing across his land. From this elevated position on top of Mount Zion, upon which his castle stood, he could easily see the open courts of all the houses below. And then, mid-stroll, a beautiful woman captured his attention. She was bathing in her garden, completing ceremonial purification rights, likely in honor of God. Completely unaware of the lust-filled eyes locked upon her. Shortly after, the king’s messenger’s came knocking at her door to take her back to the palace. Soon after, King David, the man with supreme authority in the land, slept with her then sent her home.

How might you have felt in this situation? Living during a time when women were often treated as property, to be summoned, used, then discarded? And then, before those wounds have had time to heal, she learned she’s pregnant. Likely terrified, she told the king. Soon after, he had her husband killed.

After all this, did her soul cry out for justice? Did she long to know that someone saw her pain, that someone cared? We know from Scripture God indeed saw it all and held David accountable for his sin. (2 Samuel 12). But He did more than that.

Notice how she’s mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy in Matthew 1:

Verse six states, “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife” (NIV).

First, why mention her at all? Obviously, each of the men listed had mothers, but we only read of five: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. With each, we learn of the sons they bore, but notice, with Bathsheba, we’re told something more. We learn not that she was married to David, the Goliath slayer and “man after God’s own heart.” No, Scripture says she was Uriah’s wife, the valiant, honorable man David, the king, had, in essence, murdered.

Granted, that’s not the purpose of Matthew’s list, and my perspective is merely conjecture at best. Still, I can’t help but find significance and comfort in knowing that God preserved this truth, that Bathsheba belonged to Uriah first. That they had belonged to one another. David stole her from her husband then later stole her husband from her.

In this small section of Scripture, I’m reminded that God cares for our big hurts and our small and has promised, one day, justice will prevail. Until then, we hold tight to the comfort of His love and the knowledge that He sees every injustice we suffer.

Let’s talk about this. Is there a situation, maybe a past hurt or a hurt someone you love has suffered, that you need to surrender to God? What words of comfort and truth is He speaking into your heart today? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. And speaking of hurts, make sure to check out the latest Faith Over Fear Podcast episode on finding the courage to break free from fear of rejection. You can listen HERE.

And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram! For those following the chronological reading plan:

When Relationships Are Inconvenient

flowers in a vase on a tableIn our rushed and often chaotic world, it’s easy to let relationships slide. At least, this is the case for me. I can become so wrapped up in my schedule and weekly to-do list, I begin to lose sight of my need for connection. I begin to take those relationships for granted, thinking I’ll have more time tomorrow, or the day after that, or perhaps next week or next month.

I’ve learned, to build deep, lasting relationship, I must be intentional and embrace inconvenience.

We moved around a lot when our daughter was young, which resulted in numerous friendships made then lost. While she grieved every transition, her sorrow increased tenfold when we moved to Omaha her sophomore year in high school. You see, she’d grown especially close to one girl in particular. The child had spent many nights at our house and had even accompanied us on a few family vacations. As a result, what began as awkward interactions at recess eventually morphed into a close sisterhood.

As you can imagine, when we told the girls my husband was being transferred, both were distraught. My heart ached for them as well, but I assured them that their relationship could withstand the distance, if they chose. However, they would have to work harder at staying connected. They’d have to embrace inconvenience, whether that meant long phone calls or car rides. They would also need to trade many of their spontaneous moments for intentional plans, scheduling visits weeks if not months in advance.

I knew, from having moved myself, this wouldn’t be easy, but I knew their efforts would be worth it. Or perhaps to rephrase, I understood the ache of friendships not built and held. Years prior, after having moved numerous times, I grew rather relationally lazy. Initially, I stayed so busy, this didn’t feel like a big deal. But then, I went through a painful season and found myself largely alone. And I realized I’d placed myself in that position. Always so focused on that next task, I’d “convenienced” myself into shallow relationships.

We know, at least in theory, the value of every intentional, inconvenient moment invested. But sometimes the busyness of life can make us houseplant with quote on friendshipforget, at least temporarily, until a crisis hits. Then we realize, maybe at a depth we hadn’t before, that we truly weren’t meant to go through life alone. When circumstances feel frightening and painful, we all need an “Elizabeth” we can turn to. Someone who gets it, whatever it is, or at least, if they can’t understand our particular struggle, who get us.

When we read about Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, the brief page space makes it appear as if this older woman lived a mere afternoon’s walk away. But that’s not the case. Scripture tells us young Mary, who lived in Nazareth, traveled to the Judean hills, some 80 miles, most likely on foot, to see her relative. Obviously, this took effort and perseverance. Would you have trekked such a long distance to seek support? Or might you have talked yourself out of going with each progressive step?

Although the more important question for us all, myself included, is this: What distance (literal or figurative) are we willing to travel today to form the connections our hearts need and crave? Whenever we’re tempted to remain holed up in our homes or offices, chained to our computers, may we reflect on Mary’s example, remembering that deep relationships require intentionality and, at times, a willingness to be inconvenienced.

For those following the chronological Bible reading plan …

Before you go, fun news! Registration is now open for Wholly Loved’s Beautiful Mess Mother-Daughter Conference! Register HERE.

Seeing the Light in Dark Times

Prayer: God flood our lives with light.No matter how dark things appear, light is breaking through, always. The question is, will we see it? When difficulties come, it’s so easy to focus on the challenges and disappointments, and in that, to forget the heart, power, presence, and purposes of Christ.

I’ve noticed something lately, something that happens again and Sunrise over the ocean with quote from postagain. So often, my most challenging moments, in Christ’s hands, become so life-giving. When C19 hit, my ministry lost an entire year of conferences, and therefore a year worth of funding. At the time, I felt confused and uncertain. But God used the pause and our renewed focus on Him to lead us into new, increasingly fruitful territory.

This pattern has played out in my relationships as well. When we lived in Southern California, my marriage was in a rough place. I felt so alone and ached to connect deeply with my husband, but the hours and stress of his job routinely stole him from me. For a while, the situation seemed to get worse. But even then, God was working, revealing things to both of us we too easily ignored prior. That dark period became a catalyst for change and growth.

Perhaps the most vivid light-piercing-darkness event occurred when I first became sick. Initially, fighting my illness alone, I tried various supplemental “cures.” The more out of control my body felt, the more I fought for control. By the time I sought a doctor and received a diagnosis, my latent, previously manageable and largely “ignored” OCD morphed into obvious germaphobia.

That period was so hard on all of us, but it also led to deep healing. We couldn’t justify or downplay my behavior anymore. I wasn’t simply focused or particular. When life became challenging and darkness pressed in, it squeezed out my inner gunk that we had learned to ignore.

We could’ve become suffocated by the darkness. Instead, by God’s grace, we linked arms, turned to Jesus, and steadily sought and followed His light. And His light indeed broke through in such a beautiful, life-giving way. While this didn’t eliminate our pain, that period changed us, for the better.

Speaking of Jesus, John 1:4-5 says, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (NIV).

Jesus didn’t come during a rosy time in history. Lives were ravished by King Herod’s infanticide, Roman oppression, poverty and hunger, leprosy and the lifelong isolation that accompanied it. But God was doing a mighty work not even the most powerful tyrannical ruler or most devastating disease could halt. He was bringing life to the dead and piercing the darkness with light.

The Pharisees couldn’t see this. They were blinded, distracted by the darkness, the darkness within themselves, yes, but also all the oppression and uncertainty in their world. All they could see was what they might lose, should this faith-movement continue: Their prestigious roles as religious leaders, their already tenuous relationship with the Roman authorities, their way of life. They couldn’t, or maybe wouldn’t, see the light—the gift of life and freedom Christ offered.

No matter what 2021 brings, I refuse to be like them. I refuse to become so engulfed in today’s challenges that I fail to see God’s light breaking through. Because I know it’s there. It always is, a light nothing, not the pain of today or the uncertainty of tomorrow, can extinguish.

Speaking of intentionally seeing and pursuing the light, I invite you to begin your new year determined to walk in God’s truth. Join me as I read—and write—chronologically through the New Testament. Each week, we’ll kick off with a devotional post, similar to today’s, followed by five days of suggested reading.

Bible reading plan imageWeek one:

Day one: Mark 1:1, Luke 1:1-4, John 1:1-5

Day two: John 1:6-18

Day three: Luke 1;5-17

Day four: Luke 1:18-25

Day five: Luke 1:26-38

Let’s talk about this!

How is God’s light breaking through your circumstances this month? And perhaps more importantly, how can you seek out and hold tight to that light when dark circumstances hit? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

And speaking of God’s light breaking through relational challenges …

Lose Weight God’s Weight-New Year’s Resolution-Guest Post

Sunrise over the mountains with quote from post

Whenever I set New Year’s goals, a part of me knows I won’t accomplish them. But I pull out that new planner anyway, think through all my plans and ideas, and analyze my areas of weakness. Then I summon my inner grit to actually put feet to plans for longer than, oh, I don’t know, a week. And while I personally am not that concerned with weight loss, I do love her focus. What if, in whatever goal we set, we focused on God first? If we sought His help with every step, followed His lead, and moved closer to our goals by moving closer to Him? Imagine the men and women we’d become!

Lose Weight God’s Way

Guest Post by Cori Dickess

It’s the New Year and what better time than to make some New Years resolutions. You know the usual resolutions like wanting to lose a few pounds, start exercising, cut sugar out of your diet or maybe even read the Bible in a year. You get the idea. I am going to be trying to lose some weight but to lose it God’s way, not my way.

So many times I have tried to lose a few pounds by exercising or cutting back on the carbs. But every time I return to my routine of eating that cookie after dinner or having something sweet after breakfast. That is if I don’t eat a chocolate covered cake donut FOR breakfast. Hahaha. And yes you have probably guessed that I have a sugar addiction.

Me loves some chocolate.

But I don’t want to succumb to my desire for chocolate after every meal and between meals. I want to be strong and fight that urge to eat that cookie.  Yet, I know that I can’t do it in my own strength. I need help. Lots of help!

I need God’s help!

Why is it that when we exhaust all of the other ways to try and lose weight we finally decide to ask God for help? Why can’t I ask God for help at the beginning of my weight loss journey? Well, this time I am going to allow God to change the way I think about food.

The Bible says we were made to crave (Psalms 84:2).  To pine after and to be homesick for something. But we weren’t made to crave after the things of this world (1John2:15-16).  We were made to crave after God. Satan will try everything in his power to replace our craving for God with the things of this world. He uses food to keep us from experiencing God’s love.

Could it be that we love and rely on food more than we love and rely on God?

Yes, I believe that can be the problem. Food is what I turn too when I am feeling sad, lonely, or upset. It temporarily gives me the comfort that I am longing for. I will even use the excuse when we are celebrating something to have a piece of cake.  I mean who says no too some birthday cake?  I can’t pass that up!

The body God has given us is good. I believe that our body will never be perfect this side of heaven. But it is still a gift from God. Being faithful in eating the right kinds of foods and taking care of your body honors Him. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your bodies.” While, in context, this verse is specifically referring to sexual sin, I believe the principle of self-care applies.

Would you not take care of a gift that was given to you by a loved one?

I had to see my struggle with food as more than wanting to wear a smaller size or getting compliments from other people. I relied on food more than I relied on God.  I craved food more than I craved God. Food was my reward. Food was my comfort.

I must be willing to change the way I think. We are not capable of doing this in our own strength. Scripture says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4: 13).  God’s strength is the only way we are going to be able to conquer this thing.  Those excuses or rationalizations of “It’s just one piece” or “I will do better tomorrow” need to be replaced with “I was made for more.”

quote with sunrise mountain background

We consume what we think about. The more I thought about that cookie or piece of cake, the more it consumed me to where I had to have it. So I prayed that God would show me a plan to help me with this addiction.  He reminded me of my doctors guidelines to eating.  She told me to visualize a plate. I was to fill half the plate with veggies, one quarter with protein and the remainder with carbs. God also gave me some boundaries to go by:

  1. Eat only when physically hungry.
  2. Stop eating before you are full.
  3. Eat slower (it takes your brain 20 min to tell your body it is full).
  4. Do not deprive yourself of sweets or you will binge eat.
  5. Limit the amount of sweets you eat.

Each time I craved something I knew wasn’t part of my plan, I used that craving as a prompt to pray.  I was persistent in asking for God’s help.  He needed to be on this journey with me. I needed to ask for his wisdom and revelation when making food choices.

Now that I had a plan I also needed to find a friend to hold me accountable for when I start to back slide.  Someone who gently and lovingly spoke the truth and prayed for me.

Friend, I hope and pray this article helps you in your weight loss journey. If you’re anything like me you’ll need all the help you can get. These were just my guidelines. The Lord may lead you differently. So I encourage you to pray and ask yourself, Am I willing to sacrifice the feeling of comfort that food gives me for a closer walk with the Lord?

Yours in Christ,

Cori

***

Let’s talk about this! Do you set New Year’s Resolutions? Whether you do or don’t, how might analyzing your cravings, those things you allow to act as a substitute for time with Christ, and your increased reliance on Him help you conquer your areas of temptation?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Get to know Cori Dickess

Cori Dickess's Headshot
Hi, there my name is Cori.  I am a freelance writer, a Jesus follower, and a wife to my amazing husband Larry of 16 years.  I have always loved to journal.  Just recently though God has laid it on my heart to share with the world the things that He has taught me over the past 20 years. God’s desire is for you and I to get to know Him better. And to share the love that he has for us with the world.  I would love to have you come on this journey with me.  Together let’s see what God has in store for us.
 
Visit her website HERE and find her on Facebook HERE.
 
Watch for Wholly Loved’s Bible Study!
 

The Courage to Maintain Boundaries at the Risk of Loss

Quote pulled from post on teal blue gradiant background

Beneath every healthy or dysfunctional relationship, we’ll find boundaries at work. Healthy, God-honoring boundaries lead to increased health; Without them, people begin to hide, trust shatters, emotional intimacy decreases if not dies all together, and isolation grows.

When my daughter was younger, one of her friendships turned unhealthy and caused her considerable and consistent pain. She began justifying the poor behavior, telling herself the behavior didn’t, or perhaps more accurately, shouldn’t hurt and also that the other person couldn’t help it and therefore needed patience and grace. The problem is, apart from truth, grace isn’t grace. It’s enabling. As a result, over time, things became worse—the friend’s behavior, my daughter’s wounds, and the relational dysfunction.

And I struggled to see beyond the problem in that moment to all God was doing and was yet to do. Grieved by my daughter’s pain, I wanted to step in, to meddle, to fix. To control. To grasp and hold tight to things God wanted me to release—because I was afraid.

This is often my greatest challenge when setting boundaries, and honestly, this is a battle I continually fight. Many times, I know the right thing to do, but my heart struggles to comply. I don’t find it all that hard to take and maintain full responsibility for my behavior, emotions, and reactions. When I sleep in and miss a meeting, that’s on me. When I blow a deadline, that’s on me as well. When something angers me and I lose my temper? Me again.

I don’t like staying in my lane, however, when I know there’s a big old cavern up ahead in my loved one’s lane. When that occurs, I want to veer right and force them onto the shoulder or into a ditch, or perhaps rip their keys from their hands.

As ironic as this may sound, the greater my love, the harder boundaries become. The harder it is to not only realize but accept that I am not responsible for anyone else’s behavior, emotions, and reactions—nor should I attempt to make myself so. Living in that truth, however, takes courage, strength, surrender, and significant trust in Christ.

An old pastor from Louisiana used to say, “Don’t try to be the Holy Spirit in anyone’s life.”

So, what if we’re dealing with something more consequential than a hurtful friend? What if our loved one is heading toward serious self-destruction? What if their choices could, and likely will, destroy everything our relationship rests on, and thus, our relationship itself? I’m relatively certain those scenarios make us all a bit weak-kneed, because we know there’s a potential for deep, heart-breaking loss.

The greater the risk, the more challenging it is to set boundaries, which also means, the greater the potential for dysfunction.

I have to remind myself of this. When life becomes challenging, for me and those I love, all I can see are the danger signs directly attached to whatever behavior or choice concerns me. Choices I have zero control over—which may be why I’m so tempted to fight for control. To elevate the weakest, most deceptive, and often, destructive, god of all time—the god of self.

In short, I act as if God has somehow fallen down on the job and needs me to step in and meddle and fix and arrange.

This lies at the root of every choice and action. At each moment, I’m living in surrenderedquote pulled from post trust and obedience to Christ or I’m trusting in the god of me.

When I reach this place, I need to get honest with myself, with my fears, and with God. Do I really believe everything I claim to be true about God? Do I believe that He’s all-knowing, all-seeing, all-loving, faithful and true? Do I believe that He has the power to change hearts—and that I don’t, no matter how much I argue, nag, pester, or cajole? Do I believe He has the power to bring order to mental chaos, clarity to confusion, and truth to deception—not only in the minds of those I’m worried about but within me as well?

Do I believe God has a plan in the mess, and that He’ll bring good through it? That He longs to use the situation, as painful as it might be, to grow us all and make us more like His Son?

My internal struggle reveals I likely don’t truly, deeply believe those things, therefore the first and greatest work God wants to do is within me. And so, I need to hit pause. I need to quiet myself before Him and ask Him some heart-probing, life-changing questions, like:

  • What sin are You wanting to purge within me?
  • What lie or lies are You revealing?
  • What cracks in my faith do You need to mortar with truth?
  • And just as importantly, how do You want me to model life, light, health, and faith through this situation?

The next time we land in this place, may God remind us who He is, who we are, and who we are not. What He’s assumed responsibility for, and what He has not conceded to us.

He is the initiator, redeemer, Savior, Counselor, Guide, Teacher, and Father. The One who knows all and sees all and is in all.

Scripture tells us:

God:

Our role is to:

  • Listen for His guidance.
  • Speak truth.
  • Honor God’s principle of sowing and reaping. (This means not attempting to shield others from the consequences for their actions.)
  • Seek personal growth.

When do you find it most challenging to set and maintain healthy boundaries? Why do you think this might be? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

If you haven’t already done so, you may want to listen to the following podcast episodes:

On Faith Over Fear:

The Courage to Set Healthy Boundaries

The Courage to Have Hard Conversations

On my Thriving With Chronic Illness podcast:

Setting Healthy Boundaries Part 1

Setting Healthy Boundaries Part 2

Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading PlanYou might also find Wholly Loved Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health, found on the YouVersion Bible plan. You can access it HERE.

When Stakes Feel High: Revealing Who We Truly Are

Woman contemplating with quote from post.

We reveal who we truly are in how we respond when the stakes feel high. The higher the stakes, the more vivid and accurate the self-revelation. In those moments, our actions scream truth louder than any spoken claim or image portrayed. Will we do the hard-right thing, though it might come with a lofty cost, or will we choose that which feels convenient or safe?

I say feels because I’ve discovered the opposite is true. When we choose self-preservation above integrity, we begin to chip away at those things which are good and strong and admirable within while growing all that is ugly and false until one day we look back and wonder what we’ve done and who we’ve become.

Regret is such a heavy, suffocating burden to carry.Woman walking into the sunrise with quote from post.

Scripture is filled with such powerful examples, stark contrasts, between those who chose to act with courage and integrity though faced with seemingly impossible circumstances; seemingly impossible odds and those who pursued what was easy, convenient, or “safe.” Their actions created ripple effects of good or evil felt for generations; the fallout of their lives recorded for all time.

Consider the unnamed mother in Exodus 2. She lived during a horrific, terrifying, seemingly hopeless time in ancient Israel’s history. They’d been living in oppression and slavery for 400 years in Egypt. Fearing this emerging and rapidly growing people group would join forces with their allies, the Egyptians did all they could to beat them down. When this didn’t work, the Pharaoh “gave this order to all his people: ‘Throw every newborn boy into the Nile River.’”

A man named Moses was born during this dark time in history. Initially, his mom hid him for three months. This took such courage! Doing this placed her and her entire family in great danger. No doubt, if the authorities discovered what she’d done, they’d make her and her family a public example of what happened to those who tried to defy the Pharaoh.

Three months is a long time to live in terror.

A long time when it would be easy to talk yourself out of doing the hard-right thing.

A long time to be praying and praying, seeming to get no answers and no help from God.

A long, long time to hear the anguish all around her as other Hebrew boys were ripped from their mother’s arms to be drowned in the Nile.

But she remained courageous.

When it became impossible to keep the child hidden, and likely when it felt as if she created a basket using reeds and waterproofing it with tar, placed the baby inside, and brought the child to the Nile River.

Can you imagine how long that walk to the river must have felt? The terror every step must’ve brought? One cry from the baby inside her basket would alert the Egyptian slave drivers to what she was doing. One peek into the basket, one question, “What do you have there,” could’ve resulted in her death, if not worse. Likely worse, again, to make an example of her to all the other Hebrew moms who might be tempted to courageously rescue their children as well.

Again, a long time to talk herself out of every courageous step. Was she really doing the right thing? What about the rest of her family? What if her actions harmed not just them, but all of her people and resulted in all the fathers, the progenitors, death as well? But she kept walking, and hid her beloved child in the reeds. And she likely couldn’t fathom any way this child could be saved. But she knew she had to do something. She couldn’t simply sit back and allow his murder.

And then, the miracle happened.

Scripture tells us:

“Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. ‘This is one of the Hebrew babies,’ she said.

“Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?’

“‘Yes, go,’ she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.’ So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water'” (Ex. 2:5-10, NIV).

Not only did God intervene and rescue her child, but He did so using someone from among her enemies! From within the Pharaoh’s household. One day, the Pharaoh’s daughter—daughter of the very man that had caused such horrific evil!—came to the Nile to bathe, saw the basket, and had her servant draw the child out. She recognized he was a Hebrew boy. Logic says she would’ve been outraged and, following in her father’s steps, had him killed. But she didn’t. She rescued him and called for a Hebrew woman to nurse (care for) the child until he was weaned. But not just any Hebrew woman. The child’s own mother.

Quote from post with red text and yellow background.While most of us, thankfully, won’t find ourselves in such dire, literally life-or-death, situations, we are living in dark times. We all have countless opportunities to do the hard right thing. Our response reveals and builds who we are at our core.

What hard right thing is God asking you to do this Christmas season?

Share your thoughts, stories, and insights with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage each other!

Speaking of doing the right hard thing, I invite you to listen to our latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode on finding the courage to seek reconciliation.

Fighting the Fear of Rejection – Ep. 38 Faith Over Fear

Fear of rejection can lead to surface level relationships, increased defensive behaviors and fear-based reactions, and loneliness and isolation. Many times, this fear stems from wounds we’ve experienced in our past and the inner lies formed during or directly following hurtful experiences or moments of rejection. In this episode, Jodie Bailey shares a deep wound in her past and how it impacted her later relationships as she and Jennifer Slattery look at how God responded to a rejected woman in Genesis 29 and what we can learn from this. Find Jodie Bailey at: https://www.jodiebailey.com/ https://www.facebook.com/writerjodiebailey https://www.instagram.com/authorjodiebailey/ Find Jennifer Slattery at: http:jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Twitter: @jenslattery Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Group Discussion Questions: 1. On a scale of one to ten, how much does fear of rejection hinder your relationships? 2. How does your fear impact your behavior when engaging with new people or acquaintances? 3. What specifically do you fear? (or, to reword, what do you feel about you might lead them to reject you?) 4. How does your fear impact your behavior with those you currently have relationships with? 5. What thoughts regarding these fears play through your mind when you’re in uncomfortable social situations? 6. What is a truth you can focus on to counter that? 7. Is there a wound or are there wounds from your past that impact your fear of rejection today? 8. Is there a past relationship you need to grieve in order to heal in this area? 9. How can focusing on how God sees you help you live with confidence? Episode Image Credit: Getty/VikiVector
  1. Fighting the Fear of Rejection – Ep. 38
  2. The Courage to Rest – Ep. 37
  3. The Courage to Trust Our Provider – Ep. 36
  4. Fighting the Fear of Being Alone – Ep. 35
  5. The Courage to Face Tragedy with Honesty and Faith – Ep. 34

And speaking of relationships, make sure to save the date for Wholly Loved’s upcoming online Mother Daughter’s conference.

Promo image for mother-daughter conference

Calming The Storms in Your Life––Guest Post by Kathy Howard

Many of you have had a rough, exhausting, and frightening year. Some of you have been hit by one difficulty after another. Your entering the Christmas season with your galoshes on, barely coming out of one storm before entering another. And maybe, while feeling pummeled on every side, you’re wondering where God is. If He sees you, and most importantly, if He’s with you in this mess.

If that’s you, I hope Kathy Howard’s guest post encourages you.

Rainbow cutting through darkness with quote from post

Calming the Storms in Your Life
By Kathy Howard

The forces of nature regularly demonstrate their power in our world. Tornadoes topple high rises like a toddler flattens block towers. Tsunamis sweep over cities burying them beneath the waves. Mankind is powerless against the funnel cloud and the rushing ocean. But there is One who has power over all these forces and more.

One night on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus gave His disciples a glimpse of His kingly glory by demonstrating His power over the natural world. After a long day of teaching, Jesus needed rest. As soon as the boat pushed away from the shore, Jesus laid His head on the cushion reserved for guests and quickly feel asleep. (See Mark 4:35-41 for the full story.)

Away from the safety of the shore a storm hit with fury. As the boat filled with water, even the experienced fishermen feared for their lives. But Jesus slept on. To the disciples it seemed as though Jesus did not care. But the big storm was an opportunity for Jesus to reveal something about Himself they did not yet know.

“And He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39, ESV).

Only the Lord of all creation (Colossians 1:16-17) could calm the storm with a word. Only the God of the universe could speak peace to the tumultuous waves and still the whipping wind. “Peace! Be still!” The winds and the waves obeyed Him. Immediately the howling wind was silent. The thrashing sea became like glass.

Anyone would be afraid in a similar situation. Yet, after Jesus commanded the storm to cease, He asked the disciples why they feared, why they failed to trust Him to care for them.

The disciples had heard Jesus’ authoritative teaching. They had seen Him heal broken and diseased bodies. But they had not seen power on this level.

Trembling with fear and awe, they looked at each other. They thought they knew this man, but Jesus blew away their assumptions during the violent storm. What else did they not know about Jesus? This One who had authority over nature?

Storms of difficulty often hit our lives too. They rush in, often popping up quickly like that storm on the Sea of Galilee. We have little power to stop them.
When trouble comes, we may react much like the disciples in the storm. Fear may rise. Doubt about God’s concern for us may push in. And though He rarely works in the way we might expect, He will always work for our ultimate spiritual good and His own glory.

Every trial is an opportunity for God to teach us more about Himself, to reveal Storm clouds with quote from postHimself to us in a new way. Each difficulty and struggle open the door for God to display His power in our lives. Trust Him to do what only He can do. He sees. He cares. And He is able.

King Jesus, You are Lord of all creation! You have the power and authority to calm the storms in my life. Thank you for Your love and care. Amen.

(This post was adapted from Kathy Howard’s new devotional book “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark.”)
Author photo Kathy Howard

Meet Kathy!

A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught the Bible in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. Kathy, who has a Masters of Religious Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary, is a devotional and Bible study author. She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her husband live near family in the Dallas/Ft Worth. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at http://www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy’s new book, Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark, is available now!

Cover image for Deep RootedDeep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark

Foster a delight for God’s Word that keeps you rooted and growing. Want to experience regular spiritual nourishment from the Bible, but not sure how to start? Deep Rooted, a 40-day devotional journey through the life and ministry of Jesus, will show you how to interact with and apply Scripture, not just read it. These meaty, daily devotions, which are based on the 4 R Bible study framework, is designed to help you:

• Develop a regular habit of spending quality time in God’s Word
• Know Jesus more fully and intimately
• Learn how to dig into Scripture on your own
• Be transformed by God’s Word, not just informed
• Practically live out the truths you discover in Scripture

In Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark, Kathy Howard’s seminary education, passion for God’s Word, and vast Bible teaching experience come together in a unique devotional experience. Finally, a daily devotional with some meat on its bones!

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Mamas of daughters aged 13-70+, mark your calendars for Wholly Loved’s online mother daughter event! Promo image for mother-daughter conference

You might also find my iBelieve video on remaining anchored helpful.

And make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s Advent Bible reading plan, found on the Back to the Bible app. Find it HERE.

Christ Came for the Outcasts

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This holiday season, I invite you to look at the Christmas story through, perhaps, a difference lens—not just of all God did in giving us the gift of His Son—the promise of salvation, the prophesies fulfilled, the abiding presence of God for all who would believe.

All of those eternally glorious treasures came wrapped in that baby birthed by a poor yet faithful couple so long ago, and I praise God for that. But this story, told year after year and generation after generation, is more than a promise fulfilled and eternal hope proclaimed, as miraculous and glorious as those treasures are.

It’s also something of a hug for the outcast, the one who doesn’t feel good enough. It’s an invitation for all who feel rejected and insufficient. Through this precious child, God reaches out to everyone who’s ever believed the lie that they’re not good enough. Not smart, wealthy, prestigious enough, “righteous” enough.

All those who went to church seeking a Savior but encountered dress-code enforcers and rule-followers instead, and, feeling out of place, like they didn’t belong, sat in the back pew wondering if this Messiah, this King, could possibly see you.

I’ve been there. I’ve been the woman sitting at the back of the church who felt like she didn’t belong. And that’s why I love that God chose shepherds, a group of outcasts in their day, to proclaim His Son’s birth.

Luke 2:8-14 says,

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Can you imagine what that must’ve felt like to those shepherds? There they were, minding their sheep, when an angel of God appeared to them, and the Lord’s glory surrounded them. This was a big deal, for a few reasons.

First, according to commentaries, shepherds were considered unreliable social outcasts, who, in the Talmud, weren’t allowed to act as witnesses in courts of law. According to theologian Warren Wiersbe, their work made them ceremonially unclean and kept them from the Temple, the center of Jewish life, for weeks at a time so that they couldn’t be “made clean.” In other words, they were considered “those types of people,” those you wouldn’t invite over to dinner or want to be seen with.

And yet, by God’s design, they were the first to hear of our Savior’s birth.

Scripture also tells us God’s glory surrounded them.

Also according to Wiersbe, this was the first time God’s glory had appeared on earth in centuries. If you’re familiar with God’s interaction with the Israelites, you know what a special role His glory played in their history.

It was God’s glory, visible in a pillar of cloud, that stood between them and a pursuing army when they were fleeing Egypt. God’s glory, once again visible in that same pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, led them, day after day, as they headed toward the land long promised them. When God gave Moses the 10 commandments, Scripture says His glory and brilliance rested on the mountain, and it looked like a consuming fire. Later, we learn God’s glory filled the Temple so completely, the priests couldn’t enter in.

God’s glory was His power and His presence, a miraculous display that left the Israelites in awe and assured them that the God of creation was with them. But then, because of their sin, God’s glory departed, and oh, the darkness that followed.

Until on that first quiet Christmas, when God once again appeared, not to kings or to priests or even devout prophets, but to dirty and unkempt shepherds who were quietly tending their sheep.

In this, God made clear that His grace, His presence, His invitation and love, is Candle and Christmas foliage image with quote from post.meant for you and me. We don’t have to clean ourselves up or make ourselves presentable to get to God. In Christ, He came to us.

This Christmas, whether surrounded by family and friends or quietly celebrating alone, may you remember that Christ reached down for you as well. May you sit in His glory this Christmas as you learn to live wholly loved.

How does it feel to know Creator God reached down to you?

If you’re struggling with grief and anxiety this holiday season, I encourage you to listen to our next Faith Over Fear podcast episode titled Finding Peace This Covid-19 Christmas. You can listen here:

Fighting the Fear of Rejection – Ep. 38 Faith Over Fear

Fear of rejection can lead to surface level relationships, increased defensive behaviors and fear-based reactions, and loneliness and isolation. Many times, this fear stems from wounds we’ve experienced in our past and the inner lies formed during or directly following hurtful experiences or moments of rejection. In this episode, Jodie Bailey shares a deep wound in her past and how it impacted her later relationships as she and Jennifer Slattery look at how God responded to a rejected woman in Genesis 29 and what we can learn from this. Find Jodie Bailey at: https://www.jodiebailey.com/ https://www.facebook.com/writerjodiebailey https://www.instagram.com/authorjodiebailey/ Find Jennifer Slattery at: http:jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Twitter: @jenslattery Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Group Discussion Questions: 1. On a scale of one to ten, how much does fear of rejection hinder your relationships? 2. How does your fear impact your behavior when engaging with new people or acquaintances? 3. What specifically do you fear? (or, to reword, what do you feel about you might lead them to reject you?) 4. How does your fear impact your behavior with those you currently have relationships with? 5. What thoughts regarding these fears play through your mind when you’re in uncomfortable social situations? 6. What is a truth you can focus on to counter that? 7. Is there a wound or are there wounds from your past that impact your fear of rejection today? 8. Is there a past relationship you need to grieve in order to heal in this area? 9. How can focusing on how God sees you help you live with confidence? Episode Image Credit: Getty/VikiVector
  1. Fighting the Fear of Rejection – Ep. 38
  2. The Courage to Rest – Ep. 37
  3. The Courage to Trust Our Provider – Ep. 36
  4. Fighting the Fear of Being Alone – Ep. 35
  5. The Courage to Face Tragedy with Honesty and Faith – Ep. 34