Praying With the Confidence of a Child of God

We pray differently when we recognize God as our Father. Not in a figurative, authority figure sense or as a harsh rule enforcer, but as the benevolent, attentive, dare I even say doting all-powerful Dad that He is. When we don’t understand or fully embrace those truths, we tend to approach God hesitantly. Maybe even apologetically. We say things like, “I know others are dealing with so much worse, but could You please …” Or, “I hate to bother You with this, Lord …”

I don’t think my daughter has ever approached a conversation with me or my husband with such disclaimers. I have, however, witnessed this hesitation in youth our family has taken in over the years. Kids who come from rough places and who’ve developed a distorted view of the parent-child relationship, and ultimately, a skewed understanding of love. Of themselves as well.

Past hurts and abandonments, often by the very people who were supposed to keep them safe, tainted their perspectives. They struggled to recognize, understand, and fully accept their worth. As a result, if they sought my help, or my ear, at all, they did so timidly, entering my room or office with eyes downcast, as if their very presence irritated me.

The opposite is true. When they approached me with confidence, with honest and unfiltered requests, I didn’t find them rude or bothersome. I was filled with joy because their actions revealed trust—of me and my love. I knew they’d begun to see themselves less as a tenant or guest and more like a beloved child. That’s when the depth of relationship my heart desired was both built and revealed.

If you’re a parent, you can probably understand what I mean. Maybe you’re smiling at a memory of your son or daughter running into your bedroom, begging for a pony or something else you had no intention of granting. Or asking for protection from monsters you knew don’t exist. I doubt their pleas irritated you. In fact, you probably came to expect this. You expected them to ask for the big things and the small, the things you loved to grant and those you lovingly withheld. That was your role—to decide what requests to fulfill or deny, just as it was their proper place to ask.

Jesus offered us, His beloved, this same invitation when He said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7, NIV). He then shared an analogy intended to deepen our understanding of our Heavenly Father at His core and who we are to Him.

Matthew 7:7 on blue background with floral accents

 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” Jesus said. “Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-10, NIV).

If we interpret Christ’s words as a promise to grant all of our desires, we’ll become disappointed and disillusioned. If we receive His words as the caring invitation they are, however, our confidence in Him and His heart for us grows—regardless of His response.

He truly is a good, loving, faithful, and attentive Father always focused on our best. His heart is for us always, and He longs to grant us not just good things, as Jesus so clearly proclaimed, but full access to Himself as our Savior, our Creator, and as our Dad. That doesn’t mean He wants us to embrace a flippant and entitled attitude. That’s not relationship; that’s not love. But He does want us to come. To come often, to come easily, and to come with the boldness of someone who knows they are indeed wholly, eternally, and oh, so deeply loved.

Pause to consider your common approach to prayer. Do you proceed to God’s throne with the confidence of a child of God and heir of grace (Hebrews 4:16) or with the timidity of a tenant?

What might God need to do within your heart to help you more readily and authentically draw closer to Him?

For those following the chronological Bible reading plan, today’s post focused on day one’s reading.

Chronological Bible reading plan week 15

If you missed the Beautiful Mess Mother-Daughter event, fun news! You and your loved ones can still enjoy the content. Find out more HERE.

Before you go, I invite you to listen to the latest Faith Over Fear podcast.

The Courage to Take a Risk for Friendship – Ep. 50 Faith Over Fear

Many times, obedience is hard. Taking steps of faith will feel exponentially harder if we try to go it alone. We all need supportive, encouraging allies who understand our struggle, will point us to Christ, and, when necessary, speak hard truths. In order to develop relationships to the depth our souls need, we’ll have to risk being vulnerable. But the strength and courage we’ll receive in return will far outweigh the risks. Find Jennifer Slattery at: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Shellie Arnold at: https://www.shelliearnold.com/ https://www.facebook.com/shellie.arnold.7 Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. Share a time when you felt alone in your obedience or perhaps alone in general. How did your sense of aloneness impact your behavior? 2. Who in your life do you most gain support from? 3. Healthy relationships speak truth in love. How easy or difficult is it for you to receive constructive feedback? 4. When has someone you love challenged you to grow in an area, and how did you respond? 5. Strong relationships take effort and intentionality. Mary was willing to walk 80 miles for support. How readily do you embrace inconvenience in order to prioritize relationships? 6. Consider your current struggle or call. In what ways has God shown Himself faithful to support and prepare you? 7. When has a step of faith forced you to rely on someone else? What was the result, relationally? 8. Can you think of a time when God asked you to be an ally for someone? Did you obey? 9. Who might God be inviting you into deep friendship with? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Nuthawut Somsuk
  1. The Courage to Take a Risk for Friendship – Ep. 50
  2. The Courage to Fight for Others – Ep. 49
  3. Responding with Courage When Others Act Foolishly – Ep. 48
  4. The Courage to Shed False Identities – Ep. 47
  5. The Courage to Let Our Kids Fail – Ep. 46

And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

How the Lord’s Prayer Invites Us to Go Deep

I’m not sure if this is hypocrisy or more of an illogical contradiction, but whenever I say the “Lord’s Prayer” without following my words with action, I’m denying what I pray. If not matched with an attitude of surrender, I’m basically stating, “May Your will be done, God … except in this moment. Except in my life. May You be Lord of the world, of my family, goodness, even of my husband, but not of me, at least, not in this situation here.”

I want to follow God in all things. To truly reach a place where I’ve laid everything down in obedience to Him, and not just because He deserves that. But also, because I know, with every inch of my soul, that His ways truly are better. But sometimes, in the stress and anxiety and simple frustrations of day-to-day living, I forget. I forget that He truly does know better and will always lead me to His very best.

He reminded me of these truths this past weekend. Initially, I was plagued by doubt. I knew God was calling my husband and I into a tough, hugely uncomfortable and uncertain situation, and frankly, I didn’t want to obey. I wrestled with myself, and with God, for a while, thinking of all the logical reasons I could change my plans. And maybe, if left alone with my rather convincing thoughts, I would’ve convinced myself to stay home, tucked away with a nice, pleasant, risk-free book.

But my husband became my voice of reason, and I’m sure glad, because had I given in to my fear and selfishness, I would’ve missed some pretty cool God moments. Some precious glimpses of His heart and the beauty only He can create.

Reflecting on all God did, I was super grateful my husband challenged me to live out what I so readily claim to believe—that God is indeed my Lord. And to live as if that were true.

Perhaps that is the very reason Jesus’s simple yet profound prayer, spoken in Matthew 6:9-10 has the capacity for such life-changing power. It invites us to pause, to reflect on the words we so easily speak, and allow them to highlight then purge the contradictions within.

This in turn transforms a perfunctory act similar to what Jesus condemned the religious leaders for only moments before into a transformative interaction with our Father, the One who knows, sees, and hears our deepest and truest selves.

This Spirit-led conversation might go something like this:

My Father in heaven—the God who formed me and has full authority over me
hallowed be Your name—I acknowledge that You are above all and am choosing, in this moment, to reflect on Your power and glory.

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven—And may Your kingdom reign first in me. Demolish every other kingdom—especially my fierce allegiance to self—that has risen within me. Dethrone every idol that tries to take Your rightful place in my heart. May Your will be done first in me, and then through me.

At each moment and with every prayer, we are choosing which kingdom to advance. The Pharisees made their choice. They offered all sorts of lofty words delivered loudly on street corners and trumpeted every “righteous” act. In this, they created exactly what they desired—a show. In essence, to elevate themselves above God. I imagine they each had numerous reasons for this, but I believe if we dug deep enough, we’d find one lie buried deep within each of their hearts: That God wasn’t enough. That He’d never bring them the fulfillment, peace, and joy their souls craved. And so, they sought to gain this for themselves, robbing themselves of the very life they were created for.

God invites us to go deeper that we might discover something of infinite, soul-reaching value—an intimate relationship with our Daddy. A relationship enriched as we consistently purify our hearts so that what’s inside more closely matches our declarations.   

Pause to consider the Lord’s prayer—the meaning of each phrase. What might God want to do within you so that you can pray each one with the authenticity of a life that follows what the mouth proclaims?

Before you go … have you registered for the Beautiful Mess Conference yet? There’s still time! Can’t make it this weekend? No worries! All registrants will receive a link and password to access all conference content after the event whenever they want, as many times as they choose. Gain tools that will help all your relationships while anchoring you deeper in Christ’s grace. Find out more HERE.

And if you’re looking for a new Bible reading plan, make sure to check out my latest video based plan, In Christ: A Journey Through Ephesians. Find it HERE.

And make sure to check out the latest Faith Over Fear episode titled the Courage to Fight for others.

Listen HERE.

For those following our chronological journey through the New Testament …

Week 14 Bible reading plan passages

You might also enjoy:

5 Things to Know if Revelation Scares You

8 Steps to Healing a Mother-Daughter Relationship

Just How Salty Are You?

Woman in yellow sun dress jumping.

How salty are you? When people encounter you, when they view your actions and your relationships, do they walk away intrigued? Maybe even enticed to experience the life you have? Or do they sputter and spit, thinking, “Man, I do not want more of that”?

My family and anyone who’s ever visited my house for dinner will be the first to tell you, I stink at cooking. I won’t entice anyone with a fresh cooked meal. I do hope, however, that you’ll join us for relational reasons. That you’ll discover that we’re loving and gracious people of integrity and be drawn to that. To us and, hopefully, the God who empowers us.

Love. Grace. Integrity. I believe that’s a powerful combination able to dispel the false and often negative associations our culture attaches to Christianity. When we live what we claim to believe, consistently yielding to the Holy Spirit within, many times, we find our words aren’t all that necessary.

Quote from post on yellow background

Now, please don’t mishear me. I’m not saying we shouldn’t share truth. As a faith-based writer and speaker, I spend a good deal of time doing that, after all. What I am saying, however, is that our day-to-day actions should speak loudest and clearest. And if they don’t? Then we’ve probably become one of two things: A bland Christian who has allowed their flavor to become leached out by our culture or sin. Or, an angry and hostile religious person who puckers everyone’s mouths, even those who agree with our truth claims.

Living with radiance and flavor, however, means doing all we can to model Christ in every area of our lives. How we speak, how we serve, how we love, how we give, and how we react. We mustn’t separate Christ’s call to live as the salt of the earth and light of the world from the context in which He spoke this. (Matthew 5)

He began by telling us all the seemingly contradictory ways we’d be blessed.

  • Blessed are those who are poor in spirit. Destitute on their own and recognize their constant need for Christ. (Matthew 5:3)
  • Blessed are those who mourn, because it’s often during the hard times that we most experience our Savior. (Matthew 5:4)
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness—who long to know and please God. (Matthew 5:5)
  • Blessed are the meek, who demonstrate strength under control. In other words, who are able to speak truth with love, gentleness, and grace and don’t lose their cool in Facebook arguments or endless political debates. (Matthew 5:6)
  • Blessed are those who seek justice, absolutely, but are most known for their mercy. (Matthew 5:7)    
  • Blessed are those whose hearts are pure—free from pride, selfish ambition, bitterness and sin. (Matthew 5:8)
  • Blessed are the peacemakers—those who actively join God’s mission to bring relational, emotional, and spiritual health to our broken world. (Matthew 5:9)
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted, insulted, mocked, and disdained, for the sake of Christ, because our love often shines brightest in the face of hatred. (Matthew 5:10-12)

After laying out precisely what a Christ-honoring life looks like, Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-15) So shine brightly, “That [others] may see” your arguments and hear all the verses you’ve memorized? No. “That they may see your good deeds and praise Your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16)

Matthew 5:16 on yellow background

Because, in short, they will know us by our love, one displayed with equal parts truth and grace. Because as I’ve said before, love without truth isn’t truly love. It’s dangerous. Morally and ethically negligent. And truth without love is destructive. A life characterized by both, in deed even more than word? Such a life truly does have the power to change the world.

You and I have the power to change the world, one heart at a time. And Jesus has both shown and told us precisely how. The question is, will we follow His example?  

Share your thoughts, insights, examples of living brightly, and questions in the comments below. If you’re following our chronological New Testament reading plan, scroll down to view this week’s suggested reading.

For those struggling to live as salt and light in challenging circumstances, I encourage you to listen to the latest Faith Over Fear Podcast episode on Responding With Courage When Others Act Foolishly. You can find it here.

I also invite you to check out Wholly Loved’s latest Bible reading plan: Joy in Chaos. You can find it, and the “read to me” option HERE.

And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram!

Have you signed up for Wholly Loved’s mother-daughter conference yet? Can’t make it on April 16th & 17th? No worries! All registrants will receive a link and password granting them full access to all the conference content.

Find out more HERE.

Watch the promo clip here:

Bible reading plan week 13

Remaining Focused Amid Opposition

Quote from post on multi-shaded blue background

When God calls us to something, we should expect difficulties and opposition. Not everyone will understand our actions or motivations. Some people might even misjudge us or actively fight against us. The question is, how will we respond? Will we shrink back? Lash out in anger and frustration, or diligently, confidently forge ahead?

In short, when obedience feels challenging, whose voice will we give preeminence? Those of our naysayers or our own insecurities? Or will we give our Savior the authority He deserves?

Years ago, I served in an area for which I was unqualified and ill-prepared. Having received zero training, I wanted to learn to lead well. To glean from other female leaders who had perhaps encountered similar challenges and understood all the relational dynamics involved with leading women. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that in the church I attended at the time, so I began reaching out to others in my community. Within a week, I’d gathered eight Christ-led, wise women of grace excited to share their insights and also to learn from others. Basically, to join a mission-minded group of ladies.

Two women praying together.

Filled with joy, I began envisioning what our meetings might look like. We could discuss highlights from ministry-related articles and books, pray for one another, and share ideas. We could learn from one another’s successes and failures and together, impact our community for Christ.

My excitement quickly deflated, however, when one of the pastors I served under called me in to his office. His facial expression, body language, and tone made it clear—he was not a fan of my endeavors. I sensed, in fact, that my actions raised suspicion, as if this small group of women were in some way acting with subterfuge.

Hurt and confused, I said I would quietly let this group I’d launched die and determined to do my best to honor my role with my limited training and experience. But my heart continued to ache for deep, ministry-related connections with other Christ-focused women. And I was saddened to know how close such a group had come to taking form.

My soul felt burdened to pursue the call God had given me, but the doors in front of me felt perpetually closed.

One afternoon, I shared my frustrations with my husband.   

He shook his head and said, “Don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you know is right.”

I contemplated his statement for some time, struggling to determine my next best, most God-honoring step. Did He want me to initiate change in my current environment? Was He calling me to seek support elsewhere?

I prayed over that situation, over the need, the hole God made increasingly apparent, for over a year, until I knew with certainty, He was calling me to act. The following week, Wholly Loved Ministries was born, a place where women from diverse denominations can grow in their gifting and their relationship with Christ. That small group of women who gathered together in a local coffee shop to dream of all the lives God might change, through our first timid yet obedient steps, has now grown to a team of 30 speaking life across the globe.

All by God’s grace, and in part, because we refused to allow opposition to dictate our actions.

Perhaps you’ve experienced a similar situation—an invitation to act that left others confused or even angered. And maybe in the moment, compliance felt easier, safer. Certainly less confrontational. But if we want to live for Christ and fully embrace all God’s called us to, we cannot be swayed by other people’s hostility.

Consider the example Jesus provided in Matthew 12:9-14. He’d recently made some pretty big claims: That He was the Son of God who knew God intimately and always did as God desired. (John 5:16-21.) That He possessed the same life-giving power as God the Father. And that He was Lord of the Sabbath. Then He performed miracles to validate His claims.

About this time, the Bible says Jesus went over to the Pharisee’s synagogue. While there, He noticed a man with a deformed hand. Seeking a way to trick Christ, the Pharisees asked, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:10, NLT).

They saw this individual as an opportunity for entrapment. But Jesus saw the man’s wounded heart, his need, and was moved by deep compassion. Though He knew His actions would lead to increased opposition, He chose to advance God’s light. He told the man to stretch out his hand. When he obeyed, Scripture says “it was restored, just like the other one” (Matthew 12:13, NLT).

Can you imagine the man’s joy? This was cause for celebration. He had been touched by the light of Christ. But the religious leaders were not impressed. Instead they “called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus” (Matthew 12:14, NLT).

And yet again, Jesus remained focused on His mission and, leaving the area, continued healing and teaching.

He didn’t let spiritual resistance keep Him from the synagogue or hinder His decision to heal. Nor did He try to fight against it, at least, not as we might expect. Instead, He kept moving forward, kept spreading the light, wherever He went and to whomever would receive it.

His faithful, steady actions provide a model for us. When darkness hits, and it will, we can falter in fear, lash out in anger, or faithfully advance God’s light.

In what way is God calling you to advance His light this week? In what way has darkness threatened to halt your steps? What is one truth that will help you move forward in confidence and victory?

Speaking of embracing our calling, if you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to listen to Faith Over Fear episode: The Courage to Pursue Our Calling.

The Courage to Take a Risk for Friendship – Ep. 50 Faith Over Fear

Many times, obedience is hard. Taking steps of faith will feel exponentially harder if we try to go it alone. We all need supportive, encouraging allies who understand our struggle, will point us to Christ, and, when necessary, speak hard truths. In order to develop relationships to the depth our souls need, we’ll have to risk being vulnerable. But the strength and courage we’ll receive in return will far outweigh the risks. Find Jennifer Slattery at: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Shellie Arnold at: https://www.shelliearnold.com/ https://www.facebook.com/shellie.arnold.7 Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. Share a time when you felt alone in your obedience or perhaps alone in general. How did your sense of aloneness impact your behavior? 2. Who in your life do you most gain support from? 3. Healthy relationships speak truth in love. How easy or difficult is it for you to receive constructive feedback? 4. When has someone you love challenged you to grow in an area, and how did you respond? 5. Strong relationships take effort and intentionality. Mary was willing to walk 80 miles for support. How readily do you embrace inconvenience in order to prioritize relationships? 6. Consider your current struggle or call. In what ways has God shown Himself faithful to support and prepare you? 7. When has a step of faith forced you to rely on someone else? What was the result, relationally? 8. Can you think of a time when God asked you to be an ally for someone? Did you obey? 9. Who might God be inviting you into deep friendship with? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Nuthawut Somsuk
  1. The Courage to Take a Risk for Friendship – Ep. 50
  2. The Courage to Fight for Others – Ep. 49
  3. Responding with Courage When Others Act Foolishly – Ep. 48
  4. The Courage to Shed False Identities – Ep. 47
  5. The Courage to Let Our Kids Fail – Ep. 46

And there’s still time to sign up for Wholly Loved’s Beautiful Mess Mother Daughter Conference. Find out more HERE.

For those following our chronological New Testament Bible reading plan, today’s post kicks us off with the first suggested passage.

Graphic of week 12's chronological reading plan passages.

New Wine and Grace-Based Living

Blog title image on mint background

Have you ever entered an environment that felt contrary to everything you knew and expected? Maybe you started a new job that rewarded you for effort rather than results, but you found it hard to accept this. You kept feeling like you had to achieve, like you were continually falling short. Or maybe you’re engaging in a new relationship, one more grace based than you’ve previously known, and it’s challenging to truly settle in.

Our family has witnessed these dynamics in youth we’ve opened our homes to over the years. All of them have come from rough places and learned a works-and-performance-based way of living. Where one must perform and meet some standard or they’ll be cut off.

Perhaps you can relate. Such interactions can make it difficult to understand God’s grace.

In Christ, God invites us to make a clean break from our striving; to find freedom through Quote from post on mint backgroundabiding. The two ways of living can’t mix. We are either free or enslaved.

This was the message Christ gave to the Pharisees in today’s Bible plan reading passage. In context, He’d called Matthew (Levi), a tax collector, to follow Him. Verse 29 states, “Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.”

As someone who is constantly trying to find ways to reach out to my unchurched friends and neighbors, all I can say to that is, wow, seeker group in the making! I imagine, sitting at that table, surrounded by those He loved deeply, Jesus rejoiced at all the opportunities this meal allowed for connection. Perhaps even for some of them to experience spiritual freedom.

The Pharisees, however, were not pleased. “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” they asked (v. 30). To which Jesus replied, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous” –or, perhaps stated another way, those who believe they are righteous—“but sinners to repentance” (v. 31).

Speaking of “righteousness,” the conversation immediately focused on the rule-following the Pharisees took such pride in. “They said to Him, ‘John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.’”

Jesus responded with an analogy of a wedding feast, stating, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while He is with them?” (Mark 2:21). According to David Guzik from the Enduring Word, “Jesus’ message was strong and clear: I’m not like the Pharisees or John the Baptist. I am the Messiah, the bridegroom to the people of God. Wherever I am, it is appropriate to have the joy we associate with weddings.”

His very presence instituted an entire way, a deeply intimate way, of relating to God.

He emphasized this in the discussion of wineskins that followed. Just as no one would pour new wine into old wineskins, so too they couldn’t pour their adherence to the law into God’s gift of grace.

Regarding this, Guzik states, “Jesus’ point was made clear by these examples. You can’t fit His new life into old forms. Jesus traded fasting for feasting; sackcloth and ashes for a robe of righteousness; a spirit of heaviness for a garment of praise; mourning for joy; law for grace.”

Such a precious gift. Such a life-giving invitation, one the Pharisees rejected. They wanted to hold tight to their old wineskins, to the law.

They chose striving over thriving, most likely due to pride. And a stubborn refusal to release what they knew, their old ways of living, not understanding Christ offered them something so much better.

Sometimes we fall into those same traps. We try to mix manmade attempts to reach or please God with His precious gift of grace. But legalism and freedom, self-reliance and surrender, don’t mix.

We find freedom, in ever-increasing degrees, when we toss out the old wineskins altogether and fully embrace our new life in Christ. That’s a process, isn’t it? Learning to live in grace? Thankfully God is leading us step by step.

Where are you on this journey? When are you most tempted to reach for your old wineskins—for old ways of living? What is one thing you can do this week to rest deeper in God’s grace?

For those following our chronological reading plan through the New Testament, today’s devotion kicks this week off with Luke 5:33-39. (You read Matthew and Luke’s version of this account last week.)

Some additional encouragement:

The Courage to Take a Risk for Friendship – Ep. 50 Faith Over Fear

Many times, obedience is hard. Taking steps of faith will feel exponentially harder if we try to go it alone. We all need supportive, encouraging allies who understand our struggle, will point us to Christ, and, when necessary, speak hard truths. In order to develop relationships to the depth our souls need, we’ll have to risk being vulnerable. But the strength and courage we’ll receive in return will far outweigh the risks. Find Jennifer Slattery at: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Shellie Arnold at: https://www.shelliearnold.com/ https://www.facebook.com/shellie.arnold.7 Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. Share a time when you felt alone in your obedience or perhaps alone in general. How did your sense of aloneness impact your behavior? 2. Who in your life do you most gain support from? 3. Healthy relationships speak truth in love. How easy or difficult is it for you to receive constructive feedback? 4. When has someone you love challenged you to grow in an area, and how did you respond? 5. Strong relationships take effort and intentionality. Mary was willing to walk 80 miles for support. How readily do you embrace inconvenience in order to prioritize relationships? 6. Consider your current struggle or call. In what ways has God shown Himself faithful to support and prepare you? 7. When has a step of faith forced you to rely on someone else? What was the result, relationally? 8. Can you think of a time when God asked you to be an ally for someone? Did you obey? 9. Who might God be inviting you into deep friendship with? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Nuthawut Somsuk
  1. The Courage to Take a Risk for Friendship – Ep. 50
  2. The Courage to Fight for Others – Ep. 49
  3. Responding with Courage When Others Act Foolishly – Ep. 48
  4. The Courage to Shed False Identities – Ep. 47
  5. The Courage to Let Our Kids Fail – Ep. 46

No More Convenience-Based Love

Quote on sitting with those who are hurting

(Today’s devotion comes from this week’s first day’s Bible reading passage. See plan below.)

My pride, insecurity, and fierce hold on my comfort level challenge my ability to love others well. I give of my time and my money, my energy … but only so much.  To love deeper, I need to sit. Sit with my Savior, the One who floods my soul with everything good and right and lovely. And I need to sit in other people’s pain so that it becomes my own.

Years ago, I watched a profound video that halted my thoughts and convicted my soul. In it, a man was advocating for orphans he’d encountered personally while visiting a developing country. Seeing them face-to-face as they scrounged through garbage cans, those children, once statistics easily forgotten, became real. And in that moment, God asked him how he’d respond if the child digging through trash were his child. Then God told him the child was His—God’s.

I have to pause there. I know I can’t take on every wrong, but I can speak love and hope to those God brings near. Through grace and truth-filled actions, I can introduce them to my Savior. Even if that means actively tearing through the barriers that keep them from Him.

I can follow the example of the men who carried a paralytic—perhaps a friend or family member—to Christ. Scripture doesn’t tell us how far they’d traveled, whether a mile or ten. During this time many considered paralytics cursed by God. As a result, these individuals often experienced ongoing rejection. I imagine the loneliness hurt most. But the men in John 12 stood by their friend. Even if that meant pushing through a throng of desperate people, embracing the stigma of that of that time of associating with a paralytic, and potentially angering the religious elite—those with the power to expel people from their faith community. (John 12:42.)

The Bible says everyone “gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door …” (Mark 2:2, NIV).

Pause to envision these men standing on the outskirts, surveying the crowd. Place yourself in that position for a moment, needing to push through with someone our culture stigmatized.

Who is that person for you? The one our society keeps on the fringe, ignores, and even disdains?

If you were those men, would you have hung back, telling yourself all the reasons Jesus didn’t have time for your friend?

That’s not how these men responded. Verses 2-5 tells us,  “Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.”

That’d be the equivalent of someone removing your window to crawl inside your house. Polite, civilized people just don’t do that sort of thing.

Those desperate to see their loved ones encounter Christ do.

The result? Verse 5 states, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”

When Jesus saw their faith.

Their faith propelled these men into action. They knew their friend needed Jesus and faith propels lovecouldn’t reach Him on his own, so they bridged the gap. They broke through the barriers keeping the paralytic from life, and received what they longed for and more.

Reading this, I wonder—who does God want me to step into the gap for? What “roof” might I need to unhinge or “crowd” might I need to push through? More importantly, will I? Or will I stand on the fringe, waiting for an easy opening, one that fits my schedule, my comfort level?

What about you? Who might God be asking you to bring to Him? Will you?

For those following our chronological New Testament Bible reading plan:

Bible reading plan week 10

Speaking of loving one another well, let’s start with one of our most precious relationships. Join me and my Wholly Loved team for our upcoming mother-daughter conference, Beautiful Mess.

Find out more HERE.

When God Calls Us Back to Where We’ve Failed

Blue background with quote from Corrie Ten Boom on trusting God

When calling us to a place of increased fruitfulness, often God first bring us to the very place we failed. Will we courageously step forward into all He has for us, or will past disappointments keep us stuck?

I’ve stood with my feet anchored in cement, but I’ve also experienced the joy and freedom, and incredible intimacy with Christ, that comes from following His lead. And with every obedience choice, I’m learning to lift my gaze off of my weakness and lack and onto his strength and abundance.

Perhaps most importantly, I’m learning to trust that His ways truly are best and that He has the power to lead me to His best. That in fact that is precisely where He is leading me, with every step He asks me to take.

When my daughter was young, I sensed God calling me to launch a children’s ministry, and so I did. Almost without thinking. In many ways, my yeses came a lot easier back then, primarily because I hadn’t been serving long enough to experience much failure.

Initially, everything seemed great, and the ministry grew far beyond what I’d anticipated or envisioned. Initially, everything went well, and I received such joy and fulfillment from every moment, even those that brought fatigue. But then, problems hit, one after the other after the other, and all in areas I felt ill-equipped and ill-prepared for. A year, maybe two, later, I quit, confused and hurt that God would call me into something only to let me fail.

Over time, I grieved and moved on, and I began to find ways to serve once again. Fulfilling, joy-giving ways, but I carried that first failed experience with me wherever I went. As a result, I was reluctant to take significant risks. I told myself I was merely holding all things, ministry included, loosely, but really, I was self-protecting. Insulating my heart so that it wouldn’t sting so deeply, should God decide this next venture wasn’t to last.

Had I been Simon Peter, the day Jesus called him to push out into the deep, I suspect I would’ve needed a lot more persuading and cajoling. You might be familiar with the story. We find it in Luke chapter 5, which tells us of a day when Jesus was standing by the Sea of Galilee. As usual, a crowd surrounded Him. Upon seeing an Simon’s empty boat, he got in and began to teach the people from there. At some point, Simon, who had been cleaning his empty nets, got in the boat as well.

Verse 4 tells us, “When [Jesus] had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (NIV). Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.”

In other words, he and his partners had done everything they knew to do. They’d given it their best effort and likely had exhausted themselves trying, only to find their nets clogged with algae and plant life. From a human perspective, going for another round would only dirty the nets they’d likely just cleaned. And yet, Simon responded, “But because You say so, I will let down the nets.”

The result?

“When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their Corrie Ten Boom Quote on Trusting Godnets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.”

Jesus called Simon right back to his place of failure. In this, the God of abundance filled his nets to overflowing—just to prove He could, so that they could follow Him without fear. And that’s precisely what occurred. You see, the power wasn’t in the miraculous number of fish but in the God who commanded them. Simon was able to shift his focus off of himself, his efforts or abilities or resources, and even God’s provision and center it firmly on Jesus, His Provider and Sustainer. That was what gave him to courage to leave his now filled nets, the equivalent of a thriving 401K, to follow however Christ led.

And it all began when Simon allowed God to lead him back to the very place in which he had failed.

Let’s talk about this! When has a past failure hindered your actions? When God calls you to something, do you ever hear a nagging voice that says, “Remember last time you tried that …” What are some ways you gain courage to push out into the deep, so to speak? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and connect with me  on Facebook and Instagram. I invite those who struggle with fear to join my private Faith Over Fear Facebook community found HERE.

Speaking of stepping out into potentially deep waters, I also encourage you to check out the latest Faith Over Fear episode on finding the courage to embrace our calling.

For those following the chronological New Testament Bible reading plan:

Bible reading plan image week 9

Staying Alert to the Harvest God is Preparing


Sometimes we can become so focused on where we wish God would work that we’re unable to see where He’s working all around us. We can become so fixated on trying to shove through a closed door, we miss a thousand other openings He’s prepared for us.

About five years ago, my husband and I decided to become more intentional with outreach. God had recently opened our eyes to some pretty deep hurts in our community—generational hurts often experienced by families attempting to navigate our world alone. Struggles we understood, because we’d been there. We’d been the couple with the failing marriage, the family with suffocating debt. The man and woman, husband and wife, mother and father who desperately wanted to do better, to live and love better, but felt powerless to change for any significant period of time.

Then one afternoon, a woman in our neighborhood invited me to church, and so I went. At first, I went alone, but soon, my husband joined me. We began to learn what life with Jesus—real life period!—could look like, and bit by bit, everything changed. He steadily, progressively broke the chains that bound us, healed our hurts, and purified and deepened our love for one another.

And we wanted everyone we knew to experience that same freedom, a freedom we knew could only come from a thriving relationship in Christ. We soon discovered, however, not everyone wanted that. Some people—the very people we felt led to reach out to, in fact, appeared unreceptive to our message and really anything other than surface level interactions. Yet, we persevered, for years, with zero results. I began to feel discouraged. I knew God had called us, as Christ followers, to share His truth. But how could we, when no one seemed interested in hearing it?

Our excitement started to fade, but then God began to shift our view. In the midst of that seemingly unfruitful year, He brought people into our circle—people looking for community, for support, and for truth. Honestly, it took me a while to shift my direction. In my stubborn fixation on how I was expecting God to work, I almost missed all the miracles He was inviting us to participate in.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus’s disciples seemed to struggle with a similar problem. They abandoned everything to follow Jesus on His eternal, life-saving mission, but He often took them places and to speak to people they never expected. A Canaanite woman with a demon-possessed daughter. Tax collectors, peasants, the lame, and the leper. And a five-times married Samaritan woman, someone Rabbis in their day would’ve gone great lengths to avoid.

But Jesus sought her out, spoke truth into her heart, and used her to reach her entire village. Those of you familiar with the hatred Jews felt for Samaritans, and Samaritan women especially, who were considered perpetually “unclean” can envision how shocking this must’ve been. I imagine their shock intensified, maybe even turning to disgust, when their respected teacher agreed to stay in that Samaritan village, eating off their dishes, sleeping in their homes, for two days.

Based on Christ’s words to His likely stunned disciples, this was not the ministry they’d been expecting. He said, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35, NIV).

It’s like He was saying, “Open your eyes to what God is doing all around you. Speak to those He’s already preparing. Those who are hungry for life change.”

I wonder if He’s saying the same to us. We should reach out to everyone, absolutely. But may we never become so fixated on how we expect or hope God to work that we miss a whole village anxious for truth.

Let’s talk about this. First, I’d love to hear if you’re enjoying our chronological stroll through the New Testament. Today’s passage, John 4:27-38, kicks off week seven. Second, I’d love to read about times when God opened your eyes to a ministry outlet you might’ve otherwise missed. What did God teach you through that? Did anything else stand out to you in today’s passage?

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

When Love Flips Table

One man or woman of character, fully surrendered to God, can change the world. You and I can impact families, communities, for the good for generations to come. Will you and I, as God’s ambassadors, do that which is convenient? Maybe personally beneficial? Or are we willing, on occasion, to flip a table or two.

We all have a holy battle to fight, one that will require focus, commitment, and sacrifice. I don’t know what that might look like for you. Or what will most challenge your courage and strength, but I can promise, those reasons will probably seem numerous and ever-growing. I can also promise you this: Saying yes to Jesus, however He calls, will Woman standing on a mountain top gazing out over sunlit cloud coverignite and nourish your soul unlike anything else.

Or perhaps I should phrase it differently: Whenever we shrink back from God’s call, whatever that might be, we rob ourselves of life as God intends, for which we were created.

I’ve shared before, here and also in various Faith Over Fear podcast episodes, about a time when God began to stir within our daughter a holy discontent. This began when a delayed diagnosis of a learning disability alerted her to major holes in the academic system. Numerous largely untrained college professors. Policies listed on websites without real-life follow through. Lack of accountability and oversight, over-emphasis of faculty rights with blatant violation of the rights of students.

The battle ahead of her seemed not only insurmountable but also detrimental. She was a student, after all, dependent on the very ones misusing their power. The fact that the authorities weren’t intentionally doing so was irrelevant; the results were the same.

She realized, just as her university’s failure to act was a decision to act, hers was as well. And so, though terrified of veiled retaliation that could cost her research positions, recommendations, and ultimately, her dreams, she used her voice, strengthened by her GPA, to speak for those who had long since lost theirs.

That was such a stressful, exhausting fight with repercussions that extended far beyond the university’s failing SSD department. She was building her character, her courage and grit, with every trembling step forward, until eventually her tenuous steps became firm and secure. But her actions did much more than that, because others were watching. And learning. And gaining courage to fight their battles as well.

And in this, to more accurately reflect our Savior who always spoke out for the marginalized, rejected, discarded, abused, and oppressed. One of my daughter’s favorite examples of this comes from John 2:13-22. This situation occurred around the time of Passover when an estimated 3,000,000 Jews and Gentiles combined traveled to Jerusalem for this holy day. I imagine the area looked similar to how Lincoln does on a Nebraska home game when people travel from the farthest corners of the state, crowding every crevice of the city while vendors and street hustlers haggling passersby.

Only instead of selling hot dogs and water, the merchants hawked sacrificial animals, at equally exorbitant prices. Can you imagine the noise, the smell, and the chaos worshipers encountered? Not only were people, many of whom were poor and had traveled for days, being taken advantage of. But because the vendors set up shop in the one area the Gentiles were allowed to enter, many seeking God were being pushed out.

Something Jesus would not allow, as John 2:15-17 demonstrate. “So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a market!’ His disciples remembered that it is written: Zeal for your house will consume me.’” (John 2:15-17, NIV).

Scholars suggest Jesus reacted to numerous problems. The filth and chaos in the overran Temple courts. The dishonest practices of the money changers who willingly took advantage of people seeking God. The fact that the swindlers were using the one area open to foreigners to do so. But in each of these, His response came from the same place—love. And He demonstrated, love isn’t always soft spoken and polite. Sometimes love must take a stand and flip a table or two.

Like I said, I don’t know what that looks like for you. Honestly, I don’t always know what that looks like for me, either, but I do know we each have a role to play, a battle to fight, a wrong to right, and darkness to push back with God’s light.

Is there an area of darkness that has grown increasingly on your radar? If so, have you paused to ask God why? What He’s showing you and how He wants you to respond?

For those who are following our chronological reading plan, today’s devotion started this week off with a focus on John 2:13-22.

Bible reading plan

And now … for the reading plan

I did it again, y’all. I really need a “before I publish blog posts” check list. For those following the chronological reading plan, I updated my previous post to add it. But I knew those who receive my posts by email likely wouldn’t see that, so I’m creating a follow up.

Here’s week the reading for week six, and wow, can you believe we’ve been reading through the New Testament for six weeks now? Keep it up, y’all! 🙂