Quote from Billy Graham with woman gazing toward the horizon.

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

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

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

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

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

The positive… 

The peace I felt once I began to speak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote from post on cloud background.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Largely, out of fear. (v. 13)

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

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

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

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

Books in giveaway bundle

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

When Blessings Bring Uncertainty (Genesis 21) Faith Over Fear

Even blessings bring change, and change can bring difficulties and uncertainty. Facing the unknown, we may find ourselves slipping toward increased anxiety and fear. In those moments, will we turn to ourselves, feed our fears and doubts with what if scenarios, or hold tight to Christ and His promises?  (Scroll down for discussion/reflective questions.) Have you ever received a blessing from God that didn’t quite look like you thought it would?  What happened? How did you handle the situation? How can you comfort someone whose life is not going the way they thought it would? Can you think of a hard time in your life when, looking back, you can see how God moved?  How can you find blessings in the hard times of your life? When you have to make a hard decision like Abraham did with Ishmael, how can you make sure you’re following God’s will? How does God's grace provide a path for redemption in the face of our own mistakes? What are the consequences of choosing fear instead of faith when it comes to trusting in God's plan? Find Jodie Bailey: On her website On Facebook On Instagram Find Kelly Campbell: WhollyLoved.com Find Wholly Loved: On their website Join the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group  Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Facebook GroupSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
  1. When Blessings Bring Uncertainty (Genesis 21)
  2. Break the Grip of Anxiety & Worry: What You Can Do to Stop Stress | Breathe
  3. When You Fear You've Blown Your Calling (Genesis 20)
  4. Faith and Fear (Genesis 18)
  5. Trusting God to be All-Sufficient (Genesis 17)

As a writer and speaker, I’m constantly battling my people-pleasing tendencies and its underlying fear of rejection. One would think this would get easier with the more content I share, and in some ways it does. But in other ways, this inner struggle between self-protection and unhindered obedience seems to have gained momentum. Perhaps because I feel more is at stake. I’ve also discovered, with increased reach and exposure, often, comes increased backlash. Granted, the positive feedback I receive by far outweighs the ugly emails, messages, or comments. But as much as I hate to admit this, every attack leaves something of a mark.

Sometimes that mark is small, but a temporary annoyance, almost like that pesky fly that buzzes around your plate at the picnic table. Other times, like when the remark comes from someone I care about, they sink a bit deeper, causing worries and anxieties.

Then there are those moments when I wrestle with uncertainty, not knowing what to speak when. Is that jolt in my spirit from God, personal offense, or pride? Is my reluctance and discomfort an indication that God wants me to remain silent, or simply my anxiety rising within? I certainly don’t want to add to our world’s often mind-numbing noise with yet another humanity-driven post.

In short, in everything I do and say, I want to be Spirit, not Jennifer Slattery, led. That sounds oh-so-spiritual, doesn’t it? But living that desire out? That’s hard. It takes courage, patience, and a deep and continual reliance on Christ.

When I do that, not only will I find increased clarity regarding when and how to use my voice, but I’ll also find the strength and boldness to do so. Even in the face of great danger.

At least, that’s my hope and my goal. I want to be so filled with Christ, so surrendered to Him, He alone holds the key to my tongue. I don’t want to gauge my obedience on how others might respond or react to me.

I want to publicly, vocally, and courageously live for God, even if that means taking on the rich, the influential, and the powerful, like John the Baptist did, prior to his death. Scripture indicates, at some point, his words captured the attention of Herod the tetrarch who ruled Galilee in the early first century. Mark 6:18-20 tells us that “John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.

Notice, John’s words weren’t light or affirming. He spoke some hard truths. And though he came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” and indeed turned many hearts toward Jesus (Luke 1:17), not everyone responded positively to his message. Some, like Herod, were intrigued, others were changed, and still others, like Herodias, lashed out against him.

When we share truth, we should expect similar results.

But God calls us to share His good news with all people—the angry and the kind, the curious and apathetic—relying on Him and leaving the result to Him.

I’m not there yet. I have moments where I speak with courage and other times when I remain quiet out of insecurity or fear. This is an area I need to grow in. I want to be alert to how God might want to use me and remain ready to respond. I want His voice, not my insecurities or other people’s responses, to drive my actions.

What about you? What stood out to you most in John’s behavior? Or, if you read the full account (found HERE and HERE), what stood out to you most in the passage? How might God be speaking to you through it?    

For those following along with our chronological Bible reading plan through the New Testament, today’s post kicked us off on day one.

Make sure to connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

And catch the latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode here:

When Blessings Bring Uncertainty (Genesis 21) Faith Over Fear

Even blessings bring change, and change can bring difficulties and uncertainty. Facing the unknown, we may find ourselves slipping toward increased anxiety and fear. In those moments, will we turn to ourselves, feed our fears and doubts with what if scenarios, or hold tight to Christ and His promises?  (Scroll down for discussion/reflective questions.) Have you ever received a blessing from God that didn’t quite look like you thought it would?  What happened? How did you handle the situation? How can you comfort someone whose life is not going the way they thought it would? Can you think of a hard time in your life when, looking back, you can see how God moved?  How can you find blessings in the hard times of your life? When you have to make a hard decision like Abraham did with Ishmael, how can you make sure you’re following God’s will? How does God's grace provide a path for redemption in the face of our own mistakes? What are the consequences of choosing fear instead of faith when it comes to trusting in God's plan? Find Jodie Bailey: On her website On Facebook On Instagram Find Kelly Campbell: WhollyLoved.com Find Wholly Loved: On their website Join the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group  Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Facebook GroupSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
  1. When Blessings Bring Uncertainty (Genesis 21)
  2. Break the Grip of Anxiety & Worry: What You Can Do to Stop Stress | Breathe
  3. When You Fear You've Blown Your Calling (Genesis 20)
  4. Faith and Fear (Genesis 18)
  5. Trusting God to be All-Sufficient (Genesis 17)

woman walking with quote from Joni Erickson Tada

Trust comes hardest when we feel our lives or livelihood is threatened. I like to think I’m a risk taker, that I’d willingly go wherever and whenever God leads, but sometimes I struggle simply sharing my faith with a neighbor or friend or speaking truth when others oppose it.

Needless to say, if I’d been Barak, the Ancient Hebrew assigned to conquer the mighty nation that had been tormenting my people for two decades, I’d be nervous.

Okay, terrified.

You may be familiar with the story. Barak lived during the time of judges. This was a dark period for the Israelites, characterized by rampant rebellion against God and His ways. The people followed a sadly predictable cycle. They’d rebel against God and would turn to idol worship and thus would step out from under His protective care. Vicious armies would attack and oppress them, sometimes to the point of starvation. They’d cry out to God for mercy, He’d hear and respond and would raise up a liberator to defeat their enemies and set them free.

When we reach Judges four, the chapter in which Barak’s story is found, the people had been “ruthlessly” oppressed by a Canaanite king for twenty years. Though Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly how the Israelites suffered, we know the Canaanites were powerful, cruel, and maintained a 900-iron-chariot army. Consider the psychological strain of living under such complete domination for twenty years. The Israelites had probably developed a victim’s mentality that led them to believe they were hopelessly defeated.

But when they cried out to God, He responded and commanded a man named Barak, God’s chosen warrior, to rise up in His people’s defense.

I’m not surprised Barak struggled to obey. We’re not told whether or not he had military training or experience. All we know is that God called him to lead His army against the pagan nation Barak and the other Israelites greatly feared.

Barak’s response, when Deborah, God’s prophet, told him his assignment: “Fine. I’ll go, but only if you go with me” (Judges 4:8, paraphrased). Some suggest he was merely looking for support, but God had already taken care of that. He wasn’t sending Barak to war alone; 10,000 men were to fight alongside him.

Barak wanted Deborah, Israel’s judge and a well-respected and trusted prophet, to go with him. Could it be that Barak’s trust rested more in Deborah, God’s prophet, than in the Almighty Himself?

Image of woman gazing upward with text pulled from post

Sometimes it’s easier to trust something tangible, like a person or our job, rather than an unseen God. When that happens, it’s time to pause and remember who God is—His power, love, and faithfulness. The same God that brought victory to Barak, Deborah, and their men will do the same for us. In Him, we can move from fear to faith.

Let’s talk about this! When have you found it most difficult to obey God? What’s helped you move forward in courage during those times? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or connect and engage with me on Facebook, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Every feel uncertain as to precisely what God is asking you to do? If so, then Susan Aken’s post on Wholly Loved’s website Monday and my video on our Facebook page yesterday may encourage you. You can find it HERE (scroll down a bit).

In Susan’s post, she stresses the importance, when discerning God’s will, of reading and meditating on Scripture. If that overwhelms you, I encourage you to read my latest Crosswalk article where I share 10 Steps to Interpreting Scripture.

And finally, be on the lookout for Wholly Loved’s FREE 7-week video titled Becoming His Princess, releasing this spring! With weekly video components, group discussion questions, and at-home lessons designed to help you walk in the confidence and freedom available in Christ. Sign up for Wholly Loved’s quarterly newsletter to receive news of our release, upcoming events, and more. You can do so HERE.

image of a girl with worship quote pulled from text

Most of us can sing “loud and proud” as my husband would call it, during worship service, but if, according to Romans 12:1, our life–how we live and love–reveals presents our true and most meaningful worship to Jesus, and, I’d add, a proclamation hymn to a watching world, than how beautifully tuned is the music we play? Are there areas that, perhaps, throw the entire melody off?

Today’s guest, a music and Jesus lover, shares a thought-provoking analogy that will have us all cranking up the volume.

How Beautifully “tuned” is the Music of Your Life

By Amber Schamel

Picture of a piano
Image by Markus Gjengaar on unsplash

Does God like sour notes any more than we do? Imagine your favorite song being played by a talented musician when all of a sudden, they just start banging on the instrument and making a ruckus. How annoyed would you be? Imagine if the music our lives played created the same type of sound.

I’m a music lover. I have a beautiful piano that sits in our living room, and very few things bring me as much joy as sitting down to play for an hour. Best of all, I love to play all by myself when it’s just me and God and my piano.

Lately, something irked me. The D in the middle. When I attempt to play a song, that key malfunctions, and it makes playing a full song difficult. I’ll be in the middle of a powerful stanza, and that one note misses, leaving a hole in the music. Oh, the irritation! And it has only been a couple months since the piano was tuned.

The other evening in church, I was musing about this stubborn key as the pastor unknowingly drew aImage of someone playing a keyboard with pull quote text parallel. He spoke about how every part of our lives need to be in tune with the Bible, God’s Word. If one part is out of line, it throws everything off. How true that is! Like my piano, if my personal life is in line, but my family relationships are “sticky, the music of my life is “off key”. My behavior may be exemplary, but if my prayer life is stagnant or sporadic, my song won’t be complete. A note is missing somewhere.

I must continually ask myself, is my life in tune with my Savior? Are there any “sticky” places that I need Him to help me to work out? The Master conductor has made His Handbook, the Bible, available so I can make sure my every note is perfectly on key.


Let’s talk about this! What resonated most with you in today’s post? Probably the area I most need to grow in is my prayer life, which I’m ashamed to admit considering that should be the place I excel! Jesus died to remove the barriers between myself and God so that I could have a close, personal relationship with Him, and yet I take that for granted. Sigh. What about you? What area of your life tends to be the first to get “out of tune”? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage each other!

And before you go, make sure you sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive great, inspirational, and entertaining content sent directly to your inbox. The next edition releases at the end of this month. You can subscribe HERE.

Author photo of Amber Get to know Amber!

Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call “historical fiction at its finest”. A homeschool graduate from a family of 12 children, Amber found her calling early in life. First published at age 21, she has continued to hone her craft and has been awarded the Christian Indie Award in Historical Fiction twice. Between ministry, family and working in their family-owned businesses, Amber loves to connect with readers and hang out on Goodreads with other bookish peoples. Find her on the Stitches Thru Time blog, or on any of the major social media sites. Amber is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Visit her online at www.AmberSchamel.com/ and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!

You can also connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, and make sure to check out her author page on Amazon!

Check out her latest release, 12 Sisters Who Changed History:

The remarkable lives of twelve sisters who changed the course of history.Cover image--12 Sisters Who Changed History

Historians paint pictures of amazing men and women who influenced the world, but seldom do we hear about sister duos that forever altered the course of history. Whether fighting together—or against each other—these twelve women set armies to flight, guarded homelands from invasion, transformed countries and religious systems, and begat nations. From mythical Athena and Artemis, to the English thrones of Mary & Elizabeth Tudor, the influence these women left behind is taken for granted. Join us on an inspirational journey through time as we explore the extraordinary lives of Sisters Who Changed History.

*Athena & Artemis (Ancient Greek Mythology)

*Rachel & Leah (Ancient Palestine)

*Tru’ng Trac & Tru’ng Nhi (Vietnam)

*Mary & Anne Boleyn (England)

*Mary & Elizabeth Tudor (England)

*Angelina & Sarah Grimke (United States)

Grab your copy HERE.

Man with fingers crossed behind his backWhen do you find it most difficult to live with integrity? And where’s the line? Do you view some behaviors, like “borrowing” a hand towel from the hotel room or perhaps snatching a few boxes of staples from work, as being harmless? What if the drive through cashier accidentally gave you $10 extra change? Would you count that a blessing, or would your heart prick, motivating you to turn back and around and rectify the error?

My guest today shares a time when she was confronted with just such an instance, one that, depending on her response, challenged her convenience. Read on to see what God showed her through this experience.

Are Half-truths Really a Big Deal?

by Lori Closter

Maybe no one’s watching … but small sins matter.

We’re loading groceries into our car in the parking lot and, as the cart empties, see a small bar of soap. Or a jar of salsa or bag of M&M’s. Something small and alone, unbagged, that we unknowingly smuggled out of the store. And it’s pouring out or freezing or a heat wave, Baby cryingand our toddler’s still screaming for an Oreo or, if we’re older, our bad hip is whining because we did all that raking this morning when we knew better.

Whatever the circumstance, the store looks a mile away, and a molehill resembles a mountain.

What to do? Leave it in the cart, in the cart-return “garage”? Hand it off to the employee conflating those carts into a train to trundle back to the store, and hope s/he’s honest? Or—do the right thing, because God is always watching?

We all know the answer: Do not steal is one of The Ten Commandments. But does honesty really matter in trivial things?

A pastor was once given far too much change from his bus fare and, after some internal struggle due to the inconvenience involved, returned the correct amount to the driver. To his astonishment, the driver grinned and said something like, “Thanks, pastor. I’ll see you at church on Sunday. I just wanted to know if you were for real.” A soul saved?

The rewards for honesty aren’t always so clear-cut. My husband and I once drove back to a home improvement store to correct a $1,100 mistake. Somehow, we’d gotten a free generator. When we pointed out the error, the salesclerk completed the transaction without batting an eye. We were indignant afterward. Shouldn’t our honesty have been acknowledged, maybe even rewarded, as people are who turn in lost wallets to the police? At the very least, we felt we deserved a letter of appreciation from the store headquarters.

Image of woman looking out the window with the text of Luke 17:10Scripture addresses this too, in an illustration of an employer who’d assigned his servant a task. “Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’” (Luke 17:9-10, ESV).

No one may seem to be watching. But God is. The day I found the unbagged item in my cart, I did go back. I received no discount or reward (unless you count the surprised look on the face of the customer service employee), but knew I’d kept a “clean slate” or more accurately, heart, before the Lord. “Virtue is its own reward,” John Henry Newman said, and each step on our faith walk strengthens us for the challenges ahead.

If we search our hearts, do we find tiny sins whose unanticipated consequences could damage others? Do half-truths or unkind words tarnish our “light”? Do we drive as if a two-foot high Christian fish symbol were glued to our car? (Ouch!)

Your turn …

Get to Know Lori!

Lori Closter's author photoLori Closter is an assistant pastor’s wife in the spiritually dark Northeast, a mom, and a grammy. Educated at Cornell and Temple Universities, early on Lori wrote non-fiction and worked on educational films made for National Geographic. She then became a Christian, married, and homeschooled her children for many years. During that time, she felt led to study fiction writing and published three stories (one in the teen mag Brio) and a humorous poem that appeared without her knowledge under the byline of the narrator—a goat. Lori kept writing until she dreamed she was showing a film without a take-up reel, and film was spooling all over the floor. She felt God was making a point and is currently (finally) seeking an agent for her mature YA novel, a 2017 Genesis semi-finalist. Her story collection, Riding the Elephant, is also entered in several contests. Lori prays her writing will not only bless Christians, but find its way, like the Apostle Paul, to beyond “where Christ has already been named” (Rom 15:20), bringing hope to the lost. Contact her at Lori@LoriCloster.com or on Facebook if you’d like to be kept posted!

(Note: the novel title is withheld to comply with 2018 Genesis rules. Any YA judges, please do not visit the website now.)


Image of women hiding behind a plantSome sins are blatant and appalled by all, but others seem to be much more tolerated, perhaps even welcomed. Until we see the destruction they cause. Unchecked, these sorts of pests tend to multiply as one white lie bleeds into another, one casually spoken gossip expands to a story, and that pride that, initially, went unnoticed, grows to dominating proportions, soon destroying friendships and hurting those we love.

Sin, big and small, hidden and seen, infects and destroys. But as my guest today shares, our lives and relationships don’t have to be casualties in our battle against sin. There are steps we can take to find and maintain victory.

Creeping, Pestering Sins

by Amy Anguish

I was sitting here, pondering what wisdom I could possibly impart to help someone else with her life when mine isn’t always perfect. And then I saw it.

A mouse.

Funny thing. I actually had a pet mouse when I was in high school. That’s when I discovered how cute they are. Awe. I was like Cinderella – you know, minus the whole evil step-family and slaving away during the day thing.

But undomesticated mice are a different story. They aren’t quiet, clean, and don’t ask if they can share your food first. They just rip a corner off the package and dive in—literally. And when they die under a refrigerator they stink worse than my son’s diapers.

We have our fifth mouse in two months. We’ve disposed of at least four so far. We’ve tried three different kinds of traps. Evidently, they talk to each other, because each trap only works once. We have the wavelength emitters in our plugs that are supposed to discourage the beasts from coming in, but at this point am beginning to doubt anything will work.

I think I found the hole they’re coming in through this afternoon. As long as that opening remains, more will come, no matter how many we exterminate. It’s inevitable. We’re in a quiet neighborhood with trees nearby so there will be mice. But if we can close off how they get from the crawlspace to inside … that’s going to be the cure.

Sin is similar. I can trap and evict things like worry, gossip, anger, hate, or jealousy but if I don’t “stop up the hole” where they’re coming in, I’ll have to do it all again. Now, I know I can’t just plug up my head and keep bad things out of it. But I can avoid the places and entertainment and spending extensive time with friends who are prone to using such things. And I can spend more time engaging in better things and interacting with more encouraging people.

It’s like the story Jesus told in Matthew chapter 12 about the house swept clean: “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.  Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first.” Matthew 12:43-45 (ESV)*

So, let’s take Paul’s advice in the letter he wrote to the Philippians: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8,9 (ESV)

So, maybe I don’t want to be Cinderella, having mice live in my home. Instead, in my house and my life, I think it’s time to plug up some holes and keep the nasty little buggers out.

Let’s talk about this! Do you have a “rodent” problem? What kinds of holes are letting bad things into your life? Share your thoughts and stories–and your sin-exterminating tips–in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.


Before you go, make sure to sign up for my (Jennifer’s) free quarterly newsletter, releasing at the end of this month. Subscribers image of cover for study based on 1 Timothyreceive great content, like a short story, devotion, recipe, and more, sent directly to their inbox along with a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (ebook, sent separately). You can sign up HERE. And make sure you stop over at the Wholly Loved Blog to watch a great video devotion by speaker and worship leader Christa Cottam’s.



Amy Anguish's Author photoAmy Anguish grew up a preacher’s kid, and in spite of having lived in seven different states that are all south of the Mason Dixon line, she is not a football fan. Currently, she resides in Tennessee with her husband, daughter, and son, and usually a cat or two. Amy graduated with a degree in English from Freed-Hardeman University and hopes in all her creative endeavors to glorify God, but especially in her writing. She wants her stories to show that while Christians face real struggles, it can still work out for good.


Check out her book!

An Unexpected Legacy:

“Smoothies brought them together, but would the past tear them apart?”Book cover image for An Unexpected Legacy

When Chad Manning introduces himself to Jessica Garcia at her favorite smoothie shop, it’s like he stepped out of one of her romance novels. But as she tentatively walks into a relationship with this man of her dreams, secrets from their past threaten to shatter their already fragile bond. Chad and Jessica must struggle to figure out if their relationship has a chance or if there is nothing between them but a love of smoothies.

Buy it HERE!

The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®). ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.

Woman praying and Proverbs 20:9

Though my house has never reached hoarding capacity, there’ve been times my heart has. Sadly, I’ve been known to harbor offenses when God calls me to forgive, to rehash old hurts when God beckons me to heal, and to nurse all those ugly heart-cluttering sins like pride and selfishness when the Spirit works to purge them from me. Clutter, of any variety, has a way of piling up unexpectedly until one’s buried. This is true of my closet, office, and sadly, at times, my heart. Reading Donna Schlachter’s post below reminded me how necessary it is to engage in regular deep-cleaning.

Making a Clean Break

by Donna Schlachter

Mess in boxes
Photo by Christopher Flynn on Unsplash

Boxes stacked to the ceiling blocked my way, and I gritted my teeth in frustration. After a long day of sifting through papers and files, I’d had my fill. I was ready to toss the whole mess into the trash.

A while back, my husband Patrick and I spent a weekend cleaning out a storage closet to make room for a bathroom renovation. We had thing we moved into the house more than three years before that we hadn’t looked in. Not once. Stacks of financial records going back to 1979, and college books from further back than that.

We accumulated stuff.

And that’s nothing compared to what we used to have. We’d already sifted through an eight by ten storage shed’s worth of things we couldn’t bear to part with before we moved. Papers we were sure we’d need again. Records we weren’t certain of but didn’t want to destroy. We got rid of a lot of clutter by calling up a local thrift store and holding a couple of yard sales.

While we now own less than before, my basement still wasn’t ready for the renovation. If I couldn’t move around down there, how could I expect workmen to carry in supplies and materials?

I might have reduced the junk in my storage room, but you’d never know by looking at it.

Our spiritual lives can be like that, too. We try to make changes. We stop a bad habit or curtail a destructive behavior. Maybe we even adopt spiritual disciplines or simplify our schedules. And yet our lives can look just as messy as before.

Needless to say, this can be very disheartening. It is for me. We invest time and energy, yet heart renovations take longer than we thought they would.

Our spiritual lives aren’t easy to clean up. In fact, by ourselves, we can’t succeed. Sure we can make positive changes. We can do some things different. But the truth is that without God, we can’t truly live as He desires.

On our own, none of us can say, “I have made my heart pure. I am clean and without sin” (Prov. 20:9). We must rely on God, because only He knows what changes are needed and only He has the power to bring them about. We must trust His judgment as to the timing and the process. Trying to change our behavior on our own won’t work since behavior is a symptom of a deeper issue. God knows what’s going on inside us. The real reason we’re clean, if indeed we have been made clean, is because of the free gift of grace and mercy, paid for by Jesus.

So the next time you think that making a heart-change—even a minor one—is up to you, think again. Think about what Christ did on the cross, how He rose from the dead, and the promises of God.

And then ask God what areas need to be addressed and how to go about doing that. He alone knows what needs to be done.

Spend time with God this week asking Him what you need to throw out and what behavior or attitude to adopt in its place. His answers might surprise you.

Lord, thank You for being patient with me as I seek to be made into Your image. Allow me to be a witness to Your grace and mercy, and mold me into what You need for the work of Your kingdom. Amen.

John and Mary in my novella, Train Ride to Heartbreak in the “Mail-Order Brides Collection” realized they needed to make a clean break in their lives, too. However, once committed to another in a loveless marriage, they meet and fall in love. Will they settle for duty and second-best, or will they step out in faith to encounter the promises of the Living God?


Let’s talk about this! How often do you pause to consider your heart? Can you share a time when you behaved in a way you wished you hadn’t and God used that moment to reveal a heart-issue? What happened? How did that experience grow you or draw you closer to God? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

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Leave a comment to be entered to win a print (US only) copy of “Mail-Order Brides Collection”.Mail Order Bridge Cover Image

Mail Order Brides follows 7 brides as they meet their grooms for the first time—after they answer an ad for a wife.

A Train Ride to Heartbreak By Donna Schlachter

1895, Train to California

John Stewart needs a wife. Mary Johannson needs a home. On her way west, Mary falls in love with another. Now both must choose between commitment and true love.


Get to know Donna:

Author Photo: Donna SchlachterDonna Schlachter lives in Denver with husband Patrick, her first-line editor and biggest fan. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Sisters In Crime; facilitates a local critique group, and teaches writing classes and courses. Donna is also a ghostwriter and editor of fiction and non-fiction, and judges in a number of writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.

Visit her online: HiStoryThruTheAges

(Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!)

On Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.


Scripture used is the NIV translation from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (R), NIV(R), Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.(R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Woman sitting outside staring out to the horizon
Photo by Liam Simpson on Unsplash

My life has been punctuated by a series of, “Are you serious, God?” moments—times when I want to pretend I didn’t hear Him, when I’m convinced He couldn’t possibly have uttered the command I’ve sensed. And there have been times, way too many, when I’ve been tempted to cloak a disobedient heart in excuses and rationalization.

That burning I felt within while reading that passage—that must have been heartburn. That jolt I felt in my spirit when my pastor gave that sermon—the stage lights must have hit me wrong.

But in this instance, God left no room for doubt, confirming His message numerous times through numerous sources, all in the span of a week. So, reluctantly and perhaps with a few tears, I obeyed.

For just over a week, after which time I started praying for guidance once again. Over the same issue God had so clearly advised me on, as if His instructions came with an expiration date.

They hadn’t. Obedience meant remaining fully engaged in the area He’d already shown me, until He told me different. Trusting, regardless of the delay, He would indeed do just that, should my assignment change.

I thought of my reluctant obedience dance with Christ as I was reading about Sarah and Abraham’s journey, recorded in Genesis 12. God gives them both a pretty drastic command—leave everything and everyone you’ve known, your homeland, and go. To a place you’ve never been.”

Abraham obeyed and he and his wife began the long, arduous trek to the Promised Land. Their journey wasn’t quick or easy. They traveled 600 miles to Haran, where they settled for a bit, then continued on another 400 miles to Shechem. It was here that Abraham built his first altar. (Gen. 12:8)

This was a place of intimacy where Abraham met with God and declared his allegiance to Him. When His faith wavered, God’s voice seemed distant, and the fulfillment of His promise delayed, Abraham could look back upon all the altars he’d erected and remember—the moment when God met with him personally. And if his experience was anything like mine have been, the moment Abraham’s heart surrendered,  resultant peace that swept through him. Followed by the confident conviction that had strengthened his weary soul.

That altar and all the others he built following demonstrates God’s attentive care to guide and provide and  Abraham’s commitment to follow.

I’ve learned, if I want to stay strong in Christ and obedient to Him, I need to fashion my own altars—notes tucked in my Bible and journal entries stored in my bookshelves. Concrete and irrefutable reminders of times when God spoke directly to my heart, issuing a call.

Like with the situation I mentioned early in this post. Perhaps if I hadn’t recorded God’s clear commands provided the week before, I could have rationalized them away. Or forgot them entirely. But regardless of what my temperamental heart longed to believe, I knew God had spoken, and I had determined to obey.

Let’s talk about this! Can you relate to the temptation I shared? When have you been tempted to discount or rationalize away God’s guidance? Have you ever wished His instructions came with expiration dates? How do you remain focused on “the call” when life becomes challenging or it feels like His promise has been delayed?

Subscribers receive image of cover for study based on 1 Timothygreat, free content sent directly to their inbox along with a free, 36-lesson study (ebook form) based on truths presented in 1 Timothy (sent separately). (If you signed up and haven’t yet received your free study, please contact me through this website so I can get that to you!) You can sign up HERE.

Nail polish bottles of different colorsI felt ill-equipped and insufficient. Actually, I wasn’t supposed to be there at all. I planned to pop in, make sure all the volunteers had arrived and were good to go, then head off to another project I’d set up for the weekend.

But God had other plans, and it started—and perhaps ended—with my lack.

It was “Big Live” weekend, a time where the church I attended mobilized hundreds of people throughout the Metro to serve. As part of the leadership team organizing the event, I’d arranged numerous projects, one that included facilitating a “spa” night for women at a local shelter while other volunteers watched their children.

The idea seemed like a good one in the beginning, back in the planning stages when I envisioned a sizable group from my church, sitting around a table, giving mani-peds to these poor, broken women who were fighting addiction, healing, and learning how to parent.

But as the scheduled night approached, I began to worry. We were short on help. In fact, in the most crucial area, the actual spa portion, we didn’t have anyone.

Zero manicurists. Zero women who even felt comfortable pretending to be manicurists.

Simply myself—who routinely makes a mess of my nails whenever I attempt to paint them. And three others who’d come to watch children.

In other words, who also felt completely ill-equipped to paint other people’s fingernails. But as the women from the shelter began to arrive, one of the volunteers stepped up and said, “I’ll stay” (in the spa room). “I’m not very good at it, but I’ll stay.”

I could’ve hugged her. I may have squealed. But then, watching yet more women trickle in, and eyeing my very meager supplies, my moment of joy was replaced by sadness. I’d so wanted to spoil these women, to make them feel special. To give them an evening of pampering that would make them feel, but for a moment, as if they were truly at a spa. Or at the very least, beautiful.

And all I could think of was my lack. I didn’t have those smelly scrubs one rubs on women’s hands after they’ve soaked in rose-scented water. I didn’t even have the rose-scented water. I had dish soap. (And soon even that ran out.) I didn’t have nice-smelling lotion, emery boards or pumice to sooth their cracked and tired feet.

These ladies had been looking forward to a luxurious spa night, and I soaked their feet in plastic bowls filled with generic dish soap then dried them with whatever hand towels and dishrags the staff had managed to scrounge up.

I couldn’t paint beautiful designs. I could do base coats—though I messed that up. I could do simple flowers using toothpicks, but yep, I messed that up as well.

I was failing. And as I sat across from one of the ladies barely four months out of prison, having just rubbed her feet with an old tattered rag, I was ready to apologize. For the night, my blunders, the disappointment I know I must have caused her.

But before I could, she looked me in the eye with a grin so large it was contagious and said, “I feel like I’m at one of those fancy spas.”

Tears filled my eyes as I realized how little it took to make these women happy. To make them feel special. I’m sure they would’ve enjoyed the fancy lotions and hand massages. The pumice stones would’ve been nice. They would’ve oohed and ahhhed, had I known how to make fancy nail polish decorations.two women standing together

But none of those things trumped what they needed most—love. Someone to look them in the eye and say, “I see you. You have value. God loves you.”

That is how God makes much of our little.

Let’s talk about this! When have you stepped out to serve or help someone and felt insufficient and ill-equipped? How did you handle that? What was the end result? When has God shown you, perhaps through your insufficiency, that your role was simply to love? Share your thoughts and examples in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Visit John 6:1-14 to read another “When God Makes Much of Our Little” stories–this one told in Scripture.

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