Stockinged Feet

Parents, everything we do and say affects not only the atmosphere of our home and family relationships, but has the capacity to penetrate deep into our children’s hearts as well. At each moment, we are either building up or tearing down.

I don’t know about you, but things can get pretty frazzled in the Slattery arguing-440262-mhousehold, and there are days when it’s all I can do to keep myself in check. Throw no fits, burn no meals, start no arguments…

Honestly, 99% of the time, it comes down to a choice: Will I fight for my rights or die to myself, ecarole180ven if that means surrendering the last piece of apple pie?

Today Carole Brown is back with us sharing one of the most beautiful true life stories I have heard in some time.

Stockinged Feet by Carole Brown

Have you ever had an event unfold in front of your eyes that caused it to become a “Stick-in-your-mind” remembrance?

We were young–my husband and I–and in our second pastorate with two young sons. As any pastor and his family can tell you, pastoring can be either a blessing or a trial, in it’s own way and depending on the characters, emotions and personalities of all involved. This one was no different: the neighborhood was–uh, unique, the people, kind of what would be called as isolated, and the church located a distance away from our families.

One week. in our pastor-ish duties, we visited a couple a certain evening. Now my husband, Dan, has always set high standards of dress and neatness for himself so why on earth we would be visiting with him wearing work boots is something I definitely don’t remember.

But I do remember the remark the wife made as we entered. “Wish my husband could afford new boots.”

These were new boots, only we hadn’t bought them. Dan’s brother (for whatever reason) didn’t want them and passed them on to my husband, who was happy to get them. You learn to be especially thankful for every little blessing that comes your way when you’re pastoring!

My husband said nothing, but after we were seated, he bent over and unlaced the boots and calmly slipped his feet from them. The evening went on as if nothing had been said.

When it came time to leave, my husband headed for the door, minus the boots and in his stocking feet.

Of course, the wife was flustered. But my husband was adamant that he was to give those boots to her husband. Any other man might have been suspect of a tinge of “pay back” or perhaps even loftiness, but not Dan. Knowing him as I did then, and even now looking back, Iold-worn-out-boots-1013579-m realize that his act truly came from a generous heart. He had two pairs of boots–the old and the new. He chose the old.

Silly? No. Because that action stuck in my mind and our sons’ minds. We saw generosity in motion. Ever after we will remember the boot episode and be grateful God gave us a wonderful–full-hearted man for a husband and father. That’s probably one reason why our sons consider him their best friend and why all these years later, he’s still my hero.

***

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Connect with her here online at her blog, on Facebook, TwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

Her novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman:

The Redemption of Caralynne HaymanHow far would YOU go to avenge a daughter’s cruel death? Cara is considered rebellious and inappropriate to befriend. Dayne is the apple of Elder Simmons’ eye—until he takes a stand against their teachings. Can his prayers and love reach Cara and show her the way to redemption? Will Cara realize God’s love and forgiveness before she goes too far?

Order your copy now!  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1938499948/

More posts and resources you might enjoy:

Dying to Live

Death by Wheat Squares

Compassion is Caught and Taught

The Family God Uses by Tom Blackaby

Not Another Blog????

Um… yeah. For now, anyway.

heart-718085-mEach day, it seems, I encounter someone else struggling with chronic illness, and I’ve seen how much health can impact our mood, how we view ourselves, and our relationships with others and God.

I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I might have 0 answers, but I’ve decided to share my journey in the hopes that others will find encouragement and support.

The one thing I’ve heard from others struggling with chronic health issues is the constant feeling of blame–blame we place on ourselves, blame we interpret from others, blame others come right out and assign.

But friend, today, I want to say to you, “Its Not Your Fault.”  If those words resonate with you, come join me at Food, Faith, and Pharmaceuticals. 🙂

Sowing With Words

I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, but I love words. Not just stories or articles girl-on-phone-489957-mor devotions, but words in and of themselves. And everything–everything–has a backstory… Including the backstory. 😉 But sometimes, I’m so wordy, things spill out of my mouth before I’ve allowed them to swirl through my brain long enough to come out with coherence and effectiveness.

 

sydauthorphoto_smallThis is unfortunate for the words we speak truly do matter. They have the power to tear down or heal, to bless, to encourage. Today, Hope Spring Books author Sydney Avey shares her thoughts on sowing with words.

Sowing Words

Sydney Avey

Thanksgiving is a time to acknowledge the bounty we receive daily from God in the words He whispers to us. The seeds we receive to sow in His service vary according to the talent He has given us. Seeds that yield a harvest can be time or money, but they can also be words. Knowing my words have been used to challenge someone to think differently or feel blessed brings me joy. Words are my store of seed.

What do you see when you look into your seed bag? Have you stored up treasures that need to be scattered so they can root and grow in the hearts of others? Seeds are tiny things—words you write, notes you sing, pennies from your pocket or minutes of your time contributed to someone else’s success in life.

A blog subscriber emailed me and said, “I used your ideas in a devotional I shared with my church choir. The idea struck a chord across the generations.”

My pastor used these lines from my poem A Desert Meditation to illustrate a point in his sermon about priorities:

Like the Saguaro Cactus

Know that your roots in this world are shallow

let your reservoirs tap Living Water

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Seeds, small bits of wisdom that sow thoughts and ideas in others; how are they come by?

Spiritual Practice

In addition to spiritual insights, the Gospels offer wisdom that has practical applications. Consider this verse:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Luke 6:38 (NIV)

The context for this verse is judgment. It tells us that as we show mercy, mercy will be shown to us. I also see in this verse a process for gathering words into thoughts that will bless others.

Writing poetry is a way to measure our experience by compressing thought, shaking together disparate ideas and watching words expand into new meaning. When we suspend judgment-conclusions we jump to about others or words we understand in limited context, we open our hearts to see and share the world in a new way, God’s way.

In the same way, singing old songs to new rhythms may feel awkward at first, but as you yield to the Holy Spirit’s teaching you may renew the vigor of an ancient word. Watch that word float on an unexpected note, like a parachute seed, to bless the listening ear of a hungry heart.

You may think you don’t have enough talent to write a poem, or join the choir, or mentor a child, but God promises to increase your talent and your influence as you take this step of faith and sow your seeds.

Here is a lovely verse for the season:

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.

2 Cor 9:10 (NIV)

***

Sydney Avey lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her workhas appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, and Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine). She has studied at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Sydney blogs at sydneyavey.com on topics related to relationships, legacy, faith, and the writing life. Her novel, “The Sheep Walker’s Daughter,” ISBN 978-1-938708-20-6 will be released from HopeSprings Books on December, 2013.

Her novel is called The Sheep Walker’s Daughter (available Dec. 3rd!):

bookcover400x600A Korean War widow’s difficult mother dies before revealing the identity of Dee’s father. As Dee sorts through what little her mother left, she unearths puzzling clues that raise more questions: Why did Leora send money every month to the Basque Relief Agency?Why is Dee’s own daughter so secretive about her soon-to-be published book? And what does an Anglican priest know that heisn’t telling? The Sheep Walker’s Daughter pairs a colorful immigrant history of loss, survival, and tough choices with onewoman’s search for spiritual identity and personal fulfillment.

livingbygracepic.jpPaperback ISBN 978-1-938708-19-0 Kindle & Nook ISBN 978-1-938708-20-6

Let’s talk about this! Join the conversation here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Pause to consider some things that have been said to you, in person, through a text message, perhaps in a card or letter. Were any missives so special, you saved them? Tell us about it! How long might it have taken for the sender to craft the message? If a text, a few minutes. A card, maybe five. Five minutes that can mean the world to someone.

When we moved to Louisiana, I had a friend who often sent me unexpected cards. They were simple in content: “I enjoyed spending time with you today.” “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you.” “Hoping you’re having a great week.” And yet, they touched me deeply, because they showed me she’d been thinking of me, and she valued me enough to take the time to send me a note. (A big wave and shout out to my sweet KC friend, Sandy, who’s sent me cards, texts, and emails on numerous occasions as well. 🙂 )

Now consider, how can you be more intentional with your words? Might you send an occasional card to a friend far away or someone enduring difficult circumstances? What about your spouse or your child? Could you slip a note in their lunch or under their pillow letting them know you’re thinking of them and that you love them? Try it.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Love Letters

Taming the Tongue

Resources you might find helpful:

Woman to Woman by Edna Ellison and Tricia Scribner

Thank God It’s NOT About ME!

Sherris pictureToday I’m thrilled to have fellow ACFW member, Sherri Stone here on my blog. I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to notice a common theme in the devotions I’ve posted lately. And no, I don’t plan what my guest bloggers write about. 😉 The theme? Pretty sure it’s clear in her title. Wow, this one is a hard one to get. Maybe that’s why God keeps repeating it. 🙂

Oh, and before I go much further, I wanted to announce the winner of last week’s give-away. Elaine Stock, you’re it! I’ve gotta admit, having won give-aways hosted on your blog twice now, I’m uber thrilled! I’ll email you soon to chat about the best way to get Janet’s book, Heaven’s Pray, to you.

Thank God It’s NOT About ME!!

         I’ve been a social worker for over twenty years, and as you might imagine that has brought me face to face with more problems than I care to remember. Some situations are out of our control as humans, but it’s startling to know how many miseries are self-induced. When you have my job it’s also quite frustrating to see how many “crises” come your way because of someone else’s actions.

One Saturday when I was on call I heard from one of my nurses that a patient was out of diabetic testing supplies and had been for several days. Of course it didn’t become a crisis until Saturday. Replacing those items is not difficult during the week when resources are readily available, but on the weekend…

I was mad. I had a patient to take care of and a nurse to support, and no solutions were coming to mind. I needed to pray but because I felt angry I didn’t feel like I had the right to pray. I certainly wasn’t feeling very ‘spiritual’.

You’re already thinking it, aren’t you? When you least feel it, that’s when you most need to do it. In fact, in that moment God was already speaking to my heart, and as he does so many times, he used that situation as a teaching moment for me. It’s as if he spoke out loud and said, “If I were bound by your feelings, I would be totally useless to you. When will you remember that it’s not about you? It’s never about you. I AM the One whose strength and wisdom matter. I AM the One whose love never waivers. I AM the One who is never surprised. IAM the One with ALL that you will ever need. Ask me.

         Ask me.

So I did. I vented my frustration and thanked Him that no matter how much of a mess my emotions were He was and would always be God. I also thanked Him ahead of time for taking care of the problem, which of course He did.

I do need reminding from time to time, though, so there is now a tab in my bible that marks Numbers 22, the story of Balaam’s donkey. The tab simply says “NOT ABOUT ME!”  God chose to use a donkey to speak to Balaam. (The amazing thing is that Balaam talked back, but that’s a story for another day.) The point is, God can use whatever or whomever is available. Sometimes that’s a donkey. Sometimes that’s me. Sometimes there’s not much difference.

Can we be thankful in all situations? Yes. Is it easy. Of course not. It takes remembering party-balloons-1-1158924-mwhere to focus our thanks. If we wait to feel thankful we have missed it. God is not now, nor will He ever be handicapped by our emotions. Picture God as a large boulder holding down the strings of many balloons. The balloons are our emotions and they may hold perfectly still on a calm day, or they may be whipped into  a frenzy in a storm, but they will never move the rock!

A thankful heart is not a feeling. It is a choice. Every day, in every situation we have the right, and God’s permission to come to Him at any time no matter how we feel.  We develop a heart quick to give thanks when we take our burdens to him – no matter how we feel – trust Him for the results, and give thanks for who He is.

Blessings,

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thes. 5:18, NLT).

Sherri is a medical social worker with hospice. She is currently working on her Dark Family Secrets Series, but is also collaborating with her hospice chaplain on a book about the hospice experience. This is her third year with ACFW.  Connect with her at  www.sherristone.net or http://www.facebook.com/sherrilynnestone or on Twitter @sherristone2.

 LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Join the conversation here, in the comments below, or at Living by Grace on Facebook.
I’m sure you’ve all been where Sherri was, when the last thing you want to do is pray. So, what did you do? And what happened? Our pastor said something last Sunday that I found immensely beautiful. He reminded us in those times when we can’t or don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us. (Romans 8:26) To me, that’s a beautiful reminder of grace. God knows we’re fallible, weak, emotional… But He loves us anyway, and praise God, His faithfulness is not dependent on ours. Granted, that doesn’t mean we toss our hands up and say, “I’m done. Go ahead and pray for me, God.” Nope, because as Janet reminded us last week, prayer is more than popping off a request list. It’s about drawing near to our Creator and allowing Him to align our hearts with His. Allowing Him to fill us with a joy that goes beyond our circumstances and a peace that surpasses understanding.

Does Prayer Work

What do you say to a woman who’s lost her child? Or what about the man who, after night after night of fervent prayer, remains unemployed? What of the friend who continues to struggle with chronic illness despite all the intercessors praying for her healing? And how do we reconcile these things when we prayed with a faith strong enough to “move mountains”?

Today a friend and fellow ACFW author, Janet Sketchley, talks about this very thing. As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy of her debut novel, Heaven’s Prey to one lucky reader selected from the comments below.

After you read her thoughts, share yours.

Janet Sketchley headshot 350x350Does prayer work? If we believe it does, or even if we only hope it might, we’ve probably whispered “Please help them” about someone we care for, at least once.

The better we know God’s character, and the longer we’ve walked with Him, the more confidence we have in prayer. He’s developing our faith. Even so, praying for people is tricky.

We can’t ask for what we think is best, because God has a much bigger view of the situation than we do. If their current hardship is a building block for His work in their lives or to draw others to Himself, who are we to get in the way?

“Prayer is the verbalization of your total dependence on God.” ~Dr. Wayne Barber

As such, it’s more than a wish list. It includes recognizing who God is, praising and thanking Him, asking forgiveness of those things that have come between us, asking for His perspective in our lives… and listening to Him.

The intercession part, where we’re committing others’ needs (and our own) to God’s care, is vital. It’s not about giving God advice—or instructions. And it’s not like we have to point out the issue to Him. He already knows all about it, and has a plan for what’s next.

My grandmother prayed daily for each family member by name. She called it her “knee grandmas-love-197294-mwork.” Whether we’re that diligent about it or we only pray for our loved ones when there’s a crisis, reaching out to God on their behalf is natural.

When we don’t know what to ask, we can commit them to His care. I often pray for sustaining grace and that the individual(s) will allow their circumstances to draw them nearer to God. For open eyes and hearts to recognize His care in the middle of their stress. For faith, perseverance, and courage.

It’s important to pray for the people we interact with. We know their needs, and often we can be part of the comfort, support or help they need. God may want to answer our prayers for them through us.

Janet Sketchley is a Canadian author with a passion for story. She’s also a wife, mom, daughter, and friend, balancing relationships and responsibilities while learning how faith applies to real life. Combine all that with her quirky imagination to get inspiring novels about everyday women in suspenseful situations, who discover more strength within than they could have dreamed.

Janet’s novel, Heaven’s Prey, released November 1, 2013 from Choose NOW Publishing. Feel free to tell your friends! For more information and a free sample chapter, see the Heaven’s Prey page at Choose NOW Publishing.

Heavens_Prey_Front_Cover 302x468Heaven’s Prey :

A grieving woman is abducted by a serial killer—and it may be the answer to her prayers.

Despite her husband’s objections, 40-something Ruth Warner finds healing through prayer for Harry Silver, the serial killer who brutally raped and murdered her niece. When a kidnapping-gone-wrong pegs her as his next victim, Harry claims that by destroying the one person who’d pray for him, he proves God can’t—or won’t—look after His own. Can Ruth’s faith sustain her to the end—whatever the cost?

Let’s talk about this! The other night at my Bible study group, we discussed this very thing. One of our members lost a child to a congenital illness, and she shared how fervently she’d prayed for her daughter’s healing. She said she’d prayed with a “faith to move mountains,” and yet, her daughter had died anyway. But then she said something very thought provoking. “What if the mountains that move are a different kind of mountain?”

livingbygracepic.jpLike the mountain of someone else who’s watching us persevere, watching us rely fully on God, who goes from disbelief to saving faith.

Or the mountain of a marriage, once teetering dangerously close to divorce, now restored.

Or the mountain of an emotional wound experiencing a deep level of healing.

How often do we consider those mountains? Join the conversation here, in the comments below, or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Another post you might enjoy:

When is enough enough

Resources you might find helpful:

Live a Praying Life by New Hope Publishers

 

Hope For the Soul

carole180I receive emails from many of you, pressing on along the path of God’s calling, and although I do hear of your your celebrations, I also hear of discouragement, of fatigue, of doubt. All normal emotions in any ministry, but as Christians set apart for service by our risen Savior, we must learn to keep those emotions, those moments of hopelessness, where they belong–tucked far beneath God’s Words of truth. Our doubts and fears say we’re not good enough, not talented enough, just plain not enough. but God’s word says we have all we need in Him.

Today, my sweet friend and a fellow ACFW member, Carole Brown encourages us to focus not on our fears and insecurities, but instead, what our Savior wants to do in and through us.

As an interesting side-note, I scheduled Carole to appear here at least a month ago, before I got my contract and before I wrote a post about that. Is it a coincidence you’re reading, yet again, someone’s story of perseverance that led to something awesome?

I think not. 😉

Please note: Carole Brown is giving away a copy of of her debut novel to one of you, randomly selected in the comments. 🙂 

Hope for the Soul By Carole Brown 

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12 ESV).

Quitting time. Is there ever a right time for such an action?

It was 2011, and I was quitting. I’d worked and struggled and relearned and traveled and joined groups. To no avail. It was waste-basket-1217806-mtime to quit, to acknowledge tug toward authorship was useless. Writing was not for me; I really had no talent. It was time to move on.

Until an older lady in a church sat me down figuratively and discussed all laments together. The essence of her encouragement was: Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.

Struggling and unbelieving I reluctantly agreed to give writing another try. Throughout the rest of the year and into the next, I prayed: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”

Fast forward to April, 2012: I attended a writing conference and met with an editor who asked for my manuscript. Hope burst forth like a July 4th fireworks display. In December, 2012, I signed a contract with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

What does all this teach? There is ALWAYS hope.

Many times I’ve heard of Christians who quit right before victory comes in their personal lives. The wife who quit because of pressure from her unsaved husband; the couple who call it quits when just a little more effort would have smoothed things into happiness; the young man/woman in college who gave up because of the wrong choices; the highschooler who took his life because of the bullying.

Life has a way of not just showering, but down pouring the feeling that there is not hope.

In my novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, there is hope, but Caralynne can not see it. Why? Because:

Ÿ Her upbringing in the cult is filled with misguided doctrine. Sometimes, through no fault of our own, circumstances and life give us cards we don’t know how to read or what to do with. We don’t even know we are to do something with them. Ignorance and lack of knowledge prevents us from seeing the hope right in front of our eyes.

Ÿ sad-silhouette-1080946-m Her doubts in God inhibit her ability to see clearly. When we focus on our own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, it becomes difficult to see God’s light shining even when it’s on the table of our lives there to encourage us and lead us on the right path. We draw curtains on the windows of our hearts, keeping out the shining light and hope God yearns for us to rest in.

Ÿ The hardness of her heart and her determination to blame God. When evil causes havoc in our lives, when the bad seems to conquer all that’s good in our lives, when trouble seems to be unavoidable, then it’s oh-so-easy to point a finger to the all-knowing God of the world. Humans have a strong need to blame and all too often, God is the recipient of that blame.

Ÿ  Her own desires blinded her effectively from seeing the blessed HOPE SHINING THROUGH THE DARKNESS. The bitterness and revenge in her heart was so over-powering and so huge, Caralynne couldn’t see around those mountains. Many times hurting people will scoop even more dirt onto the mountains of doubt and disbelief that are keeping them from seeing God’s strength for our times of weakness. The hope he gives that will strengthen us. As the scripture says, His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Remember, hope may be deferred, but when it comes, vitality and strength and the glory of God shelters us with his tree of life. We can rest contently beneath his branches because he is our hope–eternally.

Have you faced hard times when all hope seemed gone? How did you get through it?

***

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Connect with her here online at her blog, on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Her novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman:

The Redemption of Caralynne HaymanHow far would YOU go to avenge a daughter’s cruel death? Cara is considered rebellious and inappropriate to befriend. Dayne is the apple of Elder Simmons’ eye—until he takes a stand against their teachings. Can his prayers and love reach Cara and show her the way to redemption? Will Cara realize God’s love and forgiveness before she goes too far?

Order your copy now!  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1938499948/

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Carole asked if we’ve faced hard times when hope seemed gone. I suspect we can all answer that with an emphatic yes! Maybe some of you are in those times this very moment.

I’m not even going to pretend to have the answer or explanation to what you are facing, but I can say, if you belong to Christ, there is hope. Always. I can also say, looking back on my life, God used some of my most painful moments to bring about the most intense growth and healing. Will that help me stay strong during my next trial? I hope so, but if or when I doubt, may I, like Carole say, “I believe! Lord, help my unbelief.” (Original quote taken from Mark 9:14-27)

Join the conversation in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Additional resources you might find helpful:

God Meant it for Good by R.T. Kendall

Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong by John C. Hutchison

Unshakable Faith (a Bible study) by Kathy Howard.

Daily Act of Kindness Challenge

DailyActofKindness If you’re one of my lovely Facebook friends, you’ve probably already learned about this challenge. It’s similar to the Reach Out to Live Out we did some time back. Which was totally awesome! I loved reading about the many diverse ways God’s children reached out to others and experienced God’s love pouring through them. In my opinion, there’s nothing like it. Christian, the abundant life comes when we surrender fully to God in every area of our lives, including our to-do lists and schedules.  (For an excellent devotion about this very thing, click here.) Because this Christianity thing is more than a Sunday gathering. 🙂

I’ll share one, an act that seemed small, maybe even insignificant, but meant the world to the recipient. Donna* has a chronic illness that most often is quite manageable. But Saturday night, for whatever reason, it flared, and she felt as if her entire body was in revolt. Pain intensified and refused to be abated. It kept her up past ten, past eleven, past twelve… and Sunday was scheduled to the hilt. She had much too much to do to forego sleep.

She prayed God would take the pain away. Prayed He would maybe knock her out so she could get a few hours of sleep, enough to allow her to press through her commitments the next day.

But as the clock ticked by, she began to realize, she might need to ask for help. So she did, sending out a text message to some sweet friends asking them to perhaps cover some of her commitments. It was humbling, a moment of admitted weakness. To her, it felt like failure.

At 3 am and after a sufficient amount of Tylenol and Ibuprofen, she finally crashed.

The next morning, she woke up feeling a fair amount better. Not 100%, but enough to press through her commitments. So, she sent out another text, alerting everyone that she could indeed honor her commitments.

jacketShe went to church loaded up with her medicines and still feeling a bit shaky–not to mention exhausted. Apparently shivering, for a dear sister in Christ approached her, and offered her a leather jacket.

What a small gesture, right? But to Donna, this felt like a giant hug. In fact, the rest of the day, when she looked at this jacket and thought of the small act of kindness, her heart swelled. She can’t quite explain why that simple act meant so much, except maybe that it was offered at a time when she felt defeated. But that’s the way it is with simple acts of kindness, isn’t it? They don’t have to be grand or complicated to touch someone deeply. Really, it’s largely in the act, in the, “I get it, and I care.”

*Name changed for privacy purposes.

livingbygracepic.jpDo you have an act of kindness story to share? Send it my way at jenniferaslattery@gmail.com.

So what about you? What’s one thing you can do today to show kindness to someone else? I’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace. 

It’s Time to Live Big

It’s funny how God works. Three, maybe four years ago, one of my seminary professors had me write up a ministry plan. (It was a class assignment.) Putting your God-dreams on paper has a way of stoking the fire. And for writers like me who easily slip back and forth between real-life and dreamworld, I quickly envisioned all the kiddos God might want kiddosmilingto love on through me.

My plan? Do church outside of church. At apartment complexes–show up with games, stories, maybe dramas, Bible studies. Yeah, my brain popcorn kerneled. 😉 Do church at lakes and parks. Nothing fancy. Just step out and show what it means to live in community with a contagious, Christ-centered love. And keep an eye out for outsiders, being ever-ready to invite them in.

Well, long story short, my dream didn’t quite work out. Although the church where I was attending thought it was a good idea, they had other fires burning and were having a tough time getting volunteers for that. So, prayerfully, I realized, at that time, the best thing I could do was pour myself into the ministries God had already started.

Fast forward a few years, and we move to a new state and a new church. A church insanely passionate about sharing God’s love. We arrived during an event called the Big Live. Chew on that name for a minute. What comes to mind? You’re wanting to know the analogy? Nope. Gonna let God show you what He’d like that phrase to mean for you. 🙂 But as you’re chewing, think of John 10–the thief came to steal and destroy but Christ came that you might have life and have it to the full.

BigLiveLong story short, it’s that time again–the Big Live–and guess what we’re doing? We’re throwing block parties in public parks and local neighborhoods. We’re going to soup kitchens and crisis pregnancy centers. We’re playing cards with nursing home residents and doing yard work, painting, and just plain loving on our local community members. First weekend of volunteer sign-ups, we had over 400! That’s 400 of God’s children saying, “I get it! I’m more than just a pew-warmer. I’m a child of God–an ambassador, an instrument of grace, so full of love, I can’t but help overflow.” Hopefully, members of my church family will let me share their Big Live stories with you. Because there’s nothing quite as motivating as hearing other Christ-followers in action.

Because life’s much too short to merely exist. 🙂 Yep, we’re gonna live big, and I can’t wait.

What about you? What are some ways you are living God’s great adventure? What can you do this week to be an active instrument of grace? My challenge to you? Find a way to get out there, spread a little Sonshine. 🙂 Then come back here and tell us what you did. It doesn’t have to be huge. Doesn’t need to be complicated. Sometimes something as small as a smile (wow, that’s a lot of alliteration) can make a world of difference.

Some ideas:
1) At the grocery story, pause to notice–really notice, the person checking you out. Engage them in conversation.
2) Send a neighbor or friend a card and a piece of chocolate.
3) Pray for someone then send them a text letting them know you did. (I’ve started doing this, and I’ve been amazed at the response. Kinda funny. I’ve been praying for many of these folks consistently for some time. But when I let them know I’m praying, as I’m praying, it’s like I sent them a big ol’ hug. 🙂
4) Find a way to encourage someone–your child’s teacher, Sunday school teacher, your pastor
5) Bake cookies and give them to a single dad or mom. Or maybe even cook them a meal.

What are your ideas?

Hope Lives Here: Lost and Found

Janet w leather scarf 1Today I am thrilled to have Janet Bly, widow to the legendary Stephen Bly who passed away in 2011, as my guest. I was honored to read and review her husband’s last novel, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot, and I loved it! But what I loved even more than the Stephen’s literary genius was the fact that Janet and her sons finished the novel after Stephen’s passing. What a way to honor a husband and father! Today, Janet speaks on hope–something I believe is crucial to mankind’s survival. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, mankind can endure heartache and trials unimaginable, if they have hope. But if hope is gone … Today Janet shares the story of one woman who was in the depths of despair and found hope through the love and words of a faithful friend.

But before we go any further, I wanted to announce the winner of Arkansas Weddings by Shannon Taylor Vannatter!

SusanMSJ, congrats! You won a copy of Shannon’s novel. I’ll shoot you an email soon to find out how best to get this novel to you.  And for the rest of you that didn’t win this go round, no worries! Another give-away starts today! Winner will be selected randomly from the comments below and will when one of Janet Bly’s books!

Teri finally got her life together. She had endured years of a long series of deadends, painful losses, and tragedy. But that was the past. Now she had a loving husband, three wonderful children, and no major crises.

Then her husband plotted a surprise. He had found a way to find her two other children she had lost contact with long ago.

“I was 21,” Teri explains, “an orphaned divorcee with only a basic education. My first husband had an intact extended family, education, and financial resources. He got custody of our kids.” Eventually, due to circumstances beyond her control, she no longer knew where they were.

Her husband’s news delighted her. She would be complete now. “I had in my hands a computer printout that told me all about my firstborn son. He was 5’10” tall, weighed 160 pounds, had hazel eyes, dark brown hair. He started driving on his 16th birthday, the year before. I also had a contact phone number.” Then Teri noticed a word that chilled her: “Deceased!”

Why was that on the page? Deceased? That couldn’t be true. How could my son be dead?

A police report was included: suicide. Teri’s mind and emotions shut down in shock.

“My heart turned dark. I felt God was out to get me, punish me for my many wrong choices. It was like a cruel joke. My poor husband tried to do what he could, but I felt I no longer existed. What he meant for joy turned into trauma. He took care of the family because I checked out. My firstborn was dead and later my firstborn daughter refused to meet with me. And who could blame her? I was sure I was the cause of her brother’s death.”

Teri had struggled with depression before and learned how to pull herself out. But not this time. All she felt was hopelessness.

In time, Teri’s hope revived again. But it didn’t just happen. Time by itself healed nothing for her. She needed time plus gutsy love. Teri’s load was lightened when a certain someone sat beside her and listened while she poured out her soul. When someone had the right words and actions at a critical juncture. God worked through her family and also a special friend to soften and redirect her exploding anger, gripping regrets, and gaping wounds of sorrow.

God uses people to kindle hope. Human relationships are among His finest gifts. We need at least one capable, willing confidante. Someone who has been trained in the fires of experience and the furnace of faith. Someone who will come alongside, go through the stuff of life with us. Or you can be that person for another.

 

BlyBook HopeLivesHere1AFind out more about how Teri survived in Hope Lives Here.

Today, shut out the world for a few minutes and treat yourself to one of these 31 short meditations. A month-long devotional guide with true stories, enriched with relevant Scripture passages, and prayers to encourage your heart.
Life offers enough troubles to keep things interesting. You may become impatient for relief under the load of heartbreaking problems. But God’s delays achieve fulfillment of His highest aims. He carefully prepares you for what lies ahead. Hope Lives Here weaves stories of humor and pathos with the display of God’s wisdom and goodness. God brings to each life the people and events designed to reveal the ultimate hope in Christ and keep attention on the future eternal glory of heaven.

Janet Chester Bly is a speaker on women’s issues, relationship challenges, and devotional themes. She authored 11 books, including Words To Live By For Women, Hope Lives Here, God Is Good All The Time, Awakening Your Sense of Wonder, and The Heart of a Runaway. She co-authored with her late husband Stephen Bly 19 other nonfiction and fiction books, including The Power of a Godly Grandparent, The Carson City Chronicles, and The Hidden West Series.

Janet and her 3 sons finished Stephen’s last western novel, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot. Read about the family project at the Bly Books blog: http://www.blybooks.com/category/finishing-dads-novel/

Website: http://www.blybooks.com/

Check out Hope Lives Here:  http://www.blybooks.com/bookstore/true-life-stories-meditations/

Let’s talk about this. Share a time when you were struggling and someone gave you hope. What did they do or say? How did that help you? Or perhaps you’re on the giving end. Do you have a loved one facing tough circumstances? How can you give them hope without sounding cliche’ or minimizing their feelings? I rarely know the right words to say, so often, I’ll just listen, or maybe send my loved ones a verse or a link to a song. I hope it is enough for them to know I care.

Ultimately, our hope lies in God and God alone and His promise of heaven, but while we are here on His earth, He has given His followers the task of sharing His love, peace, mercy, grace, and hope with others.

LivingbyGracepicI’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook atLiving by Grace. 

Thou Shalt Not … Condemn Thyself

You confessed your sin, asked for forgiveness, and have made a determined effort to do better. So why does that niggling shame refuse to lift? Today author Candi Pullen shares her personal experience with perfectionism and self-condemnation and how Jesus freed her from this ugly cycle. But before you go any further, I want to congratulate the winner of Shannon’s novel, Rodeo Regrets. Audry Mclaughlin, congrats! You won! I’ll be sending you an email soon to find the best way to get this great book to you. 🙂

Judge Not by Candi Pullen
Matthew 7:1-6
Verse 1: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” 
    I am my own harshest judge.  For years I was so hard on myself I even entertained the thought that I wasn’t truly saved.  I knew better.  I knew that I loved Jesus from early childhood, and often thought I may have been saved at Vacation Bible School or in my mother’s Sunday School class and was simply too young at the time to remember.  But I had no doubts whatsoever that I had prayed with intense purpose to rededicate or be saved (whichever) when I sat in Mary’s living room and repeated the sinner’s prayer of repentance and reception at 7:00 PM, Thursday, November 29, 1973.  I am precise, because I was not content with anything less than “I know that I know that I know.”  Oh! Did I not mention I was a bona fide, in-your-face perfectionist until Jesus got hold of me and cured me of that disease?
Verse 2: “For with what judgment you judge you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
    Being my own judge, jury, and executioner gave me little peace,  even less joy, and an unquenchable love hunger.  I beat myself up continually until I had no sense of worth, or esteem.  I lived-strike that-existed in an almost vacuum state, devoid of any meeting of the most basic of emotional needs. My only saving grace was a women’s weekly Bible study held in the home of one of my few friends who loved me in spite of myself.  Nancy was our hostess and the Mary who prayed with me to receive Christ was our teacher.  Slowly, over weeks and months, as drop-by-drop Jesus’ blood became my own, I began to believe there was a hope for me to be changed from the inside out, and even I could become a new creation in Christ.
Verses 3 & 4: “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?”
    I was so blinded by the plank in my self-view I could not see any Jesus in me.  Yet the nurture nature of our Lord was so full in the women attending our weekly studies that each individual seemed determined to love me in spite of myself.  I was so desperate to BE what I wanted to be but could not see beyond the me I thought I was, that I conducted myself like a know-it-all-I’m-in-charge wannabe.  I don’t know how they tolerated me.  It had to be the Lord; for I pushed every button, had every answer, knew everything, until I sickened even myself at times.  Yet their love was steadfast, sturdy, and streamlined to meet my needs.  God Bless them, every one!  Saints to the core.
Verse 5: “Hypocrite!  First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.” 
    Indeed.  There is a need in each of us to be loved and accepted.  When I believed I was unlovable I
tried all the harder to be loveable.  All I accomplished was more alienation – because it was born of
necessity and not in sincerity.  The time had come.  I had come as far as possible in my own strength,
and the time for breaking strongholds was upon me.
    Please understand, God did not make things happen.  He simply saw them coming and chose to
allow them, and use them, rather than stop them.  The understanding I have in hindsight is like watching a glass blower work his craft.  The glass is heated to the point of melting away all the hardness of the glass, incorporating all the little broken shards into the mass at the end of his hollow tube.  Then he breathes the new structure of the desired vessel, and turns it to maintain balance of the reshaped new vessel he has predetermined it to be.  A vessel of beauty and purpose comes out of the ashes of the fire.
    My breaking was the death of my first husband, a second marriage that was entered into by virtue of my own broken self-image to a man who abused me in ways I will not share or describe; the sin of a divorce that was covered by the magnificence of God’s matchless grace and mercy, and His infinite love for this wayward child.
Verse 6: “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn and tear you in pieces.”
      I have often read this passage of Scriptures and wondered why verse 6 was included under judging. But having just written about my second marriage and the dissolution by divorce, even that makes more sense.
A large portion of the healing that has taken place in me, especially when it comes self-acceptance
and forgiveness of both myself and my ex-husband, is the understanding of who we are in Christ.  If I am to see myself and others clearly, I must look at everyone through Jesus’ eyes – not my own.  Verse 6 holds the Truth with a capital “T”.
In Christ we are holy.  Yes, I am holy, for Christ in me IS my holiness.  I do not deserve it.  I do not
deserve Him.  No one does.  But He comes with the Truth.  I may not deserve Him, but He died to give me that right.  How could I refuse such a magnificent gesture of undeserved favor?
Christ is my Pearl of Great Price.  And I no longer despise myself, for He has opened my eyes to His Truth; “I am accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)  I would make Him a liar if I did not receive this verse and apply it as my own.  He paid the highest price possible to make it so.  His life for mine.
Hardly a fair exchange, but His will, nevertheless.
    And where am I today?  Safe in the loving arms of my precious redeemer and free from the demons of my past.  It is really quite simple, and no longer an issue. You see…
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;
and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me
and gave Himself for me.”Galatians 2:20 NKJVAbout Candi Pullen:

As an “Air Force brat” and having spent nine years as a navy wife, Candi Pullen has lived more places than she can name, including Morocco and Lybia.
Raised a Roman Catholic, she doesn’t remember a time when God wasn’t a major part of her life, but a weakening in her first marriage caused her to question if there wasn’t more, and on Thursday, Nov. 29, 1973, at 7 pmshe gave her life to Christ.  She has eagerly served him since.  After the death of her first husband and the death of their daughter, Andrea, nine years later, she felt that God was calling her to use that pain to minister to others who needed God’s healing comfort.  In 2007 she earned her Bachelor of Theology degree.  She now teaches discipleship classes, mentors new believers and those wishing to find all the Lord has for them, and writes a daily devotional on Facebook, “Good Morning, Papa!”  She lives in New Port Richey, FL, with Drew, her husband of 18 years.NotGuiltyFrontCover3x4-5-199x300Book Promo:

Not Guilty by Teresa Pollard and Candi Pullen.  February 2013.
It’s 1974 and Carrie Shepherd, daughter of the minister at Windspree Community Church, is a college senior with plans to be a missionary in Africa.  Raped by a masked assailant, Carrie is so traumatized she tells no one until she realizes she’s pregnant.  Refusing to have an abortion, she must find the courage to face her family, her fiance, her friends and a gossiping, angry congregation which may include her attacker.  Can Carrie find a way to cope with the secrets, silence and shame?

Category: Christian / Fiction / Mystery
ISBN 978-1-938708-06-0 (paperback)  Retail $13.99
ISBN 978-1-938708-07-7  (ebook)  Retail $3.99.

It seems we humans often go to one of two extremes. Either we rehash every mistake we’ve made until we feel completely unredeemable or we make excuses for our sins and errors, negating the potential for change and growth. But God longs for us to evaluate ourselves and our sins honestly and in view of grace–a grace that keeps us centered at the foot of the cross. What about you? Do you find yourself going to one or the other extreme, and if so, how can you practice truth and grace? Share your thoughts below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

LivingbyGracepicI’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook atLiving by Grace.