The Danger of Words

It’s interesting how vehemently the Christian community come against some sins while others are tolerated. Almost expected. Entertained even.

When we lived in Southern California, our church went through an ugly split. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew people were hurt. I could hear it in our pastor’s voice, when he spoke to the congregation. I could see it on his wife’s face, when her tears flowed during worship.

Though I was ignorant to the issue, I could feel the toxic tension every Sunday.

I wonder if this was what Timothy felt whenever he stepped up to speak. Did he sense the tension that arose from the false teachers who, though small in number, had such influence over the congregation? And what was going on with the women who appeared to be jockeying for position and fighting for prestige. (1 Tim. 2:9-10)

What did their conversations look like?

You’ve probably encountered women like them—ladies who are so consumed with pride, in impressing others and gaining power, they don’t care who they hurt. Under the guise of venting, they gossip and slander, creating an infectious mess that hinders the work of Christ.

When you read 1 Timothy 3, you may notice, verse 11 is directed specifically to women. Why do you think that is?

Perhaps because we tend to sin with our tongues?

Paul tells Timothy the women “must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do” (NLT).

The Greek word translated as slander (or slanderer) here means an accuser or one who makes charges that bring others down.

John MacArthur says, “It’s a title frequently given to Satan.” (Matt. 4:5, 8, 11, 13:39; Luke 4:3, 5, 6, 13; 8:12 …)

That doesn’t surprise me. Satan is a destroyer bent on thwarting God’s plans, causing confusion and disunity, and shattering the most sacred of all relationships.

In Southern California I had a friend with a child my daughter’s age. We’d meet on occasion, at the park, her house, or mine. Most of the time, our conversations remained surface level, until one day she started to “vent.”

She’d gotten herself swept up with whatever was going on in the church and “verbally processed” her feelings and conclusions to me., much of which involved not facts but her opinion of our pastor.

I left confused and concerned. I still didn’t know the full situation—only this one woman’s perceptions. And even though I didn’t want to be involved, even though I had no business being involved, I began to question.

Was our pastor really like she said? As I was driving home processing all this, a thought emerged: This is how Satan works. This is how he destroys churches and relationships.

That ended my “musings” immediately.

Granted, there are things we should investigate and get concerned about. We must protect truth. We should lovingly confront sin. But not through “venting,” or gossip or trying to pull everyone else into the mess. Jesus laid out clear instructions for how we should handle conflict in Matthew 18:15-19, and if you’ll read them, you’ll notice, never once does He tell us to stir the pot or spew our feelings to whoever will listen or even to our besties. We’re to go directly to the individual.

Our tongues can speak life or death, can foster unity or disunity, can create healing and reconciliation or hurt and destruction. If we want to verbally process, may we go to God. He’s the only One who knows the full situation—and solution—anyway. And in everything we do say, may we follow Paul’s commands in Ephesians 4:29:

“No foul (unwholesome, useless, rotten, or of poor quality) words come from [our mouths], but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.”

Can you sense God’s call to love in that verse? Not self-love that focuses on our feelings, the offense done to us, or our need to verbally unload, but rather what is good for the body of Christ and God’s kingdom. Rooted in a love that is other’s focused—a love that comes from “a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).

What are some things can you do when your in a conversation where a person or the group begins to gossip or slanderous things?

Christian Friendship

Photo by Serge Bertasius taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Serge Bertasius taken from freedigitalphotos.net

How does Christianity translate into our friendships? Author Cherie Burbach offers the answer in today’s guest blog post. As you read, keep in mind those friendships you want to nurture, and remember the ones you want to begin too.

But first, I want to announce the winner of last week’s give-away. Elizabeth Dent, congrats! You won a copy of Darlene Franklin’s latest release, Christmas Mail Order Angels. I’ll be contacting you soon to chat about the best way to get that to you.

For those of you who didn’t win, don’t fret; you have a chance to win an equally awesome novel today!

GIVE-AWAY ALERT! Cheri is giving away one free copy of her latest release, 100 Simple Ways to Have More Friends. A winner will be randomly selected from the comments and shipping is only available to those living in the continental US.

Christian Friendships by author Cherie Burbach

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor.

One reason I like writing about relationships is because it’s universal. No matter who we are or where we come from, we all share a desire to be liked, to feel cared about, and be respected. We just want to get along. Despite the strife and arguments the world experiences, in the end we really do want peace.

As Christians, it can be difficult to show our best to people. And yet, we must do this.

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photo taken from freedigitalphotos.net by tiramisustudio

John 15:12-15 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

A very wise friend of mine once said, “We’re called to love one another. Not like each other.” Loving is harder. It involves rising above pettiness and the exterior of someone’s personality and looking instead at that person the way God would. God doesn’t always agree with our choices but He loves us. We can do the same. We can simply open our hearts and move beyond the things we don’t agree with, leave judgement to God, and show love. Friendship is the first step to that.

About 100 Simple Ways to Have More Friends:

51xZ3DOlc5L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The more friends you have, the more you’ll have the right people in your life to give you the support and connection you desire. Having more friends means you’ll consistently connect with new people and also keep the good friends you already have. If your friendships don’t seem to stick, you’ll be making friends and losing them quickly. The key to having more friends is increasing the number of people you meet on a regular basis and holding on to the great pals you already have.

This book contains one hundred suggestions on how to make new friends and also strengthen the friendships you already have. The tips are varied, with suggestions on how to meet new people interspersed with ideas for nurturing your new and existing friendships.

Cherie Burbach has written about relationships for over a decade at places like About.com, NBC/Universal, Match.com, Christianity Today, and more. She’s penned 17 books, her latest of which is 100 Simple Ways to Have More Friends. Visit her website for more info, cherieburbach.com.

Let’s talk about this. Lately, numerous women have toldlivingbygracepic.jp me they have a difficult time forming friendships and making connections with other women. I think there are numerous reasons for this (and for those who are local, I’ll be talking about this at an upcoming Moms group meeting in January), more than can be addressed in one blog post. But I do think forming and maintaining meaningful connections takes work, and perseverance. And it requires us to embrace risk, because reaching out can be scary.

Do you feel you have meaningful connections, and if so, do you have tips to offer others who may not feel the same? If not, is there something you can do this week to connect with others? Also, look at your relationship history. Do you tend to cycle through friendships or maintain relationships? How do you handle conflict when it arises? What do you do when a friend hurts you? Do you walk away or do the hard work to move past the hurt and deepen the relationships?

Heavy subject, but an important one, I feel. Share your thoughts and experiences in the commends below, because we can all learn from one another!

Lifting Your Heart and Maintaining Your Sanity

Stock images photo taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Stock images photo taken from freedigitalphotos.net

When you see heads turning during worship, people cringing, others whispering… you know Jennifer Slattery is close by. Kicked out of campus choir my freshman year in high school for, and I quote, “throwing the entire choir off-key”, you’d think I would’ve learned to keep my mouth closed, or at least, to sing quieter. But nope. Can’t do it.

Considering I’m tone-deaf, embarrassingly so, some find it odd that music plays such a big part in my walk with Christ. And yet, there’s something profoundly spiritual about lifting our hearts in praise musically. Today my sweet friend and multi-published author LoRee Peery shares some beautiful thoughts on singing.

But first… I wanted to invite you to join me on Dawn Janis’ blog as I talk about the niggling of a story that came in the middle of the Katrina chaos, an idea that was soon forgotten, but ultimately, blossomed into a novel reviewers have called hilarious and heartwarming. Read more HERE.

A Song in My Heart from LoRee Peery

Have you ever considered the possibility of going to jail for being a Christian? What would occupy your mind? You can be assured there’d be no Bible behind those bars.

I have no doubt the Holy Spirit would bring verses and passages to mind, but I believe I’d sing to keep my focus on the Lord as well as to keep my sanity.

David and other psalmists filled the book of Psalms with singing. My Bible is filled with underlined verses referring to music. We are to sing to the Lord, sing for joy, and sing praises.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth, Psalm 8:1.

His song will be with me in the night, Psalm, 42:8.

I will praise the name of God with song, Psalm 69:30.

The Bible references psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We are to sing from a thankful heart and with a joyful soul.

Photo by Alexas_Fotos taken from pixabay.com

Photo by Alexas_Fotos taken from pixabay.com

Sing! Sing of His strength, and praise His mighty power.

My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God, Psalm 84:2.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live, Psalm 104:33.

Sing to the Lord a new song, Psalm 149:1.

We are to use tongue, mouth, lips, flesh, and instruments, according to the writers of the Psalms.

May you take to heart, and implant in your soul, the words you voice during future times of Sunday worship. Go ahead and sing as you meditate on the Psalms.

Oh, my dear Author of music, I pray no matter where You plant me in life, You will bring a song to my heart and mind. I praise you for who You are, I praise You for past victories. I praise You for now. I long to forever sing from my soul to your ear. In your precious Name, amen.

First choiceChristian romance author LoRee Peery writes to feel alive, as a way of contributing, and to pass forward the hope of rescue from sin. She writes of redeeming grace with a sense of place. LoRee clings to I John 5:4 and prays her family sees that faith. She has authored the Frivolities Series and other e-books. Her desire for readers, the same as for her characters, is to discover where they fit in this life journey to best work out the Lord’s life plan. She is who she is by the grace of God: Christian, country girl, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend, and author. She’s been a reader since before kindergarten. One day she slapped a story in her lap. “I could write better than this.” (Lofty assumption, eh?) Her dear hubby challenged, “Why don’t you?” Thus her writing journey began many moons ago.

Her latest release is titled Where Hearts Meet:

Shattered by the loss of her parents, Deena pours her love into her patients at an assisted living facility. When the son of oneWhereHeartsMeet_w11796_300 her charges starts showing up to spend time with his mother, Deena’s wary heart is warmed by his attention to his mother…and to her. Simon is plagued by his ex-wife’s disappearance years before. When he meets Deena, who closely resembles the woman, he fears his attraction is based only on Deena’s looks. But she exhibits a warmth his ex-wife never had. Dare he risk his once broken heart? As two lonely souls pursue a tentative, budding love, secrets and lies come forward to tear them apart. Can Simon and Deena overcome loss and allow their hearts to mend?

But it HERE!

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! In what ways has music helped to center your heart in Christ or bring you peace and comfort during a difficult time? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Speaking of music and praise, I hope you’ll join me and my Takin’ it to the Streets friends for a hilarious, musical, unexpected night of talented performers, exceptional speakers, and great auction items. Tickets are available at Divine Truth Christian BookstoreReality Church, and can be purchased at the door.

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YOU Are the Church

Photo by Marcolm taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Marcolm taken from freedigitalphotos.net

There are numerous articles expounding on all that’s wrong with the church. They’re trying to be too contemporary, too relevant. They’re behind the times. They’re full of hypocrites, ran by hypocrites. They’re too judgmental, or too lenient, or too rigid, or to laxed…

I could go on, but I choose not to.

I’d rather remind us all that WE are the church. We are the ones whom Christ sent out, to help the poor, love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, to die to ourselves and “to find common ground with everyone, doing everything [we] can to save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22b).

Because let’s face it, our pastors are outnumbered. In a congregation of 500, in a given week, you’ll have those who are sick and in need of visitation, those who are struggling financially and in need of aid, single moms who are lonely and in need of a friend, and I could go on. And on. And on.

Sadly, there will likely always be more needs than resources to meet them. That benevolence fund created to help families in need eventually runs dry, and needs you and I to contribute to it. Because the funds for ministries aimed at showing Christ’s love and helping our communities come from you and I.

As I type this, I’m thinking of Jesus’ advice in Matthew 7:3-5

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (NLT).

The hypocrite, it seems, is the one who criticizes others without taking the time to evaluate themselves, without taking the time to zero in on and remove the plank that’s distorting their vision.

When I do this, when I focus on my vision-distorting plank, I suddenly remember all the times I chose to buy a latte rather than giving to a need. Or when I avoided that which was inconvenient or awkward–the reaching out to a new neighbor, or watching the children of a single mother, or cleaning the house of a shut-in–to do that which was most pleasurable.

Each day, I make selfish, non-loving choices. Each day, I get caught up in my agenda, or my schedule, or even the 5,000 thoughts swirling through my popcorn-kernelling brain. Leaving those I love and want to love hurt in my wake.

And each day, I must confess this selfish side of me to Christ, asking Him to help me do better, to love better, and to better Lovewithactionversereflect who He is.

So let’s drop our pointing fingers, set aside our debates, roll up our sleeves and get to work. Because there’s a big, hurting world out there, a world of incredible needs, and it’s going to take all of us, working together, to meet them. To love them. And to reach this generation for Christ.

Unity of the gospel is a powerful thing.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this! How do you feel about the points raised in this post? (If you disagree, that’s totally OK! 🙂 ) When have you been tempted to focus on another’s faults or weaknesses, either personally or in relation to their ministry? How did God bring you back to a place of unity? Why do you think people are often quick to point fingers at the church? What are the dangers in doing so?

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

And before you go, I wanted to introduce you to our newest addition to the Living by Grace team: Susan Aken! My regularly readers are probably fairly familiar with Susan and her writing by now, as I’ve had her on here numerous times. She has such a heart for Christ and such a sweet, humble way of presenting thought provoking truth. She’ll be hosting on Mondays. In the meantime, visit her blog (HERE) and tell her hello!

And, if you haven’t done so, I encourage you to sign up for my (our) free quarterly newsletter. When you do, not only will you receive great content (serial story segments, devotions, recipes, and more!), but you’ll also receive free e-copies of my two compilations: Sweet Freedom With a Slice of Peach Cobbler and Sweet Freedom Ala Mode. So sign up now! 🙂 (If you’ve already signed up but didn’t receive your free copy yet, please let me know! I’ve had some emails bounce back on me.)

 

Get Your Battle Gear on!

ID-10075977Have you ever felt like life is hurling flaming arrows at you? Like every step forward provokes yet one obstacle after another? Could be God’s training you, could be He’s redirecting you, or it could be you have an enemy lurking in the shadows, watching you, planning your demise. But before you become discouraged or afraid, take comfort in this: Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. Today a sweet Christian lady and fellow ACFW member, Alexis Goring, shares some powerful marching orders, challenging us to live not as victims but victors. As you read her devotion, pause to connect with your power source.

The Christian Life

 by Alexis A. Goring

“It’s not the devil’s plan to convert us but to simply divert us.” – Pastor Peter Bath.

Pastor Bath is one wise preacher because in that simple quote, he uncovered a key strategy of the enemy—the devil sends diversions that rob us of our joy, peace and patience. If we’re not careful, the devil’s ploys can also rob us of our salvation which is why the Holy Bible tells us to put on the “full armor of God” every day (Ephesians 6:11-17) for the battles we are facing are not with “flesh and blood” but with against principalities, powers and “spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Did you think that the person who cut you off on the freeway was your enemy or the person who offended you was your true problem? No, they were merely distractions because the real problem is not with the person who cut you off on the freeway or the person you don’t like because they offended you. There is a deeper level to life happening every day and Christians are on the frontlines.

“The Christian life is not a playground,” Pastor Steven Furtick, said. “it’s a battleground.”ID-100225188

Pastor Furtick is another man of God who is wise and on-point with his sermons. His creative team at Elevation Church based in North Carolina, created a video message, “I Will Fight” that is very inspirational and true to what I’m telling you today. If you need encouragement in your journey, watch the video here:


Here’s an excerpt:

“The devil is a liar and my God always causes me to triumph through Jesus Christ my Lord. I will fight. I’m unashamed to represent a kingdom that is unshakable. No one will be able to stand against God’s plan for me all the days of my life. With my God, I will advance against every troop, with His help, I will scale every wall. Though my enemies surround me, my God surrounds my enemies. Though they may come at me one way, they will flee seven ways because no weapon formed against me will prosper and every evil thing that rises against me, I will condemn. I will fight! My heart is steadfast, my purpose is immovable. I am always abounding in the work of the Lord and my potential is unlimited because the limitless God lives within me. I will fight!”

Now that’s an attitude we all need to have as Christians. Don’t let the enemy discourage or divert you. It’s his plan to divert your focus from God and emphasize the troubles and despair of this world. But there is hope because God is more powerful than the enemy and clearly the Bible tells us in the Book of Revelation that at the end of human history, God wins! Stay on the winning side—keep your faith in God alive and strong. Don’t be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the battles you face in this life. Remember, you can be victorious in this life through Jesus Christ! The Bible says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

So take heart, dear ones as your remember these simple truths: God loves you (John 3:16). God is for you (Romans 8:31). God will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5) and you can have the victory in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, (1 Corinthians 15:57)!

I think we’ve reached the point in this devotional where if we were in church service, the pastor would say, “And let the church say Amen.”

Be blessed!

@ByGoring, pic 2

Alexis A. Goring is a college graduate with a degree in print journalism from Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Maryland. Writing is her passion. She hopes that her stories will touch hearts, bring smiles to faces, and inspire minds to seek God whose love for humanity is unfailing.

 

Social media links:

Official website, http://www.alexisagoring.com/

Official Author page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAlexisAGoring

Twitter handle, @pennedbyalex

 

 

Media image (1)Hope in My Heart is a collection of short, heartwarming stories with characters in need of hope.

In “Love Unexpected,” a car crash brings commitment-wary Sebastian and career woman Chandra together. Neither is looking for romance, but those around them see the potential, and Sebastian and Chandra discover that sometimes love shows up unexpectedly.

Christmastime is the setting for the middle story, “The Best Gift.” Christina desires to lose ten pounds so she can fit into her dress for her sister’s wedding. Jordan wishes her mom would stop trying to marry her off. And Joshua hopes to be reunited with his ex-girlfriend but eventually learns that the best gift this Christmas will be the restoration of his relationship with God.

In “Peace and Love,” three characters living in a metropolitan area are desperately searching. Elle, a starving artist, aspires to become a paid professional. Eric, a divorce attorney, wants to resolve his issues concerning his parents’ divorce. Kristine anticipates finding her birth mom before she marries Derek. All characters pray their searches will conclude this holiday season and fill their hearts with peace and love.

 

Purchase links:

Amazon.com, http://amzn.to/1it3pxT

BarnesandNoble.com, http://bit.ly/1mGHW95

Books-A-Million.com, http://bit.ly/1kLQviX

Christianbook.com, http://bit.ly/1heBcjV

Crossbooks.com, http://bit.ly/1it47eJ

Lifeway.com, http://lfwy.co/1kLQStR

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! When talking about spiritual warfare, the idea that we do indeed have a spiritual enemy–Satan and his demons–we can often err one of two ways: We can become obsessed with the idea, attributing every minor frustration to Satanic activity, cowering in fear, or we can underestimate the unseen world and continue in ignorance. Or, we can proceed with a healthy awareness, continually connected with our power source, staying strong and alert in the battle. Where are you on this spectrum? What are you doing today to stay strong in your faith? Share your ideas here or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Normally, I’d add a list of places of where I’ve been this past week, but… I’m a bit tired and behind. So… Join me on Facebook? 🙂

I did have a wonderful signing last weekend and felt such an outpouring of love from my sisters in Christ. A good chunk of my Northland Baptist church family came, reminding me that though we’ve moved, we’re still part of that sweet family. 🙂 I 2015-01-31 12.54.11-2also got to connect with Gale Perkins, the courageous, strong Christian woman my main female character in When Dawn Breaks is based on. It was fun to share her story with book buyers, plus, Destinee, the teenage girl she adopted came, and both of them did some signing as well.

This Saturday I’m sharing the story of how God turned Steve and my failing marriage into a growing, intimate, laughter filled romance that has lasted 20 years (and counting!). If you’re in the Omaha Metro, I’d love for you to join me. Email me at jenniferaslattery@gmail.com for details.

Following this, I’ll be signing books at the Bookworm, an independent bookseller in Omaha. I’d love to see some friendly faces! If you can’t make it but would like to purchase a personalized, autographed copy, call the store, and I’m sure they’ll work something out. 🙂

BooksigningposterforBookwormInOmaha BooksigningposterforBookwormInOmaha file-page1

Becoming a Spiritual Cheerleader

One aptly spoken accolade can go a long way toward motivating positive change, giving strength to the weary, and perseverance to those trudging through the mundane. And to the contrary–silence can sap a friend, ministry team member, child, or spouse’s strength. Consider the following: My daughter loves art, and I believe she’s quite good at it. But… she didn’t start out good. No one does. Everyone begins with scribbles which progress to stick figures. Sure, some will show more aptitude than others, but aptitude alone doesn’t necessarily lead to growth. There’s a key ingredient, I believe, in growth and that is encouragement. Hearing someone say, “You’re good at that,” often motivates one to try harder and be better.

In Hebrews 10:24 Paul encourages us to be one another’s cheerleaders when he says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (NLT). Today my sweet friend and coffee buddy, LoRee Peery takes a deeper look at this important word, sharing tangible ways we can stand behind and walk beside our brothers and sisters in Christ. As you read her fun devotion, I encourage you to pause to take time to look up and read each verse, asking God to help you put it into practice.

But first, I wanted to announce the winner of last week’s give-away! Sheila Hall, congrats! You won a copy of Shannon Taylor Vannatter’s novel, Rodeo Family! I’ll contact you shortly! 

And speaking of give-aways, Amazon is practically giving away my debut novel, Beyond I Do! They’ve marked it down, print and kindle copy, to two bucks and change! If you haven’t read it and were wanting to, now’s a great time to grab a copy. You can get it here. Might want to stock up for all those upcoming birthdays as well. 🙂

ENCOURAGING WORDS by LoRee Peery

Writers are all about words. Some words jump off the page with meaning. Consider the word encourage. The motivation for encouragement is LOVE. Love abounds in God’s people when we are open to opportunities to encourage one another.

After all, we are continually encouraged through the Holy Spirit as we dig into what God has written to us through the Bible. As the children of God, we have a responsibility to pass on encouragement.

E = EDIFY                        love edifies                                                                   1 Corinthians 8:1_LOW7494small

N = NOURISH                constantly nourished on the words of faith          1 Timothy 4:6

C = CARE                         have the same care for one another                       1 Corinthians 12:25

O = ONE ANOTHER     build up one another                                                 1 Thessalonians 5:11

U = URGE                       urged to encourage the fainthearted                      1 Thessalonians 5:14

R = REFRESH                they have refreshed my spirit                                  1 Corinthians 16:18

A = ACCOMPLISH        prayer accomplishes much                                      James 5:16

G = GIVE                         more blessed to give than to receive                      Acts 20:35

E = EXHORT                  spiritual gift to come alongside.                             Romans 12:8

Hebrews 3:13 reads “But ENCOURAGE one another day after day.”

Sometimes encouragement doesn’t require words. How much do you smile when you’re out in public? I try to make eye contact and smile. Sometimes that’s hard if I’m concentrating on my next purchase, especially in the grocery store. If I’m not a woman on a mission, though, I do try to acknowledge others.

Now, my husband is a retired salesman. He smiles and talks to almost everyone he meets. Sometimes those people don’t even have to be looking at him. But I’ve seen him brighten a stranger’s day many times over. On occasion he doesn’t use many words. He may reach for something too high for an older shopper. He opens doors, he’s put packages in trunks, and he’s aided those dedicated spouses struggling with the wheel chairs of their mates. I can’t count the times some woman has said to him, “You’re the first man to ask if I needed help.”

I encourage you to take these thoughts to heart and make someone’s day by a word or act of encouragement. We are in this faith journey together.

CreightonsHideaway_w11172_300

Creighton’s Hideaway:

Needing to finish her thesis in order to keep her job working with youth in a residential treatment center, Shana Arnold sequesters herself on Creighton Rice’s Nebraska ranch. She expects the secluded hideaway to provide a peaceful environment. What she doesn’t expect is to become the victim of identity theft and a crazed home invader. Creighton Rice has been content to live alone with his God–until he meets Shana. He’s drawn to her, but must fight the attraction. Getting close makes him face a lifetime’s accumulation of scars. Plus, Shana doesn’t share his faith. But when Shana’s life is threatened, Creighton must protect her–even if it means letting her in. Will Shana discover that even when a woman loses everything, she can regain courage and strength through faith in God, and can Creighton allow God to heal scars and open the door to a lifetime with Shana?

Buy it here!

 

 

 

A Nebraska country girl, LoRee Peery attempts to see God’s presence every day. Often that gift comes from nature, and she is most relaxed in the outdoors. The call of a cardinal draws her to look for the distinctive flash of crimson. A meadowlark’s melody always transports her to the farm where she grew up. A rainbow holds special significance, since one appeared the day of her father’s funeral and means the promise of the Lord’s presence in her life. She clings to I John 5:4 and prays her family sees that faith.

You can find her at www.loreepeery.com or the Pelican Book Group site http://tinyurl.com/kwz9enk

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! I’ve heard it said, people will rarely remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel. We are a tired, discouraged, insecure bunch in desperate need of encouragement. Who can you encourage today, and how? Perhaps make a list. Maybe make a list daily. Your friends, family, and co-workers will love you for it. 🙂

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

For those following my book-launch tour, here’s where I’ve been this past week:

Today I stopped by Angela Meyer’s to talk about the best possible response to a chaotic day. You can read more here.

Yesterday I participated in a book give-away (which is still going on). Give-awa, and talked about how God uses everything–every tear and regret–to bring about His glorious purposes. Knwoing this should bring us great joy and peace, regardless of our circumstances. Read more here.

Yesterday was a busy day, cyber-space speaking. Ginger Solomon interviewed Jacqueline Dunn, the main female character in my sophomore novel, When Dawn Breaks. You can read that here. I also encourage you to read a short story I wrote through the eyes of one of America’s forgotten children. You can read that here.

I also got all mushy and sentimental yesterday on Gail Pallotta’s blog as I talked about what I really wanted this Valentine’s Day. You can read my post here.

Reviewer Sarah Ruut invited me to visit her blog to talk about my novel and passion for writing. You can join our conversation here.

An old writing mentor, Fay Lamb, had me on her blog this past week, starting with a guest post, then a character interview, and finally an author interview. Pop by to learn more about me, my novel, and Jacqueline Dunn.

OLATHE_Slattery signing_JAN15-FBThis weekend I’m heading back to Kansas City (Olatha, KS, actually) to do a signing, and I have to say, my Northland church family has blessed my socks off by their outpouring of encouragement and support. I was touched not only by their actions but by the knowledge that God spurred them to it, which was like a gentle hug from my Savior and a clear reminder that He’s in this writing thing. To my Northland family, I love you guys! Can’t wait to reconnect! 🙂

The following weekend (Feb. 7th) I’ll be speaking at the Art of Marriage conference here in Papillion. I’d love to see you. I cannot recommend this conference enough. It’s one my hubby and I go to annually. It’s that good, and that important! That afternoon, I’ll be signing copies of both my novels at the Bookworm in Omaha (at 4pm). I’d love to see a slew of Christian fiction readers come! I love supporting secular stores that support carry Christian fiction. 🙂

You Know My Words Before I Spill Them

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.

 

 

Red Lights, Detours, and Closed Roads

Ispontaneous I’m not. To put it mildly. I love lists and ten-to-twenty year plans with each step of the journey mapped out. Funny how life has a way of turning my game plan upside down. Or should I say, it’s glorious how God has a way of turning my best-laid plans upside down, because from red light to detour, He’s continually reminding me, it’s not up to me. Praise God for that!

JenHToday my very dear friend, Jennifer Hallmark, shares her thoughts on closed roads and detours, reminding us to keep our eyes above the smog.

Red Lights, Detours, and Closed Roads by Jennifer Hallmark

 

Have you ever been late for an appointment? Me too. At times, I haven’t given myself time to drive the distance, but this wasn’t my fault. I ran into red lights, detours, and closed roads.

My daughter had a follow-up doctor appointment after an ER visit. We left in time to arrive at the specialist, an hour and ten minute trip.

We drove through Decatur, getting stopped at every red light. Then came road construction and we were detoured into one lane. Twenty minutes to drive two miles. My daughter called the doctor to mention we’d be late. The receptionist told her if we were more than fifteen minutes late, we’d have to reschedule. I hurried when I could, and made up for lost time on the interstate. We were at exit seven when I saw the sign. Exit closed. Mandy called her husband and he said take exit nine. We could still make it.

After we took exit nine, we had no idea how to get to the doctor’s office. As I drove the main strip, nothing appeared familiar. Three calls to the receptionist later, we found the office, twenty minutes late. They let us keep our appointment. Whew!

As we sat in the waiting room, I penned this article. My daughter rolled her eyes, but hey, why waste a stressful moment when you can write about it?

How many times have we been headed in the right direction, but ran into red lights, detours, and closed roads? Red road-closed-sign-2-1003255-mlights are times when we try to push through, only to stop. Go. Stop. Go.

You sign up to volunteer in the nursery on Sunday. The first day, you and the children are blessed. The next day you’re on the schedule, you wake up with the stomach virus, stay home and battle guilt. The next time your own child has the stomach virus. You ponder. Am I supposed to volunteer? The doubts begin. This is a red light, not a closed road. Go ahead and pray, but stay committed. Don’t quit the nursery because it’s too hard.

Detours happen. A lane is closed. You are pointed to an unfamiliar road around the construction. I don’t like unfamiliar roads, so my reaction can be fear. Should I turn around and go home?

The co-worker you carpool with changes jobs, so you need a new rider. She mentions another lady, but you don’t know her. A detour. Don’t let fear keep you from making a new friend and the possibility of sharing your faith.

A closed road can cause you to re-evaluate your destination. Can I still get there? We can’t imagine another way, so we quit and head home. Stop. The new way could lead to something better. Remember exit nine? On traveling this way, I noticed the place we hold our writer’s meetings and a new avenue to arrive there. The closed exit became an unexpected blessing.

I wrote a story for a Christian magazine, then it shut down. I held onto the story until a new door opened through a compilation of short stories. The projected magazine story would become part of a book.

The next time you encounter a red light, detour, or closed road, don’t despair. It might be God’s way of leading you to His purpose and plan for you.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55: 8-9, NKJV).

A DOZEN APOLOGIES FINAL FRONT COVERA Dozen Apologies:

Mara Adkins, a promising fashion designer, has fallen off the ladder of success, and she can’t seem to get up.

In college, Mara and her sorority sisters played an ugly game, and Mara was usually the winner. She’d date men she considered geeks, win their confidence, and then she’d dump them publicly. When Mara begins work for a prestigious clothing designer in New York, she gets her comeuppance. Her boyfriend steals her designs and wins a coveted position. He fires her, and she returns in shame to her home in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where life for others has changed for the better.

Mara’s parents, always seemingly one step from a divorce, have rediscovered their love for each other, but more importantly they have placed Christ in the center of that love. The changes Mara sees in their lives cause her to seek Christ. Mara’s heart is pierced by her actions toward the twelve men she’d wronged in college, and she sets out to apologize to each of them. A girl with that many amends to make, though, needs money for travel, and Mara finds more ways to lose a job than she ever thought possible.

Mara stumbles, bumbles, and humbles her way toward employment and toward possible reconciliation with the twelve men she humiliated to find that God truly does look upon the heart, and that He has chosen the heart of one of the men for her to have and to hold.

The twelve authors contributing to this project are: Elizabeth Noyes, Fay Lamb, Marji Laine, Jerusha Agen, Theresa Anderson, Patricia M. Dyer, Jennifer Hallmark, Paulette Harris, Betty Owens, Phee Paradise, Debbie Roome, Debra Ullrick.

A Dozen Apologies also includes fun bonus materials that give readers an inside glimpse of the heroes, Mara, and the process of writing a collaborative novel.

Jennifer Hallmark is a writer by nature, artist at heart, and daughter of God by His grace. She loves to read detective fiction from the Golden Age, watch movies like LOTR, and play with her two precious granddaughters. At times, she writes.

Her website is Alabama-Inspired Fiction and she shares a writer’s reference blog, Writing Prompts & Thoughts & Ideas…Oh My! with friends, Christina, John, Ginger, Tammy, Don and Betty. She and Christina Rich share an encouraging blog for readers called The Most Important Thing.

Jennifer and her husband, Danny, have spent their married life in Alabama and have a basset hound, Max.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! When has a detour or road block turned into a blessing? How might remembering that moment help you during times of struggle or stress? Perhaps your locked in unmoving, bumper to bumper traffic now. If so, what might God be trying to tell you? How might your “stagnation” be a blessing? How might remembering His nature–His love, grace, wisdom, and power–give you peace during chaotic or discouraging times?

Join the conversation here or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Don’t Be Discouraged!

Strength in the Struggle

Endurance Training

 

 

In Honor of An Amazing Woman

dianaThere are some people in life that you wish you knew. That you know, had you had the time to connect with them over coffee, or to simply overhear their daily conversations, you’d be better. Stronger. More impactful. Because impactful people inspire others to be impactful.

I regret to say, I didn’t know Diann Hunt, other than what I read on her blog or what I saw on Facebook. And quite honestly, I didn’t really start to pay attention until I learned the devastating news… She had ovarian cancer. Having a grandmother who died from that silent killer, I worried how this author’s fight might end.

But more than that, I marveled at the way she fought. Not so much how she fought the disease itself, but how she fought all those other things that can accompany terminal illness, those things like:

Bitterness

Fear

Defeat

Withdrawal and isolation

She might have “lost” her valiant fight against cancer, but she went home victorious, for even when the claws of death sank deep into her frail frame, she prevailed, and showed the world what it means to have a peace that surpasses understanding, a love that extends far beyond ones self, and a joy based on something much more eternal, much more real, than anything we can grab hold of in this sin ravished world.

She showed the world what Christianity is all about. It’s one thing to say you have faithdelight yourself3 when the blessings abound. It’s another thing entirely to not only cling to that faith but radiate it from your very core when your world falls apart. She lived that which she wrote about.

That was the type of faith Diann had, and her impact will not soon be forgotten.

Today, the ACFW community honors this precious woman of the faith.

To read more about Diann Hunt, her life, her writing, and the impact she made on so many, visit the following blogs:

Trish Perry: www.trishperry.com
Julie Arduini: www.juliearduini.com

Rethinking Failure

 

contemplativeThe big F.

When you sense a divine nudge, step out in faith even though your knees are buckling, sweat is cascading down your spine, and your stomach feels as if an army of ants not only took up residence but are engaged in some crazy acrobatics, and nothing, absolutely nothing, goes as planned.

In those moments, we may be tempted to raise our fists at God or hide away in our nice, safe homes, determined never, ever, not in a jabillion years, to do ministry again.

But what if our interpretations are wrong? What if what we perceive as failure is but a stepping stone–and a necessary one at that? The hard thing about faith, about having a finite and often faulty brain, is that we may never fully see the results or reasons behind our actions this side of heaven. I’ve shared before, looking back on my life, I remember countless patient, loving Christians whom I have no doubt were called to reach out to and love on me.

In fact, I remember one family in particular. They lived in Ferndale, and they had a daughter my age. In those days, I was a mess. And I imagine, there were many times I was quite difficult to be around. But this family took me in. Fed me, sheltered me, loved on me.

But despite their love and patience, I continued my downward spiral. I imagine they felt they had failed. Or like maybe they’d heard God wrong. Because if God calls us to do something, we have to succeed, right? We’ve got the power of Creator God behind us!

But what if His version of success is different from ours? What if He sees something we can’t–like the slow but persistent softening or healing of a heart?adultchild A heart that might take decades–maybe even a lifetime–to change? And what if in the process, He was working on our heart as well–molding, guiding, teaching, equipping, transforming us from who we are now to who He created us to be? What if every action, every assumed failure is necessary training toward our future calling?

You see, I believe God is sovereign over our successes and our failures. In fact, I believe each moment, He is watching over us with care and love, keeping an eye not only on our hearts but on our final destination as well.

As a reminder of this, I often consider two Scripture passages. They have become my life verses. I recite them when it feels as if God is raining blessings upon me and when it feels as if He’s deadbolted every door.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

“Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16 NLT).

We are God’s masterpiece. Camp out on that for a moment.

These verses have shaped my definition of success. They remind me God has a glorious plan for me, my life, and every person I touch while here on earth. And He’s taken full responsibility to perfect that which concerns me. (Psalm 138:8) My role is simple: To surrender fully and obey without hesitation, seeking to learn and grow from each and every event or encounter.

That’s it. And here’s the beautiful thing: If I do that, I have succeeded, regardless of how things turn out.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! How often do you contemplate your assumed failures, looking for the hidden lesson God might be trying to show you through them? Are you basing your success on those things you have no control over, like how many people will come to Christ during your ministry events, how many promotions you receive, or how large your paycheck will grow if you do X and Y? Or are you basing your success on the only thing you can control and that which will bring your Heavenly Father exceeding joy–the extent of your surrendered obedience?

Other blog posts you might enjoy:
Rejoicing in Closed Doors
What’s Your Jericho

Books you might find helpful:
<em>Beyond Me by Kathi Macias
Called and Accountable by Henry and Norman Blackaby

Falling Forward by John C. Maxwell