Grace quote

Most resolutions fail because they focus on cleaning the outside of the cup (Matt. 23:25)—behavior modification—without dealing with the internal factors that fuel our actions. True and lasting change goes much deeper, to that which drives everything else—our good habits and bad, our acts of love and sin, and our fears and our faith. 

God revealed this truth to me decades ago when I was battling what seemed like an unconquerable eating disorder and intense emotions that often felt out of control. I went to church on Sundays and sang about the all-encompassing grace of Christ, determining to love others like He loved me, only to snap at my daughter, gossip about a friend, and get into an ugly fight with my husband once home. I was a mess, as was my marriage and some of my closest friendships. I knew I needed to live differently if I wanted to experience the joy and peace Christ promised, if I wanted to be the “new creation” Scripture proclaimed. (2 Cor. 5:17).

“Lord, help me, please,” I cried, night after night, making all sorts of promises to Him and myself: The next I day would be different. I’d be more loving, kinder. I’d use words that built up rather than tore others down and wouldn’t get so caught up with the bathroom scale or what I consumed. I’d read my Bible and pray more.

I developed quite a list of dos and don’ts, habits I wanted to incorporate and those I wanted to drop, and a strong desire to follow through. And if I tried hard, if I remained focused on my goals, I could reach them … for a few days, a week, sometimes even a month. 

But I never found freedom. 

Then one night, after having broken my vows yet again, I poured my heart out to God. I felt so weak, like such a failure. I remained there for some time, tears streaming down my face as all my flaws replayed through my mind. But then God shined His light deep into my soul, revealing the roots of my behaviors and why I wasn’t living in the victory Christ had already won for me. 

My battle wasn’t over what I did or didn’t eat, say or do. My problem stemmed from my heart: misplaced loves. Idolatry of myself. Turning to food, entertainment, or shopping for comfort instead of pursuing the soul-deep healing that can only come from Christ. 

That was a life-changing moment for me that I’ve never forgotten, one that has radically changed my goals. Because I know, if my heart is right and fully centered on Christ, everything else will follow. (Proverbs 4:23).

Or to phrase it differently: every behavior, the positive and negative, and accidentally blurted word, flows from the heart. 

So, here’s what I plan to focus on in the year ahead: 

  • I will create margin in my day and week to sit quietly with my Savior, knowing anything good in me comes from Him. And I’ll learn to practice “the pause” more consistently—when I sense frustration, pride, or selfishness rising within, when anxious thoughts threaten my peace, or simply when I begin to feel fatigued. With God’s help, I’ll remember to close my eyes, to breathe deeply, and remind myself of His presence, if only for a moment, knowing every minute spent with Him fortifies my soul. 
  • I’ll trust God to fight my battles. My all-powerful Creator handles them much better than I do, anyway. He knows everything I’m facing, all that lies ahead, and how He plans to use it all for my good and His glory. 
  • I will learn to live in my true identity as His beloved and empowered child, because I know how identity impacts behavior. I won’t live as an orphan who must earn God’s love, who must hide from Him when I fail. Instead, I will consistently turn to Him, my tender and attentive Father, to receive mercy, strength and comfort in my time of need. (Hebrews 4:13). And I will listen for His guidance, knowing He is growing and healing me day by day and prayer by prayer. 

I invite you to join me as together, we choose growth over perfection and connecting with Christ over striving, because that is the life to which we’ve been called; the life Christ died to give us.

New Year quote graphic

Consider that habit you’ve long tried to break, that behavior you’ve consistently fought against. What might God want to reveal regarding its root?  

Some resources to help you stand firm in faith and experience increased freedom in the year ahead:

Fighting Fear With Faith: 30 Daily inspirational messages sent directly to your inbox. Subscribe HERE.

Your Daily Bible Verse podcast: Each 6-10 episode discusses one or two verses and how we can apply their truths to our lives. Listen HERE.

Faith Over Fear podcast: Each episode tackles common fears that hinder our freedom and our calling while discussing the truths that expel them. Listen HERE.

Grow closer to Christ through one of Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plans found HERE.

~*~

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook or Instagram

Sometimes in my most stressful moments, especially this season, I sense God asking me, “Why is this thing you’re fretting over so important?”

Have you ever paused to consider that question? When you’re frustrated because your grocery store is out of fresh green beans and you’ll have to buy frozen? Or maybe when you’ve searched ten stores for that item you know your spouse or child wants and still haven’t found it? Or when you’ve been too busy or tired to put up decorations or to perform whatever task you’re certain will make this Christmas perfect?

Maybe this is a sign of my age, but I’m learning to appreciate and prioritize the most important things. Or, perhaps to phrase it differently, I don’t want to forfeit a peaceful home and heart, relaxed time with my family, silliness and laughter, and memory-making moments for a perfectly roasted turkey. In fact, if I had to choose between eating convenient store hot dogs with my family and a perfect holiday meal surrounded by tension and strife, I’d choose the former every time.

I suspect if asked, most of us would say the same. We just need periodic reminders.

Reminders that:

  • Our attitudes will affect our joy, and potentially our loved ones’ as well, this Christmas more than any gift we give or receive.
  • The house we so frantically clean before company comes over, if used well, will soon become cluttered with jackets placed here and there, discarded wrapping paper, dirty dishes in the sink, and plump little handprints on our windows.
  • Many of the presents we spend so much on this year will eventually be long forgotten.
  • Our smiles, our kind words, the atmosphere of peace and joy we help create, and the way others feel when they’re around us–those are the gifts people will remember for a lifetime.

And when we begin to carry the weight of trying to please someone else, to somehow prove, through our cooking or decorating, cleaning or baking, that we’re a good mother or wife or human being, may we pause and ask ourselves, “Is that really what I choose to be defined by?” And, “Is this person I feel compelled to impress worth my joy and peace?” And perhaps most importantly, “Why does this person trigger my fears of rejection so?”

Because here’s the thing. We might think someone else–their critical or judgmental nature–causes our anxiety. In reality, our inner angst reveals wounding within us and places where we aren’t fully anchored in our true identity in Christ.

This means our most uncomfortable interactions are actually personal growth and healing opportunities. May we see them as invitations to slow down and seek God’s heart, allowing Him to search every wounded and insecure crevice within us, so that He can heal and then fill it with His love.

Oh, what a gift that will be! One that will extend far beyond our tinsel, burnt gingerbread cookies, and over-cooked stuffing.

This, my friends, is the message of Christmas: You are loved. You are loved in your dirty house, cookie-fail, dry turkey, imperfect state by the One who entered into our world to show us what true love looks like.

What’s more you are loved to love. Honestly, that’s our only assignment this Christmas, the one way we can create the most precious–and eternally enduring–memories.

Priceless moments, if we prioritize our to-do list above our presence, that we could easily forfeit.

Friends, that’s much too high a price to pay for any four-course meal, no matter how savory.

What are some things you can release this Christmas, be they seemingly necessary but truly inconsequential tasks, a peace-stealing desire for protection or a drive to please someone who perhaps you can never please-to hold tight to magnify the joy of Christ within you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

If you struggle with a fear of rejection, you might find THIS encouragement helpful. I also encourage you to sign up for my 30 Days of Fighting Fear With Faith Campaign. Then you will receive daily truths designed to increase your godly confidence and freedom. You can sign up HERE.

And make sure to listen to the latest Faith Over Fear episode.

The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88 Faith Over Fear

In our dark and hurting world that is often antagonistic to biblical truth, we might feel tempted to surround ourselves with other Christ-followers and to insulate ourselves from the world. But that isn’t the life to which God calls us. Jesus said that you and I are the light of the world. We’re not meant to be hidden. Instead, God wants us to shine brightly for Him, recognizing that our world needs His life and hope now more than ever. Find Kimi: https://kimimiller.com/ http://whollyloved.com/meet-the-team Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Join the Wholly Loved Community Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails HERE. Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. What are some ways you’ve witnessed God’s light shining through others? 3. How did you feel when you were around those individuals? 4. What are some ways you believe God’s light shines through you? 5. When do you find it easiest to shine with the light of Christ? 6. When do you find it most challenging to shine God’s light? 7. What type of behavior would you equate to turning on the “flood lights”? 8. In what ways can such behavior prove counter productive? 9. When have you sensed God asking you to walk beside someone else when they felt as if their circumstances were particularly dark? 10. What are some ways you tried to bring light into their dark season? Episode Image Credit: Getty/drogatnev
  1. The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88
  2. John the Baptist and the Courage to Look Weird – Ep 87
  3. Podcast Recap: The Best of 2021 – Ep. 86
  4. Christmas with Mary and Joseph: Trusting God to Protect You – Ep. 85
  5. Christmas and the Magi: Trusting God to Lead You – Ep. 84

If this Christmas feels hard, you might enjoy Grace Fox’s short Bible discussion on Matthew 1:23 titled Good News For When Christmas Feels Anything But Joyous.

And … if you’re on Facebook, I invite you to join me for a fun book launch party where I’ll be giving away copies of my upcoming release, Her Small Town Refuge.

About the book:

To secure the future she’s been wishing for,

she must earn her boss’s trust.

Escaping to the Texas Hill Country with her daughter for a vet tech internship is Stephanie Thornton’s chance at a safer life. But when medicine goes missing from Caden Stoughton’s struggling vet clinic, all evidence points to Stephanie. With the new life she’s been searching for hanging in the balance, Stephanie must convince Caden to trust her with his business…and his heart.

Find it HERE.

By Jodie Bailey

(This post first published HERE.)

I clearly remember the Christmas when I was broken. When I felt like heaven was closed and there was no way God was thinking of me.

It was the same Christmas that Jesus put me back together again and reminded me that He sees me. He sees you. Always.

I was 21, in college, and working part-time processing foreclosures for a real estate attorney. My aunt–who was more like a mother–was dying. My family had gone through a series of faith-challenging events that had left us rattled. I was lonely, scared and, frankly, exhausted. Honestly, I hardly recognized myself. 

Needless to say, the week before Christmas I was not feeling the spirit. At all! I was seeking joy in lights and tinsel and gifts, but it simply wasn’t there.

The week before Christmas I was not feeling the Christmas spirit. I was seeking joy in lights and tense and gifts, but it simply wasn’t there.

Our office adopted a family for Christmas and purchased a small tree which, it turned out, they didn’t need. I had our office manager put it in my car so I could deliver it to a friend who couldn’t afford one for Christmas, but as I was leaving work, my friend said she didn’t want one because the family had chosen to be content with what they had. On top of my already foul mood, the refusal of that tree felt insulting.

So there I was, in full Grinch mode, with a live Christmas tree in my backseat and nowhere to take it. 

To add insult to injury, when I got in the car, the gas needle read empty, so I stopped at a station where I almost never stopped. Back then, you had to go inside and pre-pay, so off I went. The guy at the next pump looked at my car and, all Christmas smiles, said, “Hey! Are you headed home to decorate your tree?”

I’m sure he didn’t expect my response as I stomped by him. “Nope. I don’t even want the thing. You can have it.”

When I came back outside, a woman was standing by my car. I’ll never forget her. She had long light brown hair and was wearing jeans and a brown sweater. She was maybe ten years older than I was and she looked as tired as I felt. When I walked up, she hesitantly said, “Did I hear you say you were giving away the tree in your car?”

When I offered her my sharp yes, the wildest thing happened.  

God is working graphic

She started to cry.  

Pointing to her car at the next pump over, she said, “I lost my job and just told my kids today that we couldn’t afford a tree for Christmas. And here you are, giving one away.”

I honestly don’t remember if she said anything after that. I was too stunned: literally shocked into silence which, if you know me, rarely happens. I do remember her helping me get the tree out of my backseat and into hers and watching her drive away.  

That feeling still hits me when I think about that cloudy, damp, cold evening. A sense of right. Of purpose. Of God never forgetting us and never turning a blind eye to our lives. After all, He says over and over in His Word that He will never leave us or forsake us.

See, I was not my best prayerful self during that time of my life.  I’d prayed and prayed for God to move, but the sickness and death kept coming. I was angry with Him for what I perceived to be His silent indifference. It felt like my family was at the bottom of a pit waiting for someone to bury us. Adding to the pain, I was coming out of a season of personal choices I had never imagined I was capable of making. I felt forsaken, hopeless, and alone: like God had opted to turn away from me.

I often wonder if that lady at the gas station felt the same. Jobless and alone at Christmas, trying to care for her children, possibly with no help in sight. But there, in the fluorescent lights of a suburban gas station, God stopped us both. He made sure we saw one another. He reminded both of us that He is exactly who Hagar proclaimed him to be in Genesis 16:1, “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’” 

God stopped us both. He made sure we saw one another. He reminded both of us that He is exactly who Hagar proclaimed Him to be in Genesis 16:13.

Sometimes it feels like we’re lost in our circumstances or choices, like God has turned His back on us. But He hasn’t. Over and over again, He promises never to leave us or forsake us. He says it in Deuteronomy 31:6 and 8, Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5-6… and in so many more verses. My daughter’s childhood favorite, Joshua 1:9, says it clearly: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Christ's light graphic

We might feel alone and unseen, but we never are. Ever! God is always there, always working one step ahead of us, even when we don’t see it.” Because who’d have ever thought a tree bought for one family would make its way into the hands of a Grinch who God would use to bless another family? 

Trust that He sees you and He’s at work, even when circumstances seem dire. And that, as He said in Habakkuk 1:5b, “For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”

Have you ever felt lost and unseen?  Looking back, can you see how God revealed that He really did see you?  Maybe it was an unexpected phone call or an exceptionally beautiful sunrise. Take a moment to look at those dark times in a different light, searching for those moments when God said, “Hello, dear one. I am right here with you.”

Get to Know Jodie:

Jodie Bailey is the USA Today Bestselling author of over twenty inspirational romance novels. She is passionate about writing stories that tell the truth about freedom in Christ. As an Army wife, her favorite heroes to write about are naturally soldiers. She believes that chocolate, coffee, and the beach can cure all ills. Jodie lives in North Carolina with her husband, her kiddo, and a yellow lab who is pretty certain she is the center of the universe.

Visit her online.

Check out her latest release, Captured at Christmas:

An undercover investigation

becomes a mission to keep everyone alive

Undercover with an infantry unit to investigate a theft, military investigator Captain Rachel Blake doesn’t expect the holiday assignment to turn into a protection mission. But when Captain Marshall Slater and his little girl are targeted, she blows her cover to help shield them. Can she figure out the assailant’s motives and stop the attacks before someone ends up dead?

Buy it HERE.

Make sure to check out the latest Faith Over Fear episode:

The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88 Faith Over Fear

In our dark and hurting world that is often antagonistic to biblical truth, we might feel tempted to surround ourselves with other Christ-followers and to insulate ourselves from the world. But that isn’t the life to which God calls us. Jesus said that you and I are the light of the world. We’re not meant to be hidden. Instead, God wants us to shine brightly for Him, recognizing that our world needs His life and hope now more than ever. Find Kimi: https://kimimiller.com/ http://whollyloved.com/meet-the-team Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Join the Wholly Loved Community Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails HERE. Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. What are some ways you’ve witnessed God’s light shining through others? 3. How did you feel when you were around those individuals? 4. What are some ways you believe God’s light shines through you? 5. When do you find it easiest to shine with the light of Christ? 6. When do you find it most challenging to shine God’s light? 7. What type of behavior would you equate to turning on the “flood lights”? 8. In what ways can such behavior prove counter productive? 9. When have you sensed God asking you to walk beside someone else when they felt as if their circumstances were particularly dark? 10. What are some ways you tried to bring light into their dark season? Episode Image Credit: Getty/drogatnev
  1. The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88
  2. John the Baptist and the Courage to Look Weird – Ep 87
  3. Podcast Recap: The Best of 2021 – Ep. 86
  4. Christmas with Mary and Joseph: Trusting God to Protect You – Ep. 85
  5. Christmas and the Magi: Trusting God to Lead You – Ep. 84

And the latest Your Daily Bible Verse podcast episode:

Hearing God's Voice (Isaiah 31:21) Your Daily Bible Verse

Meet Our Hosts:Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.comFollow Jennifer:https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/https://www.facebook.com/JenSlattehttps://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/Grace Fox has published hundreds of articles and authored 10 books including the award-winning devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos. She’s a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries and a regular contributor to Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus. Grace lives aboard a sailboat in Vancouver, British Columbia. Married in 1982, she and her husband celebrate three grown kids and eleven grandchildren.Subscribe to her weekly devotional blog and monthly update on her website: www.gracefox.comFollow Grace:Facebook: www.fb.com/gracefox.authorInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/  Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gracefoxauthor
  1. Hearing God's Voice (Isaiah 31:21)
  2. Diligently Following the Path God Designed for Us (Proverbs 4:25-26)
  3. Surrounded by God (Psalm 125:2)
  4. When We Lack the Oomph to Praise (Psalm 103:1-2)
  5. Do It Afraid (Judges 6:27)

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and follow her on Instagram.

Isaiah 9:6 on an image with Christmas candles in the dark.

We’ve barely entered December, and I’m already tired. I’m suffering from a bit of the bah humbugs that probably come, at least in part, from the shorter, colder and drearier days. I’m tempted to coax through the holidays, and, honestly, to make them all about me. A time to rest, to watch movies and read books. To maybe go out for coffee with my daughter and friends and out to dinner with my man. 

It doesn’t take much for me to turn my focus inward. But it also doesn’t take much for me to lift my gaze, which inevitably lifts my heart as well. I can determine, well-before I attend my first Christmas party, I drop the turkey on the floor, or burn the pumpkin pie, to worship. 

I’m convinced that is the only way I will truly experience enduring, soul-deep joy. The same joy that filled the wisemen’s souls when they encountered the Christ child.

While Scripture doesn’t specify their country of origin, many scholars suggest they might have traveled from modern day Iran, a distance of 1,600 miles or more, most likely by camel. A potentially sixty-day endeavor, round trip. If you’ve ever driven down a bumpy road in a vehicle with no radio, air conditioning, or heat, you can imagine how uncomfortable their journey must have been. And no doubt they experienced challenges, frustrations, and the occasional quarrel along the way. 

Yet still “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10, ESV). 

Matthew 2:10 on a picture with candles.

They rejoiced.

Exceedingly.

With great joy.

I don’t know if Scripture could say this more emphatically. They experienced deep, deep joy.

Because, before their camels stepped foot on that dusty ancient road leading to Israel, they had already decided to worship. (Matthew 2:2)

This posture enabled them to experience something others, like Herod and his scribes, missed–a personal encounter with the living God. 

Friends, regardless of how tired I might feel today, I refuse to be like Herod and the scribes. I refuse to allow a bah humbug attitude to keep me from experiencing an intimate encounter with Christ. This Christmas, I want to approach every festivity, spilled drink, and potentially uncomfortable conversation with the same expectancy that drove the Magi thousands of miles from their home to the Christ child. 

How are you this holiday season? What is most apt to steal your joy or divert your focus from our only real and abiding source of joy? What might your Christmas look like, should you determine, regardless of how dinner turns out, to worship?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

You might also enjoy the latest Your Daily Bible Verse episode below.

Hearing God's Voice (Isaiah 31:21) Your Daily Bible Verse

Meet Our Hosts:Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.comFollow Jennifer:https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/https://www.facebook.com/JenSlattehttps://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/Grace Fox has published hundreds of articles and authored 10 books including the award-winning devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos. She’s a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries and a regular contributor to Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus. Grace lives aboard a sailboat in Vancouver, British Columbia. Married in 1982, she and her husband celebrate three grown kids and eleven grandchildren.Subscribe to her weekly devotional blog and monthly update on her website: www.gracefox.comFollow Grace:Facebook: www.fb.com/gracefox.authorInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/  Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gracefoxauthor
  1. Hearing God's Voice (Isaiah 31:21)
  2. Diligently Following the Path God Designed for Us (Proverbs 4:25-26)
  3. Surrounded by God (Psalm 125:2)
  4. When We Lack the Oomph to Praise (Psalm 103:1-2)
  5. Do It Afraid (Judges 6:27)

May your day be filled with laughter, great conversations, and all the turkey and pie your stomach can hold!

And I’d love to praise God with you! What is one thing you’re most thankful for this year?

If you’re looking to start your day with a nugget of truth, make sure to listen to the latest Your Daily Bible episode to learn how giving thanks safe-guards our joy and fortifies our souls. You can catch the latest episode HERE on LifeAudio.com or wherever you access your favorite podcast content.

Image by Virginia Simionata on Unsplash

For some of you, this first Thanksgiving after the global shutdown will be a time of joy and celebration as you reconnect with family you perhaps haven’t seen in years. Others of you are feeling anxious as you consider the relational tension certain to sour your holiday meal. Arguments over politics, mask-wearing, vaccinations … religion. Maybe even critical and attacking comments that one person inevitably hurls at you, and many times, when you’ve tried to be loving and kind.

That’s often when hurtful statements wound most. 

We can understand and even excuse words uttered in a quarrel. After all, everyone says things they don’t mean on occasion, especially when upset. Verbal assaults cut much deeper when they feel unwarranted by the situation, I think in part because we’re more apt to take them as rejection. 

When my daughter was in high school, one of her classmates seemed intent on making her miserable. My daughter’s discernment, coupled with the insecurities that plague nearly every high schooler across the globe, caused her to wrestle with conflicting emotions. She’s always had what I believe to be a supernatural ability to see deep into people’s hearts, to see the pain and deception motivating their behavior. 

Because of this, she recognized the girl’s ugliness came the darkness and self-loathing within her, but the attacks still stung. One afternoon, after a particularly uncomfortable school day, my daughter came to me in tears. “I don’t understand it. Dani’s* not like this with anyone else. Why does she hate me so much?”

Wrapping her in a hug, I said, “She doesn’t hate you, sweetie.” Then I repeated what a friend told me, years ago when I’d found myself in a similar position. “She’s fighting against Christ in you.” 

God spoke similar words to His prophet Samuel. The last of ancient Israel’s judges, he’d faithfully served God from childhood, and he’d led God’s people well. Not perfectly (1 Sam. 8:2-3), mind you, but well. What’s more, he was the one God had assigned to do so. But they weren’t interested in seeking or following God’s will. They wanted to do what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it, and in this situation, what they wanted to be ruled by a king. 

Rather than the authority of God. 

Although they’d given a much more palatable or respectable reason, the Bible indicates that was the motivation for their words. But Samuel couldn’t see that, most likely because the people’s request seemed so logical, and maybe even warranted. According to Scripture, as Samuel grew old, his appointed his two sons to act as judges over the national of Israel. Unfortunately, these men were either already corrupt or allowed their newfound power to corrupt them, because vese 3 tells us they accepted bribes and perverted justice. Eventually, Israel’s elders banned together and approached Samuel, saying, “You are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have” (NLT).  

And Samuel, the one responsible for raising them to fear God had appointed them to their positions. He must have felt a fair amount of papa-guilt. And granted, he should have been more proactive, as far as his sons were confused, either not commissioning them as judges in the first place, if they’d demonstrated poor character prior, or removing them once they turned corrupt. But either either way, his negligence didn’t justify how the people’s behavior. Their failure to seek God or to talk things out with Samuel. 

Here’s why this is important. You and I are just as flawed as Samuel was, and as was every leader and judge before and after him. Similarly, if pressed, my daughter could have stated numerous reasons for her classmate’s hurtful behavior. Although she’d tried to respond with grace and love, I’m certain she had moments of exasperation, times when she snapped or rolled her eyes and maybe said things she wished she handed. 

You can probably say the same in regard to that one particular family member who’s always so quick to attack you. Do we behave imperfectly? Absolutely. But so does everyone else in the room or with whom the other person has contact with. That doesn’t make us failures; that makes us human. 

If we’re striving for perfection, we’ll inevitably live in self-imposed condemnation, perpetually offended and insecure. We’ll in essence own other people’s poor behavior, meaning, accept it as valid. But God calls us to rise above, to live anchored in His grace.

Woman reading her Bible.

Here’s the truth we must continually remember: If we could live and love perfectly, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to die. But we can’t and He did. Because of that, we are wholly accepted and loved and more than sufficient in Him. 

That doesn’t mean we excuse our sinful tendencies, but it does mean we pursue intentional growth from a position of grace. When we do that, other people’s actions and reactions won’t wound us quite so deeply. 

We won’t place our identity in other people’s opinions or our behavior. We’ll reserve that position for Christ and Christ alone. 

*Name changed for privacy purposes.

If today post resonated with you, you may find the below podcast episode helpful.

The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88 Faith Over Fear

In our dark and hurting world that is often antagonistic to biblical truth, we might feel tempted to surround ourselves with other Christ-followers and to insulate ourselves from the world. But that isn’t the life to which God calls us. Jesus said that you and I are the light of the world. We’re not meant to be hidden. Instead, God wants us to shine brightly for Him, recognizing that our world needs His life and hope now more than ever. Find Kimi: https://kimimiller.com/ http://whollyloved.com/meet-the-team Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Join the Wholly Loved Community Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails HERE. Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. What are some ways you’ve witnessed God’s light shining through others? 3. How did you feel when you were around those individuals? 4. What are some ways you believe God’s light shines through you? 5. When do you find it easiest to shine with the light of Christ? 6. When do you find it most challenging to shine God’s light? 7. What type of behavior would you equate to turning on the “flood lights”? 8. In what ways can such behavior prove counter productive? 9. When have you sensed God asking you to walk beside someone else when they felt as if their circumstances were particularly dark? 10. What are some ways you tried to bring light into their dark season? Episode Image Credit: Getty/drogatnev
  1. The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88
  2. John the Baptist and the Courage to Look Weird – Ep 87
  3. Podcast Recap: The Best of 2021 – Ep. 86
  4. Christmas with Mary and Joseph: Trusting God to Protect You – Ep. 85
  5. Christmas and the Magi: Trusting God to Lead You – Ep. 84

Sad woman sitting on the ground(This post first published in April of 20-9.)

How do you explain God’s love to someone with no concept of it? Someone who’s only known manipulation, conditional and temporary relationships, or partial acceptance coated with the threat of rejection?

I asked that question to a church friend maybe ten years back, and she quickly responded, “You tell them about the cross.”

And I thought, ‘She doesn’t get it.’

She didn’t understand what it felt like to be betrayed and abandoned by the ones who were supposed to protect you and hold you close. She didn’t know the sting of trusting someone, believing they truly loved you, or at least hoping they did, only to have them leave or discard you, without a backwards glance. Or worse.

Our world is filled with those who’ve experienced deep hurts by those who were supposed to love them most, and they carry the scars and distrust, which often presents as anger and skepticism, today.

It’s filled with men and women going through life with deep wounds only Christ can heal and aching holes only He can fill but who, because of past hurts and scars, can’t see Him.

Though He reaches out day after day in a thousand different ways, their hurt-tainted perceptions distort His hand. We keep proclaiming Jesus, but our words seem to have little effect, and we wonder why.

So again I ask, how do you explain the cross to someone who has no concept of true, sacrificial love? How do you help them understand that Christ died not for a cause or movement or to make a statement but for them, so that they could live?

The longer we’ve been followers of Christ, the more removed we can become from this question. We can begin to take His death and resurrection for granted, and in our familiarity with the Good Friday story, we can forget it’s depth. Though I suspect we’ve all wrestled with its implications, at least, if we truly grasped what Christ did and have owned His radical deed for ourselves.

Did you see the Passion movie? I did, and walking in, I felt certain I understood Christ’s sacrifice, what it cost, and the gift I received through it. I knew I was a cherished, redeemed, child of God destined for heaven. But I hadn’t a clue just how loved–unfathomably, deeply and radically–I was.

Then I saw His flesh tear as the metal tipped whip scourged his back. I saw the agony on His face as His executioners hammered nails into His hands and feet. And I saw Him hang, exposed, abandoned and rejected, until, with a final word, “It is finished,” He relinquished His life.

For me.

That was all I could think, as I sat in that dark, quiet yet crowded theater. He did that for me.

Jesus died so that I might live.

Me. Sinful, selfish, and prideful Jennifer Slattery.

Suddenly, what I knew to be true became all the more real. And my only response was, “I’m sorry. Forgive me, Lord, I’m so sorry.”

There was nothing else to say. No promises or declarations or pious acts could compensate for what He’d done.

Jesus showed me, through that film, what true love looks like. A love that gives of oneself completely, until one has nothing left. A love that chooses to die so that others, like me and you, might live.

So again I ask, how do we explain the cross to someone with no concept of love? Someone who’s only known the manipulative, conditional, temporary love often displayed in our culture?

Sure, we could take them to the movie, and we could tell them how Jesus died for them. We could even flesh the story out, doing our best to make it vivid and real.

But first, we must do as our Savior did for us.

We need to show them. We need to demonstrate a love that reaches, perseveres, endures, and sacrifices. A love that remains even when mocked, rejected, and pushed away.

That’s the kind of love our world needs to see. A kind of love that, quite likely, may not make any sense to those receiving it. It may confuse long before it illuminates. But with every kind word and gentle smile, it helps pave the way for a love even more radical and unfathomable than any we can display.

This isn’t the quick, easy answer my friend gave. Nor is it easy to display, but it’s more effective than any gospel tract.

Let’s talk about this. What are some ways you are actively demonstrating the love of Christ? What can you do this lenten season to be God’s ambassador and image bearer–someone who reveals who God is at His core and His heart for mankind? Share your thoughts and examples with us in the comments below, because we can all encourage and challenge one another!

Long before the taliban came into existence and the CoronaVirus hit our world, eighteenth century theologian Matthew Henry wrote, “All human life is warfare.”

I imagine, many of us have felt the reality of that statement over the past few years. We have a real and relentless enemy bent on our destruction. And every mighty movement of God seems to trigger an explosion of evil. 

Yet, quickly review our world’s history and you’ll see, every explosion of evil also triggers a mighty and beautiful movement of God. A movement revealed not through loud displays of power but rather quiet, yet inspiring and contagious, demonstrations of grace and love. 

Radiant displays of beauty that reveal our radiant Lord.

This battle, at times, is exhausting. But we must never allow it to become defeating. Or deceiving.

What we’re experiencing and witnessing today, it’s not new. The players may shift, but wars continue to rage, terrorists rise up, are conquered or supplanted and new ones take their place. Friends and family betray one another and children experience abuse and neglect, and often, by the hands of the very ones who were supposed to keep them safe. 

Surrounded by such ugliness, it’s easy to get caught in the fray. To allow the ugliness to seep in and then out of us. Adding hurt upon hurt, brokenness upon brokenness. 

But God infused within us incredible, untarnishable beauty: life, love and light strong enough to shatter the darkness that tries to press in. 

Decades ago, our family visited the Grand Canyon, and I went hiking along the Kaibab trail. I don’t know what the trail looks like during blooming season, but when I was there, it was dry and largely barren. Which is why each desert flower I saw had such an impact. The colors were so vibrant against the landscape of brown. Each one drew me, and I was intrigued by the tenacity with which it grew. 

The tenacity that allowed the seed that became that blossom to grow while other seeds remained dead in the dry soil and other emerging plants withered away in the unrelenting heat. 

Reflecting back on every sign of life I encountered, I sense God asking me, “Which will you be? The seed that never grew. That lay dormant, engulfed, lifeless by its environment? The blossom that sprouts for a moment, maybe a day or a week, but then allows the harsh realities surrounding it to destroy the sweet aroma I created it to produce?”

Who will claim the victory of my life, my enemy, who is bent on my destruction, or the God who died that I might live?

And I’m not speaking about salvation here. I’m assuming most of you reading this belong to Christ. That you’ve accepted His gift of spiritual life, but that doesn’t mean you’re living in the victory of it. 

Are you believing the lies that say you’re powerless, ineffective, unimportant, and besieged? 

As I said previously, for every miraculous movement of God, our world experiences a countermovement of evil. Consider all that occurred after Christ’s death. In a moment, the church was born and division and social hierarchies broken as the gospel united people of all nations. (Acts 2:1-41) Soon after, however, a wave of persecution hit. And to some, this may have felt like the end. Their circumstances hopeless.

But just as life ignites our enemy to attack us with death, so his attacks spur God to unleash unconquerable bursts of life. In the first century, He did this by inspiring His persecuted children to share the gospel in each place to which they’d fled. 

Dotting the landscape with beauty through His ever-blossoming, soul-beautiful children.

Just as He’s doing today, through you and I. 

This war we’re in, it’s personal. We’re called, empowered and commissioned, which is precisely why we’re under attack.    

Satan will try to destroy the most beautiful parts of you. The parts of you that most radiate Jesus. That gift of compassion that reveals the heart of the One who wept over Jerusalem’s hard-heartedness, deception, and impending destruction (Luke 19:41-44), and who wept before raising Lazarus from the dead as well (John 11:38-44). 

A gift intended to radiate a unique, life-changing aspect of Christ, of who He is at His core. A gift that should, in its expression, bring joy, but that Satan will twist to feel burdensome. Or, through the hurtful words of others, diminish by telling you that you’re defective, too sensitive. That you feel too intensely, enticing you to withdraw and isolate. To hide behind a facade of “strength” and stoicism.

If God has planted leadership skills within you, satan will tarnish your strength with pride, causing that gift intended to unite and mobilize the kingdom to wound and divide. Or, again, through the hurtful words of others, tell you you’re domineering or prideful. Maybe too loud. Tempting you to hold your tongue, to keep your head down, and to “go with the flow” even when you know things are flowing toward a deadly waterfall. 

In short, satan will try to entice us to fight one another and ourselves. To become self-obsessed, easily offended, and defensive, rather than leaning deeper into Christ and His love. 

But we know our enemy’s tactics. We have an entire book recording his futile attempts, and they are indeed futile, because our play book assures us, Christ has already won. He broke the power of death and replaced it with vibrant and beautiful life. 

And He’s working, day by day and wound by wound, to replace our rubble, the ashes our enemy created in our lives, with untarnishable beauty. 

That’s why Jesus came. Speaking of our Savior, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3, NASB).

That’s what God did through Jesus. He turned our mourning into dancing, swept away the ashes and rubble our sin and the sins of others created, and gave us a Spirit of strength, joy, and praise.

Now, He’s inviting you and I to live in that. To be part of the mighty movement of God that will, and even is now, rising up against the onslaught of our world’s evil. And not through ugliness and arguments but, through our words and actions, by sprinkling flower seeds wherever we go and plunging our roots deep into the One who nourishes and refreshes our souls. 

Now for the Book GiveAway

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

Chasing Her Dream:

She needs his help…

But can she trust him again?

After she inherits her uncle’s mismanaged ranch, single mom Rheanna Stone’s not sure she can also handle saving abused horses from a nearby property. So when rancher Dave Brewster offers to stay in town to help, she can’t say no—even if he left her once before. As they grow closer, old secrets are uncovered…but can they heal past heartbreak to give themselves a new beginning?

From Love Inspired: Uplifting stories of faith, forgiveness and hope.

Find it HERE.

The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88 Faith Over Fear

In our dark and hurting world that is often antagonistic to biblical truth, we might feel tempted to surround ourselves with other Christ-followers and to insulate ourselves from the world. But that isn’t the life to which God calls us. Jesus said that you and I are the light of the world. We’re not meant to be hidden. Instead, God wants us to shine brightly for Him, recognizing that our world needs His life and hope now more than ever. Find Kimi: https://kimimiller.com/ http://whollyloved.com/meet-the-team Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Join the Wholly Loved Community Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails HERE. Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. What are some ways you’ve witnessed God’s light shining through others? 3. How did you feel when you were around those individuals? 4. What are some ways you believe God’s light shines through you? 5. When do you find it easiest to shine with the light of Christ? 6. When do you find it most challenging to shine God’s light? 7. What type of behavior would you equate to turning on the “flood lights”? 8. In what ways can such behavior prove counter productive? 9. When have you sensed God asking you to walk beside someone else when they felt as if their circumstances were particularly dark? 10. What are some ways you tried to bring light into their dark season? Episode Image Credit: Getty/drogatnev
  1. The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88
  2. John the Baptist and the Courage to Look Weird – Ep 87
  3. Podcast Recap: The Best of 2021 – Ep. 86
  4. Christmas with Mary and Joseph: Trusting God to Protect You – Ep. 85
  5. Christmas and the Magi: Trusting God to Lead You – Ep. 84

Image of a candle with quote from Andrew Murray.

Early in my ministry, I often exhausted myself trying to manage everything. Though I knew with certainty my assignment came directly from God, I routinely behaved as if He expected me to carry the load alone. As if results came through sheer grit rather than the works of His hands.

When one of my team members forgot or failed to complete a task, I felt responsible to step in and catch every ball that happened to get dropped. Though I talked a great deal about faith-filled, surrendered living, I routinely behaved as if our results depended on me. Unfortunately, my attitude trickled down to everyone else, turning roles that should’ve brought us great joy, fulfillment, and ever-deepening connections with our Savior into tiresome, anxiety-producing chores.

I knew, intellectually, I wasn’t living or leading as God desired but lacked the courage to slow my hustle. I felt like if I did, we’d fail. When it was my very fear of failure that steadily and rapidly led me in that direction by decreasing my reliance on Christ, my source of wisdom and strength. While, sadly, proclaiming the power of surrender, demonstrating perhaps my heart didn’t believe what my mouth proclaimed.

Then, one spring, life hit many of my team members hard. Hurricanes threw some off balance. Family illnesses left others struggling to think straight let alone write or create. At first, I tried to work harder and faster but this only led to burnout with little visible growth.

My inspiration and vision squashed, I wanted to quit. And so, for a time, I basically did. We all did, in fact, for nearly six months. I expected to see all that we’d worked for begin to fade until our organization died completely, like so many others I’d seen pop up then disappear over the years.

Instead, we grew. And when the Coronavirus forced us to cancel a year’s worth of events, and therefore a year’s worth of funding, we grew again in terms of readership, impact, and volunteers. Through this, God reminded me of something, in all my running, I’d seemed to have forgotten. The God who formed, redeemed, molded, and empowers me doesn’t need me to perform or to strive. Instead, He invites me to yield and to trust. Or rather, to shift my trust—off of myself and place it where it belongs, on Him.

Isaiah 30:15a says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (NIV).  God spoke these words to ancient Israel when the Assyrian army was coming against them. Grossly overpowered from a human perspective, they were terrified. In their desperation, they turned to Egypt, with its iron chariots and well-trained army, placing more faith in the might of man than God Almighty. They thought they were aligning themselves with strength. But by distancing themselves from the God who loved them, they were actually increasing their weakness.

God beckoned them to return to Him, the One who had proven His faithfulness again and again, but they refused to listen. And while I can recognize the foolishness of their actions when reading the historical account from the comfort of my bedroom, I much too frequently behave like them when I feel under attack. I soon realize, however, how insufficient my most fervent efforts and greatest allies truly are, when formed apart from Christ. But the moment I turn back to Him in faith, however, God fights on my behalf, makes up for my lack, and gives me everything I need to do all He’s asked, just as He did for ancient Israel when King Hezekiah humbled himself and turned to God.

Image of woman sitting on bench at dusk.

Then, his soul was quieted and at peace, not panicked, rushed or confused.

Though choosing surrender, especially when the stakes seem high, can feel incredibly frightening, doing so places us in a position of power and strength. I’m reminding myself of this truth now as I am about to enter into a busy season, returning to school while writing, speaking, leading a ministry … When people ask how I’ll manage it all, I smile and say that I have an amazing team. And I do, but even more than that, we serve an amazing God. I know He will carry everything He wants to thrive. Therefore, whatever areas fall short must not be from Him, because He is big enough and strong enough to perfect all that concerns us.

All that concerns you as well.   

Let’s talk about this! What or who are you tempted to place your trust in? What might it look like for you to fully rely on Christ? Share your comments, thoughts, and examples with us in the comments below because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram. And make sure to check out the latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode.

The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88 Faith Over Fear

In our dark and hurting world that is often antagonistic to biblical truth, we might feel tempted to surround ourselves with other Christ-followers and to insulate ourselves from the world. But that isn’t the life to which God calls us. Jesus said that you and I are the light of the world. We’re not meant to be hidden. Instead, God wants us to shine brightly for Him, recognizing that our world needs His life and hope now more than ever. Find Kimi: https://kimimiller.com/ http://whollyloved.com/meet-the-team Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Join the Wholly Loved Community Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails HERE. Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. What are some ways you’ve witnessed God’s light shining through others? 3. How did you feel when you were around those individuals? 4. What are some ways you believe God’s light shines through you? 5. When do you find it easiest to shine with the light of Christ? 6. When do you find it most challenging to shine God’s light? 7. What type of behavior would you equate to turning on the “flood lights”? 8. In what ways can such behavior prove counter productive? 9. When have you sensed God asking you to walk beside someone else when they felt as if their circumstances were particularly dark? 10. What are some ways you tried to bring light into their dark season? Episode Image Credit: Getty/drogatnev
  1. The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88
  2. John the Baptist and the Courage to Look Weird – Ep 87
  3. Podcast Recap: The Best of 2021 – Ep. 86
  4. Christmas with Mary and Joseph: Trusting God to Protect You – Ep. 85
  5. Christmas and the Magi: Trusting God to Lead You – Ep. 84