6 Ways to Change the World

Sometimes it feels as if darkness has overpowered light, sorrow dominates joy, and confusion and fear infiltrate peace. Watching the news play out before me, or perhaps even sitting with a hurting friend, can make me feel powerless. Ineffectual.

But Scripture tells me this is a lie. In Christ, I–we–have the power to transform our world. Each day, with every word and action Image of a flower with words pulled from the text. we choose, every smile we offer, we can speak hope into despair, love into loneliness, and healing into the most broken and beaten down hearts.

We have the power of the risen, victorious, life-and-light bringing Savior residing within.

Here are six ways we can unleash that power:

Engage.

In our hyper-interactive culture, tweets, posts, and likes often replace face-to-face encounters. The result: Many feel unseen. Insignificant. Unvalued. Simply taking the time to engage others in conversation, even if but for a moment, can encourage a deflated heart. Because remember, we’re representatives and reflectors of El Roi, the God who sees. May we reflect Him well.
Two women sitting together with text pulled from post

Choose grace.

I mess up a hundred times each day. I respond with frustration instead of kindness. I behave selfishly instead of releasing my Father’s love. And many, many times I let my mouth (or keyboard) run when I should simply walk away. But though each unChristlike reaction breaks my heart and, often, lead me to confession, I’m also very quick to offer myself grace. I was tired, stressed, overwhelmed … perhaps caught off guard. Yet do I offer the same grace to others? Do I make allowances for their faults or “make much” of every blunder? Whenever I choose the former, I reveal a bit of Jesus and point others to Him.

Stand up.

I don’t want to get political here, and yet … even as I type, I have to ask myself: When did standing up for the oppressed, beaten down, discarded, and marginalized become a political act? Or at least, deemed as such? It’s not. Rather, it’s honoring the commands of the One who left heaven to rescue the oppressed–those burdened and enslaved by sin–who tells us to speak out for those who don’t have a voice.

Bring light into someone else’s darkness.

Did you ever make flashlight shadows when you were a kid? Did you ever try to do this in a well-lit room? Didn’t work, right? So what’d you do? Most likely you closed yourself in a darkened bathroom where the beams from your flashlight radiated strong and bright. Whenever we seek out, reach out, and intentionally walk beside those shrouded in darkness, we flood their world with light.

Show kindness.

Offer a smile, a hug, a word of encouragement, and open door. Never underestimate the power of a simple yet intentional kind act done for another. It can soothe anger, counter distrust, and open hearts to the love of Christ. In everything we do and every word we speak, may we remember it’s God’s kindness that leads people to repentance.

Pray.

May we see every act of darkness, ugly display of hate, and destructive outburst of anger as a reminder to turn to our unchanging, unconquerable power source—Jesus Christ. Those moments spent on our knees may feel … anticlimactic. We image of woman praying with text pulled from postmay be tempted to think our time doing—serving in ministry, feeding the hungry, typing out oodles and oodles of words for books and blog posts—holds more value. But Scripture promises this is far from true. Prayer isn’t meant to be something we do in random still moments before our real work begins. Prayer is our first and most important work, regardless the task, because ultimately, only Jesus can truly change a heart and a world. When we prioritize prayer, we’re acknowledging we believe this to be true.

Imagine if we each chose to do one of the above each day. Imagine how our families, relationships, neighborhoods—our world—might change.

What is one way you plan to be a world-changer today? Share your “I’m gonna!” thoughts along with anything else you’d add to my list in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another! And in Christ, we can change the world!

 

The Danger of Quick-Fix Mentality When Sharing Truth

couple sitting with backs turned to each otherI can easily fall prey to our “fix-it-quick”, culture, tossing out truths that are, well, true, but fail to hit their mark. In fact, there’ve been times when I’ve caused more harm than good. When I’ve hurt others and damaged relationships. Usually my motives were good. I desperately wanted friends and loved ones to come to Jesus. I wanted them to experience the life, healing, and freedom only He can offer.

But in my zeal (often coupled by fear), I took off running and verse touting and left the Holy Spirit far behind. I was convinced I was right. After all, I only spoke truth, and truth sets people free, right?

Besides, Jesus never shied away from hard conversations, nor did He worry about offending people. When He encountered the adulterous woman, didn’t He tell her to go and sin no more? And the “invalid” He healed by the pool of Bethesda to stop sinning?

Yes and yes, but He also told the Samaritan woman who’d cycled through men (or perhaps had been discarded by them) to go and grab her husband. And the tax collector in Matthew nine to “follow Him.”

In other words, Jesus addressed each individual individually, speaking directly to their deepest needs, deceptions, and unique stumbling blocks. But He had something you and I don’t—insight.word image Jesus knew the history, hurts, and fallacies each of them held. In fact, He knew each man and woman better than they knew themselves. So when He spoke, He always hit His mark.

You and I don’t have that insight, nor do we always invest the time necessary to gain it. At least. When engaging others in spiritual conversations, I didn’t even consider there might be deeper issues involved.

But then God reminded me of my story. Through I trusted in Jesus for salvation at a young age, I didn’t begin growing in Him until my early adult years. Actually, for a while I spiraled in the opposite direction, living a drunken, partying, throw-myself-away type of lifestyle. By the time I met my husband, I was consumed with shame and self-loathing.

Around then, pastors started coming around. Not just one, but two. One would come knocking at our door, would step inside and talk with us a bit, and then leave. Another took my husband and I out to lunch with him and his wife. I don’t remember much of what either of them said, but I do recall the warmth in their smiles and the easy way they conversed. I remember the way they made me feel—safe. Loved. Welcomed.

The interesting thing is, my husband I were living together, unmarried, at the time. In other words, living in sin. (Though my worldview was so warped, I didn’t think a thing of our lifestyle. It seemed normal to me.)

Had those men come at me with “truth”, they only would’ve deepened my shame and pushed me away. They would’ve confirmed to me what I already believed—that I was worthless and disgusting. Bad. Not just that I was doing bad, but that I was bad. I understood that I was a sinner. What I didn’t understand, what I needed to see, was grace.

That’s exactly what those pastors showed me. With every interaction, they revealed the gentle love of Christ. A love that beckoned and drew me, that healed me bit by bit, and ultimately, transformed me.

Because Jesus knew my story. He knew what was keeping me from living in His will. While it’s true my lifestyle was very contrary to God’s desire for me, this wasn’t because I was actively trying to rebel against Him. Rather, it was because I’d given up on myself.

I needed Jesus, revealed through the grace-filled actions of others, to rekindle my hope so that, eventually, I had the desire to reach for life.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying we should never speak truth nor that we should accept or coddle sinful behavior. What I am saying is we should approach each broken, hurting child of God carefully and prayerfully, being careful to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading.

I often think of how I might talk to someone standing on a rooftop, ready to jump. I think of how alert, how attentive, how “others-focused” I’d be. My greatest desire in that moment would be not to say anything that would tip them over the edge and to coax them, ever-so-gently towards life.

That might seem like a drastic analogy, until we remember, with every interaction, real lives are at stake, lives that will either spend eternity with Jesus or separated from Him. That doesn’t mean we should become paralyzed by fear of messing up. But it does mean we should ensure, with each conversation, that God, and not our pride or our fear, is doing the leading. Only He knows when to speak truth and how much, when to listen, and when to simply say, “I love you, and I’m here.”

Let’s talk about this! Is there someone you’re trying to reach out to? How can you build trust and get to know them better—beyond surface level? Would you add anything to my thoughts? Do you perhaps disagree? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments below.

The Result of Self-obsession

 

sad woman in the dark

“You don’t have to be so down, you know.”

Perhaps I should’ve been offended, except I knew my husband was right. I’d been in a funk for a while. For no particular reason. Though I could’ve named numerous “causes”, I had to admit, I, not my circumstances, lay at the root of my gloom.

Bit by bit, one thought merging into another, I’d become self-obsessed, and it was making me miserable.

Our world tells us to focus on ourselves, to take care of number one, promising this is the key to happiness and fulfillment, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. The more I’m fixated on boring ol’ Jennifer Slattery—what I want or don’t want, what’s happened or hasn’t happened, what’s hard or disappointing—the more miserable I become. But when I take my eyes off myself, step out of my tiny little world and into someone else’s, the miraculous happens.

I experience joy. Peace. Fulfillment. And incredible intimacy with my Savior as He loves others through me. As some of you know, I routinely deal with pain and fatigue. When I was first diagnosed, I slipped into a funk, thinking of how difficult my days were and how unpleasant my condition.

foliage in the sunset image with quotation on loveFor a while, I retreated further and further into my own, miserable world. That’s what self-obsession does—it inevitably leads to isolation, and often, bitterness soon follows. But then, I began to listen as others shared their struggles. Of arthritis. Cancer. MS. Clinical depression. And I realized, we’ve all got something, and in fact, many were suffering much more than I.

Over time, and by God’s grace, my view began to shift, and my world began to widen as love for others squelched my self-obsession. Allowing room for joy and contentment to grow.

In 1 Corinthians 10:24, Paul says, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (NIV)

I’m convinced, not only is this a command and a tangible way to live out the great commission, but it’s also a huge piece of grabbing hold of joy.

Self-obsession is perhaps the most destructive, most insidious type of idolatry. There’s only one way to break this, and that’s by turning our view upward and outward—onto Jesus and those He loves.

I’ll still have down days on occasion, and there will be times when I regress to self-obsession, but I’m learning the more I lay my life—my wants, expectations, hurts and disappointments—down, the more I die to myself so that Christ may live unhindered through me, the more I experience the full and abundant life Christ died to give me.

*Please note, this post is not related to clinical depression. There are those with biochemical mental health challenges who need medical intervention. If that’s you, get help.

Let’s talk about this! Do you ever tend to self-obsess? What’s normally the result? Have you ever, while in the middle of a period of melancholy, focused on others? What happened? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version (R) Copyright (c)1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Before you go, I encourage you to sign up for my free, quarterly newsletter to receive short stories, devotions, recipes, and more sent directly image of cover for study based on 1 Timothyto your inbox. When you sign up, you’ll also receive a free, 36-lesson study (ebook, sent separately) that springs from 1 Timothy You can sign up HERE. And make sure to visit me at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud to read more encouraging messages from myself and other authors. You can find my site HERE! I also encourage you to visit Wholly Loved Ministries for more inspirational messages that can help you discover, embrace, and live out who you are in Christ. You can find us HERE!

And some fun news! Coming soon:

Dancing in the Rain:

On the verge of college graduation, Loni Parker seeks employment as a music teacher, but no one will hire her since she’s blind. Or so she thinks. To take her mind off her troubles, her roommate invites her to spring retreat at Camp Hope in the gorgeous North Carolina mountains. Unbeknown to Loni, Michael Ackerman, the director, is an ex-con responsible for the accident that caused her blindness. When Loni warms up to camp and wants to return as a summer counselor, Michael opposes the idea, which only makes Loni want to prove herself all the more. Though she doesn’t expect to fall for the guy. Still, her need for independence and dream of teaching win out, taking her far away from her beloved Camp Hope . . . and a certain director.

Camp director Michael Ackerman recognizes Lonie instantly and wants to avoid her at all costs. Yet, despite the guilt pushing him from her, a growing attraction draws him to the determined woman. She sees more with her heart than the average person does with his eyes. But her presence also dredges up a long-buried anger toward his alcoholic father that he’d just as soon keep hidden. When circumstances spin out of control, Michael is forced to face a past that may destroy his present.

Releasing the first week of June!

The Blessings That Come With Obedience

Sometimes obedience comes easily, other times it can take every ounce of strength and courage to push forward and step out. But when we surrender to Christ and allow Him to love others through us … Today my guest Clarice James, author of Party of One and Double Header, shares how God used her obedience to turn the sorrow of widowhood into joy.

The Blessings That Come With Obedience

by Clarice James

Selfies here, selfies there. Selfies, selfies everywhere. It’s hard to see others if you’re focused on self.

I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the age of 32 and returned to church. Being spiritually single for the next ten years was a lonely time. I waited (not so patiently) for my husband to join me. Once he did, we were blessed to worship together for eight years before he lost his battle with cancer.

You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy”  (John 16:20, NIV).

With my children grown and gone, for the first time in my life I had no one to consider daily but myself. I was grieving and bored, which made it easy to fall into a self-centered, poor-me mentality.

One Sunday, back in the pew my husband and I had called ours, I noticed a woman sitting by herself … then another and another . . . as if the Lord was shining a spotlight on them. I was amazed at the number of single adults in attendance and ashamed I had never taken the time to get to know them.

But here we were, all alone, together.

This sparked a passion for those who’d fallen between the cracks of families and couples. I suddenly saw single people everywhere: in church, at the grocery store, in study groups, at the nail salon, in my writers’ groups, and at restaurants. I began to reach out to them.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27, NIV).

Once a week for a few years, I hosted a dozen plus young adults for Tuesday night supper. Two of the attendees got to know each other well around my table and later married. A couple who rented my apartment asked to join the group and was introduced to Jesus. Seeing these two couples now, raising children themselves, reassures me that my efforts were fruitful.

At one time or another, four different women shared my home: a young Canadian woman, trying to make ends meet on a teacher’s salary from a small Christian school; a middle-aged woman, taking over as principal of that same school; a Brazilian woman, working two jobs so she could send money back home to her family; and a nanny for eight children, spending her days off with me “to keep her sanity.”

My empty nest soon became the go-to spot for women’s Bible studies and get-togethers. I even toyed with the idea of starting a singles supper club at a local restaurant.

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:1-2, NIV).

Each time I blessed someone, God blessed me back. Not with money or material things, but with joy and fulfillment. Parents of the young adults thanked me for providing a safe place for their children to socialize. Many of my tenants and house guests became friends. The cross-section of people who have shown up at my author signings is confirmation that God was and is in the middle of it all.

God’s ultimate blessing came eight years after I was widowed when He gave me a new husband in Ralph David James. About five years into our marriage, I finally got around to starting that singles supper club. (It takes a special man to let his wife start a singles club!) I named it Party of One: A Fellowship for Those Tired of Dining Alone.

Put self on the shelf and focus on God. He is faithful to show you ways to bless others.

 

Let’s talk about this! When have you stepped out in obedience to bless someone and found you were the one who received the blessing? This past weekend, my church facilitated our annual Big Live celebration–where we mobilize our church family out in the community to love on the broken, feed the hungry, clean up messes, unite our community, and more. Mid-day Saturday, incredibly tired but immeasurably full, I thought, “If I could only do this full time.” Of course, I can’t, but to feel God’s love reaching through you as you step out into someone else’s darkness; that has to be part of the abundant life Jesus promised.

For when we lose our life for the sake of Christ, that’s when we find it.

We will never be fulfilled, never truly find peace and joy, until we begin to live as we were created–viewing ourselves through God’s eyes and living out the mission He’s assigned. This is Wholly Loved’s message in a nutshell. This is why we exist–to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are (or are meant to be) in Christ. Because life’s not meant to be endured; it’s meant to be lived. We’ve got a conference coming up this Saturday! I’d love to see you! Find out more HERE.

And before I go, have you signed up for my quarterly newsletter! In the next edition, which releases at the end of next month, I’ll be sharing some fun info on a contest (give-away, actually), available only to subscribers. You can sign up HERE! (You can check out my last edition HERE.)

***

Clarice G. James writes smart, fun, relatable contemporary women’s fiction. Her first two novels are Party of One and Double Header. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, encouraging fellow writers, or involved in a home decorating project. She and her husband, David, live in New Hampshire. Together, they have five married children and ten grandchildren. Visit her online HERE. 

Party of One:

One Woman, A Great Idea—Party of One Inspires and Delights. When widow Annie McGee breaks through grief, she falls flat on her face into loneliness. In a bold move, she founds Party of One, a communal table for single diners. Outside of these weekly gatherings at a local restaurant, she has no intention of getting involved in the diverse lives of the people who join her. Set in her ways and critical, Annie believes she has all the answers she needs for her life and some left over for others. When confusion and curiosity chip away at her pride, she asks God for a sign, then gets way more than she hopes for. Her self-assurance continues to falter when she realizes the only thing weirder than the quirks of her eclectic tablemates is her fear of losing their company.

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When We Say No

 

 

 

When We Say No–Missing Out

It’s weighed heavy on my mind and heart for over fifteen years now–the day I said no. I was working out, minding my own business, in a crowded (and slightly smelly) Southern California gym. I went often, most every afternoon, as did a middle aged, disabled gentlemen. I don’t know his story, I didn’t even know his name, but I knew this–he was incredibly unhappy. He was always frowning, as if sending clear, “Do not approach,” signals. But one day, I felt a strong desire to pray for him. The more I thought about this, prayed for an out, the stronger the desire became.

I ignored God’s prompting that day, and I’ve regretted it ever since. I thought about that moment as I read Jana Kelley, author of Door to Freedom’s post below.

MISSING OUT

by Jana Kelley

Barbed-wire fences loomed on either side of me as I inched my car through the gates. I stopped at the guardhouse to show my volunteer badge and parked in the visitor section before making my way to one of several cottages. Nerves kept me alert as I crossed the lawn and entered the lobby. I was directed to a side room.

The juvenile detention center always made me nervous. My comfort zone waited for me somewhere far outside the confines

of this facility that housed troubled teens.

Every week, I joined two other ladies who also volunteered. One was the Bible study leader and the other lady, Kathy*, and I assisted her. Six to eight girls attended every week. We met as a group for the lesson and then divided for small group discussion and other planned activities.

As I waited for the girls to enter, I glanced at the white board on the wall. It hadn’t been erased from some previous group therapy session. Red and black marker spelled out the formative years of one of the participants: gender confusion, divorce, jail, victimization. All of this scrawled on the board for anyone’s perusal. I looked into the glazed eyes of the girls who entered the room. Medication kept most of them in a fog. I smiled at them, not expecting any smiles in return.

After the lesson, our leader called me and Kathy over.

“These two young women would like to pray to receive Jesus.” She gestured toward two of the girls then looked toward Kathy. “Can you help them do that?”

This made sense, of course, as the other volunteer had more experience than me. But she looked shocked.

“No,” she said. “I can’t do that.” She looked at me with frantic eyes. “Can you do it instead of me?”

I moved to where the two girls sat and, in simple words, explained how Jesus had taken the punishment we deserved and how He would forgive our sins if we believed in Him. That night those two girls prayed, asked Jesus to save them, and became my new sisters in Christ.

As I drove past the barbed fences and back to my comfort zone, I couldn’t help but wonder: “What happened back there?”

A Bible study volunteer was afraid to pray with others asking for salvation? Wasn’t that the “golden moment” for any believer? I felt blessed by the opportunity to guide two girls into the Kingdom. But I think that blessing was meant for the other lady. Her fear immobilized her at a most crucial time.

I learned a couple of things that night:

  • First, no amount of training enables us to do the Lord’s work if we don’t also obey the Spirit when it comes time to act.
  • Second, if I don’t step up when it’s my turn, the Lord may choose to give the blessing to someone else.

That night, I received the blessing of watching two girls receive salvation. But lest I become prideful, that night is also a reminder to me. I often give in to fear … that I’ll be laughed at, that I will be rejected, that I’m not good enough to do what the Lord asks. When I focus on fear and then refuse to listen and obey, I miss out on the blessing God has for me.

***

Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated, and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After 13 years living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live. Jana is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a blogger, a contributor to Voices of the Faithful by Beth Moore (Books 1 &2) and has written a trilogy set in Northern Sudan. The third book will release in September. Jana loves to connect with her readers. You can learn more about her at janakelley.com.

 

Door to Freedom:

“It’s rough and it’s smooth. It’s dark and it’s light. It’s a masterpiece. It’s us. Here in Sudan. We are scared of it and drawn to it. There is an open door, and there is much opposition.”

In the dusty, Islamic country of Sudan, Mia, who is raising her family in a Muslim country, has learned to boldly share her faith. Rania, the daughter of a wealthy Sudanese Arab, seeks to find the reason for her sister’s sudden disappearance. Mia holds some of the answers, but both women quickly discover they must each walk through their own doors to freedom—the freedom that only comes when you trust God’s sovereignty more than man-made security.

Part of New Hope® Publishers’ line of contemporary missional fiction, Door to Freedom, the sequel to Side by Side, opens the reader’s eyes to modern-day persecution and the life of Muslims in Sudan. Based on real-life events, Door to Freedom also reveals some of the struggles that Christians face when living under Islamic law. The reader will be inspired to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith as well as for the salvation of the persecutors.

***

Let’s talk about this! When have you allowed fears or insecurities to hinder your obedience and what did you learn from this experience. OR, when have you chosen, despite your fear, to do something you felt God calling you to, and what was the result? In the example I shared at the beginning of this post, numerous fears kept me from obeying. It seemed strange to walk up to a stranger in a crowded gym and offer to pray. I worried I’d look like an idiot or that I’d offend him. But I’ve often wondered, what if the man was going through a tough time right at that moment, asking God if He cared or if He was there, and God wanted to answer those questions through me, or love that man through me?

I failed to obey. Because of my pride. Man, pride is such an ugly thing, isn’t it?

Your turn! Share your stories, examples, or perhaps words of encouragement with us in the comments below.

*Name changed for privacy purposes.

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We were created to live victorious, abundant, impactful lives, but so often, we allow fear to hold us back and hinder us from creating the ambassadors God designed us to be. And yet, we can live bold and brave. We can leave an eternal, life-changing mark on our world, and Wholly Loved wants to help you learn to do just that.

That’s why we’re launching the Bold and Brave conference. Stay tuned for more info, and “like” and “follow” our Facebook Page to stay on top of all our events.

Pulling Back the Veil on Christian Love

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

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

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

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

Let me explain:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I leave you with one of my favorite verses:

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

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

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

Chocolaterie Signing-page-001

A Deeper Look at Baltimore

Photo by Stux taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Stux taken from freedigitalphotos.net

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

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

To truly understand the root.

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

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

Hatred and prejudice still exits. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by artura84 taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by artura84 taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Poverty leads to hopelessness.

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

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

Stereotypes and quick judgements only make things worse. 

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer Slattery Video Interview from New Hope Publishers on Vimeo.

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