God’s Grace Revealed in Us

My hands were shaky, my stomach queasy. I’d been to the bathroom five times in maybe twice as many minutes as my jumble of nerves worked against my courage to obey. Having given my word, committed to this thing, I knew I couldn’t back out.

Though the thought had crossed my mind over a dozen times.

The strength to obey. For the apostle Paul that meant facing incredible persecution—beatings, floggings, imprisonment … the continual threat of death. I may never endure such hardship for Christ, but that morning, I felt like I was facing a kind of death—death to my reputation.

And yet, like Paul, I knew I’d been entrusted with the gospel, and my story, as ugly as parts of it were, revealed the power of the gospel within me.

I knew. As much as I hated it, as much as my pride fought against it, I knew, God wanted to use my testimony to bring hope and healing to other women. To do this I’d need strength—the strength to die to myself. And only He could give me the power to do that.

Determined to surrender to God’s leading, trusting Him to show Himself strong on my behalf, on the morning in May of 2012, I took several deep breaths, checked my appearance in the mirror one last time, and left the safety of the bathroom to unveil all to women I considered friends.

Certain they’d hear, clearly, the message of God’s unyielding love and grace. Equally certain that, by the time I finished, I would lose any ounce of respect or admiration they’d held for me.

It’s easy to share our triumphs, and perhaps even our struggles. But to reveal our ugly, the deep secret shame that hinders our freedom until Christ intervenes?

That’s hard. That takes courage, a decision to “die to one’s self,” and leaning hard on Christ.

Sharing my story, as a high school drop out and former homeless girl, was rough. But not nearly as rough as Paul’s must have been. He was part of the ISIS or NAZI soldier of his day, deemed powerful by some and evil by others. A man who witnessed incredible brutality and “agreed completely with the killing” (Acts 8:1) The kind of man mothers warn their children about and whose very name must’ve caused countless Christians to freeze in fear.

The very group of people he now spent most of his time with.

What must it have been like to carry a past like that around? What kind of shame would such a history cause?

To what lengths would a tyrannical murderer go to, to keep that past hidden?

What kind of love—for God and mankind—would it take for such a man to open up and share all?

What kind of love would it take for us to do the same?

We all have stories, testimonies of God’s grace and faithfulness—of the power of the gospel revealed in us. That is why our testimonies have such power, so that, as we share, “others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16).

As I close, I can anticipate some of you thinking, ‘But what about me? I don’t have a dramatic God story. I was never homeless, on drugs, or murderous. I grew up in a strong Christian home, was connected in church all my life. Does my story still have power?”

Absolutely. My story, and Paul’s story, give a glimpse of the darkness that comes from living out of step or apart from Christ. For me, though I belonged to Christ when I went through my rough years, I certainly wasn’t living as He desired, and my life was characterized by darkness. For Paul, he didn’t have the light of Christ at all.

Your story is probably different than mine and Paul’s, but it can still show the beauty and love and freedom that God intends, when we turn to Him, He works in us and our circumstances, and when we live with Him. Our world needs to see both, and our Savior speaks through both. And besides, our stories aren’t truly about us anyway but rather, they’re about Christ in us. When we remember that, and shift our focus off ourselves and onto Him, He overpowers our fears and insecurities with His strength.

The strength to make Him known.

Take a moment to write out your testimony, either of when you first came to Christ or perhaps when He did something significant in your life that revealed His love, grace, and mercy. Who might God be calling you to share your story with?

Before you read today’s suggested Bible passages, I wanted to provide some background information. Stephen, the man mentioned in Acts 7, was the first Christian martyr, and prior to our passage, he publicly shared the gospel and how the Old Testament pointed to Jesus.

For those participating in our 1 Timothy study, here’s today’s suggested Bible reading: Acts 7:54-60, Acts 8:1-3, and Acts 9:1-22. Pop over to our FB group to join the discussion! Our memory verse for this week is Psalm 105:1

“Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness. Let the whole world know what He has done” (Psalm 105:1, NLT).

And … before you go, I’ve got fun news! Today is Healing Love’s release day! You can check it out HERE! (I’m not sure when the print copy will go live, but it should be within a day or two.)

What’s Your Motivation?

It’s a word we use often, a phrase I myself have uttered countless times. It’s occupied songs and prayers for generations, but do we truly understand what it means to “confess Jesus as Lord” (Romans 10:9)? More importantly, do we live that out? Today, Alexis uses one of my loves–storyworld–to show us how to live under Christ’s Lordship.

What’s Your Motivation?

 by Alexis A. Goring

 When actors are working on a movie, they always ask the director, “What’s my character’s motivation?” or “What does my character want in this scene?”

Allow me to clarify and explain: The actor is not asking for their motivation as an actor, they’re asking for the motivation of the character that they are portraying. The actor needs to know their fictional character’s motivation in order to properly act it out. Their motivation determines how the character would act.

Therefore, when an actor knows this information, it determines how the actor will portray the character.

Actress Jenn Gotzon said, “Motivation is why a character does something. Why a character makes choices, why a character feels certain ways about other people.”
As a Christian fiction writer, I’ve learned the importance of determining the emotional, physical, and spiritual goal/motivation/conflict (GMC) of my fictional characters before starting the story because for me as a writer, knowing these details helps me to not only deeply understand my characters but it determines how I write the story.

When I know my character’s motivation in their fictional life then I know why they have certain goals and I know what kind of conflict is needed to make their journey interesting and worthwhile. Knowing my characters’ GMC makes the story. It helps me to guide their every step because I know what they are moving toward, and as the creator of the story, I know the best route for them to take in order to reach their destination in “the end.”

Recently, I was thinking about this and I realized there is a parallel to real life in all of this because God is our Creator, this world is His creation, and He is the Director of this movie called Life. Famous or not, we ALL have a part to play in this movie and nobody can portray our character better than we can because God created us to be unique.

As our Divine Director, God already knows our deepest desires and He is well aware of our motivation. But unlike most movies, we are not bound to a script. It’s up to us to determine our motivation.

Are we just here to have a crazy fun time and do all these bad things that are against God’s desires for us to live a righteous life? Or is our motivation to “do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” as God advised in Micah 6:8?

So the choice is yours. You’re a star in this movie called Life. What’s your motivation?

***

Let’s talk about this!

I loved Alexis’s film and story analogy, and it reiterated what I’d been studying in my morning Bible reading time. Lord, kurios in the Greek, means master and indicates “a person exercising absolute ownership rights” and “he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has the power of deciding” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

Ownership rights. The power of deciding–how my life will go, how I’ll spend my time, what I’ll pursue and relinquish. I say I’ve made Christ my Lord, but as I consider Alexis’s devotion in light of what this truly means, I must wrestle with this–have I truly given Christ lordship over my life and my agenda?

Have you? What area are you withholding? Ask God to give you the courage, faith, and strength to surrender that area to Him. Because honestly, He’ll manage it must better than you (or I) will or can. Share your thoughts here or on Facebook at Living by Grace, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

***

Alexis A. Goring is a passionate writer with a degree in Print Journalism and an MFA in Creative Writing. She loves the art of storytelling and hopes that her stories will connect readers with the enduring, forever love of Jesus Christ. 

Visit her on  Facebook, her website, or her blog. Follow her on TwitterPinterest, and Goodreads

I also encourage you to check out her latest release, A Second Chance:

Newly single food critic and newspaper reporter Traci Hightower is done with dating. After the man of her dreams left her at the altar on their wedding day and ran off with the woman she thought was her best friend, Traci resolves to focus on work and resigns herself to being a bachelorette for life.


Marc Roberts is a political reporter who is known as Mr. Nice Guy, the one who always finishes last. However, Marc’s compassion and kindness are of invaluable help to his newly widowed sister Gina Braxton who is trying to raise her two kids in the wake of her firefighter husband’s death.

Traci and Marc may be the perfect match, but they don’t know it yet. With God’s guidance and the help of Gina’s matchmaking skills honed by her career as a bestselling romance novelist, there is hope for a happily ever after for these two broken hearts.

When it Feels as if God Isn’t Listening

We’ve all been there–in a place of desperation, crying out to God, only to experience … nothing. No change. No JohnStudy1response, nothing but silence.

That diagnosis remains. We don’t get the job offer we’d hoped for. And that precious child, your child, is still in crisis.

This morning, my sweet friend Chaka Heinze shares what it feels like to fear, night after night, that she might lose her son, a very real possibility with his condition. She’s prayed. Oh, has she prayed, and yet …

And now, her thoughts.

Where’s God by Chaka Heinze

14310587_10211065852831043_6142776882429651081_oA few days ago, our ten-year-old son had surgery to implant a pacemaker/defibrillator and attach some leads to his heart (his fifth device). The night before surgery he was so frightened he threw up his dinner. Throwing up his dinner made it that much harder to give him his precious heart meds. During the night, his cries brought me back to his bed again and again to make certain his heart was still beating correctly. At 2:30am—during his second dose of night meds—I finally brought him to our bed. And there I lay across the foot of my bed, curled up around the feet of my husband and our two youngest children, and I prayed: “Where are you, God? Can’t you see that I need you? Why are you silent?”

Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in a society in which children were not merely desired to complete a family, they were a sign of God’s favor and an “inheritance from the Lord” (Ps 127:3 NIV). “Happy is the man whose quiver is full of them” (ib. verse 5); “your children will be like olive-plants around your table . . . yes this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord” (Ps. 128: 3, 4 NIV).

A family without sons would be without children to care for them as they aged, and would have to endure the skepticism of the pious: What sin did Zechariah and Elizabeth commit that caused the Lord to withhold his blessing?

A status symbol, financial security, and the tangible representation of the Lord’s approval.

How easy it would be for Elizabeth to feel like she had failed at her most sacred duty. Indeed, God had been silent for so long that when he finally spoke in Luke 1:18, Zechariah had a difficult time believing what he had to say: “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

In those long decades of childlessness as they yearned for God to take away their misfortune and bless them with children, there must have been moments where their hearts cried out: “Where are you, God? Why are you silent?”

And in the midst of your unemployment…

woman-1006102_1920Or after the tragedy of losing a child…

Or when your marriage is falling apart…

Or when the cancer comes back…

Or when your child raised in the church turns to drugs…

Or when you’re abused and mistreated…

Or when you’re in the grip of depression or anxiety…

Or when you’re lonely…

Or when you feel you’ve done everything God has asked of you…

And you cry out to the God who promises to never leave you or forsake you and are met with silence.

How do we weather the “dark night of the soul?” How do we persevere through those inevitable periods in life where our anguish is met with God’s silence? How do we maintain the same faith as Elizabeth when God chooses not to answer our desperate pleas for days? Months? Years? Decades?

1) Lament to the Lord. In 1 Peter 5:7, Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” It is not only “okay” to lament to God, it is the Lord’s desire that you give voice to the pain, the disappointment, the hurt. No tear is wasted when offered to our God. (Psalm 56:8)

2) Trust that God is good and God is with you. His silence does not mean that he has deserted you. God may be using the silence to deepen your faith, or perhaps the time simply isn’t right for God to reveal himself. A few things are certain—even in the silent times—God is good and he is using his goodness to work on your behalf! “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

3) Wait on him patiently. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire” (Psalm 40:1-2 NIV). After offering your lamentations and determining to trust—hold on. Persevere in your faith. Our God will not always answer when we want him to, but his answers will always be right on time to accomplish his perfect will in your life.

As I write my closing, my son cries out in his sleep and my heart leaps into my throat. Lament, trust, wait. I will wait on you, O Lord.

13433264_494764977387535_5596239249582488184_oChaka Heinze lives in Nebraska with her husband, four children, and two havanese pups. She has always admired C.S. Lewis and desires to emulate his ability to glorify God without slapping people in the face with religion. Her debut novel, Under A Withering Sun, is in the process of being re-released (stay tuned for more details). Chaka also enjoys speaking to groups of women about the faithfulness of God through difficult times. She is a member of ACFW and NWG.

 

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. What resonated most in Chaka’s story? What about her suggestions on dealing with unanswered prayers or divine silence? Have you experienced something similar? How did you handle it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on Facebook at Living by Grace, and join the ongoing discussion in our For the Love Bible Study page–because life is hard; we need encouragement and support from one another, amen?

For those just joining us, you can read past posts in this study by clicking the links below.

Week one, we explained what we’re doing, why, and what I pray this study will accomplish for each of us. You can read about that HERE.

We opened talking about Zechariah and Elizabeth’s character and lifestyle–their obedience in the mundane, and how we can demonstrate this kind of integrity as well. Read more HERE.

This week we’ve been talking about prayer–making it a priority and making it meaningful. You can read more HERE and HERE.

Before you leave, listen to this song. It’s become one of my favorites. As I’ve faced difficulties and disappointments, it’s a reminder–He is God, and I am not. He does hear us. He is good, regardless of what our circumstances lead us to believe. He is always-always-always working on our behalf.

Come back Monday when Maria Morgan, author of the Outrageously Fruitful Bible study will encourage us to choose faith over doubt, because we are in control of our thoughts.

Then on the 22nd, my sweet friend Susan Aken will share an uplifting and God-infused post on what happens when the waiting ends.

On the 29th, we’ll transition to thoughts on parenting and how we, like Zechariah and Elizabeth (and perhaps the Essenes), can raise children who live to bring Christ glory with my guest Candee Fick.

This launches us into October–oh my!

On the 3rd, we’ll take a look at the way God instructed Zechariah and Elizabeth to raise John, what that looked like, and how we can be diligent to stay focused on God’s will, even when our actions are unpopular and deemed strange.

On the 6th my sweet friend Mikal Hermanns will take a break from her wedding dress obsession ( 😉 ) to talk about loving the weird in our kids. Because honestly, John was strange. Locust dinners and camel hair clothing–hello! But he was weird on purpose–God’s purpose.

1,324 blog post words later, I leave you with this:

Pause to connect with Christ today; to carve out some time to simply spend in His presence. To draw from His strength and comfort. And take comfort in this, whether you feel Him or not, whether you hear a word He utters, He is with you. James 4:8 promises us the moment we take one step toward Christ, He is already drawing near to us.

And bury God’s Word deep in your heart. This week’s memory verse:

chron16-11verse

Taking Steps Toward Change

blonde-1031534_1920It really stinks when we blow it. It stinks even more when we blow it repeatedly, and yet, if you’re like me, you keep fighting the same battles again and again. But Scripture says we’re made new (2 Cor. 5:17) and that we have everything we need, in Christ, to live godly, Spirit-led lives (2 Peter 1:3).

So where’s the disconnect? Why do I still lose patience? Say things I wish I hadn’t? Fight for my way and allow my fears, worries, concerns, and selfish ambitions to lead me rather than the will of Christ? 

When our daughter was ten, after five years of educating her at home, we felt led to enroll her in school. We knew it’d be a bit of a transition for her, but we had no idea just how difficult that transition would be. First, I hadn’t emphasized cursive (I focused more on keyboarding and computer skills), and at her new school, cursive was required for everything, from spelling words and in class assignments to homework. Then there was the whole matter of homework period, getting up and out the door in the morning, adapting to teachers other than Mom, she was young for her grade …

Suffice it to say, there were times when her little brain felt ready to explode.

And like she’d always feel behind, ill-equipped, and unable to master her new role.

One night, as I was tucking her in, tears streamed her face, and she shared her fears with me. “I’m trying, but it seems like I’ll never get better.”

Have you ever felt like that? When you look at certain behaviors, maybe how you react while in rush hour ache-19005_1920traffic, or when your child throws a fit while you’re rushing out the door, and you think, “Man! Am I doing this again? I should be past this, much more spiritual mature, by now!”

My response to you is the same as it was to my daughter, eight years ago. “You’ll get this. I promise. Just keep stepping, and give it time.”

And develop an action plan, because as the cliché goes, wanting doesn’t make it so.

The first step in anything is prayer, asking for God’s help, wisdom, perseverance, and grace. And this isn’t just a one time, “Lord, help me out here,” but rather, a practice of remaining in communication with Christ throughout the day (1 Thes. 5:17)–in an attitude of surrender. (Because what good is it to know God’s will if we don’t live it out?)

The next step is, through prayer and self-evaluation, to get at the root cause of your behavior. If you’re reacting with impatience, ask God to show you why. What are you afraid of? That you’ll be late for work and then lose your job? That your child will be late for school and fall behind? That others will be disappointed in you?

Whenever we react negatively, if we dig deep enough, we’ll find there’s a reason, and unless we address that reason, we’ll remain stuck in managing symptoms (reactions) without ever truly moving forward.

Once you’ve uncovered the reason for your reaction, replace whatever that is with truth. For example, right now I’m feeling squeezed. It’s an incredibly busy season where I feel I have more to manage than I have time or energy to do so. My fear is that I’m going to drop the ball, but more than that, as my time grows shorter, those things on my to-do list that are selfishly motivated become more apparent.

The solution, then, is surrender. To help with this, I’m focusing on (reading, meditating on, praying over, and memorizing) key passages of Scripture that are helping me to zero in on God’s will and leading in this crazy time.

My verses are 1 John 2:15-16, Galatians 5:1, 16-24. I’m camped out here, reading the same Scriptures LivebytheSpiritpassagedaily, because I know God’s Word will change my thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, but this won’t happen overnight.

At this point, I must ask, do you memorize Scripture? If not, I strongly encourage you to start. It is incredibly powerful to be able to pause in the middle of a tense or difficult situation to pray God’s Word. The peace that follows is amazing.

Next, I’m practicing doing better. Notice I didn’t say “trying.” I suppose I could, but practice reminds me that I’m retraining myself, and the more I behave and react in line with Christ’s will, the more it becomes a habit to do so.

Finally, I’m persevering. I’ve mentioned this a few times in this post, but behavioral change, whether it’s changing the way one eats or learning how to handle conflict in a biblical manner, takes time. Often, progress comes slowly, but with God’s grace and power at work within us, it does come, until one day we’ve mastered that thing.

Then God reveals another area within us in need of growth. Ah, Christian maturity. Isn’t it fun? 😉

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. Is there one area in your life, one challenge, temptation or character weakness/flaw you believe God may want to change? What are some ways you intentionally grow? Why do you think it might be beneficial to focus on one behavior or attitude and correlating verse for an extended period of time rather than trying to change numerous areas of weakness at once? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other.

And join me on Christians Read on June 20th to read about a slice in a very busy day when God granted me incredible peace and clarity amidst the rushed chaos.

When Mama Needs a Time Out

MamaMondaysjpg

Photo by stock images taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by stock images taken from freedigitalphotos.net

We’ve all done it–lashed out at those we love most. When we’re overtired, stressed, pressed for time, or simply having a pull-your-hair-out kind of day, it can be incredibly hard to maintain self-control. That’s why we need to be alert to our emotions when we first sense them rising. 

How is it our children can be playing quietly by themselves, completely oblivious to the world around them one moment, then in dire need of us when we slip off to make a phone call?

Why is that one shirt of five hundred favorites suddenly the only one our child will wear when we’re running late for the most important appointment all month?

And how, oh how, can we maintain self-control when little ones are wailing and clinging to our legs while we attempt to mop grape juice from the carpet?

There are some days our kids need a time out, and there are other days when we do. 

Doesn’t that sound lovely? A time when, regardless of what you have going on, of where you absolutely woman-71735_1280need to be, you simply press pause? You’ll be amazed what five minutes–just five!–locked in your bedroom with your Savior can do. 

“But I don’t have time!” you say. “It’s Monday, the kids have to be at school, and I need to get to work.”

To which I’d say, when it comes to our kids, we absolutely have to make the time, not just for their activities and one-on-ones, but to do what we need to do to build them up rather than tearing them down. That doesn’t mean we’ll ever reach the perfect parenting stage, but by learning to pull away when we feel our temperatures rising, we’ll greatly reduce our hurtful mess ups.

Because let’s be honest–anger, frustration, snappy comments, and eye rolls hurt. Our children see it all. They’re amazingly adept at reading body language but incredibly inept at understanding the why. When we’re stressed and running around frazzled and irritated, they don’t human-753172_1920think, “Wow, Mommy must be having a bad day.” Nope. Their world is centered around one thing–themselves. (Developmentally, that’s just where they are.) Which means, they believe they’re the cause for every sigh, huff, and scowl.

And with every scowl or smile, they’re forming their view of the world and their perception of self. They’re determining whether they’re cherished or a nuisance, a blessing or a trouble-maker. A source of joy or frustration. 

When I remember that, suddenly arriving at my appointment five minutes late doesn’t feel like the most important part of my day. And besides, if I’m running late and caught up in a mess of vomit (or traffic), getting upset won’t get me there any faster. To the contrary–it’ll probably delay me further as I’m much less efficient when I allow my emotions to take control.

I also like to think of worst case scenarios. For example, when our daughter was young, school mornings were crazy stressful, and there were many mornings the stressful turned to arguing. I hated sending my daughter off to school after a mother-daughter fight. So I began to ask myself, “What happens if she’s late?” 

She’d get written up, maybe. But if her behavior was causing our delay, then it seemed that’d be a good thing, a natural consequence for her actions. Certainly better than allowing frustration to build to arguments that created constant tension between us.

Our relationship was more important, I felt, than her avoiding a tardy slip.

But let’s pull it back a little. What if, knowing I get stressed, flustered and overwhelmed when time is short day-planner-828611_1920and pressure is high, what if I started creating margins in my day? What if I planned for the unexpected milk spill and temper tantrum? 

What if I simply slowed down so I could take a time out, pulling away to listen to praise music or to pray, when things grew stressful? 

And what if I began to pay more attention to my emotions and became aware when that first spark of frustration arose? Rather than waiting until it grew to overwhelming proportions?

And what if I learned how to speak to myself in the middle of the chaos, reminding myself that God’s still in control, even in traffic jams. What if I chose to use that moment, every moment, as frustrating or hectic as it may be, as training and an opportunity to learn–to grow in character, in perseverance, and surrender?

What might I be able to model for my kids? (Because self-control is caught as much as it’s taught.)

What if, stuck at a red light, with kids bickering in the backseat, rather than allowing my thoughts to run amuck as I thought of how late I’m going to be and how little patience I have for sibling fighting, I began to pray. And surrendered that moment and all that lay ahead to Christ.

Knowing He’s working out His plan, for me, for my kids, and for my family, even in the muck, the mundane, the manic, and the mess.

Let’s talk about this! Have you ever given yourself a time out, and if so, what were the results? How does our self talk in the middle of the gunk and frantic affect our patience level and hence our words and actions? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on Facebook, because we can all learn from each other.

 

Team-Mentality Parenting

Photo by donwhite84 tkaen from pixabay.com

Photo by donwhite84 tkaen from pixabay.com

Does your child know you’re on her side? That every time you ground them, take away their iPad, and ask them to clean their room, you truly do have their best in mind? Or have they begun to see you as the enemy?

When our daughter was young, I felt like I was in constant correction mode and many times our home felt more like a battle ground than the sanctuary I so wanted to create. But even in the gunk and frustration, my daughter knew I was on her team. She knew I did everything with her longterm good in mind. Well, almost everything, but I’ll get to that.

This team-mentality parenting, the kind that says, “I’m for you,” didn’t just happen. It was the result of intentional and consistent communication, a continual evaluation of my parenting choices, an ever-present awareness of my failings, and a commitment to let God use even my biggest blunders for my daughter’s benefit.

 With every parenting decision, I made sure to communicate the why.

Some may argue this point, saying it’s important our children learn to obey for obedient’s sake. While this is true, even that has a why. Or should I say, in obeying, your child has a why. Perhaps it’s to please you, or maybe it’s because they fear punishment. Or maybe it’s because they know obeying you honors God. But regardless the reason, if we don’t connect the dots for them, they’ll come up with their own reasons, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust a five, six, ten, twelve-year old’s reasoning skills.

More than that, they won’t know our heart behind our actions. They certainly won’t think longterm about how that behavior, action, or habit can affect their adulthood. Not unless we tell them. ID-10075948

I wanted to make sure my daughter knew, because my goal wasn’t behavior modification, which is often short-lived, but rather, heart change.

Here’s what it looked like:

When we were in a conflict and she lost her temper, I’d set a clear boundary: “That behavior is unacceptable. Please go to your room until we can discuss this calmly.” Then, once she had time to calm down, I’d discuss with her how that behavior might look in a marriage, at work, or with her friends. I helped her see how her behavior, if left unchecked, would ultimately hurt her. Then I always ended our conversation with, “I want more for you. I want you to grow up to be a well-adapted, successful adult.”

And every time–every. Single. Time.–her anger diffused. Because she knew I was for her, and that turned me from her enemy to her greatest ally. 

I continually evaluated my parenting decisions. 

This of course implies that my parenting choices truly are for her benefit–and not my comfort or preference. When I viewed our home life through that lens, I discovered many battles I felt tempted to fight needed to be let go. 

What she wore on Sunday morning was one of them. I loved dressing her up, and for some strange reason, carrying a well-attired child into Sunday school with her hair done nice made me feel like a better mom. Or at least, made me think I looked like a better mom … even if it took an insane amount of tears, cajoling, foot-stomping, and screaming to create that image.

What, or perhaps who, would it hurt if I allowed her to pick out her own clothes? Would wearing a pink and green polka dot skirt with her yellow rubber boots and red Elmo shirt derail her life?

I decided no, and as a result, I had the most originally dressed preschooler in church. Our Sunday mornings were also relatively stress free.

I recognized my failings and weaknesses and apologized for them.

Most of us operate on a heap of baggage that influences our perceptions and behavior. Add in our normal selfishness, impatience, and sinfulness, and we can pretty much guarantee making major mistakes.

I did. I do, A LOT. The issue is not will we fail our children but rather how will we respond once we do?

I determined to respond with humility. I refused to sugar coat my sin, justify my behavior, or make excuses. Instead, I called it what it was, apologized for hurting her, and let her know that I God was actively working on changing that part of me. In so doing, I showed her what it looked like to live in grace.

MamaMondaysjpgLet’s talk about this! Does your child know-know-know you’re for her? Does he tend to see you as his enemy or greatest ally? How have you created a team-mentality in your home? What are some things you can do, today, to further that? Share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other!

Pride isn’t Pretty

Maria headshot LLBD (1)

Pride is something that everyone struggles with. In today’s guest blog post, author Mariah Morgan discusses how pride affects our relationship with Christ, and how we can combat it. As you read, be thinking about how you can fight your prideful nature.

Pride isn’t Pretty by Maria Morgan

Pride isn’t pretty. It takes on many forms – thinking we’re superior to others, making decisions without counsel, even putting ourselves down. Whether we want to admit it or not, all forms of pride are rebellion against God.

Pride has been around since the beginning of time. Once an angel, Lucifer (Satan) was cast out of heaven because of pride:

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High,” (Isaiah 14:12-14).

Where it begins  

Notice where pride began: in Lucifer’s heart. He held a prestigious position. He was the anointed cherub according to Ezekiel. Maybe his position caused him to get puffed up. Maybe it was his good looks (Ezekiel 28:17). Whatever the case, he desired to be God – serving God was no longer enough.

Satan used pride to get Eve to question God’s goodness in the Garden, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1b). Basically, Satan wanted Eve to think God was withholding something from her and Adam. Wasn’t it possible God just didn’t want them to be “gods, knowing good and evil”? (Genesis 3:5).

Wayward steps

Photo by tiverylucky taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by tiverylucky taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Eve looked at the fruit of the tree. It did look beautiful and ripe. What harm could come of taking just one bite? Without seeking Adam’s input, Eve plucked the fruit and gave some to her husband.

Before we’re too hard on Adam and Eve, don’t we do the same thing? Instead of living within the parameters of His will, we want to be the ones calling the shots. Our will seems to make more sense. One wayward step becomes two and pretty soon we’ve established our own little kingdom where we’re on the throne.

God is good

Fortunately, the Lord is well-acquainted with our weaknesses. With every temptation to give in to pride, He gives us a way of escape, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it,” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Because of the payment Christ made for our sins on the cross and God’s goodness, we can be victorious. When we’re careful to submit to God’s will, and resist the devil, pride won’t have a foothold in our lives. Walk in victory today!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for reminding me that there is a very real battle going on in my life between pride and humility. Help me fortify myself with Your Truth so I can stand against the enemy’s schemes. Today I submit to Your will knowing that You must increase and I must decrease. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

V4 - Louie and the Leafpile cover3Maria I. Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker. She is the award-winning author of Louie’s BIG day! Her newest release, Louie & the Leaf Pile, shares the truth about pride in a child-friendly way. Regardless of the age of her audience, her goal is the same: to share God’s truth and make an eternal difference. She lives in the muggy South with her husband, two retrievers, and two Maine coon kitties ~ the perfect mix to fuel her creativity for years to come!

 

 

livingbygracepic.jp

Let’s talk about this! How would you describe pride? How do our small prideful acts take us farther from God’s will? When you are focused on your own wants and goals, what brings you back to God, and what can we do to avoid falling into temptation? What steps will you take to walk in humility today?

Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

For those of you who are local, this month on the 7th, I will be having a book signing at Divine Truth. For those of you who aren’t local but would still like autographed copies of any of my novels, either for yourself or as Christmas gifts, contact Rodney, the store manager at 402-592-4866 and he’ll make that happen!

For those of you who enjoy following my blog tours, here’s where I’ve been this week:

Today I’m visiting Ally Carter’s blog, talking to moms about making the most important thing most important. You can read this post HERE.

Yesterday I visited Ralene Burke’s blog to talk about finding confidence in the uncertainty, and the part unhindered, unconditional obedience plays in that. You can read that post HERE.

At Faith, Friends, and Chocolate, we celebrated our subscriber give-away winner and released our latest newsletter edition. You can check that out HERE.

On Friday, I visited Sharon Scrock’s to participate in a “Wild Card” interview. You can read the interview, along with an excerpt from Intertwined, HERE.

 

Do You Ever Feel Like a Misfit?

How we perceive ourselves can have such a dramatic impact on everything–how we interact with

Photo by adamr taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by adamr taken from freedigitalphotos.net

others, how we perceive others interactions with us, how we perceive our world, whether we take risks or shrink back in isolation. No wonder Satan works so hard to distort our thinking in this critical area! Today a sweet friend, young adult author Mary Hamilton is talking to all the misfits among us, which I suspect applies to us all at some point or another. As you read her thoughts, ask God to show you where your self-image has become distorted and then ask Him to replace that deception with truth. Ask Him to show you who you are in Him.

Ever Feel Like a Platypus?

by Mary Hamilton, author of See No Evil

Photo by OpenClipartVectors taken from pixabay.com

Photo by OpenClipartVectors taken from pixabay.com

The platypus is a curious creature. His legs are way too short in proportion to his chubby body. He hunts for food underwater like a fish, has webbed feet for swimming and lays eggs like a water bird, but is considered a mammal. He has the body of a beaver but the beak of a duck. Even his name sounds goofy. Platypus.

 

Have you ever felt like a platypus? A misfit? Ever complained that you’re too fat or too short. Your nose is too long, your legs too chubby, your hair too frizzy/curly/straight? I know I have. At different times, I’ve wondered, why can’t I be athletic like him? Why can’t I look more like her? If only I could play an instrument or sing like So-and-so. In other words, God, why didn’t you make me different (i.e. better)?

Remember those funny mirrors that distort your image, stretching your body out long or squishing it together? That’s how Satan wants you to see yourself. Distorted. Out of proportion. A misfit. He’s been at it since the Garden of Eden, where his whole strategy was to make Eve dissatisfied.

Eve? Dissatisfied? She had a perfect husband–they were made for each other. She lived in a

Photo by evert taken from pixabay.com

Photo by evert taken from pixabay.com

beautiful garden home with pets of every kind, fresh food every day, and she and Adam walked with God every evening. What more could a woman want?

The one thing God declared off limits. “If you eat from that tree,” Satan whispered, “you’ll be like God.” Hear that hiss of dissatisfaction? Suddenly, it wasn’t enough to be the woman God made her; Eve wanted to be like God himself.

When we look into the perfect mirror of God’s word, we find that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, woven together by God Himself in our mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:14-15) Thread by thread, over and under, God wove each of us together—hair, eyes, nose, chin, body, arms and legs, hands and feet, fingers, toes and personality.
The next time the Enemy whispers dissatisfaction in your ear, remember that distorted mirrors give you a warped view of yourself. Look to the Lord for a true reflection of who you are, who God made you to be.

***

Alt. headshotMary L. Hamilton grew up at a youth camp in southern Wisconsin, much like the setting for her middle-grade Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. Each book tells the story of kids who bring their baggage to camp—and learn how to carry it.

Mary is a graduate of Long Ridge Writer’s Group, a member of ACFW and CAN. Her writing has won recognition in several contests including the Genesis and Selah contests.

When not writing, Mary enjoys knitting, reading and being outdoors. She and her husband live in Texas.

Visit her online.

See No Evil:

(Christian fiction for teens / tweens / middle grade.)

Taylor Dixon knew having his younger sister at camp would be a pain, but he never expected the SeeNoEvilFrontDropCroppain to go so deep. At 15, Taylor dreams of getting his driver’s license and driving race cars when he’s older. His sister, Marissa, is the only one who believes in his dream, but her adventurous spirit keeps landing him in trouble. Consequently, Dad won’t let him get his license and predicts Taylor is heading for the same jail cell as his once-favored older brother.

Taylor returns to Rustic Knoll Bible Camp expecting softball, swimming and sermons. Then he finds a classic Mustang in the camp’s garage and jumps at the owner’s invitation to help restore it. But when Marissa falls for his snobbish cabin mate, the war of words and pranks escalates until it threatens both the car and his dreams for the future.

Will Taylor fulfill Dad’s prediction and end up in jail? Or will he finally learn the Truth found in the old car’s engine?

 

A Revived Prayer Life

Wouldn’t it be amazing to catch a view of the world, of the Christians in the world, from God’s eye? How many believers are kneeling, at this moment, praying for help. For healing, revival, our schools, our country…

How many more are praying today, or perhaps praying more fervently, because of War Room?

Web1I know one woman, and that’s my guest blogger, Tamera Kraft, author of a Christmas Promise. In the following, she shares her waxing and waning prayer life and how God used a box office hit to bring it back to life. As you read her thoughts, pause to consider your prayer life. Is it growing stronger or beginning to die? Is it characterized by joy and passion or mindless obedience?

But first, I want to invite you to a party!

Today I’m celebrating anyway because the print version of Intertwined has now been released–a2f18-intertwined_n154121from CBD. (You can buy it HERE. Read the first 3 chapters HERE.) I’m not sure when that will happen at the other stores.

Because every celebration needs a party…

Join me this week, Thursday to Thursday, for a fun, interactive Facebook launch party where I’ll be giving away numerous signed copies of the novel. Come join the FUN!

How a Movie Revived My Prayer Life

By Tamera Lynn Kraft

I used to be a prayer warrior. I would get up early before my children went to school and pray every day for an hour. Sometimes the prayer would continue after I walked the kiddos to school. Back then, prayer seemed like breathing, living thing. I kept a running prayer list with Scriptures to back up my prayer requests.

I was amazed back then how God answered my prayers. My husband who was an alcoholic was

Photo by Woodpuncher found on pixabay.com

Photo by Woodpuncher found on pixabay.com

miraculously saved and gave up alcohol the same week. He changed so much that his voice activated car phone didn’t recognize his voice. After a year of contracting fibromyalgia, an incurable disorder, one night in church, God healed me. The doctor said it was like a light switch was turned off.

But then, things started getting off track. My children grew up and started families of their own. I stopped having to get up early to send them to school. Life distractions kept getting in the way. And miraculous answers to prayer didn’t seem to come as easily.

It wasn’t that I stopped praying or keeping my prayer list. I did pray, but not every day. It was sort of hit and miss. For months, I would pray diligently then fall back into the routine of not praying except when a need arose. I wanted to have a prayer time like I used to. I just didn’t.

Then I watched War Room. While I was watching Clara pray in her War Room, it reminded me of what I did when I couldn’t wait to pray. I wrote out Scriptures to go with my prayers. I got away in a secret place to do my praying. I scheduled my prayer time because of my busy life raising kids.

It was like a light bulb turned on in my head. I had stopped scheduling a time for prayer because I didn’t have to worry about children interrupting me. I’d stopped going into my prayer closet because without children at home, I could pray anywhere. My prayer had stopped becoming strategic. When that happened, it stopped becoming powerful.

Since watching War Room, my war room is open again for business. I’ve already started writing our verses and attaching them to prayers. And I can feel the difference. I can’t wait to see how God is going to answer my prayers. As James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

 Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures and writes Christian historical fiction set in America because there are so many adventures in American history. She is married to the love of her life, has two grown children, and lives in Akron, Ohio. Soldier’s Heart and A Christmas Promise are two of her historical novellas that have been published. She has received 2nd place in the NOCW contest, 3rd place TARA writer’s contest, and is a finalist in the Frasier Writing Contest.

Visit Tamera online at the Word Sharpeners Blog, on Facebook, or connect with her on Twitter.

 

AChristmasPromise_med (1)A Christmas Promise:

A Moravian Holiday Story, Circa 1773

During colonial times, John and Anna settle in an Ohio village to become Moravian missionaries to the Lenape. When John is called away to help at another settlement two days before Christmas, he promises he’ll be back by Christmas Day.

When he doesn’t show up, Anna works hard to not fear the worst while she provides her children with a traditional Moravian Christmas.

Through it all, she discovers a Christmas promise that will give her the peace she craves.

“Revel in the spirit of a Colonial Christmas with this achingly tender love story that will warm both your heart and your faith. With rich historical detail and characters who live and breathe on the page, Tamera Lynn Kraft has penned a haunting tale of Moravian missionaries who selflessly bring the promise of Christ to the Lenape Indians. A beautiful way to set your season aglow, A Christmas Promise is truly a promise kept for a heartwarming holiday tale.” – Julie Lessman

Available at Amazonthe Pelican Book Group, and ChristianBooks.com

If you enjoyed this topic, you might be interested in reading the article I wrote on Faith, Friends and Chocolate Tuesday titled: War Room–a Writer’s Perspective. You can read it HERE.

Let’s talk about this. How satisfied are you with your prayer life? How to you keep it from growing stale, or from dying to nonexistence? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook at Living by Grace in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other!

God’s Good–Thoughts on Romans 8:28

Photo by Foundry taken from Pixabay.com

Photo by Foundry taken from Pixabay.com

It was a dark time, and I was pretty mad at God. I was so mad, so broken, I couldn’t bring myself to pray. And this frightened me. I was certain God was angry with me. After all, my attitude was less than admirable. But then, in the middle of my anger, a snippet of a sermon pierced through my heart like a divine embrace–God was holding me, and He’d never let go, regardless of how I felt.

This knowledge–knowing nothing, not even my terrible attitude, could snatch me out of His hands–carried me through the gunk, and now, standing on the other side, I can say amen to Paula’s post below. God does indeed make good on His promise is Romans 8:28, although His ways are usually different than we expect, as Paula explains. As you read her devotion, pause to rest in God’s never-failing love, asking Him to help you see the good He’s bringing out of whatever you’re going through.

As an added bonus, she’s giving away a free e-copy of her latest release, For Our Good. The winner will be randomly selected from the comments left on today’s post. 

But first, a praise! It’s release day! The e-version of Intertwined is now available! (The print a2f18-intertwined_n154121version should be releasing soon.) Get your copy HERE! Read a free, 3-chapter excerpt HERE! And read about how God used the story to call my husband to take action in a desperate situation HERE.

And now, today’s devotion, by Paula Mowery, author of For Our Good.

God’s Good–Thoughts on Romans 8:28 by Paula Mowery

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV).

Have you ever doubted the above verse? I know you’re nodding your head with me. Things have happened that have caused me to say, “Now, God, how in the world are You going to bring good from this?”

Admittedly, it pains me to even type out that doubtful attitude, but I’d be lying to say I had never exhibited that kind of distrust. But, can I tell you something else? God has never failed to deliver on that promise in Romans 8:28.

I can almost see you pursing your lips and tilting your head with a questioning expression. Maybe you’re remembering a time that things didn’t seem to work out well. I’ll throw a proverbial wrench into that line of thinking.

God’s “good” and ours may be totally different.

When what we expect to happen doesn’t occur, we might label that as not turning out well. But in God’s perspective, it is for the best.

Let me share an example with you. My grandfather had been in a nursing home for many years,

Photo by Geralt taken from Pixabay.com

Photo by Geralt taken from Pixabay.com

suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. My mother’s recent trip had left her so down because her father was in a fetal position, not anywhere close to the giant of a man he had been. Why wouldn’t God just take him on to Heaven? She struggled seeing him that way.

There was a disagreement with my grandfather’s old home place. Someone in the extended family was trying to take it to sell and make money for himself. Naturally the family didn’t want this to happen. A battle began but through a simple technicality, the family won. What was the technicality? I don’t understand all of the legal terms and such, but basically because my grandfather was still living, the case worked in the family’s favor. If he had been deceased, the stipulation wouldn’t have held and the extended family member would have won.

Now, when seeing my grandfather lay in that nursing home, just a shell, it seemed cruel that God wouldn’t just bring him home. But, God knew what was best.

Not always does God let us in on what He is doing for us. We simply have to trust that He is working things for our good because He loves us and knows what is best for those He calls his own.

ForOurGood copy (1)For Our Good:

Charlie Jarvis is haunted by loss that fuels her desire to rid the world of drug traffickers. When her next assignment takes her back to her hometown, she has to confront her painful past. She has no interest in a relationship since God seems to kill everyone she loves.

Colton Thomas appreciates material things and the status of being a corporate pilot. When someone approaches him to deliver a package for a large sum of money that could wipe out his debts, temptation knocks loud on his door even as his partner, Marshall, slams it shut. Meeting Charlie challenges his non-committal stance with women. As he considers who he has become and the kind of man he would want to be for Charlie, he confronts his own shallow lifestyle and the fear that he would never be able to help her heal her wounds.

As Charlie pursues the man causing young boys to die of overdoses, she struggles with the secrets she keeps from Colton. With people around them shining the light of God and encouraging their courtship, both Charlie and Colton have to face hard truths about life, death, love, and faith. And maybe find a fresh start for them both.

Paula Mowery is a published author, acquisitions editor, and speaker. Her first two published works, both women’s fiction, were The Blessing Seer and Be The Blessing from Pelican Book Group, and their themes have been the topics of speaking engagements. Be The Blessing won the Selah Award in 2014 in the novella category. In November of 2013, her first romance released in the anthology, Brave New Century, from Prism Book Group. This book went to number five on Amazon’s bestseller category, historical Christian romance. Legacy and Love was her first solo romance and was a finalist in the Carolyn Readers Choice Awards in 2015.

You can follow Paula online and find out more about her  and her upcoming appearances on Facebook and her blog. Read her monthly columns on the ChristianOnlineMagazine. You can also check out her blog for Christian writers HERE.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! How have you seen God’s promise in Romans 8:28 come true in your life? Can you share a time when His good has been different than yours? What did you learn about Him, yourself, or the situation? How has Romans 8:28 given you hope during tough times? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

But before you go, join me on the following sites.

Yesterday my sweet husband was interviewed on Angela Meyers blog, and in the interview, he shared a God-story that brings tears to my eyes to this day. Love that man! Come read why he’s earned the title “warrior” HERE!

Today I’m on the Borrowed Book talking about the uncertainties of writing (read more HERE), and I’m sharing my encounter with one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve encountered. Read more HERE.

I was also on  the Borrowed Book on Tuesday to talk about something God is working, and working, and working on me for. (Is that grammatically correct? That must be the most awkward sentence of the day!) Read more HERE.

I also popped by author H.L. Wegley’s to talk about trusting God when life gets hard. You can read more HERE, and in a similar post, I visited Ginger Solomon’s to talk about finding joy when life gets hard. You can read more HERE. (Seems there’s a theme here!)