Creating a Culture of Grace

Image of woman looking out over horizon

Image by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Our response to other people’s failures and mistakes matter. A lot.

Grace isn’t overlooking sin or acting as if it’s acceptable nor is it diminishing its effects.

Grace says: “I know you messed up here, and that stinks. But your actions won’t push me away. Instead, they motivate me to draw closer. Because I know you can do better. I believe you will do better, and I’ll be walking beside you each step of the way.”

Our daughter has always been the type who longs to please. She needs to know her father and I are proud of her and at times, she has an unhealthy fear of displeasing us. When she was younger, I often told her, “I almost want you to fail in this so that you can see failure isn’t the end of the world.” I wanted her to make some big mistakes so that her fear of making them would diminish.

Mostly, I wanted her to experience grace and learn to live in it.

This past year, she got engaged, which opens up a whole new set of potential “failures.” Failures I know she and her fiancé will experience, perhaps even again and again. They won’t always make the right choices or love one another well. They’ll argue and say things they wish they hadn’t. They’ll make poor career decisions, some that may even cost them tens of thousands.

But they’ll be okay, because they’ll always have the grace of God, of one another, and of my husband and I to fall back on. My prayer is that the knowledge of those truths will provide the safety, the catalyst, for their growth.

Fear paralyzes, but Scripture says perfect love casts out fear.

Let me play on those words a bit. We all fear we’ll be cast out. That we’ll do something that will cause others to reject us and cut us off. But love draws near, and the love that draws near casts out the fear of being cast off. If I instill nothing else into our daughter’s heart, I want it to be this: My love remains.

Imagine our relationships, our churches and Bible study groups, if we learned to communicate grace-based love, not just with our words, but more importantly, with our actions and reactions.

This begs the question: how do we create a culture of grace?

I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but I feel I get closer when I consider God’s heart for me. Here’s how we can mirror that heart to others.

Understand failure will occur.

We’re all in a process of growing. We know this intellectually but can easily forget when someone else behaves in a less than loving or godly way. Often, when I disciplined our daughter when she was growing up, I’d say, “You’re supposed to mess up. You’re a kid. That’s why God gave you parents.”

That didn’t mean I condoned or ignored her behavior. It meant I saw it through a grace-and-growth based lens. Paul putflower image with text from Phil. 1:6 it this way, when speaking to the relatively new believers in Philippi: “[I am] confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).

Notice:

  • Paul knew the believers hadn’t reached a state of completion. He dropped his expectations of perfection.
  • He didn’t take ownership for their growth. Oh, what peace we experience when we stop owning other people’s behavior! As their spiritual mentor, Paul was responsible to teach, exhort, and train. He was not responsible for how the Philippians responded.
  • His confidence wasn’t in his teaching or even in the Philippians’ ability to grow. His confidence rested in Christ, the author and perfector of their faith, the only One with the power to change lives.

Prioritize relationships above behavior, mistakes, and incidents.

This means viewing everything as an opportunity to connect, to get to the heart level. Jesus excelled at this. When He met a woman who’d been married five times and was living with a man out of wedlock, He didn’t zero in on her relationship history. Instead, He saw and spoke to her heart, her need, saying, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink”—or, who I am—“you would’ve asked Him and He would’ve given you living water” (John 4:10, NIV).

Jesus offered Himself. Completely.

When He met a tax collector who’d swindled money from others, He didn’t list all the man’s sins. Instead, He drew the man close, saying, “Come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5, NIV).

Relationships change people. When healthy and filled with grace, they give others a safe place to land, to become honest with themselves and others, and to grow.

Deal with things as they come then move on.

When our daughter was a teenager, she and I went through a “passive aggressive” phase where we routinely threw snarky comments at one another. Whenever we took time to unpack these interactions, we learned one of us had spoken out of hurt or fear. Watch others, or even better, analyze yourself, and I suspect you’ll discover the same.

Usually, this behavior stems from aversion to conflict, yet that is precisely where it leads—to ongoing, unresolved conflict. We discovered how important, how healing and powerful, it can be to simply state our feelings and concerns. This allowed us to deal with them honestly and fully—to get to the real issue, which so often wasn’t what we originally suspected. Then, once we’d addressed that, we moved on, grudge and hostility free.

Granted, I’ll never love others as Christ loves me. I’ll have moments of snark, of hurt feelings and misperceptions, but I want to grow in this area. I want to create a culture of grace, where relationships are prioritized over mistakes and poor behavior and growth is valued above perfection.

Let’s talk about this! What are some ways you’ve experienced grace-based relationships? Can you share any examples with us? What are some ways you try to intentionally create a culture of grace, and what results have you seen?

Speaking of living in and giving out grace, have you grabbed your free copy of Becoming His Princess yet? You can do HERE.

cover for Bible studyDo you ever feel insignificant or unseen? As if what you do or even who you are isn’t quite good enough? Does your confidence level vary based on who you’re around and how their bank account or how accomplishment list compares to yours? If so, this study, based on the life of Sarah from the Old Testament Scriptures, is for you.

For seven weeks, we’ll follow her uncertain and at times terrifying journey from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur to the land promised to her husband, and ultimately, the place of rest God beckons each of us toward. He met her in the middle of her pain, her shame, and all her striving, and rewrote her story—through grace. A grace bigger than her greatest failures and that proved sufficient for all her insufficiencies.Step by step, God taught this once-scorned woman to live as His beloved, His princess.

As we follow her journey recorded in the pages of Scripture, He’ll help us do the same. We’ll learn to center our identity in Christ, recognize His power and presence in our most challenging circumstances, find rest from our striving, and live daily in His grace.

And before you go, fun news! Christina Sparks, you won a copy of Janet Thompson’s book, Everyday Brave! I’ll email you soon to connect you with her so you can get her your mailing address. Thanks for engaging with us last week!

When God Opens Your Eyes and Touches Your Heart — Guest Post

The longer we’ve been a Christian, the more apt we are to forget just how desperately we need grace. We can lose sight of the moment we first received salvation and who we were prior. When this happens, it’s easy for an inner Pharisee to rise up. But as Delia Latham, my guest today shares, when we stand in God’s presence, He redirects our thinking, purifies our heart, and fills us with His love for others.

He Touched Me…Again

Delia Latham

I recently found myself delivering a subtle dig here and a not-so-gentle poke there, aimed with little real love at my brothers and sisters in Christ. I couldn’t overlook the fact that God’s people aren’t always the best examples of godliness, and noticed every fault and failure. The lack of Christlikeness in faithful church-goers appalled me.

I prayed for these so-called Christians, as any real Christian would. Yes, indeed! I wrapped myself in my judge’s robes and took those faulty folks to God’s throne.

But I quickly sensed my Father’s displeasure, almost heard His still, soft whisper: “Daughter, daughter! You see the people around you like trees, walking around. You don’t know their stories, child. I do. Here…let me wash the soap from your eyes. Now, look at Me. Just Me.”

He shifted my vision off of everyone else and fixed it onto Him. I wept, shamed by my lack of perfection and fully aware of how I’d come to this sad, judgmental place.

I’d gotten soap in my eyes. It’s a risk one takes with over-indulgent, spiritual bubble baths. Maybe you’ve been there—immersed in what we assume brings a squeaky-clean spirituality. Such futility! Only the blood of Christ can attain that type of cleansing.

Much conjecture has surrounded the story in Mark 8:22-25, which tells of when Jesus healed a blind man. At first, the man’s restored vision was blurry. He said he saw men like trees walking around, so Jesus touched him again, and the man’s vision cleared.

Why, He had to try twice! When did Jesus ever fail to heal upon the first touch?

I don’t know why the blind man needed that second touch. But his experience became, for me, a lesson in God-sight…an eye exam that resulted in spiritual contact lenses.

Until this rather shameful revelation I’d never wondered why the blind man was looking at the people around him. “I see men…” he said. Jesus gave him his sight. Why wouldn’t his gaze be fixed in adoration and wonder on the One who’d miraculously healed him?

Is it possible that, when he opened his eyes the second time, he looked straight into the face of the Master Physician? Could that be why he saw everything clearly?

That’s where my heart lies, friends. I believe Jesus did it right the first time. I’m convinced the blind man needed that second touch because when he first opened his eyes, he focused on the people around him…not on the Son of God

And me? Same story, same mistake. Had my eyes been on Christ, free of soap scum, I would have seen my brothers and sisters through the lens of God’s love and understanding. Not “like trees, walking.”

What a blessing that Jesus is always willing to touch us one more time!

***

Let’s talk about this! Judgement comes when we forget the gospel and our desperate need for Jesus. What are some ways you keep God’s grace and your dependence on Him on the forefront of your mind? How does doing so enable you to offer grace to others? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments below.

We would love for you to join Wholly Loved’s book discussion next month! We’ll be reading and talking about one of my favorite books, the Ragamuffin Gospel! Contact me HERE for more information!

Get to know Delia!

Delia Latham lives in East Texas with her husband and a spoiled Pomeranian named Kona. She writes inspirational romance and devotions. You’ll always find a touch of the divine in this author’s tales of sweet romance.
A former newspaper Staff Writer, Delia is now blessed to have twenty-seven published novels/novellas, as well as short pieces in a number of devotional anthologies. She designs cover art and marketing materials; and offers freelance editing/proofreading services. Contact her about speaking at your upcoming event. Connect with Delia: Website, Amazon Author page, Facebook Author Page, or Twitter.

Check out her Christmas in July collection!

 

Smoky Mountain Christmas

Claude Buchanan is turning 80. Ida Buchanan wants her husband to have an 80th birthday he’ll never forget. His one request is for all their children and grandchildren to be there for the party. They have four sons, and each one has a daughter—the heroines in each of the novellas. The cousins all share the last name of Buchanan.

All four young women left Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the last few years—for reasons specific to each—and moved to another area or state. For that reason, they don’t want to return for the party. But because they love their grandparents, they do. Returning home forces each young woman to deal with what caused her to leave in the first place, and in each case, opens the door to true love.

The birthday party takes place in Granddaddy and Granny Buchanan’s barn on Christmas Eve, and each of the four novellas end that same day, just prior to the party, which is featured in the epilogue accompanying the last book in the series.

Purchase link

Delia’s book in the collection:

Do You See What I See?

Laramie Buchanan’s fiancé betrayed her on what should have been their wedding day. Evan Lassiter is still trying to recover from being jilted at the altar three years ago. Now, with Laramie’s beloved Granddaddy celebrating his eightieth birthday on Christmas Eve, Lari is forced to return home to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. But even the memory of that awful day rips her heart to shreds. How can she survive a face-to-face meeting with the man she still loves? Yesterday’s heartbreak blinds them both to a surprising truth that could heal their hurting hearts. Will they see it in time to save their love?

Christmas in July Blog Tour Stops Remaining:

July 12 – The World Can Wait (Delia Latham)

July 18 – The World Can Wait (Tiffany Amber Stockton)

July 22 – All Betts Are Off (Jeanie Smith Cash)

July 31 – Pam’s Wild Rose Blog (joint post with Jeanie Smith Cash & Rose Allen McCauley)

Having trouble grasping God’s grace? I’ve learned most about God’s love and mercy through my husband, as I share in this video.

Want to connect with other women actively pursuing Jesus and spiritual growth? Then join the Wholly Loved Facebook group!

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Walking Closely With Jesus — Guest Blogger

Grace quote from Max Luccado

Walking Closely with Jesus

By Jo Massaro

Years ago, I asked a life-changing question, “How could a woman who had an abortion, multiple marriages and a traumatic brain injury, have a relationship with Jesus?”

This forced me to face the hurts, habits, and pain  hidden away and never dealt with. I wore a smile, but covered the heartbreak hidden in the darkest places.

My longing to be someone else reminds me of a song from the movie, Mulan. Like me, she struggled to find herself.

I was 23 with three children when I became pregnant again. My husband didn’t want another child, so I decided to have an abortion. The sun was out on the day of my procedure, but I felt scared and so alone.

Nine months later, an accident occurred and my son, Jason, died the day before his second birthday.  I was certain that God had punished me for what I’d done nearly a year before. Depression and thoughts of suicide became my friends. When a child dies, the life you once led, no longer exists. Even though we had two daughters, this void became unbearable. My husband used alcohol and drugs to dull his pain. After two more children, we were broken beyond repair.

This led to our divorce.

Five years later I married again and within a year I faced another divorce. I wanted to commit suicide.

Picture of an icebergMy brokenness was like an iceberg. Others see the top but ninety percent of my pain lay below the surface–abandonment, isolation, fear, trauma, loss, disappointments, depression and co-dependency. This was what I felt from the time I was a child that carried into my adulthood. I was searching for love in the wrong places.

My life was one of sin, lies, deception and isolation.

I knew Jesus existed, but didn’t realize who He really was nor how to experience and live in the grace He offered.

I met and married my third husband, and he brought me to his church. When the pastor asked if anyone wanted to accept Jesus,  I raised my hand. I didn’t understand all that happened, but I knew Jesus made me feel loved and accepted, and I wanted more of Him.

A few years later, I was involved in a car accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury, (TBI). I lost the ability to read, drive, function as a wife and mother; my vision was affected and my thinking felt foggy. My husband told me every morning I’d say, “Just one more day, Jesus,” but I don’t remember this.

One day while I listened to the audio Bible, words from Scripture gripped me:

“When the woman heard about Jesus, she came up through the crowd behind Him and touched his cloak. For she kept saying, ‘If I could only touch His clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she sensed in her body that she was healed of her affliction” (Mark 5:27-29, NIV).

I realized that if Jesus healed this woman, He could heal me. Believing this with all my heart, I began to pray.

Over the years, God has healed me and today my life is full of God’s grace and peace and praise for all God has done.

God created me with a plan and purpose and stayed with me throughout my pain and heartache. I walk today in love and with a husband of 26 years.

My deeply rooted relationship with Jesus reminds me of two beautiful rivers located in Manaus, Brazil. Each are unique as in the deep darkness (blackwater) of the Rio Negro and the pale sandy (whitewater) of the Rio Solimoes.

These bodies of water run side by side for six miles before they become one. In those six miles, the light of the Rio Solimoes slowly begins to engulf the darkness of the Rio Negro. Darkness now becomes light.

Similarly, Jesus works below the surface and brings light into deep, dark places as only he can. But it takes time after Woman staring out at the sea with text pulled from the post. the two meet for change to occur.

In God’s loving hands, I was transformed and washed clean by the blood of the lamb .

This mirrors our walk with Jesus . When we accept Him as Savior, He takes the old and dirty parts of our lives and gently brings us into a new life with Him.

I’ve asked the Lord to draw deeper into my relationship with Him and conform me to His image. I know we say and hear this all the time, but I was determined to allow Jesus to do surgery on my heart and dissect that which was dead and lifeless and bring healing and wholeness in its place.

I’m grateful for the love and contentment I have in Jesus.

Let’s talk about this! How  has God healed you or brought you to deeper freedom? What are some ways you’re living in that freedom?

Meet Jo Massaro!

 

Jo Massaro's author photoJo is founder and curator of Yahweh Sisterhood Book Club that meets the first Thursday of each month. You not only read the book but get to meet the author either in person or through Facebook.

As a speaker, Jo brings humor, energy, authenticity, faith, and strength she found in the Word of God. She describes her journey through her darkest times and how God brought her to a relationship with the Light of the World.

She offers themed messages to your group, and works with your team to customize a topic you have selected. She speaks before small or large groups, churches, or wherever God leads her.

For further information on the book club visit:

www.yahwehsisterhoodbookclub.com

Contact Jo at:  jomassarospeaker@gmail.com

 

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

 

Growing in Grace

Woman praising and paraphrase of 1 Cor. 3:18

Imagine the peace and growth we’d experience if we truly learned to live in grace. If, instead of wallowing in self-condemnation, we moved forward in the hopeful anticipation birthed in intentional growth. Imagine if we viewed every failure, setback, and step forward through God’s eyes.

Growing in grace

By Matthew Romano

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Co 3:18, ESV).

“Beware of looking back at what you once were, when God wants you to become someone you’ve never been” – Oswald Chambers.

Before a sculptor begins shaping his masterpiece, he has a vision of what he wants to create. He begins with raw materials, such as a block of stone or marble. He starts chiseling the substance to mirror what he sees in his mind. As he crafts his vision, he’s not frustrated because it’s not yet completed. He takes joy in the work of his hands as art begins to take form and reflect the image he envisioned.

It is the same process for God.

God has a vision for us to become like Christ. In Him, He sees us as perfect, without spot or blemish in Christ. He is gradually molding and chiseling us to reflect His Son. He works on our hearts with joy and He’s not angry or upset throughout the process of our spiritual formation. Rather, He takes delight in doing the work that He knows will eventually be completed.

Unfortunately, we often fail to see ourselves as a work in progress. We tend to focus on our sins and imperfections. We cannot press forward we’re continually contemplating our present shortcomings, or reflecting on the pain of our past.

Perhaps we have listened to careless words spoken over us – and unknowingly embraced them. I remember one of my high school teachers yelling at me in front of the classroom, “You’re never going to amount to anything!” At the time, these words didn’t seem to bother me and I just laughed at him. But looking back in retrospect, a few months later I made the decision to drop out of school. If we take these words to heart they will begin to shape our self-image.

Words can create worlds for us. Every word we’ve digested internally has greatly impacted who we are today. That’s woman holding heart shaped snow and text pulled from postwhy it’s imperative to meditate on what the Lord says about us. When we welcome Jesus into our lives as Lord and Savior, He grants us not only forgiveness, but also the gift of a new identity. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Co 5:17, ESV).

As I focus on the goodness of the Lord and the words He’s spoken to me within the Bible, He transforms me to become what He created me to be. I may not be all God intends yet, but I know Him who creates beauty from what was once nothing. God is the potter and we are the clay (Jer 18:6). If we allow His hand to shape our lives, we’ll be led into a glorious destiny of purpose.

What must you put behind to become what you’ve never been?

Check out his book, The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation:

The atmosphere within the United States and most of the world is ripe for another great spiritual awakening. The current state of affairs is one of profound division, even within the church. The saints themselves have a difficult time distinguishing what is right and what is wrong because we have abandoned our first love and have embraced the love of the world.

In this season, the Lord exhorts His people to prepare themselves like a bride adorned for her husband and beckons the church to answer “The Call” toward revival that will spread like a holy fire in the hearts of many. Who will answer “The Call” to battle this present darkness with weapons of righteousness? Only when God’s own people are revived can we expect to see transformation in America and throughout the world.

The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation takes the reader on a journey of spiritual awakening alongside the author. Each chapter inspires the reader to answer “The Call” of God toward freedom, holiness, and purpose. This book will mentor people to hear the voice of God, think with the mind of Christ, be alert to the tactics of Satan, engage in spiritual warfare, learn to pray and meditate on the promises of God, and much more.

Buy it HERE.

Grab the study guide HERE.

Watch the trailer HERE.

Get to know Matthew!

Matthew J. Romano is an ordained deacon of Christ Church New Jersey. He has been walking with the Lord for over 25 years. His passion is sharing Christ with the lost and teaching believers to walk passionately with the Lord. He currently serves the body of Christ as a deacon, altar ministry to pray for the needs of God’s people, life group leader, guest teacher and speaker of the Word of God, and as a certified teacher in the School of Prayer. He is the author of The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation and The Call: A Study Guide to Revival and Transformation.

Find him online HERE.

Connect with him on Facebook HERE. 

Before you go, for those who are local and want to participate in the live teaching of Becoming His Princess Bible study, hosted this winter by Wildewood Christian Church (Papillion), registration is now open! To sign up, go HERE.

Grab your free e-copy HERE.

Grab your print copy HERE.

About the study:

Do you ever feel insignificant or unseen? As if what you do or even who you are isn’t quite good enough? Does your confidence level vary based on who you’re around and how their bank account or how accomplishment list compares to yours? If so, this study, based on the life of Sarah from the Old Testament Scriptures, is for you.

For seven weeks, we’ll follow her uncertain and at times terrifying journey from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur to the land promised to her husband, and ultimately, the place of rest God beckons each of us toward. He met her in the middle of her pain, her shame, and all her striving, and rewrote her story—through grace. A grace bigger than her greatest failures and that proved sufficient for all her insufficiencies.Step by step, God taught this once-scorned woman to live as His beloved, His princess.

As we follow her journey recorded in the pages of Scripture, He’ll help us do the same. We’ll learn to center our identity in Christ, recognize His power and presence in our most challenging circumstances, find rest from our striving, and live daily in His grace.

Learning to Move Past Shame

Image by Artem Bali on unsplash

God doesn’t want us to live in shame. He died to free us from sin and it’s pervasive effects like self-defeat, self-loathing, and guilt. If we’ve trusted in Jesus for salvation, our past, regardless how sinful, no longer defines us. He does! The old is gone, dead and buried and the new has come. This is an undeniable, unshakable truth, one most of probably recognize intellectually. Learning to live in that truth, however, as my guest today illustrates, can take a good deal of work and prayer.

Learning to Move Past Shame

By Sarah Foust

God took my broken self and made me new. He made ugly, stained pieces beautiful again by helping me release my past.

Most people look at me today and see a Christian wife and mother of five. I go to church regularly. I returned from my first mission trip in May. I quit my job to become an Inspirational author. I try my best to spread the good news of God’s love and forgiveness in everything I do.

But they don’t see the person I used to be.

I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of.

During high school I had two friend groups. In one, I was co-captain of the swim team and president of Future Farmers of America, with a perfect GPA and headed for Valedictorian. In the other, I was a newbie who hadn’t been drunk or dipped tobacco, and they wanted to “remedy” those situations. I soon found myself lost in these two different social mazes. I wish I could say I chose the good influences.

But God sent someone to help lead me to the right path. My husband and I were close friends in high school but didn’t begin dating until I was 19. One of my biggest holdups was that he was a church-going, Bible-believing Christian. You see, I’d always believed God existed. But I didn’t have a personal relationship with Him. The idea that He could know me inside and out was intimidating.

Before long, I agreed to go to church, mostly to see what it was all about. I didn’t expect it to change or affect me. What a blessing those first services were. By my fourth or fifth Sunday, I finally shoved aside the shame and the pride and accepted Jesus as my personal Savior.

Though I know God forgave me the instant I turned to Him for salvation, forgiving myself has been much harder and more labor-intensive. That took years of prayer. Then, during a snowstorm some time, failures assaulted my mind more heavily than normal. I allowed myself to go down that bumpy, guilt-ridden road until God reminded me of my salvation.

I went into the front yard and listened to the quiet swish of snow falling onto the grass. It sounds a little strange, I’m sure, but I made a mental hole in the front yard and buried my past. From then on I was able to release the horrible memories. Any time new ones surface, I add them to the “hole” and let them rest. Not to hide or hide from them, but to let them go. I hold a “funeral” for my sins. I no longer had a need to rehash those details, because God had already thrown them far from me.

I’m incredibly thankful that God allowed me to release my past mistakes. I’m not trapped in a cycle of reliving those memories anymore. And God is giving me such blessed ones to take their places.

Have you forgiven yourself for your past? In what ways has God brought you to a deeper level of freedom?

Get to know Sarah:

Sara Foust writes Inspirational Romantic Suspense from a mini-farm in East Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and their five homeschooled children. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Tennessee and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Tennessee Mountain Writers. Her debut novel Callum’s Compass won second place in Deep River Books’ 2017 Writer’s Contest. Sara finds inspiration in her faith, her family, and the beauty of nature. When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, camping, and spending time outdoors with her family. To learn more about her and her work or to become a part of her email friend’s group, please visit www.saralfoust.com. And make sure to connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Collum’s Compass:

Kat Williams’s brother died in a gruesome accident in the mountains of East Tennessee. She blames herself.

Ryan Jenkins’s fiancée was murdered. He couldn’t protect her.

With the death of her brother, Kat believes she is unworthy of love from anyone—even God. When a good friend elicits a promise that she will stop living in the past and then leaves her clues to a real-life treasure hunt, Kat embarks on an adventure chock-full of danger. To find the treasure, Kat will have to survive wild animals—and even wilder men. Can she rely on Ryan, the handsome wildlife officer assigned to protect her . . . without falling in love?

Ryan swore off love when his fiancée was murdered, but feelings long-buried rise to the surface around Kat. He volunteers to help with her treasure hunt, vowing to keep her safe. Together they venture deep into caves and tunnels . . . and even deeper into the depths of their unplumbed hearts.

Visit Sarah online at her website and on Facebook.

If today’s post encouraged you, make sure to watch out for Wholly Loved’s 7-week study titled Becoming His Princess, which they’ll make available (video segments, group discussion questions, and “at home” lessons) for free. Coming this winter/spring.)

Grace For When Our Speech is Less Than Gracious

nature image with grace quote

I’ve said things I’ve quickly regretted many times. The less time I spend in God’s presence, resting in His grace, the higher the likelihood ungracious words will come out of my mouth. But living daily, deeply, in God’s grace, as my guest today reveals, changes everything.

Grace For When Our Speech is Less Than Gracious by Darlene Franklin

I have a serious problem with my tongue, and this frequently run into challenges at the nursing home where I live. Apart from God’s presence with me,  I would give up the battle.

Only a few hours have passed since I tore into my aides for not getting me dressed until lunch time. With all the time prior, why wait until I might miss lunch? They replied that it had all worked out. I was out of the shower exactly when they passed trays so I was making a fuss about nothing. I just kept complaining, because I felt like no one was listening. I shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place. According to my care plan, I’m to be showered and dressed by seven in the morning.

I understand the principles of speaking with kindness and compassion,  that is, speech that is directed by God’s Spirit living within me so that I know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:6). But sometimes my words sting and offer minimal honey (Proverbs 16:24).

Some days I do really well, Other times, like today. I falter.

Thank God for His grace. As I child I learned a simplistic definition:

G od’s

R edemption

A t

C hrist’s

E xpense

That redemption freed me from the bondage to and penalty of sin. The power of Christ’s sacrifice became mine the moment I admitted my sin and received His gift of salvation.

But “redemption” has present and future implications as well. One day, in God’s eternal kingdom, wrong doing won’t tarnish my life or my world.

In the here-and-now, God empowers me to live as He desires—and picks me up and helps me start again when I fail. He is Darlene's quote with a sunrise background imagealways ready to forgive me when I come to Him, after I made a mess yet again.

God doesn’t hold what I said yesterday against me, nor expect it to dictate what I say today. Instead, He gives me discernment, guidance, love, and forgiveness when I need it.

Experiencing God’s grace on a deep level allows me to move past my feelings of condemnation when I’ve spoken harshly and helps me speak and behave graciously in the future. If I’m healed of past hurts, caused by my sins or someone else’s, I’m less likely to lash out against someone else.

Whatever I encounter, God’s grace helps me to consider, is this problem important to complain about? And if I do, is this the person who can help? The standard is God’s grace and how He views the person who has hurt me or I’m in conflict with.

Living in grace means I accept what Christ has freely given me and and then pass it on to others.

Sometimes my soft answers turns aside another’s anger and conflict is avoided. But not always. Regardless, returning anger for anger doesn’t benefit anyone, and it’s certainly not how Christ treated His enemies.

The more I live in the grace Christ extends to me, the more likely I am to speak in grace.

***

Let’s talk about this! When do you most struggle showing others grace, whether with your words or your behavior? How does taking time to rest in Jesus and remind yourself of His grace help you in those moments? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another. And before you go, make sure to sign up for me free quarterly newsletter, releasing at the end of this month. You can do so HERE.

Get to know Darlene!

Darlene Franklin's author photoBest-selling Amazon and ECPA author Darlene Franklin’s greatest claim to fame is that she continues to write from a nursing home. She keeps going because God keeps giving her more assignments. She’s written more than fifty-five fiction and nonfiction books, including Pray Through the Bible in a Year and Of Cash and Cats in Love Comes on Kitten Paws   

Keep up with her online HERE and visit her author page on Amazon HERE.

Check out her latest release, Cinderella’s Boot:

Two romantic novellas where fairy tales do come true.

Cynthia Ellen Cooper—known affectionately as “Cinderella”—left her wedding boot in the dust when she ran away from her wedding to work on a sheep station in Australia.

Four years later, she’s back home—and so is her ex-fiancé, now a DVM from Oklahoma State University. They reach a truce and work side by side in his father’s animal clinic.

Cyn soon discovers she wants more—but she has to battle bad history and a demanding pet owner for Keith’s attention.

How can Cinderella find a second chance at love? 

HILLBILLY CINDERELLA

When Cindy Lou Hopkins turns twenty-five life will get better. She knows it. She’ll no longer be under the thumb of her stepmother Geneva or tormented by her stepsisters. She just has to stay alive that long.

The only kink in her plan for independence is the handsome, Lance Moore, she jokingly calls the town prince. A man who wants to get to know her better. A man Cindy isn’t worthy to be in the same room as.

When Lance throws a barn dance, Cindy is determined to have one night with him that will carry her through the rest of her life. Can she set aside prejudices from a bygone time and embrace her happily ever after?

How Living in Grace Helps Us Guard Our Words

Man holding hand over his mouthMy 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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