Unstuck: Yielding to God’s Personal Growth Plan

What feels most tedious to you? Perhaps repetitious and unnecessary? I may be dating myself here, but whenever I consider God’s training, I’m reminded of the movie the Karate Kid. His coach actively invested in him, not by giving him great feats to overcome but rather training him through monotonous, ordinary tasks—washing and waxing a car. Painting. While we don’t for certain how long this went on, the footage indicates some time. Long enough for Daniel, the one doing all the work, to grow frustrated.

Why? Because he didn’t know his trainer well, and therefore didn’t trust him. In his absence of knowledge, he allowed falsehoods to grow: He determined his coach was not only not kind and caring, but was in fact manipulative. He felt certain the man was using Daniel for his own gain. As a result, Daniel wanted to quit. Had he done so, his story would’ve had a vastly different ending. That epic match where he conquered his enemy for good, in front of a cheering crowd? Never would’ve happened.

Daniel would’ve remained stuck. Stuck in his fear. Stuck in his ongoing pain as he dodged his enemy each day. Stuck in his defeat.

I’ve been tempted to remain stuck.

It took me twenty years, numerous moves, and attending eight different colleges in five different states to earn my degree. With each relocation, I waited to establish residency then pulled out my thick binder of dates and colleges, sent transcript requests to each, figured out what classes did and didn’t transfer. There were times I wondered, “Why bother.” Times when I could entertain lots of reasons, in fact, that I shouldn’t. The classes were expensive. I’d spent over half of my life without a degree and had gotten along just fine. And if I had to take conflict resolution one more time, I was pretty sure I’d scream. (And I may have. The irony was not lost on me.)

I’ve also been tempted to remain stuck in relationships and negative patterns of behavior, because sometimes the journey to change just feels too hard. Too painful, too long, and perhaps even a little too uncertain. Not because the outcome is indeed uncertain. Scripture promises otherwise. We know God will use everything we experience for our good, to mold us into the radiant, life-giving men and women He created us to be.

We know this in our head. But sometimes, trudging forward day after day, especially if it feels we’re getting absolutely nowhere, we can forget. We’re tempted to run ahead of God, or maybe dart right when He’s leading left or left when He’s telling us to turn right. Because in that moment of monotony, our wisdom suddenly seems brilliant, so brilliant, in fact, we feel we don’t need to wait on God.

Oh, how foolish can we be?

Looking back over my life, the early days of my marriage especially, the answer was—pretty foolish. Thankfully, God’s been patient with me, persistently nudging me toward increased health and freedom. Many times, this looked like a lot of apologizing, a lot of marriage classes and more than a few counseling appointments. A lot of difficult conversations where we passed the “talking remote” between us to keep the discussion balanced. This process was hard, many times frustrating. There were months where we not only felt we made zero progress but where we actually seemed to be slipping the other direction.

But because we kept at it, our marriage never become stuck—stuck in the hard, in the dysfunction, in the confusion and false perceptions.

I wonder what God was doing internally, in each of the Israelites’ lives and families, as He led them, day after day, through the desert. What attitudes was God adjusting? What falsehoods regarding His heart and His ways was He systematically correcting? What wounds was He healing through the monotony, the routine, the leading and the following? What relationships was he forging or strengthening?

Quote from blogHot, dry, tiring desert situations have a way of causing all our inner gunk to rise to the surface.

I’m certain this occurred with each of the Israelites, young and old, mature and immature, as they followed the cloud of God’s presence further and further from all they knew. All that was hard and defeating, yes, but familiar and predictable just the same.

Scripture tell us, “On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the covenant law.  Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran” (Numbers 10:11-12).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to camp. I like the fresh air, staring up at the night sky, the scent of burning wood, and the soothing sounds of nature. I do not like all the work involved, however. Packing everything into the car, unpacking it at the campground. Setting up the tent, arranging all your sleeping gear, finding wood, building a fire to cook (or heat) your dinner on. Waiting for cold river water to boil for coffee in the morning. (So painful!)

You might disagree, when considering a night, a weekend, or even a week. But what if you did this day after day after day? Erecting the campground each night, tearing it down each morning. Walking further, only to do it again.

Can you imagine the bickering, the fighting and crying and whining? The cold food the sore feet, the unkind words spoken in the midst of fatigue. Each moment an opportunity for growth, for radical transformation. Yet, when you read the full story, one thing becomes clear: Most of the Israelites remained stuck. Stuck in their disbelief. Stuck in negative patterns of behavior, in sin, in their miserable small-story thinking.

In whatever monotonous deserts we find ourselves in, may we choose to respond differently. May we choose to trust, to lean on Jesus, and to let Him grow us into something beautiful. Because as we yield to Him, that’s precisely what He does.

Let’s Talk about this! What is God teaching you now? What is He trying to grow in you? Most importantly, how are you cooperating with Him in this? Share your thoughts here in the comments below, because we can all encourage and learn from one another.

If you’re struggling with chronic illness and wondering how to grow in God through it, you might find my podcast, logo image for chronic illness podcastThriving With Chronic Illness helpful.  You can find that HERE.

If you’re struggling with anxiety related to C19 or any other difficult, desert-like situation, you might find my Faith Over Fear podcast helpful. You can find that HERE.

I also encourage you to join my private Faith Over Fear Facebook group (HERE) and my ministries private Wholly Loved Ministries group. Both are great places to find encouragement, support, and prayer.

 

Are We Proclaiming a False Hope

Quote on hope with sunset background

Our world aches for a soul-reaching peace that transcends all that’s frightening and hard, for unshakable hope, and the promise that life won’t always feel so painful. That good awaits. People long for—need—everything we have in Christ, but I wonder if we convey these truths accurately, fully, and often enough. Or do our words, to ourselves and others, unknowingly, point to a hope rooted in today—the end of a virus, a better economy, or a transformed political system?

A few years ago, our daughter spent eight months in North Carolina, during which she became painfully lonely. Soon, deep depression took hold. Needing to know how best to help her, I sought guidance from a counselor. Through this, I was reminded of the power and importance of hope.

To persevere, our daughter needed to cultivate anticipation for what lay ahead. As a result, my husband and my conversations with her shifted significantly. While we talked about coping tools, we focused predominantly on counting down the days until she returned home. We also discussed, in detail, how we’d celebrate once she did—all she had to look forward to. Her hope for home increased her grit to endure.

This is true for our faith journeys as well. Our hope doesn’t lie in a better life today. Scripture tells us, numerous times, to expect the opposite. Many of us know this, but do our words reflect this truth?

Consider Paul’s letters to ancient believers living in dark and painful times, much worse than anything most of us will experience. He routinely reminded them to remain focused on heaven, where their true citizenship lay. His heart was firmly set on the joy that awaited him and all God’s children. And his anticipation became contagious.Hebrews 10:23 with a sunset background

This is clear from his praise of the Thessalonian believers: “We give thanks to God always for all of you … remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes. 1:2-3, ESV, emphasis mine).

Here’s what I find significant regarding this passage. These believers came to faith amidst great persecution. After preaching in their city for a mere three weeks, Paul was driven out by a riotous mob. I imagine he felt as if he’d abandoned the new believers in their fledgling faith. Considering all they could, and likely would, suffer, they probably dominated his thoughts. His greatest fear? That the gospel message hadn’t truly stuck. But then he received news, these baby believers were thriving! “The word of the Lord sounded forth” (1 Thes. 1:8, ESV) from them, like a glorious, life-giving trumpet.

Why? What enabled these persecuted new Christians to flourish during such a dark and horrific time?

Their knowledge that their pain wouldn’t last forever. They maintained an undeniable, unshakable, and indistinguishable hope in heaven.

We have the hope our world needs. May we proclaim it clearly, loudly, and often, because “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19, ESV).

That’s not to say we shouldn’t ask God to intervene, that we shouldn’t long for reprieve, today. But may our proclamations regarding all we know, with certainty, is yet to come, ring louder, because that’s where our true hope lies, and that hope will always preach.

Let’s talk about this. How easy is it for you to anchor your heart in the hope of heaven?

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

Join Wholly Loved‘s private online Facebook community, a safe and encouraging place to share your struggles, fears, celebrations, and prayer requests. Find us HERE.

Listen to Jennifer’s latest Thriving With Chronic Illness Podcast titled Irrevocably Called HERE.

Read Jennifer’s article on how the craziness in our world can actually be good for the church HERE.

When Our Best Effort Isn’t Good Enough –– Guest Post

picture of a sad womanWhat happens when you work towards something, maybe even for decades, try your best, and don’t receive the results you hope for? My guest today, Hope Bolinger, shares such a time, and how God used it to bring her to a place of increased freedom.

When Our Best Efforts Aren’t Good Enough

By Hope Bolinger

In one moment, despite my best efforts, my hopes are dashed. I’m at auditions for my high school production of Tarzan.

I’ve prepared for this moment for six months. My friends practiced walking like monkeys, listened to the entire soundtrack ten times (OK, fifty times), and we knew the script inside out.

They’ve called my name. I sing the piece I’ve selected for the piano flawlessly. The dance audition goes surprisingly well, and I actually remember every twist and turn and other French words for dance moves I can’t recall.

Lines? No worries. Don’t even need the script.

Two days later, I’m in a Taco Bell with a group of friends as we wait for the director to post the cast list online. My friend Amanda hits the refresh button. They’ve posted the list.

People begin hugging, crying. They’ve all made the cut. Every one of them. My friend passes me the phone, lights dimming in her pupils. I scroll up and down. They must’ve made a mistake, a typo, a something!

My name isn’t on the list.

I didn’t make it.

It may help to know a little about myself. I fall hard on the type 3 portion of the Enneagram. This means that every success can buoy my confidence tenfold. And every failure? You can guess what happens …

After that Taco Bell disaster, I asked the director how I could improve for the next play. She sighed through the phone and said, “To be honest, Hope, you did great. But you’re too tall for the cast.” Once again, my 5’10” height not only pushed me to the back of pictures, but it didn’t allow me a spot on the show I’d spent months preparing for.

You can bet I took this news like a champ. Meaning, I cried into my arms, my pillow, and anything else I could put my face on that night. I’d given all of myself, and it wasn’t enough.

I felt as if I wasn’t enough.

And maybe you have experienced something similar. A promotion that you worked so hard for that fell through. A time where you plucked enough courage to ask that boy or girl on a date, and they laughed in your face.

A season of trials where you prayed the right prayers, read the right verses, and yet, God would not pull the thorn out of your side (2 Corinthians 12).

So what do we do when our enough isn’t enough?

Lucky for us, we have a God who becomes our enough. After auditions and the Taco Bell incident, it took me a while to unravel the complex emotions stirring in my chest. Then I realized that I’d placed too much of my value as to whether I’d be a monkey in a chorus versus a stage manager who worked behind the scenes.Quote on purpose of God

God didn’t treasure me any more or less because I didn’t make the cast of a show. He loves me as I am and can show others His beauty, grace, and love through me whether I act on stage or paint sets.

One Tarzan show and a chance to stage manage later, I learned that it’s OK. Because I have a God who loves me no matter what I do, and that’s good enough for me.

Get to Know Hope Bolinger

Hope Bolinger's headshotHope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University’s professional writing program. More than 600 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer’s Digest to Keys for Kids to HOOKED to Crosswalk.com. She writes about 250-300 articles a year.

She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column “Hope’s Hacks,” tips and tricks to avoid writer’s block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly in the Serious Writer newsletter.

Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) released in 2019, and they contracted the sequel “Den” for July 2020. Her superhero romance she co-wrote with Alyssa Roat releases from INtense Publications in September 2020. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on Instagram and Twitter @hopebolinger

Check out Hope’s Latest Release, Den:

Danny Belte barely survived his sophomore year at King’s Academy, having to deal with Den Cover Imagehorrible initiation practices, stomach-churning cafeteria food, and the constant threat of arson.

His junior year doesn’t start off much better. Facing a series of mysterious suicide attempts that begin on day one–and a disturbing pattern that appears to connect them–Danny has a feeling something far more sinister is at play. He tries to narrow down a list of suspects as those closest to him disappear, one by one.

Can he protect his friends from a possible murderer on the loose? Or will he find himself trapped in a fate worse than a lions’ den?

Buy a copy HERE.

If you’re struggling to bounce back from a failure or battle fear of failure, make sure to listen to Jennifer Slattery’s Faith Over Fear episode titled Moving Past the Fear of Failure. Find it HERE.

Making the Most of Every Eternally-Glorious Moment

quote from Francis Chan with teal background

Why are you here, in this time period, in that neighborhood, or at that work place? Years ago, this question seemed to make all the social media rounds as everyone was encouraged to live with Queen Esther-type determination and bravery. And while I applaud all who demonstrate such courage in the face of danger, I can’t help but wonder how many of us, in our search for the big and the grand and the miraculous, completely miss eternally-significant assignments.

In 2005, Katrina captured the entire nation’s attention. Stories abounded—of heartache and devastation, but also of awe-inspiring acts of love. Of churches housing hundreds, even thousands. Of businesses giving away truckloads full of food. Of volunteers arriving in buses to clear out the wreckage. We were living in Bossier City, Louisiana at the time, far enough from the storm to remain untouched personally, but close enough to receive a rapid influx of displaced survivors. While my involvement was limited, it felt exciting to be part of something so huge, so … emotional. But then, we moved to a small town in Texas and a much smaller church, not knowing how long we’d stay or where we’d move next.

There weren’t any grand ministries to join or history-making events to serve in. We’d also recently lost a great deal, though not from the storm, including our involvement in ministries we found deeply fulfilling.

In this new environment, we were newbies and strangers, quite literally sojourners who were merely traveling through.

Initially, I wanted to pass my time until “real life,” whatever that might look like, resumed. Quote pulled from text on mint backgroundBut God prompted a sense of anticipation that He had a plan for me, even there. That He had indeed moved us there for “such a time as this.” Not worrying about what that might look like, I began my mornings with a simple yet expectant prayer: What do You have for me today, God?

God consistently answered—calling me to love, to serve, to engage, right where I was at, however I could. So, I got plugged in to the local homeschool community and began serving in that small-town church.

About a month later, we moved once again, initially, to another rent-by-the-month apartment, this one much worse than the previous. Our door had five deadbolts, an indication of the area’s safety, and the carpet was so saturated in pet urine, the smell could knock a person back. Thankfully, we knew our stay would be short but weren’t certain we’d land next.

In many ways I was living in the interim, that uncertain and undefined middle ground of transition.

But in that quiet place of waiting, God stirred within me the assurance that He could use me, even there. And so, I repeated my prayer, “What do you have for me today, God?” And once again, He spoke, not with words, but with a spark—to write. Yielding to Him in that dark and dreary apartment, I started typing a curriculum. My obedience, frankly, made no sense and had no clear outlet. In fact, I was certain the project wouldn’t go anywhere beyond my personal computer, and it didn’t, not until another move, and another year, later. One morning, I sensed Him calling me to reach out to the educational minister at that small-town Texas church we’d visited for such a short time, to tell him about what I’d written.

The idea felt preposterous and embarrassing! After all, how was I expecting him to respond? To congratulate me for pounding away at my keyboard? But God’s leading felt clear and strong, and so, not concerning myself with the whys or hows, I obeyed.

After yet another move and another full year, with that email long forgotten, I received a phone call. It was from the children’s director employed by that small Texas church. They wanted to use my curriculum for their summer vacation Bible school. What’s more, they wanted me to come speak to their parents on their “celebration night.”

Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us to “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (NIV).

This verse reminds me that our world needs Jesus, now more than ever. We’re all living in a “time such as this.” God might call some of us to lead or launch ministries and others of us to walk across the street. And our small steps of obedience might carry us, one surrendered act at a time, to a more clarified or specific calling, like mine did, or they might simply characterize a life of love, which is, I believe, even more glorious. Regardless, we can know this: God can and will use us, right where we are, and right at this moment.

We can waste our days, waiting for that great opportunity or more convenient time—like when all the C19 social distancing ends, or we can quietly ask God, “What do you have for me today?”

I guarantee He’ll answer.

Speaking of living each moment for Christ, I recently shared a similar conversation with Dawn Scott Damon, host of the Arise Podcast. You can listen HERE.

Scripture taken from:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Before you go, I’ve got exciting news!

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Finding Our True Selves––the Unveiling of Faith

ballerina with words from post

We can’t live like a queen while prancing through the pig sty, and make no mistake, you and I are royalty of incredible value. Realizing this, living in this truth, changes everything—our behavior, perceptions and interactions. This reality necessarily leads to freedom, just as surely as failure to grasp this truth results in slavery.

Years ago, our family opened our home to a young woman who hadn’t a clue who she was.

She believed she held no worth outside of her looks and whatever attention she gained from boys. She received what she sought, at least, on a surface level. Her phone constantly lit up with messages from young men who spoke charming words in the moment, only to use her. And though her friends bathed her in compliments, her emptiness remained.

What might you have done, had you been me? Corrected or rebuked her? Assigned harsh consequences designed to scare her into acting appropriately?

That’s often how we respond, to others and ourselves, when we fail to live as God desires. And while I understand, as parents or teachers, sometimes we must apply the stern hand of discipline. But I also know, from experience and Scripture, true change goes much deeper.

I’m convinced Christianity is less about becoming and more about unveiling who we truly are; who we were created to be. It’s like, prior to Jesus, we’ve all suffered from a case of mistaken identity. We’ve allowed all the voices of the world to confuse and define us, leaving us insecure and bruised. But as we draw closer to Christ, He whispers to our hearts, “That, my child, is not who you are, who I created you to be. You’re mine. You’re loved, fully and eternally. A creature of inexpressible value, hand-crafted in My image, to shine as a beautiful reflection of me.”

In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make mankind in Our image, in Our likeness …” In the original Hebrew, “Let us make mankind as Our shadow …”

When my daughter was young, she loved making her shadow dance and jump. When she skipped, her shadow did as well. It twirled as fast or as slow as she did, remaining, forever connected to her, the form it represented. The greater the light, the stronger and more defined her shadow. Similarly, as the light dimmed, her shadow faded.

In other words, we discover our truest selves not by chasing after success, accolades, or approval. To the contrary. That will only blur our edges and distort our true beauty. We find ourselves in the One who loves us, image of woman gazing toward the hills with a quote pulled from the postknows us, and called us to forever shadow Him.

The apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, understood this. When speaking to the ancient Ephesians he recognized heir behaviors and weaknesses, absolutely. But he saw their Christ-centered identity first. God their Father had called them out of the pig sty and to Himself. And lest they feel tempted to prance back to the muck they’d once danced in, Paul reminded them, emphatically, “That is not who you are!”

He told them they were God’s holy people (v. 1). They were far from lacking, for they were abundantly blessed. They weren’t rejected or cast aside. To the contrary, they were chosen by the supreme Creator Himself. They were to shake off the memories of every slimy pit they’d once fallen into, for God had declared them holy and blameless, redeemed and forgiven.

That was their true identity. Their challenge, then, was to learn to live in that reality. They needed to learn to live in grace as children of grace.

We do as well, because identity changes everything, and Christ paid much too high a price for you and I to ever go tiptoeing through the pig sties again.

So how do we do this? By allowing God to change the way we think until our thoughts mirror His, because His thoughts always lead us toward His love and truth. He always leads us toward the absolutely best versions of ourselves. May we never accept the cheap substitutes our world tries to force upon us ever again.

If you’re struggling to live anchored in your true identity, you might find my conversation with Grace Fox in my sixth podcast episode, Moving Past the Fear of Insignificance helpful. You can find it HERE.

Connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

Additional resources:

Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen

Reclaiming Our Identity, video presentation, session one in the Becoming His Princess Bible study.

Anchored and Secure: Sixty Days of Resting in Grace

Thanks to Christ’s death and resurrection, we don’t have to stress, strive, or perform. We simply need to rest in what Christ has already done. That is when we begin to come alive and find the power and courage to live as He intended. That’s when we experience true and lasting freedom. This sixty-day devotional helps women reflect on God’s grace and the freedom of living deeply anchored in Him.

 

 

 

The Cost of Pride

Quote pulled from text on gradiant backgroundI might be the proudest person I know. I like to believe I’m right, that I know how to fix every situation and am the perfect person to do so, of course. I want others to think I’m smart, important, talented, successful. But I was called to so much more!

Whenever I give in to pride, I place myself in direct opposition to God and His purposes. 1 Peter 5:5 says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (NIV). That’s a strong statement! The word our Bibles translate as opposes, antitassó in the original Greek, means to square off,” “reject the whole arrangement,” and “is used in antiquity of organized resistance, like an army assuming a specific battle-array position to resist in “full alignment”; to disagree (oppose) intensely.]*”

Whatever my pride fights for, whatever I think I might gain in feeding it, that thing can never be worth the cost.

I cannot live for Christ and myself. I cannot build His church while chasing my agenda.

Self-love nearly destroyed my marriage. It told me my way was best, my needs and comfort most important. Oh, the damage my husband and I created, the trust we weakened, through our constant fight for self. But then God began to shift our hearts and our thoughts until they more closely aligned with His. He showed us, while pride creates ever-increasing dysfunction, mutual submission and humility lead to relational health.

This, Scripture says, is how we are to interact with one another:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage;
rather, He made Himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:3-8, NIV).

But Christ’s motivation wasn’t lowliness for lowliness’s sake. Love, for you and I, drove Him to the cross. Nor did He fail to grasp His true worth. Not once did He think, “I am nothing, worth nothing.” Rather, His unshakable, certain identity enabled Him to so humbly die. He knew precisely who He was. His value wasn’t dependent on how others viewed Him, how prestigious He appeared, or the societal successes He achieved. Those standards were far too insufficient, too inferior, to ever encapsulate Christ. He was, and is, God’s Son, matchless in wisdom and power, the Savior to whom, one day, all knees will bow.

Similarly, God doesn’t ask us to humble ourselves to bend our backs. Instead, He knows where our gaze most naturally lies and also where it leads. We focus on ourselves, to our own demise. Our pride leads us into arguments, division, isolation, and defeat. It causes us to rely on ourselves, elevating our wisdom and strength above Christ’s, and thus to drift further and further from the only One with the power to save. And so, He bids us to die, so that in Him, we might truly live, unhindered, totally free, anchored secure in who we are and who we belong to.

In Christ, we’re chosen, redeemed, and empowered children of God, people of incomprehensible worth. How could we possibly seek alternative ways to define ourselves? By success? That fades, and rises and falls with man’s ever-changing standards. By our relationships with sinful and often fickle man? By our intelligence, which so often is challenged by the next idea or well-crafted argument? All of those things are far too insufficient, inferior, to encapsulate our worth and drive our actions.

When our identity is moored in Christ, however, our feet and our hearts remain firm, confident; Quote from post with gradiant backgroundwe’re empowered to love fully, as we are fully loved. Strengthened for humility, we begin to realize it is pride that is true weakness and our greatest deception.

Love, Christ’s love, soaked deep into every crevice, truly does set us free, enabling us to live and love as we were intended: free of fear, free of striving, of record keeping and conniving. This doesn’t mean we allow abuse, for love never tolerates disease. Rather, we speak truth, seek health, and the authority of Christ, our humble yet victorious Savior, over all, ourselves included.

Humility may appear to bend us low, but in reality, it elevates us to our rightful place—secure, for eternity, in our Savior’s love—the One who knows us, chose us, and calls us to greatness, not by man’s deceived and subjective standards, but His.

*Taken from Biblehub.com, 498. Antitassó, Copyright © 1987, 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc.

And THAYER’S GREEK LEXICON, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006, 2011 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission. BibleSoft.com

Scripture taken from New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Additional resources:

Seven Subtle Symptoms of Pride by Fabienne Harford

Humility by Andrew Murray

On a different topic, I encourage you to read my latest article on iBelieve: How to Have Conversations With Difficult People.

Make sure to connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instagram.

Find her latest release, Building a Family, HERE.

cover image for Building a FamilyCreating a circle of love together…

Can love for two little matchmakers unite their reluctant hearts?

Worried that Noah Williams is still the reckless bull rider she remembers, Kayla Fisher is convinced he isn’t the right person to care for their orphaned niece and nephew. Now she’s back home, determined to fight for custody. But Noah is a changed man, and he intends to prove it. When Noah and Kayla start falling for each other, could raising the children together be the perfect solution?

Listen to her latest podcast episode, the Courage to Fight Against Fear, HERE.

Blessed Obedience –– Guest Post

If God told us ahead of time, where our steps of obedience would lead, I’m certain we’d surrender to His leading. Well, assuming everything turned out as we hoped. But then, therein lies the problem, right? We know God is good, loving, faithful, and true, and we know He will ultimately work all things out for our good, if not today, then in heaven. But what if the journey He calls us to between now and then is hard quote on obedience pulled from post with a sunset backgroundand painful? Does that question ever hinder your response? It has mine. But perhaps there’s a more important question we need to ask: what if, in our disobedience, we miss something amazing and life-changing? What if we miss the very thing God created us for?

Blessed Obedience
By Martha Rogers

“You need a change!” I slammed my notebook on my desk and plopped into my chair. One more confrontation with a principal about something over which I had no control led me to this angry comment. I didn’t realize the impact those words would have on life or where they would eventually lead me.

I taught at a public high school and loved teaching, but the principal’s temperament and his behavior with another teacher troubled me. In addition, my responsibilities with school and family gave me no time to pursue my ultimate dream of being a published writer. As I prayed about the situation, God confirmed my thoughts. “Yes, you need a change.” The words were as clear as if He sat next to me.

Our church had opened a private school for students from preschool to high school, and I thought about teaching there, but it would mean a cut in pay whereas transferring to another school in the district or going to another district wouldn’t.

With more prayer for guidance, the Lord tugged on my heart and pulled me toward the private school. I still held doubts, but after more prayer, I could no longer deny the call God laid on my heart. In 1981, I obeyed, applied at the private school, was accepted, and resigned my position in the public school.

At the time, I didn’t think of it as obedience. Instead, I saw the opportunity to get out of an unpleasant non-Christian environment. I loved the new school and the people there. The teachers became good friends who were willing to help each other and pray for each other. The teenage students I taught were typical teens with all different behaviors and attitudes, but for the most part easy to teach. I even had time to begin work on a novel I had in my head and wanted to write.

A few months ago, our First Place 4 Health group began a study called, Seek God First. One of the lessons was on obedience. On one day, the writer discussed the blessings and the rewards of obedience. She asked the question, “Has there been a time in your life when you were obedient to something God spoke to about?” That question took me back to God’s direction to change schools. As I looked at my life since that spring of 1981, I began to see that if I had not followed His direction in obedience, I would have missed so much He had planned for my life.

I had the opportunity to go back to college and earn my MEd in Curriculum with an emphasis on Creative Writing. I thought seventh and ninth grade English and loved it. However, after ten years, a new headmaster came in and told me, along with a number of other teachers, that our contracts would not be renewed.

Although I was able to procure a college teaching position because of my graduate degree, I held disappointment and resentment against God in my heart for a year. During that year God brought circumstances into my life I couldn’t have handled if I’d still been teaching full time. Once again God spoke to my heart and I realized I’d been grieving the Holy Spirit while being in the exact place God needed me to be at that time.

I released my resentment and prayed for the Lord to show me what He wanted me to do and where He wanted me to go. He started me on the next part of the journey which would take me through major ups and downs until I finally reached where God wanted me to be.

While teaching at the college level, I worked on my novel, joined writing groups and attended writing woman writingconferences. I also battled breast cancer, but continued to write and teach as I went into remission. When the cancer returned, I sensed God wanted me to retire. I did and went through more treatment, and the cancer was healed.

Now I had the time to work on the novel, attend more writing conferences, and become more active in a local and national writing group. I met other wonderful authors and the woman who became my literary agent. I also had several magazine articles published, and stories selected for various compilations.

In 2009, another ten years after retirement, I received my first contract for a historical novel that led to six books in that series and two more four book series. In the next ten years I went on to publish over fifty novels and novellas.

If I hadn’t obeyed, I wouldn’t have had the time to return to school and earn my master’s degree. Without that degree, I wouldn’t have been able to teach at the college level when God took me from the private school. Then God gave me the time to work on my writing and attend conferences and to move forward.

Now, almost forty years later, I sit at my computer pounding out words in fulfillment of a dream I had as a child. God fulfilled my dream because I chose obedience to His call no matter where it led.

Let’s talk about this! Has there been a time when you went ahead with plans of your own without truly asking God what He wanted you to do? What was the result?

Why is it sometimes so hard for us to listen to what we know is right, but our hearts rebel against doing it?

Get to know Martha!

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and multi-published author from Realms Fiction of Charisma Media Martha Roger's Headshotand Winged Publications. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009. She is a member of ACFW and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. ACFW awarded her the Volunteer of the Year in 2014. Her first electronic series from Winged Publications, Love in the Bayou City of Texas, debuted in the spring of 2015.  Martha is a frequent speaker for writing workshops and the Texas Christian Writers Conference. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex. Their favorite pastime is spending time with their twelve grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Visit her online HERE.

Check out her latest release, Legacy of Deception:

Cover image for Legacy of DeceptionA case of mistaken identity, a long hidden family secret, a plan to take away a woman’s wealth, and a determined young woman’s plan to stop it, all lead to a family showdown when evil is uncovered and deceptions are.exposed that will change lives forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Identity Theft––Combating the Fear of Insignificance: Guest Post

Quote from Tim Keller on Identity

Can you imagine the confidence and impact we’d have, the “offense” we’d avoid, the ministries we’d launch and opportunities we’d embrace, if we learned to live in who we really are? Who God says we are? And if we fully grew in to all He created us to be?

I’m pretty sure we all struggle in this area. I have moments of living fully anchored in Christ and others where I give other people’s voice and opinions way too much weight. Perhaps you can relate? My guest today, Caroline Powers, can. Read more to see how a shift of roles revealed a much deeper hole God wanted to fill, and consider how He might want to do the same for you.

Identity Theft: Combating the Fear of Insignificance

By Caroline Powers

Something was wrong with my life, but I had no idea what it was. I was thirty years old and the mother of a precious eleven-month-old son. My husband of eight years and I were returning from a Christmas visit with friends when I confessed. “I don’t know who I am. I feel like a hollow center surrounded by mirrors that reflect back to people the image they expect to see.”

At a time when I might have been enjoying our life, I felt only emptiness. We both had careers, we didn’t fight or treat each other badly, but my husband must have been feeling unsatisfied as well, because by the next Christmas he had moved out and was in another relationship. My heart was shattered by his betrayal, but the message my heart received from this was worse. If I meant nothing to the one person who supposedly loved me, I must be insignificant. The person I am must not matter at all.

Years later, I understand that fear of being an insignificant person drove me to perform for others. But even success left me feeling hollow because my achievements were a facade to hide behind. No matter how much I might impress someone, my true lack of self-worth remained untouched.

Whether our needs were neglected, or we’ve had hurtful, bad experiences, life sends messages about our worth. Without a secure foundation those experiences can come to define us. In the absence of truth, we conclude that our needs are trivial, our wants must be wrong, and that we ourselves are so flawed that we are not important. This is what happened to me.

Once my heart adopted the “insignificant” label, it was as if I put on glasses and interpreted everything through that lens. Before my life could change, I needed to take my filters off and learn the truth.

Psalm 139:13-14 assures us that God created our inmost being. He knit each of us together in a fearful and wonderful way (NIV). He gave us certain genes. He caused our birth into a family, a country in the world, and a time in history. None of those things were up to us, but they provide the set-up for our journey. Our very uniqueness makes us significant. Because each person originates from God, people do not define us. Only God has the authority to define and assign our significance.  And no one can take our place in God’s plan.

Verses 16-17 continue, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” The Amplified Bible says, “the days that were appointed for me” and King James uses the word, “fashioned.”  From this we know that God continues to order our days and sovereignly oversee each one. So, whether our lives appear to be convoluted and messy or focused and right on track, one thing they cannot be, and we cannot be, is insignificant.

Our significance is also found in the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Jesus quoted from Isaiah 61 when he began his earthly ministry by declaring that he was sent to bring good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted and proclaim liberty to the captives. (61:1). His earthly life ended on a cross where he took our sins into himself and died. But God raised him, and our sins were left in his grave. We gain a new life by faith in Christ. You and I may feel helpless, even hopeless, and unworthy at times, but considering the lengths Jesus went to, we are never insignificant.

Receiving Christ exposed my fear of insignificance as a lie. Now, I am guided by the truth that I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for the works He prepared for me to do (Ephesians 2:10).

Are there labels you need to reject and filters you need to remove? I encourage you to spend some time with Psalm 139, Isaiah 61, and other Scriptures. Compare God’s picture of you with the one you would paint of yourself.

Let’s talk about this! Where do you need to agree with God to conquer your fear insignificance? Share your thoughts and examples in the comments below.

Get to Know Caroline:

Caroline's author photoCaroline is the unpublished writer of a novel that speaks to the themes of grief, identity, and significance. For writing, she draws on her own experience as well as those gained serving in healing prayer ministry for individuals with emotional issues in her church. She became a Christian through the trauma of her divorce and has been remarried for thirty-five years. God has given her a daughter, two stepsons and four grandchildren in addition to the son she had before. Each of her children is unique. They are in various stages of faith in God and understanding their value to Him and other people. She prays for them daily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more encouragement on resting in your Christ-given significance, make sure to check out my Faith Over Fear podcast episode titled Moving Past the Fear of Insignificance. Find it HERE.Faith Over Fear podcast episode logo

 

 

 

When God Speaks––Where Obedience Can Lead

Quote on following God's plan by Francis Chan

We’ve all sensed God nudging us to do something that appeared to make no sense. Maybe we sensed Him to pray for a stranger, speak certain words to a friend, or step into an area that you feel countless others in your circle would be more qualified for.

How do you respond in those situations? When you sense that nudge into the unknown, what fears most often hold you back? That you’ll fail? That you’ll embarrass yourself? That you’ll be misjudged or misunderstood? That you’ve heard God wrong and therefore will be venturing forward alone?

Years ago, after Wholly Loved’s first women’s conference, a woman approached me. Standing in that busy and noisy atrium, though I struggled to understand her words, her eyes and voice carried an unmistakable intensity. God had gripped her heart that day and planted within her the first seeds of her assignment. He wanted her to speak for Him.

But here’s the thing. At the time, she could barely speak. She’d suffered two back-to-back strokes less than a year prior, strokes that should’ve taken her life but instead, stole her mobility and her speech. By the time of the conference, she’d relearned how to walk, but was in the midst of retraining her brain to talk. As a result, she stammered and stuttered significantly through each sentence.

God was calling this woman, who could barely get her words out that afternoon, to stand on a stage and speak for Him. Can you imagine the inner angst, the wrestling, the questions that must’ve swirled through her brain as she sat in the audience, sensing God’s call? Maybe even fighting His call? The call to speak in general, but also the call to speak to me that day? Even if she was convinced, without a doubt, that God was asking her to do both, she had to worry how I might respond. At least, I would’ve. And then, assuming I got up and began to put feet to His call, I worry I would’ve talked myself out of obedience with every step I took.

But not Sarah Conaway, tri-founder of Stromies, a ministry to stroke survivors. She rose on her less-than-Anonymous Quote on looking forward with hopesteady legs, navigated around the throng of women gathering in the atrium, waited in line to talk to me, and then looked me in the eye and boldly said, “I want to do what you do.” She wanted to share her story, to proclaim, to whomever would listen, all that God had done.

The woman who was struggling to speak and likely had moments when she wondered if she’d be able to do so coherently ever again, wanted to publicly speak for Jesus.

That was less than five years, and God has done amazing things during that time. Sarah is indeed speaking for Him. Her story has quite literally reached across the globe. Her ministry has nearly 2,500 Instagram followers and 1,300 followers on Facebook. She’s spoken at Rotary, Kiwanis clubs, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, was interviewed on her local Channel 3 station, and has spoken to numerous support groups.

And all because, even when obedience made no sense, she told God yes.

What’s God asking you to do? What’s hindering your obedience? Give those fears, all of them, to God. Give Him all your doubts, then, after you’ve done so, give Him your obedience. Your surrender, trusting your faithful, loving God to lead you to His very best.

Visit Sarah’s ministry HERE and find Stromies on Facebook HERE. Watch for Jennifer Slattery’s upcoming Thriving With Chronic Illness to hear her full story and how God’s using her. If you’re sensing a nudge from God but are struggling to find the courage to move forward, make sure to listen to Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear Episode on fighting fear of failure. You can find it HERE.

For those looking for perfect, timeless Father’s Day gifts, read her latest article on iBelieve HERE.

Gut-Level Compassion

Just over a week ago, I felt a depth of grief that completely overwhelmed me and left me intensely sick to my stomach. A depth of grief I’ve only felt a total of three times in my life, and each one leveled me and stuck with me. The first was when I was praying for someone I loved who did not personally know Christ. I was standing at the island in my kitchen, in the middle of praying, and was hit with what I knew, without question, was God’s intense love and emotion for the person I was praying for. God’s heart was deeply breaking in a way I, even now, cannot verbalize.

Then, as if in confirmation, friends from across the nation began flooding my inbox, telling me they were praying for this person and giving me further insight into God’s heart and the situation. And I just stood there, in my kitchen, and sobbed––for the entire day. I couldn’t stop sobbing.

About three, maybe four years later, I felt the same depth of grief while out on a “prayer walk.” I was researching Healing Love, a book on El Salvadoran orphans. At home, I had stacks of printed documents from human rights watch groups sharing stories of generational poverty, child labor, and all the horrors involved with the coffee, sugar, and tea industry.

Mid-afternoon, unable to process what I was reading, and frankly, not wanting to, I pulled away and went for a walk. As I was returning home, about ten minutes from my house, I was hit hard by a grief that nearly buckled my knees. And in that moment, God spoke clearly to my spirit and told me that I was feeling but a fraction of what He felt, seeing all the suffering across the globe in an instant. All the deep, deep pain. Hearing billions of His children cry out to Him in desperation, wondering if their prayers have been heard.

Just over a week ago, I once again felt a depth of grief that I am completely unable to explain and that I will never forget. It leveled me, made me ill, and triggered a colitis flare that has yet to abate. I cannot possibly describe the heaviness of sorrow. I wanted to run from it, to push it away, to distract myself from it. But instead, God invited me to sit in it, and to sit in it with Him. To feel but a small taste of the deep, visceral grief He feels right now for His precious, hurting children who are crying out to Him for help, for comfort, for strength.

In James 5, writing to Christians experiencing persecution, Jesus’s half brother wrote, “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (ESV).

The word our Bible’s translate as compassionate, or “full of compassion” as the NIV puts it, isn’t found anywhere else in Scripture. Translated literally, it means, “many-boweled.” The ancients considered our bowels to be the seat of our emotions, and from my experience with colitis, I fully understand why. This is how our God and Savior responds to human suffering and pain––with a gut-level, visceral compassion.

Because He is both “many-boweled” and merciful.

Merciful. The original Greek word translated here also has a depth we must not miss. Oiktirmōn is a visceral compassion and means to experience deep, deep pity,. Here’s what struck me: This word is only used twice in Scripture, in James 5:11 and also by Jesus in Luke 6:36. “You must be compassionate (oiktirmōn,” He said, “just as your Father is compassionate” (NLT)*.

Just as. To the same depth and in the same instances. Our heart, our compassion, is to mirror Christ’s, the Savior’s who loved us to the point of death. That’s how visceral, how deep His compassion for us is.

Lord, break our hearts for what breaks yours.

* Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.