When We Say No–Missing Out

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

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

MISSING OUT

by Jana Kelley

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

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

of this facility that housed troubled teens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I learned a couple of things that night:

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

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

***

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

 

Door to Freedom:

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

*Name changed for privacy purposes.

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Grow Up

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

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

Resting in Christ

Photo by Stuart Miles from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Stuart Miles from freedigitalphotos.net

Oh, to be brave! To embrace risk and challenges all for the sake of Christ with little thought of the what-ifs. To daily surrender myself so fully to Christ, I would always and only do His will…

Unfortunately, my actions are often more characterized by fear than faith and striving than surrender. But God is faithful, even when–especially when!–I’m not.

This past Saturday, I had the privilege of reconnecting with the ladies at Northland Baptist in Kansas City, MO. While there, I 11110888_10204129386370679_2892693323041088365_otalked about fear–of the world and the Lord.

One refreshes and strengthens us, the other leaves us drained, stressed, and completely exhausted.

So which will you choose?

My study on what it means to fear the Lord and how this impacts a believer’s life has FindingRefreshmentinChristbeen so rich, I decided to extend it and invite you to come alone! I’ve created a one-week study guide, which I gave to the Northland ladies and also posted on Facebook. I’ve also created a Facebook “group” and page where we can all dialogue about what God is showing us through the study. I hope you’ll join us! Later this week, Susan Aken and Julie Arduini, blogging friends of mine, will be sharing their thoughts on some of the study verses. I can’t wait! I love learning from other believers. 🙂 And on Thursday, Kimberly Rose Johnson, another writing friend, will be here to talk about waiting on God, so make sure to pop back to join that discussion!

If you’re not on Facebook, that’s OK. I can send you the questions via email. Simply shoot me an email at jenniferaslattery@gmail.com letting me know you’d like and I’ll send them off to you.

In the meantime, you can watch segment one of my speech here. I hope to have segment two posted to Youtube tomorrow.

Or, if you’d rather see the video in it’s entirety, recorded on the day of the event, you can watch that here:

 

Like a Moth to a Flame…

IMG_7480Pause to consider your circle. Have you surrounded yourself with others who are just like you? When was the last time you reached out to a nonbelieving neighbor or initiated conversation with a stranger? Sound frightening? Maybe. But remember, Christ has not given us a spirit of fear! Today my sweet friend, Jennifer Hallmark, shares her thoughts on what it means to walk as children of light.

A Candle in the Dark

By Jennifer Hallmark

photo by photoexplorer

photo by photoexplorer

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children…For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…” Ephesians 5:1,8 NKJV

Are we imitators of God? To walk as children of light means to radiate a positive, Christ-like attitude toward people in your family, community, and world. One former pastor preached several sermons on being a light in the dark, not in a room already lit by many candles.

Every Sunday and Wednesday at churches all over the world, buildings are lit with many lights. While it is important to fellowship with other believers, our ministry should extend beyond this. My candle is a nice addition to our church, but when I take my candle out into a dark area, it becomes much more important. Our light is Christ’s love and grace revealed in us. We need to point people to the ultimate light, Jesus Christ.

People are drawn to light. Notice the way cars congregate under the only street light near a store. Light attracts and the light given to us when we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior should attract interest, at least.

Why do we seek jobs and neighborhoods among Christians? We’re much more comfortable and less fearful being a light in a room full of lights. Are we afraid of the dark? God calls us to be light where there is little to no light. Volunteering at local shelters or soup kitchen is one way to shine in the darkness. St. Francis of Assisi said ‘All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.’ Are we willing to love people where they are, even if we are the only candle in sight? We can ask God to help us to be willing and fight through any fear we might have.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-15 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (NKJV).

No more hiding our light under baskets or among other lights. It’s time to toss our comfort level to one side and step out. We needn’t fear anymore, for the Holy Spirit will strengthen us to do whatever God calls us to do. Someone is walking on a dark path in your world. They need the comfort we can bring and the true light to their path; Jesus. Will you be the one to shine and point the way?

***

Jennifer Hallmark is a writer by nature, artist at heart, and daughter of God by His grace. She’s published over 200 articles and interviews on the internet, short stories in several magazines and been part of two book compilations, A Dozen Apologies, and Sweet Freedom A La Mode. She is currently shopping her contemporary southern fiction novel, When Wedding and Weather Collide. She’s contributed to two compilations, one that will release in June with Write Integrity Press called Unlikely Merger and a non-fiction compilation releasing in the summer called  Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage. 

Visit her online at Alabama-Inspired Fiction, and the group blog she co-founded focus on her books, love of the South, and helping writers. Keep up to day with her and her writing by subscribing to her monthly newsletter at her author page. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. For fun, she loves to read detective fiction from the Golden Age, watch movies like LOTR, and play with her two precious granddaughters. Jennifer and her husband, Danny, have spent their married life in Alabama and have a basset hound, Max.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! What are you doing to share the light of Christ? What is one thing you can do today to bring light into a dark situation? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.