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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!

 

 

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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.

 

Photo by jesadaphorn taken from freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by jesadaphorn taken from freedigitalphotos.net

There’s nothing more frustrating than looking back on a busy, tiring day and realizing you’ve accomplished nothing. Or at least, nothing of value. Or to embark on a task, perhaps seven or eight times in a day, only to be distracted, seven or eight times.

We all have those days, right? Times when our lack of focus, lack of prioritizing, eats up our productivity. But we mustn’t let those times of distraction and futility, of wasted effort, become a norm.

We all have countless opportunities set before us each day, sometimes even great opportunities, eternally impacting opportunities, but that doesn’t mean each one is for us. God has carved out a unique path for each one of us. He’s created us, gifted us, molded and equipped us, to fill a very specific role.

I love how Ephesians 2:10 puts it: “For you are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus to do the good things He planned for us long ago” (NLT).

We are God’s masterpiece! That word grabs me every time. As does the ending of the verse, “He planned for us long ago.”

It reminds me that God has a plan, a very good and very specific plan, for my life. My role is to discover that plan and follow it ps37v23to24jpgwith everything within me, resisting the constant pull to be everything to everyone. Rather, I am to give everything–my time, energy, thoughts, and actions–to the Son.

Proverbs 4:25-27 says “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on that safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil” (NLT).

This verse speaks of determined focus, of perseverance, of intentionality. Of zeroing in on whatever it is Christ is calling me to do each day. Which implies taking the time to discover what He’s calling me to do. Which in turn implies taking the time to prayerfully read His Word each morning.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! What about you? What is God calling you to do today? Raise your children or grandchildren to love and honor Christ? Reveal Christ’s love and grace in your work place? Serve in a church ministry with excellence? Are you doing that with focus, perseverance, and intentionality? Are you giving your whole self to that task, or have you allowed nonessentials to leave you divided? What time-sappers have you allowed in your day that hinder your effectiveness? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

We can’t do it all. Each day, we’re going to have to let something go. Let’s let those things go intentionally so that we can “fix our eyes on what lies before us.”

For all the mommas of little ones out there, my friend (and the marketing manager of New Hope Publishers) has a series I know you’ll find encouraging and inspiring. You can read about that here.

You might also be interested in:

Are the Little Things Really Little? 

In the Little Things

Called and Accountable by Henry T. Blackaby and Norman C. Blackaby

Before I go, I wanted to announce the winners of last week’s give away! Maryann, congrats! You won a copy of the Shepherd’s Song! I’ll be contacting you shortly to chat about the best way to get that novel to you. And, there’s still time to enter the drawing to receive a copy of Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s book Praying Upside Down. You can do so here.

Before I go, I wanted to invite you listen to a radio interview I did Tuesday. You can do so here:

I also encourage you to sign up for my (really, our, as I and the Faith, Friends, and Chocolate gals put it out together) free quarterly newsletter, which is packed with great stuff–a serial story, short stories, recipes, devotions, and more!


Receive our fiction, recipes, and updates each quarter by email

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Did my blog title cause your hackles to rise? With today’s appearance/performance centered culture, most of us must fight daily to bring everything back to surrendered obedience. Blog posts and Youtube videos abound countering our culture’s shallow and exhausting trend, and with good ID-100184427reason. So rest assured, I’m not going to tell you to jump back on that people-pleasing treadmill. To the contrary. I’m going to encourage you to center your whole heart, every thought and desire, in Christ.

Because if you do, your actions will follow, and people will notice.

Two, maybe three years ago, a dear friend approached me with a story idea. At first I told her “Absolutely not!”, because I felt completely ill-equipped to write it. But then one morning, I awoke with the story unfolding in my brain. Having walked with Christ on this writing journey for a while, I determined God had birthed the story within me. Therefore, He wanted me to write it. So, I called my friend, making sure she understood all this would entail.

I’d need help. A lot of help. You see, this novel would require a great deal of medical knowledge, which I lacked. It’s very difficult to plot something you don’t understand.

And so began our journey. Over the course of a year, Ami Koelliker and I met over lunch, coffee, at her house, talked by phone, and swapped documents as we ID-10023724eeked out the story. And I mean eeeeeeeeeeked out. This was the most difficult story I’ve written to date. It was frustrating, exhausting, and often, downright discouraging. To make matters worse, I kinda doubted we’d ever even sell it. So in essence, we were spending all this time, giving ourselves headaches, on a project that we knew would likely end up in our computer’s trash bin.

There were many times I wanted to call it quits. Many times. I even considered writing Ami a check to compensate her for her time then being done with the whole thing.

But I didn’t. I stuck with it. (As did she.)

And here’s why: I’d made a commitment, and I intended to honor it, regardless of the cost or the outcome.

Flash forward two years, and I receive an email from my editor. New Hope wanted to contract this novel. (Yes, I signed, and the story is going through the various editorial stages now and has a scheduled release date of October 2015.) A story I’d seriously considered bailing on. I’m so very glad I didn’t.

It’s not that I am or was highly spiritual or possessed incredible inner grit. But this is an area God is growing in me. Because our word matters. Consider the following verse:

“Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord: Who may enter Your presence on Your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends … and keep their promises even when it hurts” (Psalm 15:1-4 NLT)

Our actions reveal our heart. It’s one thing to say we’re transformed by grace; it’s another to reveal this with how we live our lives. For as Proverbs 20:11 says, “Even children are known by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right” (NLT).

Christian character is a big deal. It adds credibility to our witness and forms a foundation of trust that lets others know we’re honest, reliable, and forthright. Conversely, lack of character is a big deal. It destroys our witness, hinders deep relationships, and ultimately leads to ever-increasing self-deception. And living in self-deception is a dangerous place to be.

As I read through Ruth, from the first chapter to the last, I was instantly struck with how honorable both Ruth and Boaz were. They worked hard, honored their commitments, were loyal to their loved ones. And everyone knew this.

In Ruth chapter 2, Boaz says to Ruth, “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers” (NLT).

Then, in chapter three, we begin to see Boaz’s character. He says, “Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman” (3:11 NLT).

How does Naomi respond when she learns of Boaz’s statement? She says to Ruth in verse 18, “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today” (3:18).

In other words, she knew Boaz would take care of it, and that he would take care of it immediately. 

Their previous actions had revealed their character. Ours do as well. 

Let’s talk about this. If you haven’t had a chance to, read Ruth chapter 3 here. I know you likely read the first part of this chapter Friday but I encourage you to read it again. Actually, I encourage you to read chapters 2 and 3 again. You can do that here.

What stood out to you as read Ruth chapter 3?

What character traits impress you most in Ruth? What about in Boaz?

What areas might God long to help you grow in, in regard to your character?

How well do you honor your commitments? If you struggle in this area, what will you do differently, having studied this portion of Ruth?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below, on Facebook, or via our email loop. And make sure to visit Beth’s blog Friday for our next lesson.

Other posts and resources you might find helpful:

In Absence of Integrity

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

And as a teaser… for those curious about this book Ami helped me write, here’s what it’s about:

Abandoned by her husband, an organ procurement coordinator fighting to keep her job and her sanity encounters an old flame facing an unthinkable tragedy.

For Tammy Kuhn, being an organ procurement coordinator is more than a job. It’s a ministry. But when her husband of sixteen years leaves her for another woman, struggles with childcare, her absentee ex-husband, and an altercation with a doctor threaten her job. Embittered and overwhelmed, she fights to maintain her sanity when a late night encounter with an old flame stirs emotions long since buried but the ICU is no place for romance.

 

 

 

“I’ll do it myself!” the two-year-old cries, stomping his pudgy food with fisted hands. ID-100284325

“I know what I’m doing,” says the stressed-out teenager who’s convinced they have a strong grasp on reality–and that we, the adults in their world, don’t.

“That editor just doesn’t get me!” says the writer who’s convinced their book is the next big seller, even though others have alerted them to major plot holes.

And so, they dig in their heels and continue on their way… further and further from the finish line.

ID-100260522Early in my writing career, my skin was thinner than a pears and as easily bruised. But before long I learned, if I truly wanted to grow, I’d need to allow God to develop within me a teachable spirit. This realization has helped me in every area of my life.

Are you doing the same? Today my sweet friend and fellow ICD writer shares her thoughts on teachability.

Are You Teachable by Susan AkenSusan'sheadshot

     (Read Ruth 3:1-6)

How do you react when someone gives you advice that is scary? We don’t know all of Ruth’s motivations and reasons for choosing to go with Naomi but we do know she was determined to stay with her and was deeply attached to her. Ruth had great respect for Naomi. When they arrived in Bethlehem, Ruth devoted herself to taking care of Naomi and providing for her. She always listened to Naomi and followed her advice. In chapter 3, verses 1-6, Naomi asks her to get all dolled up and go to the threshing floor where Boaz is sleeping. She tells her to uncover his feet and lay down there. Verse 6 tells us that Ruth “did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.”

She took a great risk here. She risked being rejected and embarrassed. She couldn’t know without doubt how Boaz would react. I think Naomi was sure of his reaction but there was no guarantee. Naomi asked Ruth to take this risk because she knew that Boaz (as next of kin) was her best hope for a future and she knew that he had taken an interest in Ruth since he told her to only glean in his field and instructed his workers to leave extra grain. When Naomi told Ruth to lie at his feet and then ask him to spread his garment over her, this was a custom of the time to let him know she was interested in marriage. You can read more about this HERE:

Ruth allowed Naomi to guide her and trusted her advice.

BeyondIDocover In Beyond I Do, Ainsley also has a mentor who gives her advice. Her friend, Deborah, who led her to Christ is also her coach and friend. Deborah encourages Ainsley to stay open to her mom and to forgive her even though she would prefer to just shut her out of her life. Deborah asks her to take a risk by opening her heart to her mom. Her mom has hurt her so many times over the years and she is afraid of being hurt again. But Deborah keeps gently prodding Ainsley to reach out. She remains open and teachable with her mentor. In one beautiful scene, when Ainsley realizes that she is not sure what is next in her life, Deborah asks her, “If you could do anything, knowing God would stand behind you 100 percent, what would that be?” When Deborah asks that question, Ainsley knows immediately what her answer is. She has known it in her heart but Deborah helps her voice that desire. She helps Ainsley find her ministry to hurting families.

If we want to grow as Christians, we must remain open and teachable. When we think we know it all or that we don’t need advice, we’re headed for a fall. When someone speaks into our lives what feels like criticism or makes a suggestion that would take us out of our comfort zone, God uses it to help us to grow and become more mature. I am experiencing that in my life. My good friend, Jennifer, has become a writing mentor (though I am older than her) and she has recently given me some challenges as a writer that would take me out of my comfort zone. She is also helping me realize that I need to be open to advice and constructive criticism in order to grow as a writer. We need each other!

Some questions to discuss, pray over, and ponder:

First, if you haven’t already done so, read Ruth 3:1-6

  1. How do you react when someone offers advice that scares you?
  1. Are you cultivating a relationship with a mentor? (I don’t think it has to be someone older than you, just someone you can learn from) Is there someone you could mentor?
  1. Would you be willing to share about a mentor relationship and what you learned either when you were mentored or when you mentored someone else?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below, join the discussion in our email loop, or at our Facebook Group page Beyond I Do Bible Study Group. 

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Susan Aken is a homemaker, substitute teacher and writer. She lives in Nebraska but was born and raised in Oklahoma. Her greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed her and set her free. Her other loves are her husband and son (she is now an empty nester). Susan enjoys reading, photography, spending time with family and friends and writing. She has a heart for prayer ministry and loves her church! Visit her online at Soaring With Butterfly Wings. Find out more about her writing or pick up one of her devotionals here.

BiblestudyinviteGood morning and happy Monday! I continually hear from readers how my debut novel has stretched their thinking in some area or challenged them to embrace a deeper level of surrender in order to grab hold of the abundant life Christ offers. I cannot express how encouraging it is to know my writing is being used by Christ to grow and strengthen His children! But perhaps the most encouraging comment I’ve received came from a fellow Living by Grace host and a dear friend, Beth Farley.

Last week she responded to a link I’d posted on Facebook, saying she’d tacked a key verse from my novel on her bathroom mirror to review it daily.

This touched me deeply and excited me to think of the divine adventure that awaits this precious sister in Christ. As I rejoiced on God’s mercy and grace, I wondered, what if we all spurred one another toward a deeper level of surrender?

With this in mind, I decided to form an online Bible study group that uses Beyond I Do as our springboard. As we follow Ainsley Meadows, my heroine, in her journey toward full surrender, we will dig deep into the biblical truths that will encourage us to do the same.

This study will be hosted on Facebook on Tuesdays and Fridays (those participants can interact daily, if they choose). Discussion questions and conversations will also be hosted here (on Tuesdays) and on Beth’s blog FirstHalfDay (on Fridays). I will also be creating a yahoo email group for those who prefer to interact that way. (Let me know if you’d like me to send you an invite to the email group.)

ID-10083723Join us as we surrender our dreams, plans, fears, and insecurities to our Savior, the One who promises to lead us toward the abundant life He promised.

When: Nov. 10th-Dec. 10th

Where: Cyberspace! Here, Facebook, and Beth’s blog

How: Interact through the comments here, on Beth’s blog, on Facebook, or simply sit back and soak it all in.

Please note: You do not have to have read the book to participate.

If you haven’t purchased the book but would like to, it is available for $2.39 on CBD! Get it here.

Two brothers, one blessing, and a mother who effectively turns one against the other. Family dysfunction forever recorded in the pages of Scripture.
How would you like to leave that as your legacy?
cookdishwashing001Legacy.
Does that word make you cringe? If you’re a parent, I’m pretty sure you’ve struggled

with guilt, fear, and feelings of defeat on more than one occasion. Maybe daily! As I was listening to my Pandora this morning, lyrics I heard really encouraged me. Of course, now I can’t recall them, but in essence, the singer said each day he’d give all he had, and that would be his legacy.
Pause to consider that for a moment. When everything goes crazy and it’s all you can do to keep those nasty thoughts from flying off your tongue, give your all.
When your kids are sick, or crabby, the air conditioner breaks, and your bank account dwindles, and you haven’t got a dime to spare. When it’s all you can do to share a smile and maybe a cup of tea with a lonely neighbor, give your all.
When you want to serve in a half a dozen places but time, young children underfoot, or a failing body holds you back, and it’s all you can do to send out emails or phone calls or encouraging texts, give your all.
That will be your legacy, and that is enough. Because worship and surrender is a heart issue.
Today my sweet friend talks about giving God our all when our self rises up, demanding our full attention. As you read her thoughts on perhaps the most famous feuding brothers in all history, consider her question: How do we–how do you–know when we’re seeking God’s best?
beth picSeeking His Best by Beth Farely
There is such deception that takes place between Jacob and Esau. The brothers both wanted their father’s blessing, but Jacob eventually stole Esau’s blessing. They were seeking their own selfish best, not God’s. Genesis 25:29-34
How do we know if we are seeking God’s best for our lives and not seeking self-gratification? I admit there have been times in my life where I get into a mood and feel that I can do whatever I want and convince myself it will work for me. That is not an example of seeking God’s best for my life.
Stay Focused
When I am focused on something I’ve desired, it always has a way of showing up. A huge piece of cake, an over-spending shopping trip; a white lie…yup, there they are right there in front of me.  Are they God’s best? Absolutely not!
Stay in the Word
What does it mean to seek God’s best? It means seeking His will by being in His Word–reading the Bible daily. It really means giving up of self and adding more of Him in your life. Like Esau and Jacob, we can become jealous of others and allow that jealousy to rob us of God’s best for our lives. Unbelievers may see this as God being the dictator of our lives because He calls the shots. But He is not a dictator; He gave us the free will to choose. Jacob and Esau didn’t have to be so jealous and evil toward each other; God did not choose that for them.
Stay in His Will
God holds the key to an abundant, joy-filled life. His way is really the best way. The world tells us to make our own path, to do it “my way.” But the Bible teaches that true freedom comes from living under the loving care of our heavenly Father. Understanding how God’s sovereignty impacts our lives helps us enjoy a life of greater meaning and purpose; His perfect purpose.
Beth Ann Farley lives in Kansas City, MO with her husband and six grown children and 13 grandchildren. She wrote for www.bookfun.org., Toot n’ Town magazine. She has recently been published with Landline magazine, Teachers in Focus, Horse & Rider, Mature Years, Indian Life and Wesleyan Publishing.  Her poetry has been featured in Sweet Freedom written by Jennifer Slattery. She’s guest blogged on thewriteconversation@blogspot.com by Edie Melson and Poppy Smith’s Inspiring Women to Thrive blog. Beth is a co-host on Living by Grace, a faith-based Facebook community. She often writes for the Senior Smart Network; a network devoted to senior citizens. Visit her online at FirstHalfDay.
LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Do you ever wish you could do more for God? What are you doing with what He’s giving you today? Are you seeking His best in every moment, in the gunk and the joys? Because he who is faithful in the little things will also be faithful with the big. 😉
As a fun aside, I recently learned my novel is now available for purchase in ebook form and at a discount–under $8 in fact! You can get your copy from CBD here.
Other news and updates–seems I’ve been all across the web this week. Join me on fellow LbG hostess Maria Morgan’s blog as I talk about my novel and what God’s been showing me about faithfulness. You can read that here.
On Internet Cafe’ Devotions I talked about our need to cultivate listening ears. You can read this here.
With school starting and all the chaos that brings, I wrote an article for Crosswalk on how we can live by the Spirit when life gets crazy. You can read that here.
Last Friday I chatted with another LbG hostess, Jessica R. Patch about my writing and my debut. You can read that interview here.
On Saturday I visited with Crystal Barnes from Stitches in Time. Join us here.
Monday I chatted with fellow ACFW author Casey Herringshaw. Join us here.
And finally, yesterday I camped out over at Takin’ it to the Streets where I talked about slipping and falling, and responding to others who do the same. You can read this devotion here. (And don’t forget to mark your calendar for our first annual Hope for the Homeless event, coming next month!)
That’s all that’s new with me. 🙂 Now it’s your turn! Share your thoughts, your news, your celebrations with us over at Living by Grace on FB or in the comments below.

shutupSometimes I think I’d do well to bind my mouth with duct tape before going out. From blurted inconsideracies to complaints and arguments over trivial things that, when pointed out, reveal more about me than the actual issue.

Why, oh why is the tongue so hard to tame? Or am I the only one eating my feet a good chunk of the time? footnmouth-1

If only I’d remain safely behind my computer with its delete key.

My biggest problem? OJM disease–overactive jaw muscles and a very me-centered brain that likes to believe I have the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, and necessary input for every debate.

The problem with this? Proverbs 10:19 puts it so well: “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut” (NLT).

I suppose it’s a law of averages thing–you spew enough words some of them are bound to be sinful, hurtful, not productive or effective.

So what’s the solution? Invest in duck tape? Hide out in my bedroom? Throw up my hands with the concession that this is who I am?

None of those options progress the gospel, which is a huge problem, me being Christian and all as quite frankly, it is for the sake of the gospel I–and other Christians–are still here. On earth, I mean.

So once again I ask, what’s the solution?

Gritting my teeth and proceeding with the utmost determination won’t solve this, not long-term, anyway, because the moment I relax or get distracted I’ll revert to my old, verbose ways.

PrayerwThe best, the only solution is to continually draw near to God, allowing Him to work in and through me.

Pausing to acknowledge Him while I wash the dishes.

Praying while I fold the clothes.

Singing songs of praise, out loud or internally, while I go about my daily tasks.

Checking negativity and consciously focusing on my Savior and all He’s done instead.

For Christ-like behavior comes not from me but from Him.

Consider David’s words in Psalm 139:4 “You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD” (NLT).

In other words, God knows, the moment you sit down to read your Bible each morning, when you’re going to flub it in the day ahead.

And He’s already got a plan in place. More than that, He’s ready and able to communicate that plan, to guide you, your thoughts, and your words to those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. (Phil. 4:8)

God is true. God is honorable. God is right, pure, lovely, and admirable.

See where I’m going with this?

What’s the solution to a wayward tongue? To fix our eyes–our thoughts and focus–on God, checking in with Him throughout the day, pausing to acknowledge His presence when we’re stopped at a stop light or waiting in a check-out line. Listening to His soft, gentle whisper that guides us throughout the day and continually draws us to Himself, the only place we’ll receive the strength and peace needed to speak words of love, grace, and truth.

Because living the Christian life isn’t about trying harder but rather, drawing closer to our Savior.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. What is your greatest struggle? How might checking in with God throughout the day help you in that area? How might centering your thoughts on Him fill your heart with praise and peace?

How much room is there for angst, frustration, or ungodliness in a heart filled–saturated–with praise?

If you enjoyed this post, you might find the following helpful:

Grabbing Hold of God Moments

Don’t Try Harder, Love More

Cultivating a Thankful heart

Oh, and since my book launch is but a few days away, and since some of you aren’t on Facebook, I thought you might want to know where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Yesterday I chatted with the editor of Family Fiction about my book, where the story came from, and what I hoped y’all would gain from it. You can read the interview here.

On July 4th and 11th, fellow ACFW writer Janet Sketchley interviewed two of my characters from Beyond I Do. You can get to know Ainsley here and Richard here.

On July 7th I chatted about books in general (and my addiction to them) on Writing For the Soul. You can join the discussion here.

On July 28th, I was honored to be on June Foster’s Author Spotlight. You can join me here.

My sweet friend Jennifer Hallmark was interviewed regarding her contributions to Sweet Freedom, the book itself, and her writing journey. You can read about all that here.

Next month, book launch month, I’ll be all over the web, but unfortunately, I’ve run out of time for link posting. 😉

As a fun aside, I recently finished plotting book three in my Midwestern Romance series, two stories that continue where Beyond I Do leaves off. Here’s hoping my publisher loves the plot and premise for books two and three as much as I do! I should also add, with my books release but days away, the pre-release discount will soon be over. So… if you were planning on buying the book, now’s a great time.

 

 

Mankind can be insanely cruel. From political leaders who murder entire races to parents who abuse then abandon their children, it seems there is no limit to the atrocities inflicted upon man by man. And yet, humans can also be incredibly empathetic, looking deep  into the wounded heart of another, a heart that touches their own and moves them toward active compassion.

EleanorGustafsonAs I read today’s post by Eleanor Gustafson, author of Dynamo and The Stones, I thought back to the movie she referenced. I only saw portions of the Elephant Man, but even short blips were enough to break my heart as I imagined what it must have felt like to be that man. Alone. Isolated by the repulsion of others. Nothing stings quite like rejection. To be accepted, warts, deformities, and all. More than that; to be loved. Isn’t that what we all want?

Today, Eleanor discusses a scene from this poignant, though-provoking movie, bringing it home on a deeper level. As you read her post, pause to honestly, prayerfully evaluate your human condition, scabs and all. Then, consider God’s grace. I believe God’s mercy will appear all the more beautiful. 🙂

Note: Eleanor is giving away a copy of her latest release, Dynamo. Winner will be selected randomly from the comments left on this post or at Living by Grace on Facebook

 

Elephant Man and Communion by Eleanor Gustafson

Some time ago, I happened on a TV rerun of The Elephant Man.  Just the thing to set a person up for Communion the following Sunday.

In the Apostles’ Creed, which our church recites on Communion Sundays, is a phrase, “I believe in . . . the communioncommunion of saints.”  As the Communion elements drifted among the pews, I mentally looked around the congregation (head bowed, eyes closed, of course).  Saints?  Mostly sinners here, the whole lot of us, from the pulpit on down.  Yes, of course I know the phrase doesn’t intend what I’m making it out to mean.  I know it refers to the fellowship of believers made righteous by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  But at that introspective moment it seemed that “communion of sinners” might be more appropriate.

My thoughts eased onto “The Elephant Man”.  The film is based on the account of a real person who lived in England around the turn of the 20th century.  His physical deformity led to years of exploitation as a miserable, autistic, sideshow freak.  A doctor, initially motivated by scientific curiosity, befriended him, moving him to a hospital and caring for him physically.  In the process of trying to help him, the doctor encouraged the man to talk and discovered an amazing intellectual capacity.

The doctor began introducing his patient to friends, showing off this great scientific find.  He dressed him as a gentleman, took him to his home and to other social gatherings, with gratifying response from this cultured audience.  (Never mind that his protégé had become a freak of a different order.)

The drama turns on a scene in which the Elephant Man, in the privacy of his room, begins to indulge in posturing pretension, rehearsing erudite phrases and poses.  At last, he feels, his innate gifts, so long-buried, have gained him social acceptance.

In this moment of pride, a disgruntled “sideshow” huckster, hungry for the fast buck, breaks into the room with his clientele of bar patrons and whores.  Their “fun” lies in observing the shock effect of this monstrosity on women.  In an ultimate act of cruelty, the entrepreneur holds a mirror for the Elephant Man to see his face for the first time. This act totally destroys him, and shortly after, he lies down to die.

mirrorfreflectionCommunion is a mirror.  It reminds us from whence we have come, of our wretched state under that robe of righteousness.  No room for posturing here; we are brought face to face with the enormity of sin.

“Communion of sinners” does seem more appropriate here than “communion of saints.”  We must not forget this dimension of our human condition.  But it’s not the entire picture.  There’s more to the creed than that one phrase.  The whole thing is set to rights at the end with the breathtaking declaration that “God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” grants us “. . . the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.”

Here indeed is grace and hope for all us elephant people.

 

Dynamo:

dynamoCOVER_FB2Jeth Cavanaugh is searching for a new life along one of Pennsylvania’s mountain ridges when he stumbles upon a stable of show jumpers owned by Rob and Katie Chilton. Throw in a volatile gaited stallion named Dynamo, and Jeth will do anything to work there. Jeth earns his living by training and showing Rob’s jumpers, but Dynamo is his primary passion.

Everything changes when God enters his life—in the unconventional form of a hard slap by an old girlfriend—and ignites a new, greater passion within Jeth. But along with fervor comes fear at the undeniable evidence of God’s hand on his life. Inexplicable events, both good and bad, make him moan plaintively, “Why does God do this to me? I get the feeling I’m being set up for something.”

He is, indeed. Jeth’s life is anything but predictable, much like the God he serves. The real Dynamo and his ultimate trainer emerge out of an excruciating mix of disaster and brokenness, which are never beyond the reach of redemption.

This story is God in your face: Who is He really? What does He ask of us?

Eleanor K. Gustafson began thinking up stories when she was five or six. When she started to read, God drew her to Himself with, yes, a story. Her fascination with story continued, but after reading early written attempts, friends and even her mother told her straight-out to stick to music as a career. She pushed manfully along, however, and began publishing both fiction and nonfiction in 1978. Dynamo is her fifth novel and builds off her lifelong love of horses. Her previous title with Whitaker House is The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David.

A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, Eleanor has been actively involved in church life as a minister’s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. Additional experiences include gardening, house construction, tree farming, and parenting—all of which have helped bring color and humor to her fiction. One of her major writing goals has been to make scriptural principles understandable and relevant for today’s readers through the undeniable power of story.

Readers can find out more about Eleanor on her Web site, www.eleanorgustafson.com.

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Let’s talk about this! Grace is amazing, and it’s important we live in LivingbyGracepicgrace, forgetting what is past and moving toward that which lies ahead. And yet, I also think it’s important that we remember where we came from–who we were when Christ grabbed hold of us and where we’d be without His grace. This is humility–recognizing our utter need for God. This, my friends, is what brings us to and keeps us on our knees.

With my book, Beyond I Do’s release approaching, I’ve been preparing for interviews and such, and in so doing, I’ve been contemplating my past–where I was and all God’s done. It can be painful to remember the pit I’d gotten myself into, and yet, it’s also immensely beautiful because it reminds me afresh of God’s radical love, power, and grace. (You can read more about my grace-saturated journey here.)

What about you? Pause to reflect your sin in light of God’s grace. What kind of responses does it evoke? Have you had an “elephant man in the mirror” experience? If so, tell us about it. Not just that moment of self-revelation, but whatever grace God showed you after. Do you believe your experience of that grace was deepened by the revelation of your depravity? How so?

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

 

 

Before I get too far, it has come to my attention that I forgot to post the link to Sweet Freedom’s free kindle version. Here it is: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DPN8WAY

For formatting and cost reasons, the kindle version is black and white. For those of you who want the full-color PDF version, let me know and I can send it to you via email. Those of you who’d prefer a print version can purchase it at cost plus shipping (as soon as it is available). Again, just let me know and I’ll get it to you.

When our daughter was young, Bible reading came easily. I simply added it to our nightly story time. Then the tween years hit, and suddenly it became a struggle. I wanted her to grab hold of her faith–to grow excited about the things of God, but she still seemed to need a great deal of prodding.

I got worried. I knew she was saved, so why wasn’t she hungry for God’s Word? What could I do to help her grow excited about spiritual matters?

I tried everything. Nagging, reminding … nagging. And more nagging.

Until one day, my husband warned me: “You need to chill out. You’re going to drive her away.”

Ouch! But he was right. I was pushing so hard–out of fear–that I turned what should have been a special time between her and her Savior into a have-to and a power struggle between an increasingly independent teen and her hovering, worrying, slightly overbearing mother. 🙂

So I pulled back and increased my prayers, asking God to help me make spiritual matters more natural.

I soon realized the best spiritual discussions flowed from our day–from what God was teaching me.

Deuteronomy 11:13-21 lays out the most effective ways parents can train their children to draw and stay close to God:

13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— 14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. 15 I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

16 Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. 17 Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you. 18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

I imagine many of you are familiar with the latter part of this passage–the portion talking about training your children. But I began at verse 13 on purpose, because we can “teach” ourselves breathless, but if we’re not living our faith out, our words will be nothing more than noise, and annoying noise at that. But when our words are backed up by consistent action–wow, what a powerful example that sets.

It’s really not hard, although at first it might feel awkward, but like anything, the more we do it, the easier it becomes.

I like to use car rides to begin faith conversations. I figure this gives me a captive audience. 🙂

1. I begin with prayer, asking God to help me stay alert to natural opportunities to share what God’s doing in my life. I’ve found openly talking about a personal area in need of growth really helps open our daughter up. Never be afraid to share spiritual struggles with your children–areas where you come up short and where God is working to grow you. This helps remove the “I am parent-you are child, so listen” atmosphere, creating one that is instead more relaxed and loving.

2. Pray out loud. Prayers flit through my brain often, but for some reason, they rarely left my lips. Then one day I realized how many teaching moments I was missing out on simply because I kept my prayers silent. What if I began saying them out loud so my daughter could hear them–not just those family prayers over mealtimes or before bed, but the quick shout-out, one sentence prayers? And what if I verbalized gratitude for things I encountered throughout the day? Would that make it more natural for our daughter to do the same?

3. I began to help my daughter connect the spiritual dots throughout her day–to stay alert to “God-happenings.” A funny thing happened–the more we expressed gratitude for things God had done, the more we saw His hand throughout the day.

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LivingbyGracepic

 

Let’s talk about this. What are some ways you live out God’s commands in Deuteronomy 11? Any special childhood memories you can share, perhaps of a dear grandmother who often told you Bible stories near a crackling fire? Or maybe of a special note with a Bible verse included your mother used to slip into your school lunch? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by   Grace.