Dealing With Grief

Woman sitting by herself on a dock

Image by Pablo Basagoiti on Unsplash

Grief has no timetable and doesn’t follow a predictable journey. It can hit unexpectedly, years, decades, after a tragic loss and can come in waves that leave the mourner incapacitated. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and other shared moments that once initiated joy can bring one to tears once their loved one has left. Because the sorrow of loss can last years, long after other supportive friends have forgotten, the bereaved can feel forgotten and alone. But they aren’t. There’s One that remains closer than a brother. He never forgets, never leaves, and never fails to understand.

Acquainted With Grief by Linda Randeau

This time of year may be very difficult for the bereaved … especially if the loss occurred near the holidays. Even those of great faith can find anniversaries and special days difficult to endure.

My friend Helen’s fiancé was killed in a car crash, days before their upcoming Christmas wedding. For years afterward, when the holiday came around, she became more and more secluded, despite her friends’ Herculean efforts to draw her out. Sometimes she attended office parties and other festivities for her friends’ sakes, but her heart wasn’t in them.

When I think of Helen’s difficulties surrounding the holidays, I wonder what the Father must have felt when Christ came to earth. His grief must have transcended any human’s.

Scripture foretold that our Savior would be a man who’d be acquainted with grief.

“He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way. He was Image of Jesus before crucifixiondespised, and we did not care” (Isaiah 53:3, NLT).

Did the Father grieve when the angels heralded the long-awaited birth? When He watched that infant grow into a toddler, than a teen, and then a man? God knew what the future held for His only son and that the time would soon come when many would cry, “Crucify Him.”

For thousands of years, the world anxiously awaited their promised Savior not knowing the price that would be paid … a plan put in place from the beginning of time and told by prophets. He was born to suffer so that you and I could be set free.

“But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NLT)*.

Only God knew of Heaven’s future loss. And I wonder if His grief is renewed each Christmas and Easter as men continue to scorn the gift He gave. And yet, God held nothing back from His promise of deliverance from sin’s hopelessness.

***

Let’s talk about this! If you’re experiencing grief, what days tend to be the hardest for you? How does knowing Jesus knows, understands, and cares deeply bring you comfort? In what ways has He walked this hard journey with you? If you aren’t currently grieving, chances are, someone in your circle is. Did Linda’s post give you any insight as to how you can be there for your friend, church family, or whomever God places in your circle who might be experiencing grief? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all encourage and learn from one another!

If you enjoyed today’s post, I encourage you to sign up for my free, quarterly e-mailing; the next edition releases soon! Subscribers receive great, free content sent directly to their inbox along with a free, 36-lesson study (ebook form) based on truths presented in 1 Timothy (sent separately). (If you signed up and haven’t yet received your free study, please contact me through this website so I can get that to you!) You can sign up for my e-mailing HERE.

Get to know Linda!

Award winning author, Linda Wood Randeau writes to demonstrate our worst past, surrendered to God becomes our best future. A veteran social worker, Linda now resides in Hagerstown, Maryland. Readers may visit her web site at www.lindarondeau.com. Contact the author on Facebook, Twitter, PinterestGoogle Plus and Goodreads.

cover image for Miracle on Main StreetCheck out her latest release, Miracle on Main Street:

“Christmas is a time for miracles,” Ryan McDougal tells his mother, when he is told that a long lost cousin, Millie, has resurfaced after nearly forty years, the cousin whose picture his mother clasped the day his father abandoned him. Though they occurred decades apart, he always believed the two disappearances were connected like opposite links of a chain.

With Millie’s arrival, perhaps he might finally receive the answers he so desperately sought. However, Ryan has a third thorn in his side, more devastating than any mystery. His wife, the love of his life, has left his arms and his bed. How long before she moves out of the house and takes his beloved son with her? He prays for his own Christmas miracle. Millie’s anticipated visit prompts Ryan’s mother to reveal secrets that bring all to light. However, when past and present collide, the truth is more than Ryan can bear.

Buy it HERE!

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright (c) 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinios, 60188. All rights reserved.

 

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When His People Pray–Watching God’s Faithfulness Unfold

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

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

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

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

 

Celebrating answered prayer

by Gail Pallotta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Barely Above Water:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Pulling Back the Veil on Christian Love

ID-100201732Scroll through social media long enough, and chances are you’ll read a few (or more) negative posts regarding Christians and Christianity. Some say we’re intolerant, others that we’re hateful, close-minded, or out of touch, or whatever. Find a negative adjective, and I’m pretty sure you can find a statement connecting it to Christ-followers.

Granted, there are those among us who do indeed fit those descriptions, but from my experience, when I step back and truly consider, those angry (or perhaps confused) individuals are the minority. The vast number of Christians I know are doing amazing things. They’re feeding the hungry, adopting orphans, walking beside single moms, bringing clean water to the sick and thirsty, medical care to the ill, and more. So much more.

Yesterday I considered all the ways God’s children have shown up in my life lately, of all the sacrificial giving of time and resources I’ve seen displayed, not by one, not by two or three, but by a large number of believers with whom I have contact.

All this points not to the good of the human heart, nor to the quality of my friends (thoughgirl-1186895_1920 I think they’re amazing) but rather to the power of the Holy Spirit, at work in us. And every act of love displayed by one of God’s children points to His ever-reaching, ever-faithful Daddy’s heart.

Let me explain:

God has called our family to something hard, amazing, beautiful, and frightening. He has called us to help initiate life change and healing, to show the truth and depth of His love, even when–especially when!–that love is spurned.

This in and of itself is not unique to Christians. I believe we all as humans long to make an impact, to help others, and to see our world change. But wanting and doing are entirely different things, and on our own, in our own strength, we lack the power to truly live “all in,” sacrificially, for a significant length of time. 

Let me explain–from my experience. Lately, many have showered me with accolades, saying they view me as giving, loving, and … saint-like. But I’m not. So not. On my own, I’m selfish, fearful, distracted, impatient, ever-viewing the world through a me-centered lens.

And that’s where the tug-push-pull comes in–an inner wrestling of God’s Spirit with mine, and an intimate time where He personally meets with me, changing my thinking, softening my heart, and empowering me to follow, wholeheartedly, His leading.

Here’s how it starts. I’ll step out in love and faith, only to have my love spurned. My natural, human reaction? To get frustrated, maybe even angry, discouraged, and to want to pull back. To self-protect and withdraw–to take the easy route.

But then, in the midst of my selfish thinking, God speaks gently to my heart. Sometimes He’ll remind me of His love. Always, He’ll help me see the situation and the other person through His eyes.

Let me pause here. That is the most powerful, most attitude and heart changing aspect of walking in a close relationship with Christ–being granted the ability to see, truly see, other’s through Christ’s eyes–to catch a glimpse past behaviors and words to the hurting, bleeding heart within.

When that happens, everything changes, in an instant. Anger is turned to compassion. Frustration to peace. Discouragement to hope. Selfishness to love. And suddenly, one is filled with a passion so strong, they cannot not act, cannot not love.

Gal 2-20verse jpgThis has been my journey lately, a daily teeter totter, and praise God, He has been winning–love has been winning. Not because there’s anything remotely good within me, but because God has proven strong on my behalf. Again and again and again. And through it all, I’ve grown even closer to Him as He overwhelms me with the revelation of the depth of His love for our hurting world.

When I started this post, I planned to share all the ways God’s children have shown up for our family as we seek to obey Him. But as I wrote, it took a bit of a detour, hopefully one that was God directed.

For now, I leave you with this–if you’ve never experienced the love and life-changing power of God’s Spirit living within, today can be the day–the day you quit trying to live on your own and in your own strength, the day you stop seeking temporary fillers to the emptiness within, the day you know what it’s like to be loved deeply, at your core, and held close by your heavenly Father, from now to eternity. (Find out how HERE.)

For those of you who do have a relationship with Christ, I challenge you (and me) to get and stay connected–to Him. Make your relationship with Christ your top priority and to carve out time when you rest in His presence, allowing Him to change your perspective, soften your heart, and empower you to do that which He has called you to do. Because in Him, you have everything you need to live the life He desires.

I leave you with one of my favorite verses:

“By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of 2Peter3-1versejpgthis by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT).

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! What is God calling you to do? In what ways has He empowered and equipped you to do that? In what ways has He revealed His love to you through others? Share your stories with us here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace, because God is worthy of our praise and the whole world needs to know about all the great things He does and has done!

But before you go–an invitation to my Omaha Metro friends. Join me and my sister in Christ, singer Shelly Conn, at Chocolaterie Stam for a fun afternoon of live music, books, readings, and chocolate!

Chocolaterie Signing-page-001

Living as a Gift

Photo by Africa taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Africa taken from freedigitalphotos.net

How many challenges and setbacks can an individual encounter before he decides to give up?

I hate to admit it, but if I’d experienced even half of what Dr. Ohaju, director of St. Joseph’s trauma center endured, I fear I may have retreated. Thrown my hands up in defeat and turned down an easier path.

I could learn a great deal from Dr. Ohaju, not only about perseverance but about gratitude, humility, and what it means to have a servant’s heart.

I met this man during a very frightening and stressful time. My mom-in-law had gone into the emergency room with stomach pain and a distended abdomen. After an emergency scope, she was rushed into surgery where Dr. Ohaju saved her life.

I shudder to think what might have happened had God not placed my mom-in-law under his care that week, and it was a good week that she spent in the hospital as she began the difficult and painful process of recovering from major surgery.

While dealing with a cancer diagnosis. That stung, and created all sorts of questions and uncertainties. You could feel the apprehension in the room, a tension that instantly dissipated whenever Dr. Ohaju walked in. God’s love flowed from him and instantly set us all at ease. We knew immediately not only that we were in the presence of a brilliant and compassionate surgeon, but also that, through him, God had absolutely everything under control.

That’s what happens when we surrender our gifts and passions into God’s hands; He uses 12227841_1007588982632353_5276246818269330802_nour every act as a love letter from us to His hurting world. As he did for us through Dr. Ohaju, and as he does for numerous impoverished Nigerians to this day, also through Dr. Ohaju.

He grew up during the Nigerian Civil war, also called the War of Biafra. It was a brutal, terrifying time where innocent people were slaughtered and masses of children and the elderly were abandoned. Many starved to death.

During this time, Dr. Ohaju did whatever he could to survive while helping his family put food on the table. One would find him standing outside the train station, waiting to sell oranges or bananas or whatever he could find to hungry travelers. He went to school in starts and stops, when he was able. Until it came time for him to enter sixth grade, when, in Nigeria, one must pay to go to school.

There was no way Dr. Ohaju’s family could pay his tuition.

Until one day, a teacher had mercy, and offered him an opened doorway. One of many to come. Because God saw something in Dr. Ohaju—God saw past his devastating beginnings to the gift that poor little boy would one day grow to be.

I’ll be telling his story, which is quite extensive and nothing short of miraculous, over the coming year through a separate blog, but first, I’ll share the ending. Well, not the ending, as his story is still unfolding, but what this godly man is doing now.

By God’s grace and with the help of others, Dr. Ohaju came to America where he pursued a degree in medicine. It was an incredibly difficult and long journey. One marked by heartbreak, for while he was in America, his father, back in Nigeria, died. From a treatable condition. Like so many others in Dr. Ohaju’s homeland.

3d188271-22e4-4042-e130-87a7c8f5c5f3Many Nigerians are dying daily from illnesses and diseases that are easily treatable, a tragedy Dr. Ohaju is determined to do something about through the medical missions nonprofit he started. In 2004, the VOOM Foundation, named after his deceased father, was born. The mission’s goal: to bring medical care to the poor and indigenes of Nigeria. (You can read more of his story HERE.)

And you can help. I encourage you to check out his foundations website and visit them on Facebook, and prayerfully consider donating to his cause. I also invite you to visit a blog I’ll be starting at the end of this month titled Truth in Fiction where I’ll be sharing bits of Dr. Ohaju’s story in more detail. In addition, I’m hoping to capture the essence of his story in a full-length novel, one he’s graciously agreed to help me with.

In the meantime, pray for us both: pray that he stays encouraged and focused on the call God has infused in his heart, and pray for me that I can capture the beauty, miracle, and perseverance of his story in novel form.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! What thoughts came to mind as you read about Dr. Ohaju’s story? How do you typically respond to setbacks? Have you ever sensed God calling you to something that felt so incredibly difficult, maybe even seemed impossible? If so, how did you respond? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook, because we can all learn from each other!

Viewing Others Through God’s Eyes

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Photo by Marcisim taken from Pixabay.com

Seeing others, really seeing them, doesn’t come naturally. I think that’s because most of us, me included, have a strong self-obsession. Meaning, our thoughts most often are centered on we, ourselves, and us. This is an area God is really working on in me lately. I so want to be a blessing. To be the type of woman who brings out the best in others, points them toward Jesus, and helps them discover and grow in their calling.

It’s time I get more intentional in my efforts. It’s time I practice regularly dying to myself so that Christ might always, at every moment, live through me.

Today’s post by women’s fiction writer Brenda Anderson encouraged me this morning. I hope it does you as well.

BUT first, fun news. When Dawn Breaks is on sale for under $4! You can get your copy HERE. You can read the first three chapters for free HERE.

A Gem of a Gift by Brenda AndersonHead Shot (466 x 600)

I’m blessed to have been given the gift of writing fiction. Think about it. I get to create people, cities, or even whole new worlds. How fun is that? Even more exciting is that I get to share this gift with others, hopefully spreading the gospel in a unique way, just as Jesus did with the parables. What an awesome privilege.

God’s gifts are like precious gems: they’re multi-faceted. Until recently, I focused on spreading the gospel as the purpose for this gift of writing, but God has shown me an equally precious facet: learning to see others through His eyes, with His heart.

My stories tend to center around people who’ve experienced the darker side of life, many by their own choices. My hero in my Coming Home series killed a teen in an inattentive-driving accident. My heroine chose to abort not just one, but two children, and was a pro-choice advocate. In my current release, Hungry for Home, the focus is on a homeless teen who mugs a woman.

Honestly, my first reaction when I hear of someone who fits the above description is disgust. What was he thinking to be driving while texting? How selfish, uncaring are you to be pro-abortion? That teen needs to go to jail! How dare he mug that woman?

On the surface, they’re people I don’t really like. But God does. He not only likes them, He loves them, and through their stories He’s shown me the heart He sees.

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Photo by Foundry taken from Pixabay.com

He’s helped me realize I’m no different from them. He’s shown me why they behaved as they did, not excusing the behavior, but knowing the why helps me meet them where they’re at and love them there. God has said to me, “This is my child, and I love them. Help others love them too.” I saw them as broken and needing a savior.

Just like me.

So now when I’m watching the news or reading the newspaper that spotlights bad or horrible behavior, rather than judge, I tell myself that God loves them too, and I ask “What’s their story?” and pray to see the heart that God sees.

What an immense privilege it is to see God’s children in this new light, like the sun shining through a crystal prism!

I can’t wait to see what else God has planned through this gift!

Hungry for Home front cover (373 x 600)About Hungry for Home:

After a troubling encounter with a pregnant teen, Sheila Peterson-Brooks hurries from the crisis pregnancy center into the frigid Minnesota winter where she is mugged and left for dead. After a frantic search, Richard, her husband, finds her, and the police quickly nab the mugger …

A hungry, homeless teen.
The brother of the pregnant girl Sheila had just counseled.

The girl pleads for her brother, and Sheila and Richard choose not to press charges. Instead, they open their home to the boy, a move that could cost them their possessions, and their hearts.

And, in the process, teach them the true meaning of home.

Pre-Order Hungry for Home for Kindle: http://amzn.to/1VtIb8h

Brenda S. Anderson writes gritty and authentic, life-affirming fiction. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and is currently President of the ACFW Minnesota chapter, MN-NICE. When not reading or writing, she enjoys music, theater, roller coasters, and baseball, and she loves watching movies with her family. She lives in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area with her husband of 28 years, their three children, and one sassy cat.

Readers can learn more about Brenda S. Anderson at www.brendaandersonbooks.com. You can visit her personal blog and the group blog InkspirationalMessages she participates in, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter or Pinterest.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. In what ways do you try to view others through God’s eyes? Is that easy or difficult for you, and why? What has helped in that regard? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Normally during book launch time I share links of all the places I’ve been, online, in the past week, but today… I’m getting ready to head to Lincoln to spend time with my daughter. Yay!

I hope you’re day is as happy as mine. 🙂

A Deeper Look at Baltimore

Photo by Stux taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Stux taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Do you ever wish you could find some hidden, remote closet to hide away in? Do you ever feel like the Internet–most specifically social media–has become a breeding ground for hate? Can good–love, peace, compassion, sacrificial service, dialogue–truly overcome evil? And in the case of Baltimore, do we even have a clear idea of what evil looks like, or have the lines become blurred?

Last night, after skimming through the Facebook wars, I went to bed feeling completely overwhelmed and emotionally charged, so I asked myself why. After a bit of thought, the answer came: because I realize behind the posts, tweets, and news headlines exist hurting people. I think we forget that. It’s so easy to zero in on behavior without ever taking the time to look deeper.

To truly understand the root.

Before I get too far, let me make it incredibly clear: I do not condone rioting, vandalism, and open hatred. But neither to do I condone secret hatred hidden in passive aggress social media updates. Nor do I condone sneaky hatred, spoken in racial epitaphs, jokes, and callous stereotypes.

And in all our posts and comments, we forget, or fail to realize:

Hatred and prejudice still exits. 

A few weeks ago, I was speaking to a business woman who happens to be a Japanese American. Somehow our conversation turned to racial tension and stereotypes, and I mentioned how my brother, a Korean American, often experienced prejudice when we were growing up. Her comment, “You mean you saw it?”

In other words, often, the greatest damage is done when others aren’t looking, and those of us watching from the sidelines only see a fraction of the hate our ethnic friends experience.

Then again, even once is enough to deeply wound. I can think back over my childhood to teachers that have said hurtful things, friends who’ve misjudged me, and those things stay with me. I have to work to forget and forgive.

I could give numerous examples of prejudice I’ve witnessed or heard of, but I suspect you can, too. And if you can’t, I’d say widen your circle. Engage with the world at large. Take time to listen to other people’s stories and to understand their perceptions and hurts. If you live in middle-class whiteland, get to know, really know, those who are different than you. Spend time in the inner cities. Serve in inner city ministries. Get to know those on the front lines of this issue.

There’s a video making the Facebook rounds of NFL player Ray Lewis condemning the rioters for their behavior, as I think many do, myself included. But if we take the time to truly listen to what Mr. Lewis is saying, we’ll notice he acknowledges hatred, oppression, and discrimination does exist. He’s merely saying, “This isn’t the way to fix it.”

Let’s not jump on the sentiment, “This isn’t the way to fix it,” without taking time to figure out what the way to fix it is.

So what is the way? Or perhaps I should say, what are the ways?

Invest in inner city missions, helping families in poverty find a leg up.

Invest in our youth, especially those who, through their behavior, demonstrate a sense of hopelessness.

Walk beside our single moms so that they can raise their kids how they want. (I could go on and on about this one, but sadly, this post is already nearing TMW stage (too many words–a novel worth, actually).

Photo by artura84 taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by artura84 taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Poverty leads to hopelessness.

When we lived in Kansas City, our family reached out to a Sudanese family that came to America from the refugee camps of Kampala. Life was so different for these teenagers! So many things we take for granted were completely foreign to them–like the fact that landlords are responsible for the care and upkeep of their buildings.

It was an insanely hot summer, and the complex this family lived in had window units. The teenage girl called them fans, but I’m pretty sure they were AC units. Anyway, most of the units in the complex were broken. (Did I mention it was an insanely hot summer? Like the type that routinely soared into the triple digits?) When she shared this with me, I told her she needed to talk to her landlord. She said her father–a working, single father, by the way–had, but the landlord hadn’t done anything. I told her this wasn’t right and that she should contact the city. This idea threw her as she had no idea she had a right to, well, rights period. She and her family felt at the mercy of her landlord, and as they were completely broke, they also felt they had no other options but to endure. And the “fans” were but one instance.

Stereotypes and quick judgements only make things worse. 

How easily we throw out opinions on things we don’t understand. How easily we lump individuals with beating, bleeding hearts together. How easily we remain on the surface without taking the time to really dig. To engage. To dialogue and find solutions.

But love engages. Love listens. Love helps. Love breaks down barriers and finds ways to form bridges. Love links arms with those in need of help, support, encouragement.

This post (hopefully) begs the question: What now? Where do we go from here?

We find a way to rise above, to reach out, and to saturate this country with love and grace. Folks, let’s go deeper and find a way to be part of positive change.

And, on a happier note, Mark Bethea of New Hope Publishers interviewed me via Skype the other day. And I learned something. Pink reflects! Watching the below linked video, at first I thought, wow, why is my neck so red? Was I embarrassed? But then when my head bobbed (lesson two, keep head still!) the red crept up to my chin then back to my neck. Pink reflects! Even so, it was a great conversation, and I was glad for the chance to share my heart.

Jennifer Slattery Video Interview from New Hope Publishers on Vimeo.

Let’s talk about this. What are your thoughts about this issue and my post? Am I completely off base? What are your experiences with prejudice, injustice, and racial oppression? What are your thoughts about the posts and comments making the social media rounds? Where do you think America should go from here, and how do you suggest we begin moving in that direction? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. Speaking of… are we Facebook friends yet? If not, how come? Connect with me here! 🙂

Praying Without Words

Have you ever been in desperate need of aid, but so emotionally overwrought, you couldn’t find the words to pray?n the same way, the Spirit helps us in

It was my first child, my only, actually. I’d prayed long and hard for her, deeply longing for motherhood. And then it happened–I became pregnant. … And had an incredibly difficult and frightening pregnancy, one where I was in constant fear of losing her. Then one night, awaking to cramping, strange movements in my stomach, and much more blood than simply spotting, my husband and I rushed to the hospital. As they were taking me in, all I could say was, “Oh, God,” again and again.

pic_full_Stanley_Kelly_ODellI thought of that terrifying night when I read the following devotion written by Kelly O’Dell Stanley, author of Praying Upside Down. And I was reminded, God always hears me, even when I don’t have the words. But first, I wanted to remind you, there’s still time to get entered into Monday’s book give-away drawing! You can do so here!

As an added bonus, we’re doing an additional give-away today! Engage in the conversation on Kelly’s post and be entered into a drawing to receive a copy of her book, Praying Upside Down. Winners will be randomly selected from the comments left on this post. Please note, the contest is limited to those living in the continental US. 

Praying Without Words by Kelly O’Dell Stanley

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26-27, NIV

One Sunday morning, a man visiting my church stood to give his testimony. In broken English, he described the scene in which he first saw the woman who would become his wife, the moment when he first felt God calling to him.

“These people were singing, but not with their mouths,” he said. “It was a deeper song.”

That’s when my tears started. Because isn’t that what most of us want? To reach God, to commune with Him? With or without words.

Let’s face it. I am a writer, and even I have those times when the words won’t come.

Usually when we’re without words, it’s because we’re hurt. Cynical. Disillusioned. Heartbroken. Weary. We may have lost a parent or sibling or child or friend. We may be facing a broken marriage, a suicidal teen, an addiction, financial devastation, or abuse.

Or maybe we’re just uninspired. Tired. Worn out from carrying our fears around. Exhausted from overscheduling and under-resting. Dealing with depression or illness or a million tiny little worries.

I’ve been there, desperate for God but unable to draw my mind in, unable to reach out to Him, either verbally or in writing. And even in those moments, I’ve felt the irony. The only One who can truly make a difference in the situation is the One I can’t seem to talk to.

But the truth is that words are not required. Prayer, in its most simple definition, is communion with God. I often think of it as a conversation, but it doesn’t have to be.

Have you ever sat in companionable silence with a spouse, parent or friend? Enjoyed a peaceful afternoon on the porch with a grandparent, no words needed?

When I gave birth to my children, I had no words to describe what I felt, so I just sat there, looking at that beautiful new

Photo by Papija 2008 taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Papija 2008 taken from freedigitalphotos.net

creation, soaking in gratitude.

When my mom died, as I stood in the receiving line, some of my favorite people walked up, looked into my eyes, hugged me, and moved on. Without saying a single word, they communicated everything I needed to hear. Everything they wanted to say.

Next time you feel stuck, when you stumble over words or are wrestling with emotions you can’t seem to wrangle, why don’t you try something new? Sit in silence, your mind focused on God. Look around and find the beauty in your environment. Draw a picture, doodling names and images and offer it as prayer. Work your way through your daily tasks, and keep the mindset of dedicating your work—laundry, cleaning, dishes, gardening—to God as an act of worship. Listen to a piece of worship music and let yourself get lost in the sound.

Or sing a new song, from a deeper place.

It just might help you get past whatever it is that is blocking your path. I promise you, God will receive it. He will understand that it is prayer. He will know what your heart feels and what your soul needs.

And before long, the words will come. But even if they don’t, you’ve still prayed, and in the process, you’ve drawn closer to God. Because wherever God is, lives are changed.

With or without words.

 ***

Kelly O’Dell Stanley is a graphic designer, writer, and author of the new book, Praying Upside Down, which releases May 1. With more than two decades of experience in advertising, three kids ranging from 21 to 14, and a husband of 24 years, she’s learned to look at life in unconventional ways—sometimes even upside down. Full of doubt and full of faith, she constantly seeks new ways to see what’s happening all around her. Subscribe to her blog (www.prayingupsidedown.com) to download her free ebook, Praying in Full Color, along with this month’s prayer prompt calendar to jump-start your prayer life.

978-1-4143-8983-7Praying Upside Down:

A change in perspective might be exactly what your prayer life needs.

When you talk to God, do you ever wonder if He hears? Do your prayers feel uninspired or routine? Do you sometimes feel you don’t even know how to pray?

Try praying upside down.

Let artist and author Kelly O’Dell Stanley show you what point of view, white space, sketching, and other artistic ideas reveal to us about how to pray—and experience a deeper connection with God than ever before. Praying Upside Down will move your prayers away from the preconceived and expected, allowing you to bring fresh passion to your prayers and notice answers you never anticipated.

Jesus was known for turning situations upside down…and He will do the same in your prayer life. And because God is the ultimate creator and the original artist, when you incorporate this unique approach to prayer, you will encounter Him in a brand-new way.

Buy it here:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Also available online at christianbooks.com, Target, Lifeway, Books-a-Million, Parable, iTunes, and wherever new releases are sold.

Connect with Kelly online at:
her blog, on Facebook, Pinterest, or connect with her at Twitter– @kellyostanley

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! What thoughts came to mind as you read Kelly’s post? How do you feel knowing the Holy Spirit prays for you? Have you ever had a time when you were so broken or frightened, words didn’t come? Share that experience with us in the comments below or engage in the conversation on Living by Grace at Facebook.

Before I go, I wanted to invite my local friends to join me Saturday for a signing at Barnes and Noble in Omaha, near the B&NSigning-page-001Oakview Mall. I’d love to see some friendly faces stop by, and maybe join me for a selfie or two. 😉 Feel free to invite your friends using the link on Barnes and Noble’s event page. (You can read the first 23 pages of When Dawn Breaks here, and you can read the first 36 pages of Beyond I Do here.)

And before you go, I encourage you to join me on Internet Cafe Devotions as I talk about God’s heart for YOU in my devotion titled Rejected by Man but Loved by God.