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It’s a question that dominates the thoughts of believers worldwide: How can we know if this thing, this opportunity, this action or whatever, is God’s will? How can we discern His voice among all the other “voices” bombarding us each day? I believe learning to discern God’s voice is a process that comes from drawing close to Him, saturating our minds with Scripture, and following with surrendered obedience. I believe the more we respond obediently to God’s voice, the more we’ll be able to hear Him in the future, and the more we disobey or disregard His leading, the more dull our hearing becomes.

But He does speak to us and guide us, because as my guest, Mary Bowen reminds us, “God wants to lead us even more than we want to be led.”

A Door Wide Open

By Mary Bowen

“He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all his own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow him because they know His voice” (John 10:3-4 NIV).

Our Florida rental had been trashed! In shock I clutched the phone tighter as my stomach turned. The realtor’s words hit me hard; something precious had been desecrated. Our classy little ranch with the screen porch and landscaped yard. . . for eighteen months our cozy nest during my pregnancy, then home for our beloved baby daughter. After moving back to Atlanta, we had rented it out for two years.

Before I could fully process what all this meant, the realtor who told us this devastating news gave us hope. She said she was looking for a “fixer-upper.” I caught my breath. We had just finished praying together on the sofa for a buyer! After accepting her offer in a happy daze, my husband and little daughter joined me in another prayer. “Oh, God, thank you, thank You!” We were free now to consider a job opportunity in Virginia.

It was part of His go-ahead.

Soon after that, God floored us with another confirmation. A young man taking a course in Atlanta the next week “happened” to visit our Sunday school class. He’d come from Abingdon, the very location we were considering! Over lunch he told us all about this charming historic community and the church he loved so much. It was as if God had sent him to confirm again where He wanted us.

A third reassurance was our leading in house-hunting. Though we had several weeks in which to look, I felt an urgency to go one particular weekend. We found out why when the realtor told us that desirable rentals were disappearing fast. She showed us a house that fit us perfectly.

Our prayers for guidance were answered with multiple confirmations. There was no doubt where we should move. We fell in love with Abingdon’s friendly, relaxed culture, absence of traffic, and especially Abingdon Bible Church. Our four years in Abingdon, Virginia were among the happiest of our lives.

Looking back now, I can see why God worked so dramatically. I liked being back in Atlanta after all the challenges in Florida two years before. Another out-of-state move seemed as much fun as climbing a mountain barefoot. Because He is gracious and kind, God wanted to reassure me with all those signs pointing the way.

We may not always get so many clues about the next step. Nevertheless, God wants to lead us even more than we want to be led. (Prov. 3:5-6).

When facing a decision or attempting to discern God’s will, four indicators can help us discern what to do:

The Bible

Advice from other Christians

Circumstances

and the Holy Spirit.

The psalmist compared Scripture to a lamp that illumines our path (Ps. 119:105). He declared, “You guide me with Your counsel” (Ps. 73:24 NIV).

Other people’s godly counsel also guides us. “Wisdom is found in those who take advice” (Prov. 13:10 NIV). “Plans fail for lack of counsel” (Prov. 15:22 NIV).

God used providential circumstances to guide my family to move, along with promptings from the Holy Spirit. Called “the Counselor,” He guides us into all truth (Jn. 16:13).

We’re most receptive to God’s guidance when we’ve surrendered our will to His. We can trust God to lead us step by step.

***

Mary Bowen writes and edits for Grace Ministries International in Marietta, Georgia. For many years her articles and poetry have been published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She has worked as a reporter and freelancer, and served as an editor with the North American Mission Board.

Let’s talk about this! What steps do you take when trying to discern God’s will? First, can I ask–are you taking time to listen? For me, this is often the biggest issue. It’s hard to hear God’s voice when my mind is racing from one thing to the next, when I’m wrapped up in my to-do list. Intimacy with Christ takes time, time of listening, of quieting myself in His presence. This is one of my favorite verses, and may God help me to live it out:

“My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming.’ (Psalm 27:8 NLT).

Perhaps, like me, you’ve wrestled with thoughts like, “If God’s sovereign, why pray?” Or maybe you’ve been frustrated when your prayers don’t get answered like you’ve hoped. When I first got sick, my prayer life suffered. I couldn’t understand why a loving, faithful, all-powerful God would choose not to heal me. For maybe a year, I got stuck in the why. I can happily say I’ve moved past that phase and have learned to trust Him, whether He says yes or no, and honestly, the depth of my prayers have deepened, as has my intimacy with Christ.

It’s interesting that I’m sharing Gail Pallotta’s post today, when another friend chose to share one I’d written on a similar subject–a time when God used a crisis to revive my passion for prayer. You can read about that HERE. (You’ll want to scroll down past my bio to read it.)

Today my sweet friend and fellow ACFW member shares how God allowed her to see His answers unfold. Her story reminded me of a verse I read this morning from Psalm 107:43: “Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord” (NLT).

They will see in our history, in considering all God has done, that He is indeed faithful.

 

Celebrating answered prayer

by Gail Pallotta

My husband and I joined a Bible study class while visiting a small church. The leader introduced us to a slender man with blond hair, probably in his forties, and a dark-haired woman about the same age. She sat with a walker in front of her, and both peered at us with sad eyes, their lips turned down. Interesting.

I’ll call the guy Fred and the pretty woman, Lou.

“Lou loves music. I hope she’ll sing for us sometime,” the leader said.

Lou smiled, and several of us seated in the circle of folding chairs returned the gesture. Then we studied the Parables, and before I knew it, it was time to leave.The leader closed her Bible and asked us to pray aloud whatever was on our hearts.

Fred was last. He asked the Lord to help Lou, who’d been ill for eight years with a crippling disease. The leader closed with “Amen” and we disbursed.

The next class, Lou brought a song she’d written and led us to sing it. We all clapped and told her how much we loved the tune. It was hard to tell who grinned bigger, her or Fred. After the study, I watched as Fred took Lou’s walker, and she navigated the church steps with great difficulty My heart ached to see her struggle so.

Busy, we missed visiting the church for several weeks. When we returned for a morning service,, I saw Fred. on my way into the sanctuary.He smiled so big I wondered if he would crack his cheeks. I said, “hello” but he charged past me as though he hadn’t seen me. Curiosity needled me. What prompted his happy, yet intense focus?

We entered the sanctuary, and I turned my attention to the altar. Lou was in the choir! Apparently, someone had encouraged her to join. When the director motioned for the choristers to rise, Lou stood with no help. My heart leapt each time she got up and sang a hymn. After the closing song, two ladies held onto Lou, and she walked arm and arm between them as the choir left the loft.

None of the choristers had been a part of the class or heard Fred’s prayer. Perhaps someone in the group told them the joy music brought to Lou and Fred. I don’t know. But by honoring her talent, caring for her, these Christians followed Jesus’ commandment that we love one another, and she brought a joyful noise to the service. I blinked back the tears in my misty eyes and marveled at divine intervention.

***

Award-winning author Gail Pallotta’s a wife, mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. A former regional writer of the year for American Christian Writers Association, she won Clash of the Titles in 2010. Her teen book, Stopped Cold, finished fourth in the 16th Annual Preditors and Editors readers’ poll and was a 2013 Grace Awards finalist. She’s published five books, poems, short stories and two-hundred articles. Some of her articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums. Gail loves to connect with readers. To learn more about her, visit her website at GailPallotta.com.

Barely Above Water:

An illness comes out of nowhere and strikes Suzie Morris. Her boyfriend dumps her. She has no living family, and her physician can’t diagnose the malady. Suzie relies on her Christian faith as she faces the uncertainty of the disease, and turns to a renowned alternative doctor in Destin, Florida. She takes a job coaching a county-sponsored summer swim team. She’s determined to turn the fun, sometimes comical, rag-tag bunch into winners. Her handsome boss renews her belief in love, but learns of her mysterious affliction and abruptly cuts romantic ties. Later he has regrets, but can he overcome his fear of losing a loved one and regain Suzie’s trust?

Available on Amazon – http://amzn.to/1W4fUXB

 

Let’s talk about this! How’s your prayer life? Can you share a time when you felt God call you to pray for someone and then were allowed to see the results of that? Can you perhaps share a time when God didn’t answer your prayer as you’d hoped, and yet God showed you His love through that?

In the beginning of my post, I mentioned my struggles with prayer, and God’s answers at the time. He ended up using a “no” in a powerful way. You can read about that HERE.

You may also enjoy reading “The Gift of No.”

May God give you a renewed passion for prayer as you seek Him this week and intercede on behalf of others. And make sure to come back next week to read a transparent post by Mary Bowen about when she struggled to see herself as God sees her, and how He changed her self-perception. Then, on June 1st, author Jana Kelley will share a story of an opened door, a woman who allowed fear to keep her from stepping through it, and what Jana learned from that experience. Then, on June 8th, I’m going to be sharing some about an upcoming I’m excited to launch with a friend, and how God sparked that passion within. So make sure to come back!

For those in the Omaha Metro area, make sure to come to Wholly Loved’s next conference on June 24th. You can find out more HERE. Want to book Wholly Loved for your next event or host one of our speakers? Email us at contact(at)whollyloved(dot)com.

Our culture says certain lies are okay, that motive rather than content matters, and, well, everyone fibs once in a while. But God doesn’t take our words quite as lightly because truly, what we say matters. As believers, we’re telling some pretty outlandish stories. We know this Guy who died then rose again. This same Guy walked on water, gave sight to the blind, and brought the dead back to life. Oh, and yeah, this Guy, this God-became-man, He lives in us.

Truth, yes, but truth that may be hard for some to believe. So why muddy the waters by adding sometimes-fibs, sometimes-truth into the mix?

Lying and Integrity–What We Say Matters

by Michael Ehret

I’ve never told a lie.

And that’s where my smile would give me away if we were face-to-face. Truthfully, I’m one of those guys who can never play poker, but not because of any theological aversion to cards or gambling. No, I can never play because it has become almost impossible for me to lie.

It hasn’t always been that way.

When I was young, I lied about everything.

“Did you go to the drugstore for gum?” Mom would ask.

“No, I was at Steve’s house,” I’d answer, while chewing gum I got from the store.

“Did you walk the dog?”

“Yes, to the park and back.”

“Then why is he still on his chain in the back yard?”

I’d lie even if there was zero risk of getting in trouble. It was my little boy sin nature—and, perhaps, an early manifestation of my ability to fabricate for entertainment value (writing fiction).

I don’t recall the creative punishments my parents used to break me of that bad habit, but I can tell you they worked. Really well. I even have trouble with “little white lies” and lies that would save someone else embarrassment or shame.

Therefore, it’s no surprise to me that personal integrity is important to me, whether in my friendships, family relationships, at work, or in the stories I write.

The male character in my novella “Big Love,” which is part of a seven-author collection called Coming Home: The Tiny House Collection has a lying problem. Nathan “Rafe” Rafferty thinks he has a good reason to lie—and even lies to cover up his lies when he realizes the trouble he’s in.

(Scroll down to read an example, pulled from Michael’s book.)

But like so many sins that plague our lives, once we’ve lied that first time and felt the rush of “getting away with it,” it becomes easier to lie again—and again.

Like the Lays potato chip ads from long ago, “I betcha can’t (tell) just one!” And that’s what gets Rafe in trouble.

A lying tongue is one of the six, no seven, things God hates. (Prov. 6:16-17) According to the website Got Questions, a lying tongue is “one that speaks falsehood, knowingly and willingly, with an intention to deceive others … It is a most detestable evil to God, who is a God of truth.”

I’m grateful my parents cured me of lying and that they considered it the problem that it was because they could see into the future. Little lies can be cute, especially if told by cute little guys like I was.

But even cute little guys can get in trouble from lying. One day they’ll “cry wolf” once too often and no one will believe them at all.

***

Michael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation to a new season of writing and is now the author of the novella, “Big Love,” from the collection, Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection (available for preorder on Amazon.com). In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal magazine for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), was editor-in-chief of the Christian Writers Guild, and he pays the bills as a marketing communications writer. Michael sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star. Visit him at WritingOnTheFineLine.com.

***

Big Love,” from the Coming Home: the Tiny House Collection:

Berly Charles remembers the days before her father was a successful business tycoon in Indianapolis. Growing up a razor’s edge from homelessness planted a tiny desire for home in her heart that she now, as the owner of Le Petite Maison, LLC, fills for others by building their tiny home ideals. Now she has the opportunity to take her tiny house company big timeis this the chance she’s been waiting for?

Nathan “Rafe” Rafferty is a writer for the nationally reputed architecture journal who is used to calling his own shots and covering the biggest and the best architectural accomplishments of the modern world. When his hipster, much younger, editor assigns him to cover a new trend—tiny houses—the idea makes him furious. Could it be because it reminds him of when he and his mother had to live in a lean-to shack under a railroad trestle in Indianapolis?

Buy it HERE.

Book excerpt:

For the second time in two days Rafe looked up from his coffee at the tinkle of the bell on the Starbuck’s entry door. This time, no Berly. Instead, a chattering mob of high school kids looking like they’d just left church poured into the coffee shop. They were dressed in their finest casual clothes. Jeans properly torn and faded in just the right places.

Geneva Stoddard would have had a cow.

Of course, she’d probably give birth to a whole herd of bovines if she found out what he’d been up to lately. His jeans were intact, but his mother would consider his integrity torn. The woman did not tolerate lies, white or black.

“I don’t care what you’ve done,” she’d always said. “But if I find out you lied to me about it, your punishment will be worse. And the truth always comes out, Nathan.”

The threat had not been enough to keep Rafe on the bright side of dark lies, let alone little white ones, but it did give him pause as he considered pursuing Berly Charles—and all that might mean.

If this was going to happen, he wanted it to start off on the right foot, and that meant coming clean—sort of—about who he was.

Let’s talk about this! Why do you think lying is such a big deal to God? Is this an area you struggle with? Why do you think people are most tempted to lie? Share your thoughts, examples, and questions with us, because we can all learn from each other!

You might also enjoy:

In the Absence of Integrity

What Do Your Actions Say About Integrity

Obedience in the Mundane

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire 

 

 

I’ve heard it said, “Identity determines behavior.” Based on this logic, it follows that believers should be known for their confidence. And yet, how often, do we live in bondage to our fears and insecurities? And all because we aren’t fully embracing who we are in Christ. My guest today uses a fun story to help us recognize who we are, because, as we like to say at Wholly Loved, when you live wholly loved, everything changes.

Know Who You Are by Voni Harris

“Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.”

—Epictetus: Roman (Greek-born) slave & Stoic philosopher (55 AD – 135 AD)

Dad named our new silver and brown German Shepherd Epictetus, after his favorite philosopher, and taught all three of us young kids to pronounce his name. But we called him Epic. Epic would let us use him as a pillow, teach him new commands, and he went wherever we wanted him to go…

But you better not try to come into our yard uninvited. He was all German Shepherd!

Dad taught him basic obedience, then allowed me to train him for 4-H dog shows and obedience trials. He was a patient and smart dog.

One day, I took Epic to a 4-H dog show in the showmanship category, like the ones on TV, and “stacked” him solidly on all fours to demonstrate his physical soundness. But the judge told me, “This dog is a purebred shepherd. You need to stack him like a shepherd.” And he taught me how to stack him sloped, one hind leg behind the other, to show off the power of his hips.

At the next dog show, I stacked him in the German Shepherd style. That judge said, “This dog doesn’t have enough shepherd in him to stack him like that.”

Epic was a purebred German Shepherd. Duh. Sometimes people don’t know what they are talking about. Even judges.

This reminds me of David, when Samuel came to anoint him as king over Israel. When Samuel saw David, he didn’t see the king inside the young shepherd boy, just as the second judge didn’t see the purebred in Epic.

Fortunately, Samuel listened to God, when He said, “The Lord does not look at things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV).

I pray I, too, can see others the way God sees them rather than judging them with prejudice and misinformation as the second judge did Epic.

May we view ourselves with that same love and grace, also.

It’s taken me a long time to realize what God sees in me. Not a worthless fast-food girl, or a sinful failure, or a useless human being. God sees me as his daughter, a writer, a mother, a confidante and friend, a helpmeet and soulmate for my husband.

As a Stoic, Epictetus’s theology wasn’t necessarily on target, but he was right in what I quoted above, and I think Epic the dog would agree: “Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.”

Better yet, let God adorn you accordingly.

Who has God made you to be, my friend?

***

Voni Harris writes from her family’s home on the beautiful Alaskan island of Kodiak, with a husband, a golden retriever and a wheaten terrier to keep her from sitting at the computer too long at a time. She holds a radio-TV degree from Drake University, and her short story “The Wedding” was published in Heart-Stirring Stories of Romance (edited by Linda Evans Shephard). Her Christian suspense manuscript Nothing Hidden won the 2015 Daphne DuMaurier unpublished inspirational category. It was titled “Next of Kin” when it won ACFW’s 2013 First Impressions contest. Tutoring is the second love of her life, behind writing.

Let’s talk about this! How well do you tend to live out your true identity? What area do you most struggle with?

I love Voni’s closing line–Let God adorn you. Rest in His grace. Discover through Scripture what He has to say about you and learn to live in that. May God help each of us to see ourselves and one another as Christ sees us.

  • Does failing at something you’ve been assigned or entrusted with cause your stomach to knot? When you miss a deadline, does your thought life run amuck? The bigger question is, are you living in grace? That’s not to say we shouldn’t hold ourselves accountable and honestly assess our shortcomings and errors, but when we do, may we do so with an eye on grace.

As my guest today explains, that’s when we find peace and joy, even in the chaos.

Joy in the Chaos by Ralene Burke

As a writer and editor, there’s nothing like missing a deadline to take the wind out of my sails. That feeling of failure that wraps around my heart, squeezes, and then pops any modicum of self-esteem. Darkness falls over my day, and joy leaks away with each deprecating thought.

It didn’t start out that way, though. I was excited to receive the opportunity. I wrote it on my calendar, even setting the deadline a little earlier than the one that had been given to me. But as with many best laid plans, chaos intervened.

My husband and I got locked into a home improvement job that took more time and money than we had originally intended. Two of my social media clients had some “urgent” stuff that had to go up on social media or in newsletters right away. My allergies went into overdrive and had me laid out for a week.

My self-imposed deadline came and went. So did the one I’d been officially given.

It’s funny how the enemy knows those exact moments when we feel like a failure. When we could choose to accept the mistake and learn, joy and peace follows, but instead he presses those thoughts of what a mess we are, how there is no hope for us. He tells us God is so disappointed, along with everyone else.

Deep breath.

Ultimately, life isn’t about the missed deadlines. It isn’t about the crazy schedules or long to-do lists. Life is about opportunities. The opportunity to follow God, to be obedient, and to be His light in this world. We already know we were not made for this world, but for eternity.

We are responsible to one person: God. We are His children. And He loves us so much. He delights in us. But He’s known us from the beginning of time, long before we were born, long before time itself. He knew the lives we would have. He gave us a reason for being, passions, goals, and more. And He gave us purpose despite the mistakes we would make. Our lives are a constant learning curve.

When we put our focus on God and how He sees us, we should also find joy ourselves. Joy in the opportunity. Joy in the moment. Joy in the fact that He loves us no matter what.

God knew I would have health issues, and they would force me to find ways to work around the normal 9-5 job. He knew being a homeschool mom would keep me hopping, making it feel like I had 2 full-time jobs. Struggling to find my place in the world would give me the grace to work with others struggling to find theirs.

Failure is something I’m quite familiar with—and not just when it comes to deadlines. With each mistake, I’ve learned that it’s an opportunity to trust God and step deeper into grace. I know God is with me at each turn. And even when things don’t go as planned (and how often does that happen?), He still loves me. He still delights in me. And my joy is found in Him.

How has God been revealing His joy to you?

About the Author:

Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a freelance editor’s sword, or a social media wand, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help everyone SHINE BEYOND! She has worked for a variety of groups, including Realm Makers, The Christian PEN, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, and as an editor for several freelance clients. Her first novel, Bellanok, is available on Amazon!

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.

Let’s talk about this! I never would’ve thought I have a fear of failure. I’ve often said, which I believe, that there’s really no failure when we walk with God. It’s all learning, growing in Him and His will for us, and allowing Him to transform our thinking and will. 

But yesterday, something hit my insecurities (and revealed my people pleasing tendencies!), oddly enough, in the form of praise. A reviewer tagged me in a comment on Facebook that, in essence, let me know about THIS. It was a bit surreal to see my name listed among such great authors. That should’ve been cause for celebration, right?

Instead, I felt a tweak in my gut as I thought about the story I’m working on, one I’ve revised at least half a dozen times that I plan to release … in a few short months. (gulp.) And all I could think about was how terrible the story was, how inadequate I felt as a writer, and how I would let this reviewer and all my other readers down.

And then I had to laugh as I realized how easily I fell into the fear of rejection trap–whenever I turn my eyes off Christ and His will for me.

That, my friends, is the answer. But isn’t it always? For as Paul says in Galatians 1:10, “If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (NLT). 

Hm … Maybe I should make that my memory verse this week. 😉

He is Enough

Some of my most precious moments have also been my hardest, because it was then that I felt God’s love and embrace most strongly. When, curled into the corner of the couch, Bible opened on my lap, and He spoke tenderly to me, words of encouragement, of strength, of blessing–of victory. In so many ways, on countless days, God has shown me what my sweet friend Shannon expresses through her inspiring post this morning.

But first, I wanted to share some things I’ve discovered about Shannon. First and foremost, she loves Jesus with every fiber of her being. She and I have been critique partners for a few years now, and I’ve learned so much, on a spiritual level, simply by interacting with her. I’ve been blessed by her continual encouragement and selflessness, by her frequent prayers, and her perseverance to do all she can to show the love, power, and truth of the gospel.

This sweet woman continually gives of herself. It’s not surprising to me, then, that there are times she feels depleted. In the following devotion, she shares how she replenishes. Or should I say, how God replenishes her.

Be blessed.

He is Enough

by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

So I was low in spirit. On the verge of getting our taxes done for the year, I was terrified of what we might owe. Add to that, a church issue everyone is ignoring. A deadline. A leaky roof. A dead air conditioner.

I’d taken the day off from a church yardsale–fundraiser for Samaritan’s purse–to attend a writers meeting. I was feeling guilty about it even though I’d helped organize the sale and worked it the day before.

Though I was interested in the topic being taught that day, I made a point to go because writer’s meetings always inspire me and lift my spirits. A room full of like-minded believers uplifting Jesus with their words. What could be better?

On the way to the meeting, I had my favorite Christian radio station turned on. Cue the music—the right song at the right time. From an old BarlowGirl favorite, “Never Alone”:

(Listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8QubLxJI54)

In it, they sing about crying out for God and not receiving a reply, of not being able to feel God by their side and choosing, in that moment, to hold on to what they know to be true–that God is always there.

And boom, God reminded me that I’m never alone.

I’ve always loved music and songs often touch my soul. For the rest of the drive, I played my favorite Todd Agnew CD I keep in the car. My favorite, Martyr’s Song:

You can listen to it here:

I don’t pretend to be a martyr, and none of my troubles measure up to a tiny iota martyrs have faced. But living in this world often makes me feel like one and I never listen to that song without getting teary-eyed.

By the time I got to the meeting, my spirit was soaring. And it only got better as the day progressed. My writer friends made me laugh, helped me remember why I write, and reminded me to count my blessings.

My much-needed private church service concluded on the drive home listening to Agnew’s, I Need No Other Argument:

You can listen to it here:

What do you do when your spirits need a boost? Do you have a favorite song that reminds you of what is important?

Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife/award winning author. She once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Shannon writes inspirational contemporary romance and it took her nine years to get published in the traditional market.

She hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as her characters struggle with real-life issues. Their journeys, from ordinary lives to extraordinary romance through Christ-centered relationships, demonstrate that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her family, flea marketing, and doing craft projects.

Visit her online at her website, on her blog, connect with her on Facebook and Goodreads, and follow her on Pinterest and Twitter.

Winning Over the Cowboy:

The Rancher Stakes His Claim 

When she inherits half a dude ranch after losing her best friend, Landry Malone is determined to see Eden’s legacy flourish. That is if her friend’s broad-shouldered cowboy brother will give her the chance. Chase Donovan isn’t happy that his sister left their family business to an outsider—and he’s determined to test Landry’s mettle, hoping she’ll give up her claim. Soon Chase is impressed by Landry’s ability to rise to every challenge he puts in her way—and worried that his attraction to the perky spitfire seems to know no end. Finally working together to ensure the ranch’s future, will their business partnership be the foundation for something more?

Share your thoughts, examples, and experiences with us. Can you remember a time when you were feeling down about something and you sensed God speaking to you? When do you tend to feel closest to God? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all encourage one another!

 

Why is it, the moment we start to pray, our mind jumps to a thousand other things? Why does an hour in church service launch launch thoughts of our to-do list? These questions arose as I read my guest blogger’s post this morning. Fellow ACFW writer Sue Barr shares a comical yet thought-provoking analogy below, from a writer’s perspective. Enjoy, and happy Easter!

Spiritual Bunny Trails

By Sue Barr

Being that the Easter weekend is only a few days away, I thought I’d share a small story about bunnies. Plot Bunnies to be exact. Cute, fuzzy, totally adorable and can lead you down a merry path where you lose focus and ultimately don’t meet any of your goals. I know of which I speak.

Plot Bunny dropped a single line into my brain and then proceeded to hop around adding ideas, characters and exciting scenes. Soon I found myself scouring sites for character inspiration and the whole story consumed me. I lost a few days of precious writing time before the Lord gently reminded me of my current work in progress.

Ultimately, I believe I was allowed to run amok because God had a plan to link plot bunnies with the way we behave as children of God. Fitting, don’t you agree?

How often do we lose focus in our Christian lives? We become sidetracked by social activities within our church family as well as our blood families. Ever catch yourself thinking about where you’ll go for lunch after service when you should be praising God? Do you tune out the pastor as you quickly send/receive a text or peruse the church bulletin? Do you wonder if, or think about, or…the list is long.

Why is that?

In the big picture called Life, our loving Father asks very little of us and we sometimes struggle to spend a few precious minutes focusing on Him. The plot bunnies of life intrude and all they really do is take away our joy.

Then you will call upon Me and you will go and pray to Me and I shall heed you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with your heart. (Jeremiah 29:12-13 One New Man Bible)

What a promise.

God does not lie, and this is a promise we can cling to. We will call. We will pray. Ergo, we will focus, and He shall heed us.

This Friday is Good Friday, when we reflect on the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. He laid down His life so we could stand before our Holy Father blameless and forgiven. Let’s focus our attention on what is true. Cast aside those plot bunnies which threaten to sidetrack us and steal our joy. Give God the Glory, for the things He has done. I love that hymn.

***

Sue Barr is a wife, mom, grandmother and a Christian fiction writer. She’s a member of ACFW as well as Romance Writers of America and their satellite chapter, Faith, Hope and Love. She writes small town contemporary romance as well as Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF).

Her latest release, Caroline, is first in the series Pride & Prejudice continued. Reviewers agree that although Caroline Bingley is a character we all love to hate, they reluctantly find themselves rooting for her throughout the book. Which is exactly why Sue penned this novel. God placed on her heart to write a story of redemptive love and healing of shattered dreams. Something He’s exceptionally good at.

Caroline:

Whatever happened to Caroline Bingley after her brother and unrequited love interest married a Bennet sister?

Caroline Bingley, beyond frustrated with her brother and Mr. Darcy both proposing to the Bennet sisters, dreads their upcoming nuptials. For three years her sole focus has been on attaining a marriage proposal from one Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, only to be foiled by a country miss with ‘fine eyes’. Adrift and not sure of her place in life, she meets the devastatingly handsome Lord Nathan, who equally vexes and intrigues her.

Lord Nathan Kerr, third in line to a Dukedom, had a well-earned reputation as a Rake. He cast all that and his noble title aside to become Mr. Darcy’s vicar in Kympton, finding contentment in leading his small flock and doing the Lord’s work. His plan for a quiet, country life is thrown into upheaval when he meets the fiery Miss Bingley. Can he reconcile his rising desire for the spoiled miss with how a vicar’s wife ‘should’ behave?

Buy the book HERE.

Visit Sue on her website and blog, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

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Grabbing Hold of God Moments

And for those who like to follow the devotions on Wholly Loved, this week guest blogger Eileen Rife shared how we can find peace and fulfillment when our life-roles shift. You can read that HERE. (If you’d like Wholly Loved to come to you, email us at contact(at)whollyloved(dot)com, and visit our website to learn more.