Picture of the inside of a church

Unfortunately, a good number of people raised in church have left the church, and most often, not because of theological disagreements but rather because they’ve been deeply hurt. They’ve been told they’re too much or not enough, and have been shut down when they honestly express their emotions and struggles. Others have experienced the toxicity that almost always comes when the unhealthy and emotionally and spiritually immature are placed in leadership positions.

Quote from post on tan background

A few weeks ago, the lead minister at my church and another pastor discussed the pain many have experienced in the name of religion and then apologized for wounds they, intentionally or not, inflicted on others. And while I thought briefly of various hurts I’ve experienced throughout my faith journey, that wasn’t the primary message my heart received. Instead, God brought people to mind that had scars because of me. Those driven from rather than to Jesus, because of my behavior. Caused by fear, defensiveness, and pride. 

I knew God wanted me to follow my pastor’s lead, and so I did. I began reaching out to those I knew I’d hurt. Women who, through my actions, words, or lack of, I’d made feel unvalued and unseen. And it didn’t matter whether or not I’d had provocation. If their sin or dysfunction had triggered the sin and dysfunction within me. Granted, there’s a time and place for honest discussion, when wounds remain. 

But mine had healed. And besides, in these situations, I’d been the leader, the one who was supposed to model what it looked like to live and love like Jesus. To get my needs met by Him, to find my identity in Him. Ultimately, to receive strength and encouragement from Christ and a close circle of mature and Holy Spirit empowered peers.

I neglected both, people were hurt, and God wanted me to take responsibility for the pain I’d caused. To make it clear, though I may have represented Him in my role, my behavior had not.

He wanted me to live out His commands in Matthew 5:23-24, where Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against  you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (NIV).

Words from Matthew 5:23-24 on tan background.

And so I did, and I can only hope my honest apologies helped heal those wounds my words and actions created, wounds that may even have driven them, for a time from the church. At the very least, I hope they were able to see Christ’s love and grace more clearly.

We all have a responsibility to create safe, healthy places where people can experience God. And we all have areas of dysfunction that threaten those same safe places we’re prayerfully trying to create. This means, you and I will hurt people along the way, and we’ll also get hurt. When others wound us, may we seek comfort and healing from Christ, refusing to retaliate and grow bitter. And when we’re the ones to cause pain, may we own up to every behavior that taints the image of Christ within us. 

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instagram.

If you’ve experienced church hurt, you might find the latest Faith Over Fear episode helpful.

The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75 Faith Over Fear

What happens when the places God designed to lead us closer to Him, to healing and wholeness, and freedom, become hurtful and toxic? When past hurts create present anxiety that make it challenging for us to enter church buildings, join community groups, and connect with Christ? Unfortunately, many people wrestle with these questions as they try to make sense of God. For those who have been wounded by people in positions of authority, it can be hard to untangle truth from human criticism and God’s character from the false representation of Him. In this episode, Minister Dawn Gentry, the Executive Director of Adult Ministries at Christ Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and Jennifer’s daughter, Ashley Chester, discuss some of the church hurts they’ve experienced and witnessed and how God helped them move toward increased wholeness and gave them the courage to overcome lies spoken into their hearts in order live for Him. Find Dawn Gentry at: https://followinggodanyway.com https://www.facebook.com/dawn.gentry2 https://www.instagram.com/gentry2987/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Book Dawn mentioned: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. Why do hurts related to faith hurt so deeply? 3. When have you been told, in the context of religion, that you’re not enough or that you’re “too much”? How did this make you feel? 4. How would you describe a toxic faith group? 5. How would you describe a healthy faith group? 6. When has a past hurt hindered your ability to attend church, join a group, or connect with God? 7. What are some healthy ways group members can respond to another member’s doubts or questions? 8. What are some unhealthy responses to someone’s doubts or questions? 9. What are some ways a person can begin to separate hurts they’ve experienced from the love of God? 10. Why is it important to always remember who we are in Christ? 11. What is one action step God is inviting you to take based on today’s episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Image_Jungle
  1. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  2. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  3. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  4. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73
  5. A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72

Man holding hand over his mouth(Please note: This piece originally posted on March 8, 2018.)

My words have gotten me into a heap of trouble. I’ve initiated and meddled in arguments I shouldn’t have, fought to be right rather than understand, and wreaked destruction in the name of self-defense.

Considering the consequences wrought from my careless, and often damaging, statements, one would think I’d have learned to guard my words. But though I’ve memorized, prayed, and recited verses addressing this issue numerous times, I continue to stumble.

Here’s why: I’ve been fighting the symptom instead of the cause.

Whenever my mouth (or keyboard) runs a muck, my pride’s at fault. The solution, then, is surrender—making Jesus, obedience to Him, and the intimacy that follows (rather than man’s opinion) my treasure.

Let me explain using Proverbs 18:2 as an example: “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.”

Because we believe we know best, need to defend ourselves, or prove our point.

Often, this is triggered by fear (which, 90% of the time is rooted in pride)—fear of losing face or not getting something we want or hope for. But in our desire to elevate or defend ourselves, we can miss crucial unspoken “heart talk.”

Let me give an example. A while back, I engaged in a somewhat heated discussion with someone, one that revealed considerable miscommunication—things that were heard that were never said, statements taken out of context, and others extrapolated in confusing ways. Focused on the miscommunication, I attempted to unpack each one.

Remaining oblivious to the insecurities and wounds underlying it all and therefore only exacerbated the problem. Had I focused on the person’s heart more than their words, I could’ve responded with more wisdom and grace.

Reading through Proverbs 18, I thought of this interchange, and as I often do, of my propensity to talk myself into trouble. Only this time, I went deeper, to my heart. How, I wondered, could I respond differently the next time when, so often, my words tumble out before my brain catches up?

Evaluating the whys behind my behaviors, I came up with a list:

  1. Recognize I don’t need to defend myself. When someone criticizes me, if their complaints are valid, acknowledge this and prayerfully consider two women friendsways I might change. Because living in grace means I’m in need of it. I’m broken and prone to sin and nowhere near who God would have me to be, and yet I’m accepted and deeply loved. This disarms my pride with humility as I recognize my need for Christ, and this in turn gives me the courage to grow.
  2. Recognize God’s opinion and my obedience to Him is more important than man’s perception of me. When I base my identity in Christ and treasure intimacy with Him more than “saving face,” I don’t need to defend myself or prove a point.
  3. When I begin to feel defensive, uncover the fear beneath, and then remind myself of who I am in Christ. He’s my defender, protector, perfect guide, and the One who holds my future in His hands.
  4. Don’t own whatever’s not true. Simply disregard it, reminding myself of action steps one through three.
  5. Finally, listen for the fears and insecurities behind my “opponent’s” words and address those before attempting to resolve anything external.

Relational conflicts can be messy, confusing, and cloaked in emotion and false perceptions. To resolve them grace-fully, putting a guard rail on my tongue in the process, I need to take time to go deep—to my and my opponent’s heart, surrendering my pride and resultant emotions to Jesus so that He can love that other person through me.

Let’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to guard your tongue? When considering times your words have gotten you into trouble, can you see similar “root causes” as I mentioned in my list? In the above, I suggested pride is often the root of our fears and fear is often the root of much conflict. Do you agree or disagree, and why so? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

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The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75 Faith Over Fear

What happens when the places God designed to lead us closer to Him, to healing and wholeness, and freedom, become hurtful and toxic? When past hurts create present anxiety that make it challenging for us to enter church buildings, join community groups, and connect with Christ? Unfortunately, many people wrestle with these questions as they try to make sense of God. For those who have been wounded by people in positions of authority, it can be hard to untangle truth from human criticism and God’s character from the false representation of Him. In this episode, Minister Dawn Gentry, the Executive Director of Adult Ministries at Christ Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and Jennifer’s daughter, Ashley Chester, discuss some of the church hurts they’ve experienced and witnessed and how God helped them move toward increased wholeness and gave them the courage to overcome lies spoken into their hearts in order live for Him. Find Dawn Gentry at: https://followinggodanyway.com https://www.facebook.com/dawn.gentry2 https://www.instagram.com/gentry2987/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Book Dawn mentioned: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. Why do hurts related to faith hurt so deeply? 3. When have you been told, in the context of religion, that you’re not enough or that you’re “too much”? How did this make you feel? 4. How would you describe a toxic faith group? 5. How would you describe a healthy faith group? 6. When has a past hurt hindered your ability to attend church, join a group, or connect with God? 7. What are some healthy ways group members can respond to another member’s doubts or questions? 8. What are some unhealthy responses to someone’s doubts or questions? 9. What are some ways a person can begin to separate hurts they’ve experienced from the love of God? 10. Why is it important to always remember who we are in Christ? 11. What is one action step God is inviting you to take based on today’s episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Image_Jungle
  1. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  2. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  3. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  4. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73
  5. A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72

Quote on faith by Watchman Nee

I’ve learned, in my ongoing fight against fear, I won’t experience the peace of Christ in my own strength.  I can’t take my anxious, and often snowballing, thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5) without supernatural help. But I’ve also learned, I can live in the victory of Christ, during my most hectic and uncertain moments included, if I’ll actively and consistently pursue Him. When my world feels chaotic and like I’m being whipped about in a never-ending cyclone, I prayed for reprieve, yes, but even more so, I prayed against the storm raging within me. That was when I began taking my greatest steps toward freedom. 

As some of you know, 2011 was an incredibly rough year for me, for so many reasons. We’d recently moved, which meant saying goodbye to some close friends, uprooting ourselves from faith communities, grieving the loss of both while battling loneliness. That was also the year I got sick with what was, initially, an unknown illness. This triggered my anxiety, my anxiety fed my desire for control, and that desire led to an obsession with myself, my illness, and germs. The worse I felt, the more I cleaned. 

Soon, one thought dominated my thinking: what was or wasn’t making me sick. Bit by bit, one handwashing at a time, germaphobia developed. Eventually, I became completely enslaved to my fear. But then one day, as I was walking to the laundry room, a realization silenced my normally loud brain: This is not how God wants me to live. He promised me freedom. 

And I knew, with the certainty that can only come from the Holy Spirit, that the same God who called me to live in freedom would give me the tools to do so. 

Quote pulled from post on decorative background.

That was my call to action moment, where I sensed God challenging me to make a choice. I could remain stuck in my gunk, slipping further and further into fear. Or I could follow His lead, however He led, in this battle for freedom. Praise God, and by His grace alone, I chose the latter and began actively, persistently, and consistently praying against my fear. Every time I felt that knot in my gut, I paused to seek God’s help and His strength. I asked Him to break the power my fear had over me, which at the time felt insurmountable, and in its place, to flood my soul with peace.  

I was following the biblical example of the father who began in fear and anguish, but received that which he desperately sought. We read his story in Mark chapter 9, which we discussed in relation to praying versus arguing, a couple months ago. To refresh your memory, Scripture tells us, one day Jesus took Peter, James, and John up onto a mountain where He revealed to them His glory in an unforgettable, awe-inspiring way. 

While they were gone, a deeply distressed father came searching for Jesus. Not finding Him, he sought help from His disciples, maybe because he’d heard about all the miracles they’d performed not long before (Matthew 10:1-20). His situation, it seemed, was simply too hard; the disciples failed. But then Jesus arrived, and, noticing a conflict between His followers and the teachers of the law, asked what they were arguing about. 

Scripture says, “A man in the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought You my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked Your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not'” (V. 17-18).

Then Jesus summoned the child, and the demon “threw the boy into a convulsion.” The child “fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth” (v. 20). 

After a short explanation, the father said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (v. 21).

To which Jesus responded,  “‘If you can’? Everything is possible for one who believes” (v. 22).

Hearing this, the father let out a guttural, shriek-like cry, krazo in the original Greek, perhaps because he feared his son’s healing depended on his faith. He exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (v. 24).

Here’s what I find encouraging. Jesus didn’t get upset at the man. He didn’t rebuke him and send him away for his weak faith. Instead, He responded to the father and son in love and grace. He commanded the demon to leave the boy, never to return again.

This passage reminds me to bring my anxieties to Jesus, and to seek Him in the midst of my doubts, knowing He won’t chastise or reject me. Instead, He’ll give me precisely what I need–increased intimacy with the only One whose love has the power to cast out my fears. (1 John 4:18).

Friends, He’s been so faithful. That fall when I began actively and persistently praying against my fears? That was a life-changer for me. I didn’t notice much difference at first, and there were times I wondered if my constant requests were doing any good. But I kept praying, day after day, sometimes moment by moment, month after month. Then, one day some six months later, I realized a situation that had once triggered intense anxiety barely bothered me anymore, and other situations no longer bothered me at all. God indeed had been working. 

He was working on a spiritual level, using His supernatural power to break the chains that kept me bound. He was also teaching me how to grab hold of His freedom, step by step. To turn to Him in times of fear. Through this, I practiced stopping my anxious thoughts before they gained moment and rerouting them onto the good, in essence, onto God. 

Lessons I probably wouldn’t have learned, had God immediately eradicated my anxiety. 

Let’s talk about this! Do you suffer from anxiety? And if so, how often do you pray against your fear specifically? 

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

Ministry leaders, if you feel this message would resonate with your women, consider booking Jennifer for your next event. Find out more about her 3-part message on fighting fear to grab hold of God’s peace HERE.

Check out the Faith Over Fear Bible reading plan HERE.

I also encourage you to check out the latest Faith Over Fear episode. In it Philip Yancey shares his experience with religious abuse and his journey of untangling the false to find authentic faith.

The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75 Faith Over Fear

What happens when the places God designed to lead us closer to Him, to healing and wholeness, and freedom, become hurtful and toxic? When past hurts create present anxiety that make it challenging for us to enter church buildings, join community groups, and connect with Christ? Unfortunately, many people wrestle with these questions as they try to make sense of God. For those who have been wounded by people in positions of authority, it can be hard to untangle truth from human criticism and God’s character from the false representation of Him. In this episode, Minister Dawn Gentry, the Executive Director of Adult Ministries at Christ Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and Jennifer’s daughter, Ashley Chester, discuss some of the church hurts they’ve experienced and witnessed and how God helped them move toward increased wholeness and gave them the courage to overcome lies spoken into their hearts in order live for Him. Find Dawn Gentry at: https://followinggodanyway.com https://www.facebook.com/dawn.gentry2 https://www.instagram.com/gentry2987/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Book Dawn mentioned: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. Why do hurts related to faith hurt so deeply? 3. When have you been told, in the context of religion, that you’re not enough or that you’re “too much”? How did this make you feel? 4. How would you describe a toxic faith group? 5. How would you describe a healthy faith group? 6. When has a past hurt hindered your ability to attend church, join a group, or connect with God? 7. What are some healthy ways group members can respond to another member’s doubts or questions? 8. What are some unhealthy responses to someone’s doubts or questions? 9. What are some ways a person can begin to separate hurts they’ve experienced from the love of God? 10. Why is it important to always remember who we are in Christ? 11. What is one action step God is inviting you to take based on today’s episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Image_Jungle
  1. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  2. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  3. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  4. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73
  5. A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72

Shannon Taylor Vannatter's headshot

Lately, my creativity has been at a standstill. It started in March 2019 when I rushed my husband to the ER with severe abdominal pain. My brain stopped when the doctor said cancer in his intestine and liver.

A few days later, they removed a golf-ball sized tumor and re-sectioned his small intestine. The doctor said it was a slow growing cancer and patients with this type usually had a good prognosis. Our brains still snagged on cancer. 

Two months later, we saw a specialist. When he said slow-growing cancer and good prognosis, we finally started believing it. Especially when he said with treatment, Grant could live twenty or thirty years and this disease wouldn’t cut short our happily-ever-after. Grant was fifty-six, when this started, so that sounds good to us. 

We also learned Grant’s liver function is fine. The doctor set up a treatment plan. Carcinoid cancer doesn’t respond to chemo. Instead, Grant gets a monthly shot to keep the cancer from growing or spreading. The shots cause stomach bloating and upset for a few days, but the side effects are mild.

They’ve done two radiation treatments through his blood veins. This zaps the spots on his liver without doing any tissue or organ damage. After his last procedure, one spot was gone, and the others had shrunk forty to sixty percent. Our finances are tanked, but he’s worth it.

But in the beginning of all this, I had just signed a three-book contract, with a completed manuscript due every four months. Normally, that timeline is workable for me. But I lost two months, while we were in a fog after Grant’s surgery. By the time we saw his cancer doctor, I had two months to write a book. 

Even though I was convinced Grant would be okay, I couldn’t have cared less about my fictional characters. Their manufactured problems paled in comparison to what was happening in real-life. I considered asking for an extension on my deadlines, but I had a new editor. I didn’t want to begin our relationship with messing up her editorial schedule.

So I prayed. And wrote the book. I practiced BICHOK—bottom in chair, hands on keyboard. And I wrote. Even though I didn’t want to. I forced that book onto the page and somewhere, in the midst of it, I started caring about my characters again. I turned the manuscript in on time and started the next one.

Woman typing

But the entire series was forced. Once the editorial process was complete on each title and I read the proofs, I was amazed each had turned into a not half-bad book. Definitely a God thing. 

By the end of that series, I didn’t want to write. I needed a break. My writer buddy asked if I’d be interested in being an editor if she bought a Christian publishing company. During my writing career, I’d thought I’d enjoy being an editor, so I jumped. 

I signed on as part-owner, acquisitions, and content editor for Scrivenings Press. In the months before my new job began, I finished up the final editorial process of the last book in my forced series, took some online editorial classes, and wrote a proposal for a new series. I guess my proposal was forced too. It got rejected. I dove into my new editing job. It was chaotic at first, but after a few months I fell into a rhythm. But even with a schedule worked out, I realized I couldn’t write if I wanted to. There simply wasn’t time.

And I was okay with that, at first. The only thing I really wanted to do in my writing career was get a longer book published. One I’d written years ago. My agent advised it was a bad time to break into longer length books, so it languished in my computer. I could publish it with Scrivenings, but that felt like cheating. 

I agreed to write a novella for a collection with four other Scrivening’s authors and checked with my agent. Our contract was all inclusive, so I’d basically have to pay her for writing for my own company. We mutually agreed to go our separate ways. I was agentless with no time to write but contracted to write a novella. Since it was only eighteen thousand words, I figured I could carve out the time.

And then I found out I had thyroid cancer. It hadn’t spread, so I had half my thyroid removed. With no further treatment. We were thankful, but my energy tanked. My ability to focus disintegrated. Meanwhile, I had three books a month to edit. Submissions to accept or reject. And a novella to write. I couldn’t keep up. Even after the doctor put me on daily medication. My focus got better, but my energy didn’t. 

About that time, a friend at church asked when my next book would come out. I told her about the novella and that my usual publisher had rejected my proposal, that I felt like a dry well and didn’t even have an agent. 

Her: “I think you should put Waverly and Ron together.” 

Me: (Two side characters from that last forced book? They had nothing in common.) “Why?”

Her: “Because they’re both city.” 

She was right. Once she put the idea in my head, Waverly and Ron’s story captured my imagination. I don’t think I heard the sermon that Sunday. It welled up inside—I want to write.

I talked to my friend/business partner. She understood how overwhelmed I felt and gave me an out. I’m no longer part owner. I acquire and do content edits on Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction titles, genres I know inside and out. Within days, she’d found other editors to take up my slack. This majorly eased my workload. And just in time for a major health crisis with my dad. I was able to push everything aside and be there for him and my mom. 

With my dad on the mend, I now have time to write and still get to discover new authors and help their words sing. It’s the best of both worlds. I’m in talks with a new agent willing to allow me to write for Scrivenings without her. I recently sent her my new proposal with Waverly and Ron and I’m currently revising my long book. 

And I’m determined to live Colossians 3:23 – And whatsoever ye do, do [it] heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

Have you ever felt like a dry well? How did God get you through it?

Get to Know Shannon

Award winning author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance and has over a dozen published titles. A romance reader since her teens, she hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as she demonstrates that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does. 

She gleans fodder for her fiction in rural Arkansas where she spent her teenage summers working the concession stand with her rodeo announcing dad and married a Texan who morphed into a pastor. Shannon is Scrivenings Press Acquisitions/Content Editor. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her husband and son, flea marketing, and doing craft projects.Connect with her: Shannon’s WebsiteShannon’s Bookbub. Sign up for her Newsletter to get a free e-book, recipes, behind the scenes info, & enter exclusive giveaways: Shannon’s Newsletter

Check Out Her Latest Release Candy Cane Wishes and Saltwater Dreams

Candy Cane Wishes and Saltwater Dreams

Cover image for Candy Cane Wishes and Saltwater Dreams

By Amy Anguish, Hope Toler Dougherty, Linda Fulkerson, Regina Rudd Merrick and Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Mistletoe Make-believe by Amy Anguish – Charlie Hill’s family thinks his daughter Hailey needs a mom–to the point they won’t get off his back until he finds her one. Desperate to be free from their nagging, he asks a stranger to pretend she’s his girlfriend during the holidays. When romance author Samantha Arwine takes a working vacation to St. Simons Island over Christmas, she never dreamed she’d be involved in a real-life romance. Are the sparks between her and Charlie real? Or is her imagination over-acting … again?

A Hatteras Surprise by Hope Toler Dougherty – Ginny Stowe spent years tending a childhood hurt that dictated her college study and work. Can time with an island visitor with ties to her past heal lingering wounds and lead her toward a happy Christmas … and more? Ben Daniels intends to hire a new branch manager for a Hatteras Island bank, then hurry back to his promotion and Christmas in Charlotte. Spending time with a beautiful local, however, might force him to adjust his sails.

A Pennie for Your Thoughts by Linda Fulkerson – When the Lakeshore Homeowner’s Association threatens to condemn the cabin Pennie Vaughn inherited from her foster mother, her only hope of funding the needed repairs lies in winning a travel blog contest. Trouble is, Pennie never goes anywhere. Should she use the all-expenses paid Hawaiian vacation offered to her by her ex-fiancé? The trip that would have been their honeymoon?

Mr. Sandman by Regina Rudd Merrick – Events manager Taylor Fordham’s happily-ever-after was snatched from her, and she’s saying no to romance and Christmas. When she meets two new friends—the cute new chef at Pilot Oaks and a contributor on a sci-fi fan fiction website who enjoys debate—her resolve begins to waver. Just when she thinks she can loosen her grip on thoughts of love, a crisis pulls her back. There’s no way she’s going to risk her heart again.

Coastal Christmas by Shannon Taylor Vannatter – Lark Pendleton is banking on a high-society wedding to make her grandparent’s inn at Surfside Beach, Texas the venue to attract buyers. Tasked with sprucing up the inn, she hires Jace Wilder, whose heart she once broke. When the bride and groom turn out to be Lark’s high school nemesis and ex-boyfriend, she and Jace embark on a pretend romance to save the wedding. But when real feelings emerge, can they overcome past hurts?

Buy it HERE.

The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75 Faith Over Fear

What happens when the places God designed to lead us closer to Him, to healing and wholeness, and freedom, become hurtful and toxic? When past hurts create present anxiety that make it challenging for us to enter church buildings, join community groups, and connect with Christ? Unfortunately, many people wrestle with these questions as they try to make sense of God. For those who have been wounded by people in positions of authority, it can be hard to untangle truth from human criticism and God’s character from the false representation of Him. In this episode, Minister Dawn Gentry, the Executive Director of Adult Ministries at Christ Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and Jennifer’s daughter, Ashley Chester, discuss some of the church hurts they’ve experienced and witnessed and how God helped them move toward increased wholeness and gave them the courage to overcome lies spoken into their hearts in order live for Him. Find Dawn Gentry at: https://followinggodanyway.com https://www.facebook.com/dawn.gentry2 https://www.instagram.com/gentry2987/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Book Dawn mentioned: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. Why do hurts related to faith hurt so deeply? 3. When have you been told, in the context of religion, that you’re not enough or that you’re “too much”? How did this make you feel? 4. How would you describe a toxic faith group? 5. How would you describe a healthy faith group? 6. When has a past hurt hindered your ability to attend church, join a group, or connect with God? 7. What are some healthy ways group members can respond to another member’s doubts or questions? 8. What are some unhealthy responses to someone’s doubts or questions? 9. What are some ways a person can begin to separate hurts they’ve experienced from the love of God? 10. Why is it important to always remember who we are in Christ? 11. What is one action step God is inviting you to take based on today’s episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Image_Jungle
  1. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  2. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  3. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  4. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73
  5. A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72

Quote from Billy Graham with woman gazing toward the horizon.

We can always find a reason to discount the things of God. Especially if there’s a call to action attached. We love the miraculous, to know that the God of creation loves, provides, and cares for us, so long as He comes on our terms. 

And if not, we can find plenty of reasons to close our ears. We all have this tendency, and when we step out in faith, we’ll probably, on occasion, experience negative or dismissive reactions from others. 

When that occurs, we can become offended, feel defeated, or remain focused on Christ. 

When God first called me into writing and speaking, my “credentials” were far from impressive. Though I had earned my GED and taken nearly two years of college classes, I was a largely uneducated high school dropout, former homeless girl. My love for Scripture certainly didn’t qualify me as a theologian, nor would the hours I spent doing housework and homeschooling my second-grade daughter appear notable in an event brochure bio. 

In fact, I can’t remember how I was introduced the night I delivered my first paid presentation. It was that unimpressive. And while God overwhelmed me with His presence, His Spirit, and perhaps most beautifully of all, His pleasure, once the event concluded, everyone left, I reflected on all that had occurred. 

The positive… 

The peace I felt once I began to speak.

The awe of knowing knowing, despite my lack of experience and education, Christ had chosen to use me.

The joy of experiencing His Spirit flowing first in me and then through me. 

But I thought about the negative as well—the sting of shame I felt after one presumably successful and prestigious man, with a word and look of disdain, discounted everything I had to say. 

Leaving me feeling discounted, like a fool who should have stayed home doing dishes. 

“Why did that church choose me, Lord? Out of all the people they could have booked? Those with bachelor degrees, decades of ministry experience, and a string of titles behind their names? They probably had plenty others much more qualified in the audience while I spoke.”

God’s inaudible response swept through my soul. “You are their excuse.” 

His statement, though undeniably clear, stung and left me confused. Like He’d given me a directive of some sort without any indication as to how to live it out. Scripture speaks of God choosing the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. Did that mean I was to remain untrained and inexperienced? 

And yet, I knew in my soul that wasn’t the case. 

Now, over a decade, a college degree, and years of ministry later, I now understand. God’s statement–and that man’s discounting behavior on the night I felt so insufficient–hadn’t been about me at all. God was helping me to see mankind with new eyes, with His vision. 

Our eloquence and evidences won’t matter to the one who’s already determined to reject God’s truth. 

Quote from post on cloud background.

As Jesus told His disciples, and therefore, us as well, “If the world hates you”––mocks or rejects you or disregards and minimizes what you have to say–– “keep in mind that it hated Me first” (John 15:18).

There were many who saw the miracles He performed. Who were there when He fed thousands from one boy’s lunch. People who had watched Him cast out demons, bring sight to the blind and mobility to the lame. Men and women who were amazed by His teaching, but ultimately, found ways to discredit the deepest and most transformative truth He shared:

That He was God’s Son, the long promised Messiah, who came to bridge the gap between God and man. 

In John chapter 7, midway through one of the most joyous and reflective festivals on the Jewish calendar, Jesus stood up and began to teach. Verses 15-17 state, “The people were amazed and asked, ‘How did this man get such learning without having studied?’ Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not Myown. It comes from Him who sent Me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own” (NIV).

This was a powerful and telling invitation. The questions Christ evoked within His listeners would drive some to investigate further, ultimately leading them to life. But those same questions would cause others to turn away. 

As a good number of them did, some vehemently speaking against Him while others chose to remain stuck in their ambiguity. ​​They “began to ask, ‘Isn’t this the Man they are trying to kill? Here He is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to Him. Have the authorities really concluded that He is the Messiah? But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where He is from.”

Here’s what I find sad. The people could’ve easily found answers to all their questions.  Their doubts and uncertainty could’ve drawn them to unshakable, life-changing truth, to the One who is truth. Instead, they let what could’ve been an avenue to faith become a barrier between them and Christ. 

Largely, out of fear. (v. 13)

Unfortunately, there are times when I act the same. While I’ve accepted God’s big truth regarding salvation, I can stumble on His leading in my day-to-day. When my fears rise up, I’m tempted to discount that nudge from God, that call to obedience, to sacrifice. Allowing myself to be held captive by the unknowns and uncertainty instead of accepting Christ’s invitation to step out in faith.

Lord, help us to see every question, every doubt, and every unknown as an invitation to greater understanding and deeper intimacy with You. 

Before you go, today is the last day to get entered into the book giveaway drawing!

Snatch a photo of my latest release, Chasing Her Dream, on the shelves, share it on social media, tag me, and tell us where you found it, and I’ll enter you into the drawing to win all of these fun books!

Books in giveaway bundle

And if you haven’t had a chance to catch the latest episode of the Faith Over Fear podcast, you can listen to it by clicking below. In this episode, author Grace Fox shares a practical and biblically sound resource to help you fight your fear with faith.

The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75 Faith Over Fear

What happens when the places God designed to lead us closer to Him, to healing and wholeness, and freedom, become hurtful and toxic? When past hurts create present anxiety that make it challenging for us to enter church buildings, join community groups, and connect with Christ? Unfortunately, many people wrestle with these questions as they try to make sense of God. For those who have been wounded by people in positions of authority, it can be hard to untangle truth from human criticism and God’s character from the false representation of Him. In this episode, Minister Dawn Gentry, the Executive Director of Adult Ministries at Christ Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and Jennifer’s daughter, Ashley Chester, discuss some of the church hurts they’ve experienced and witnessed and how God helped them move toward increased wholeness and gave them the courage to overcome lies spoken into their hearts in order live for Him. Find Dawn Gentry at: https://followinggodanyway.com https://www.facebook.com/dawn.gentry2 https://www.instagram.com/gentry2987/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Book Dawn mentioned: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. Why do hurts related to faith hurt so deeply? 3. When have you been told, in the context of religion, that you’re not enough or that you’re “too much”? How did this make you feel? 4. How would you describe a toxic faith group? 5. How would you describe a healthy faith group? 6. When has a past hurt hindered your ability to attend church, join a group, or connect with God? 7. What are some healthy ways group members can respond to another member’s doubts or questions? 8. What are some unhealthy responses to someone’s doubts or questions? 9. What are some ways a person can begin to separate hurts they’ve experienced from the love of God? 10. Why is it important to always remember who we are in Christ? 11. What is one action step God is inviting you to take based on today’s episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Image_Jungle
  1. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  2. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  3. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  4. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73
  5. A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72

I have a tendency to run ahead of God. I’ll sense a call to action and a surge of His Spirit within, then race ahead, without divine clarity on the how. Do you ever do that? Do you ever assume that first nudge is all you need, only to discover, once you’ve landed in a mess of your own making, that you were missing a few crucial pieces? Details and insight God would’ve provided, had you had the patience, humility, and self-control to wait?

One Sunday, I came to church super frustrated regarding a particularly confusing and exhausting situation. I’d given of myself sacrificially and persistently, for months, only to encounter ugliness in return. Though I knew, intellectually, the treatment I received had little to do with me, it still stung, and in my hurt, I wanted to retreat. To self-protect and give up. To be done with that particular “assignment” and invest my time, energy, and heart elsewhere. 

But then, in the middle of church service, God spoke life and encouragement into my weary and bruised soul and helped me see things more clearly. Through the story of a life changed, He reminded me of the power and persistence of His love and grace. 

He reminded me of the cross. 

As soon as service concluded, I rushed out–and rushed ahead. The result? I fell out of step with God. And I was reminded that it’s not enough to start well, or even to leap forward on the best intentions. If I truly want to honor Christ, to live as His life-giving ambassador, I must allow Him to direct my every step. 

Woman gazing ahead.

That requires patience, a fierce commitment to surrender, and remaining alert to the unceasing battle within. I know I’m not alone in my relentless fight against myself. In this inner tug-of-war that has me pinging between love and compassion and grace one moment and pride and selfishness the next. Because, apart from Christ, nothing good dwells within me.  (Romans 7:18).

Not a drop or a moment. 

My only hope? To remain vitally connected and surrendered to Christ. This means I’ll have to learn to slow down. To do more listening than speaking, more praying than running.

And a whole lot more seeking and receiving than doing. 

In Galatians 5, the apostle Paul phrased it this way: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (v. 16, NIV). 

I’m reminded of a battle the Israelites faced in Exodus 17. Scripture tells us the Amelekites launched a surprise attack on the nation. In response, Moses sent Joshua and some of their men out to fight while he stood on top of a hill with the “staff of God” in his hands. According to verse 11, “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amelekites were winning” (v. 11, NIV). Not because his staff held any supernatural power. Rather, through Moses’s raised hands, God was teaching the Israelites an important lesson, one you and I must master as well. Victory comes through our continual, moment by moment, reliance on God. 

The moment we think we’ve got everything figured out, the moment we take our eyes off Him, in essence, lowering our staffs, we fail. We experience victory through our surrender–when we raise our arms and keep them raised, so to speak, toward heaven. 

When is it most challenging for you to remain surrendered to the Holy Spirit? What are some ways ways you can remain more consistently surrendered to Him during those challenging circumstances? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75 Faith Over Fear

What happens when the places God designed to lead us closer to Him, to healing and wholeness, and freedom, become hurtful and toxic? When past hurts create present anxiety that make it challenging for us to enter church buildings, join community groups, and connect with Christ? Unfortunately, many people wrestle with these questions as they try to make sense of God. For those who have been wounded by people in positions of authority, it can be hard to untangle truth from human criticism and God’s character from the false representation of Him. In this episode, Minister Dawn Gentry, the Executive Director of Adult Ministries at Christ Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and Jennifer’s daughter, Ashley Chester, discuss some of the church hurts they’ve experienced and witnessed and how God helped them move toward increased wholeness and gave them the courage to overcome lies spoken into their hearts in order live for Him. Find Dawn Gentry at: https://followinggodanyway.com https://www.facebook.com/dawn.gentry2 https://www.instagram.com/gentry2987/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Book Dawn mentioned: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. Why do hurts related to faith hurt so deeply? 3. When have you been told, in the context of religion, that you’re not enough or that you’re “too much”? How did this make you feel? 4. How would you describe a toxic faith group? 5. How would you describe a healthy faith group? 6. When has a past hurt hindered your ability to attend church, join a group, or connect with God? 7. What are some healthy ways group members can respond to another member’s doubts or questions? 8. What are some unhealthy responses to someone’s doubts or questions? 9. What are some ways a person can begin to separate hurts they’ve experienced from the love of God? 10. Why is it important to always remember who we are in Christ? 11. What is one action step God is inviting you to take based on today’s episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Image_Jungle
  1. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  2. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  3. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  4. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73
  5. A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72

Long before the taliban came into existence and the CoronaVirus hit our world, eighteenth century theologian Matthew Henry wrote, “All human life is warfare.”

I imagine, many of us have felt the reality of that statement over the past few years. We have a real and relentless enemy bent on our destruction. And every mighty movement of God seems to trigger an explosion of evil. 

Yet, quickly review our world’s history and you’ll see, every explosion of evil also triggers a mighty and beautiful movement of God. A movement revealed not through loud displays of power but rather quiet, yet inspiring and contagious, demonstrations of grace and love. 

Radiant displays of beauty that reveal our radiant Lord.

This battle, at times, is exhausting. But we must never allow it to become defeating. Or deceiving.

What we’re experiencing and witnessing today, it’s not new. The players may shift, but wars continue to rage, terrorists rise up, are conquered or supplanted and new ones take their place. Friends and family betray one another and children experience abuse and neglect, and often, by the hands of the very ones who were supposed to keep them safe. 

Surrounded by such ugliness, it’s easy to get caught in the fray. To allow the ugliness to seep in and then out of us. Adding hurt upon hurt, brokenness upon brokenness. 

But God infused within us incredible, untarnishable beauty: life, love and light strong enough to shatter the darkness that tries to press in. 

Decades ago, our family visited the Grand Canyon, and I went hiking along the Kaibab trail. I don’t know what the trail looks like during blooming season, but when I was there, it was dry and largely barren. Which is why each desert flower I saw had such an impact. The colors were so vibrant against the landscape of brown. Each one drew me, and I was intrigued by the tenacity with which it grew. 

The tenacity that allowed the seed that became that blossom to grow while other seeds remained dead in the dry soil and other emerging plants withered away in the unrelenting heat. 

Reflecting back on every sign of life I encountered, I sense God asking me, “Which will you be? The seed that never grew. That lay dormant, engulfed, lifeless by its environment? The blossom that sprouts for a moment, maybe a day or a week, but then allows the harsh realities surrounding it to destroy the sweet aroma I created it to produce?”

Who will claim the victory of my life, my enemy, who is bent on my destruction, or the God who died that I might live?

And I’m not speaking about salvation here. I’m assuming most of you reading this belong to Christ. That you’ve accepted His gift of spiritual life, but that doesn’t mean you’re living in the victory of it. 

Are you believing the lies that say you’re powerless, ineffective, unimportant, and besieged? 

As I said previously, for every miraculous movement of God, our world experiences a countermovement of evil. Consider all that occurred after Christ’s death. In a moment, the church was born and division and social hierarchies broken as the gospel united people of all nations. (Acts 2:1-41) Soon after, however, a wave of persecution hit. And to some, this may have felt like the end. Their circumstances hopeless.

But just as life ignites our enemy to attack us with death, so his attacks spur God to unleash unconquerable bursts of life. In the first century, He did this by inspiring His persecuted children to share the gospel in each place to which they’d fled. 

Dotting the landscape with beauty through His ever-blossoming, soul-beautiful children.

Just as He’s doing today, through you and I. 

This war we’re in, it’s personal. We’re called, empowered and commissioned, which is precisely why we’re under attack.    

Satan will try to destroy the most beautiful parts of you. The parts of you that most radiate Jesus. That gift of compassion that reveals the heart of the One who wept over Jerusalem’s hard-heartedness, deception, and impending destruction (Luke 19:41-44), and who wept before raising Lazarus from the dead as well (John 11:38-44). 

A gift intended to radiate a unique, life-changing aspect of Christ, of who He is at His core. A gift that should, in its expression, bring joy, but that Satan will twist to feel burdensome. Or, through the hurtful words of others, diminish by telling you that you’re defective, too sensitive. That you feel too intensely, enticing you to withdraw and isolate. To hide behind a facade of “strength” and stoicism.

If God has planted leadership skills within you, satan will tarnish your strength with pride, causing that gift intended to unite and mobilize the kingdom to wound and divide. Or, again, through the hurtful words of others, tell you you’re domineering or prideful. Maybe too loud. Tempting you to hold your tongue, to keep your head down, and to “go with the flow” even when you know things are flowing toward a deadly waterfall. 

In short, satan will try to entice us to fight one another and ourselves. To become self-obsessed, easily offended, and defensive, rather than leaning deeper into Christ and His love. 

But we know our enemy’s tactics. We have an entire book recording his futile attempts, and they are indeed futile, because our play book assures us, Christ has already won. He broke the power of death and replaced it with vibrant and beautiful life. 

And He’s working, day by day and wound by wound, to replace our rubble, the ashes our enemy created in our lives, with untarnishable beauty. 

That’s why Jesus came. Speaking of our Savior, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3, NASB).

That’s what God did through Jesus. He turned our mourning into dancing, swept away the ashes and rubble our sin and the sins of others created, and gave us a Spirit of strength, joy, and praise.

Now, He’s inviting you and I to live in that. To be part of the mighty movement of God that will, and even is now, rising up against the onslaught of our world’s evil. And not through ugliness and arguments but, through our words and actions, by sprinkling flower seeds wherever we go and plunging our roots deep into the One who nourishes and refreshes our souls. 

Now for the Book GiveAway

Snatch a photo of my latest release, Chasing Her Dream, on the shelves, share it on social media, tag me, and tell us where you found it, and I’ll enter you into the drawing to win all of these fun books!

Books in giveaway bundle

Chasing Her Dream:

She needs his help…

But can she trust him again?

After she inherits her uncle’s mismanaged ranch, single mom Rheanna Stone’s not sure she can also handle saving abused horses from a nearby property. So when rancher Dave Brewster offers to stay in town to help, she can’t say no—even if he left her once before. As they grow closer, old secrets are uncovered…but can they heal past heartbreak to give themselves a new beginning?

From Love Inspired: Uplifting stories of faith, forgiveness and hope.

Find it HERE.

The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75 Faith Over Fear

What happens when the places God designed to lead us closer to Him, to healing and wholeness, and freedom, become hurtful and toxic? When past hurts create present anxiety that make it challenging for us to enter church buildings, join community groups, and connect with Christ? Unfortunately, many people wrestle with these questions as they try to make sense of God. For those who have been wounded by people in positions of authority, it can be hard to untangle truth from human criticism and God’s character from the false representation of Him. In this episode, Minister Dawn Gentry, the Executive Director of Adult Ministries at Christ Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and Jennifer’s daughter, Ashley Chester, discuss some of the church hurts they’ve experienced and witnessed and how God helped them move toward increased wholeness and gave them the courage to overcome lies spoken into their hearts in order live for Him. Find Dawn Gentry at: https://followinggodanyway.com https://www.facebook.com/dawn.gentry2 https://www.instagram.com/gentry2987/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Book Dawn mentioned: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. Why do hurts related to faith hurt so deeply? 3. When have you been told, in the context of religion, that you’re not enough or that you’re “too much”? How did this make you feel? 4. How would you describe a toxic faith group? 5. How would you describe a healthy faith group? 6. When has a past hurt hindered your ability to attend church, join a group, or connect with God? 7. What are some healthy ways group members can respond to another member’s doubts or questions? 8. What are some unhealthy responses to someone’s doubts or questions? 9. What are some ways a person can begin to separate hurts they’ve experienced from the love of God? 10. Why is it important to always remember who we are in Christ? 11. What is one action step God is inviting you to take based on today’s episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Image_Jungle
  1. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  2. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  3. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  4. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73
  5. A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72

Text from post on graphic with mint background

Today’s post first published on May 23, 2019.

But before you jump in, a quick fun announcement! My latest novel, Chasing Her Dream, has hit shelves across the nation, and to celebrate, I’m hosting a fun giveaway. I’ll share more, along with info on the podcast episode that dropped today, after the post.  

Encouragement for the Fatigued and Discouraged

Discouragement, fatigue, and feelings of defeat are perhaps the most powerful vision destroyers and faith derailers. These emotions, often fed through negative thinking, paralyze God’s people. I know, because I’ve allowed momentary setbacks, lack of results or response from others to hinder my productivity—my obedience—on numerous occasions.

This morning, I made a list of my greatest challenges to obedience:

  1. Focusing on results rather than obedience. If I dig to the root of this obstacle, I discover I’ve likely forgotten that God’s wisdom is greater than mine, that He’s always present, is always working out His plans, and, in His sovereignty, will ensure that everything plays out precisely as He desires. And since He knows best, the results, whether deemed “successful” by human standards or not, will be good because He is good.
  2.  Allowing my identity to get tied up in that “thing.” It’s interesting, or perhaps sad would be more accurate, how often I entangle who I am with what I do or don’t do. When I look to accolades, roles, or outcomes to define me, my security becomes unstable and my confidence subjective.
  3. Focusing on others—what they are or aren’t doing—rather than God’s leading. When God calls me to something, especially if that something is hard or requires perseverance and sacrifice, my eyes can begin to roam. I can begin to compare my assignment or results with others.
  4. Fatigue. Sometimes I simply need to rest—in God’s presence.
  5. Fear of failure. This fear tangles challenge one with challenge two. To overcome this fear, I must shift my focus from results to obedience and remember, regardless of the results, that role or achievement doesn’t define me. I belong to God, am chosen by Him for an eternal purpose, and He will perfect all that concerns me.

God addresses each of these faith-hindrances in Daniel chapter 10. Daniel, a prophet living in a foreign land during a time of oppression, was devastated by his circumstances. He’d cried out to God, acknowledging the sins of his people and asking for forgiveness and restoration. (Daniel 9). God had responded by telling him further destruction would come. And Daniel fell into a three-week depression. (Daniel 10:2).

God responded not by changing his circumstances but instead by centering him in His love.In the middle of Daniel’s despair, a man dressed in white whom some believe was Jesus Himself, appeared and said, “Daniel, you are very precious to God” (v. 11). “‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said, ‘for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!’” (v. 19).

I love that this man affirmed Daniel twice: “You are precious to God. You are precious to God.”

How often do we need to hear those words? When we’re doing all we can to raise responsible, Christ-loving children, but they rebel against us. Or when we’re faithfully performing our work responsibilities each day, but coworkers or perhaps a hostile boss continually stands against us. Or perhaps when we’re following all the doctors tell us to do, praying daily for healing, and yet the tumor grows.

In those moments, it’s easy to feel discouraged and deflated. Completely alone. But God says to each of us, “You are precious to God. Don’t be afraid. Be encouraged! Be strong!”

What are you facing today? Don’t fight that battle alone. Press into Jesus and Text from post with mint backgroundremember, you are precious to Him. He’s standing beside you and going before you. He hears you and sees you and promises to never leave.

For those wanting to follow my Bible reading (largely following chronologically with Ezra, though Daniel 9, which should fall on day five, is presented first to correlate with today’s post):

Day one: Daniel 9

Day two: Haggai 1

Day three: Haggai 2

Day four: Zechariah 1, 4

Day five: Ezra 5

Day six: Spend a day reviewing, journaling on, and praying over what God showed you during your day one-five Bible reading time.

You can use these questions, pulled from Wholly Loved’ Becoming His Princess Bible study, as a guide each day.

Who are the main characters in this passage?

What does this passage reveal about the human condition, such as:

  • Mankind’s rebellion against/obedience toward God?
  • Mankind’s attempts to fill their needs apart from Him or relying on Him for their needs?
  • Mankind’s attempts to reach Him on their own terms?

What does this passage reveal regarding God’s nature?

What does/might this passage reveal about God’s plans?

How might this passage reveal mankind’s need for the gospel?

In what ways are you/have you been similar to one or more of the characters in this passage?

What might God want you to know through this section of Scripture?

What might He be asking you to do?

Want to join the Wholly Loved Facebook community to connect with other ladies who are growing closer to Christ, find a place to authentically share your struggles and celebrations, and explore God’s truth? Then click below! Find us HERE

Now for the Book GiveAway

Snatch a photo of my latest release, Chasing Her Dream, on the shelves, share it on social media, tag me, and tell us where you found it, and I’ll enter you into the drawing to win all of these fun books!

Chasing Her Dream:

She needs his help…

But can she trust him again?

After she inherits her uncle’s mismanaged ranch, single mom Rheanna Stone’s not sure she can also handle saving abused horses from a nearby property. So when rancher Dave Brewster offers to stay in town to help, she can’t say no—even if he left her once before. As they grow closer, old secrets are uncovered…but can they heal past heartbreak to give themselves a new beginning?

From Love Inspired: Uplifting stories of faith, forgiveness and hope.

Find it HERE.

The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75 Faith Over Fear

What happens when the places God designed to lead us closer to Him, to healing and wholeness, and freedom, become hurtful and toxic? When past hurts create present anxiety that make it challenging for us to enter church buildings, join community groups, and connect with Christ? Unfortunately, many people wrestle with these questions as they try to make sense of God. For those who have been wounded by people in positions of authority, it can be hard to untangle truth from human criticism and God’s character from the false representation of Him. In this episode, Minister Dawn Gentry, the Executive Director of Adult Ministries at Christ Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and Jennifer’s daughter, Ashley Chester, discuss some of the church hurts they’ve experienced and witnessed and how God helped them move toward increased wholeness and gave them the courage to overcome lies spoken into their hearts in order live for Him. Find Dawn Gentry at: https://followinggodanyway.com https://www.facebook.com/dawn.gentry2 https://www.instagram.com/gentry2987/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Book Dawn mentioned: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. Why do hurts related to faith hurt so deeply? 3. When have you been told, in the context of religion, that you’re not enough or that you’re “too much”? How did this make you feel? 4. How would you describe a toxic faith group? 5. How would you describe a healthy faith group? 6. When has a past hurt hindered your ability to attend church, join a group, or connect with God? 7. What are some healthy ways group members can respond to another member’s doubts or questions? 8. What are some unhealthy responses to someone’s doubts or questions? 9. What are some ways a person can begin to separate hurts they’ve experienced from the love of God? 10. Why is it important to always remember who we are in Christ? 11. What is one action step God is inviting you to take based on today’s episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Image_Jungle
  1. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  2. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  3. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  4. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73
  5. A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72

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.

Woman at nightfall with quote on emotions crying to be heard.

Many of us are uncomfortable with anger, likely because we’ve seen the damage the emotion, uncontrolled, can produce. We’ve probably, on occasion, created wreckage ourselves. I’ve done both. I’ve been deeply hurt by the rash actions of others, but I’ve also allowed corrosive words to erupt from my mouth.

All that pain and ugliness from the past can motivate me to squelch my anger. But God has shown me, while He is pleased when I guard what I say—the Holy Spirit has given me the gift of self-control, after all—He’s not so thrilled when I suppress and deny my feelings.

Instead, He wants me to investigate and untangle them. To get to their root.

Scripture says, “In your anger do not sin” (Eph. 4:26a). In other words, some situations and encounters will make us mad. And the emotion itself isn’t sin, but it can easily, much too easily in fact, lead to sin—especially when we see it as a signal to spring into action. We simply cannot handle the intensity of such an emotion on our own, not if we want to respond with godliness.

We need to learn to pause. To really sit in our anger, to wrestle with ourselves and with God. Most importantly, to find Him—His heart—in our emotional angst.

As we do, we begin to understand, on a soul-deep level, what grieves and provokes His Father’s heart. When my anger stems from selfishness or pride, He’ll show me, lovingly drawing me into His cleansing embrace.

Image of woman staring out a window with quote from post.

Other times, He’ll take me deeper, revealing where our souls connect, where we grieve together. As Dr. Allender, co-author of the Cry of the Soul states, “Righteous anger” —like what burns within me when I see a child abused, the weak oppressed, and a life destroyed— “warns, invites, and wounds for the greater work of redemption. It is full of strength that is neither defensive nor vindictive, and it is permeated by a sadness that is rich in desire and hope. … Righteous anger grieves and struggles with God: ‘What are You doing, God? What am I to understand about You?’”

My deepest angst becomes a call to intimacy, to discover more of my heart and God’s and where they intercept. A call to worship, and then, and only then, to action. Because as Dr. Allender so wisely states, “Our reaction to the pain and injustice of life will only move toward godly anger if we own up to our struggle with God and move toward Him with our questions.”

About a month ago, God walked me through this journey. It’d been a tough weekend where I felt bombarded by evil on every side. Someone using their religious authority to break up a marriage and friend groups. Another using their power to wound a young heart. And still another, a leader, creating ripples of dysfunction that drove numerous people from the church.

Ignited by the injustice, the wrongness, of it all, I immediately became engulfed in spiraling thoughts. Thoughts that, frankly, centered on me. On what I wanted to say or do or how I would “fix” the situation. But then I sensed God’s gentle whisper, “I’m here.” So I paused, right there in my bathroom, to pray.

To see Him and His heart, one that was even more grieved than mine.

There was beauty and comfort in that. In sharing that moment with my Savior, the loving and self-sacrificing lamb, absolutely, but also the sovereign, all-powerful lion of Judah who fights for His beloved. The One who always has a plan, and who will show me, in His timing, the role I am to play.

He is just.

He is righteous.

He is the defender of the vulnerable and oppressed.

I know many of you have experienced inner turmoil over all that is and has been occurring in our world at large and your more personal world. Righteous anger God shares. And we know that one day He will make all things right. Until then, we wrestle with ourselves, with Him, and seek His heart and His will, trusting in and waiting on the God who sees, hears, feels, and acts according to His perfect timing, His perfect love, and His infinite wisdom.

Let’s talk about this! How do you typically respond to feelings of anger? Do you suppress, lash out, or investigate? How might seeking God’s heart in the middle of your anger deepen your understanding and intimacy with Him? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

I’d love to connect with you on social media! You can find me on Facebook and Instagram, and you can listen to the latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode here:

The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75 Faith Over Fear

What happens when the places God designed to lead us closer to Him, to healing and wholeness, and freedom, become hurtful and toxic? When past hurts create present anxiety that make it challenging for us to enter church buildings, join community groups, and connect with Christ? Unfortunately, many people wrestle with these questions as they try to make sense of God. For those who have been wounded by people in positions of authority, it can be hard to untangle truth from human criticism and God’s character from the false representation of Him. In this episode, Minister Dawn Gentry, the Executive Director of Adult Ministries at Christ Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and Jennifer’s daughter, Ashley Chester, discuss some of the church hurts they’ve experienced and witnessed and how God helped them move toward increased wholeness and gave them the courage to overcome lies spoken into their hearts in order live for Him. Find Dawn Gentry at: https://followinggodanyway.com https://www.facebook.com/dawn.gentry2 https://www.instagram.com/gentry2987/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Book Dawn mentioned: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. Why do hurts related to faith hurt so deeply? 3. When have you been told, in the context of religion, that you’re not enough or that you’re “too much”? How did this make you feel? 4. How would you describe a toxic faith group? 5. How would you describe a healthy faith group? 6. When has a past hurt hindered your ability to attend church, join a group, or connect with God? 7. What are some healthy ways group members can respond to another member’s doubts or questions? 8. What are some unhealthy responses to someone’s doubts or questions? 9. What are some ways a person can begin to separate hurts they’ve experienced from the love of God? 10. Why is it important to always remember who we are in Christ? 11. What is one action step God is inviting you to take based on today’s episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Image_Jungle
  1. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  2. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  3. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  4. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73
  5. A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72