Who Won? You Choose!

This month has really flown by. I hope you’ve enjoyed each Reach Out to Live Out story shared here. Have they stirred your thinking? Encouraged you to look for ways to reach out with the love of Christ? I’d love to read about how each one impacted you.

I think my favorite was “Head Down” by Nichole Parks. I keep my head down way too often when God says, “Look up and around! Can’t you see my hurting child whom I’ve intentionally placed in your path?”

Here’s a snippet:

“Our community college will accept anybody. I’ve seen the druggies, heard the potty-mouths, and looked away from the risqué. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s keep your head down. Considering we’re approaching finals, I’d say the strategy has worked.” Read the rest here.

As a writer, I also enjoyed Margaret Daley’s story, Fiction That Reaches Into Prison Cells.

“When a woman who worked at a Florida female prison helping the inmates contacted me, I was surprised and excited about the prospects of the outreach for my book. She’d read my Love Inspired, Second Chance Family, and was interested in using that story with the women. Second Chance Family dealt with abuse and some of the women she worked with had gone through it.”

You can read the rest here.

Margaret’s story reminded me I never know how God will use my obedience. I’ve found, His ways truly are well beyond mine, and He’s able to multiply blessings, turning a novel into a conduit of healing, an email into a powerful touch of grace. Sometimes I see the results, other times I must proceed in faith, knowing He has a glorious reason for every command He gives.

Elaine Cooper’s story, Pushing Past Our Comfort Zones, reminded me not to get stuck in a “serving routine.” While it’s true, God wants us to serve in our areas of giftedness, He still expects us to serve “where needed,” maintaining a “get ‘er done” attitude.

Here’s a blip of Elaine’s story:

“Let me be honest— I am not the greatest cook in the world. Thoughts of potlucks at church and Bible study nearly send me into an anxiety attack. I always imagine kindly Christians munching into my culinary creation and assuring me how good it is…until they turn around and spit it into their napkin, hoping not to be noticed! Now, I have never seen that happen, but it is always my fear. Cooking has never been easy for me.”

Read the rest here.

What did you glean from this month’s stories? How did they impact your day? I’d love to read all about it.

I’d also love to know what you’re doing–at your job, in your neighborhood, your city, through texts or emails–to share Christ’s love with a hurting world.

Yesterday at church, the worship leader made an awesome statement. He reminded us it isn’t “Christian vs. the world” but instead, “Christians for the world.” Stop and think about this for a moment.  A long moment. 🙂 Then ask yourself: How can I tear down barriers and build bridges today?

Come back Wednesday to see who won our gift basket and book give-away! (Mary Preston, please email me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com. You won the April book give-away, and I need your address. 🙂 )

Many thanks to May’s generous donors!

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Pushing Past Our Comfort Zones

April was awesome! With all the sorrow in our world, it was so encouraging to read of others actively demonstrating the love of Christ. And today, we launch a new month. I did want to clarify on the prizes, as I think they may be unclear. The gift basket goes to someone sharing their Reach Out Story. One randomly selected reader also wins—a free book. So there is one gift-basket that goes to the Reach Out contributor, and a book give-away that goes to one randomly selected reader. 🙂

Today’s story comes from a sweet woman named Elaine Cooper. She’s written for me on a few occasions and always has heart-stirring stories to share. Today she talks about serving God in our weakness–when He calls us to do something we feel ill-equipped to do. As a woman who burns cookies, forgets key ingredients, and gets distracted in the middle of boiling rice, I so can relate!

                   

                                Reluctant Cook By Elaine Marie Cooper

Let me be honest— I am not the greatest cook in the world. Thoughts of potlucks at church and Bible study nearly send me into an anxiety attack. I always imagine kindly Christians munching into my culinary creation and assuring me how good it is…until they turn around and spit it into their napkin, hoping not to be noticed! Now, I have never seen that happen, but it is always my fear. Cooking has never been easy for me.

Recently my husband announced that he really wanted to serve dinner to visiting missionaries from France while they were here raising support. Gary (the missionary husband) is an old friend of ours and we were so excited to entertain he and his wife Kate and their one-year-old daughter, Lucie. I looked forward to meeting his new family.

But to cook a dinner for these precious folks who are used to European cuisine? This was enough to send me into a tailspin! On top of that distress, I was planning to leave town soon and had a million things on “my plate” to get done for my trip.

I thought of that song from Scripture that I’ve loved for years: “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of them that bring good news.” How lovely indeed—and what an honor to serve missionaries in such a small way as to provide nourishment for their bodies while they seek to nourish souls.

“OK, Lord. Please show me what to make.”

Heading for my computer, I Googled “crock pot meals” which are generally a safe bet for me. By “safe” I mean, safe for the recipients of my food!

Very quickly, the Lord led me to a recipe for, of all things, Beef Barley Soup. Now, I have never made this soup before, but Kate is British and somehow it seemed like a good choice considering her background. It felt like a jolly good recipe. J

Printing off the ingredients, I headed for the store early that morning with a bit of trepidation but trusting the Lord to help me with the menu. I found everything that I needed for the soup and then headed for the breads and cheeses. That seemed European. I chose three types of cheese and two different breads and prayed the Lord would bless my attempts at presenting a delicious meal for them.

Well, it smelled incredibly tasty cooking in the crockpot for several hours and even my husband and I were looking forward to it.

By the time Gary, Kate, and Lucie arrived, we were all anxious to dig in. Gary and Kate enjoyed the soup so much they each had seconds! Even little Lucie liked it. And Kate commented on how European it felt. It was such an answer to prayer for this reluctant chef!

But the real joy was in putting myself aside—my busy schedule, my inadequacies, my fears—and allowing God to show me that He would guide me, if I would just be obedient to him.

***

Elaine Marie Cooper grew up in Massachusetts but now lives in the Midwest with her husband, her three dogs and one huge cat. She has two married sons and triplet grandchildren who are now two years old. Elaine’s only daughter, Bethany, passed away in 2003 from a brain tumor.
Cooper’s most recent release, The Promise of Deer Run, was the winner in the Romance category at the 2012 Los Angeles Book Festival.
Her debut novel, The Road to Deer Run, was a finalist in the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, received an Honorable Mention in the 2011 Los Angeles Book Festival, and was a Clash of the Titles Champion for “Most Romantic Moment.”
She is currently completing The Legacy of Deer Run, due for release in 2012 through Sword of the Spirit Publishing.
Cooper has been a magazine freelance writer for many years and is also a contributor to the devotional called Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home by Edie Melson.
The Promise of Deer Run
The Year is 1790.
The American Revolution has long been over, but the wounds of battle still linger in the hearts and minds of many.
A veteran Continental soldier still awaits the return of his missing father, years after the last battle. Haunted by the painful memories of war and scarred from betrayal in love, the young man turns away from faith. The only hope he clings to is that perhaps his father still lives.
Then he discovers his hope is shared by a young woman, who understands loss and the longing for a father. As they encounter this unexpected connection, their hearts become drawn together. But jealousy, slander, and misunderstandings ignite a fire of doubt and mistrust—destroying their relationship.
Can two souls longing for healing and trust, love again? Can faith—and a family—be restored?
Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Shoot it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com. (You might even win May’s gift basket!) And readers, remember, you have a chance to win Deborah Raney’s Remember to Forget.
And much thanks to May’s Reach Out donors:
I’d love to hear from you. When has God asked you to serve outside your comfort zone? What’d you learn from the experience?

True Grit by Elaine Cooper, Author of the Road to Deer Run

I would love to spend half a day in Elaine’s head. Freeway billboards, sci-fi’s and yep, even old movies, lead to thought provoking devotions. Today she’s here to share the joys of Hollywood–Elaine style. Lights, camera…Bible study! (If you don’t catch my joke, simply nod and smile, nod and smile.)

TRUE GRIT (for His Glory)

By Elaine Cooper

Imagine the excitement in my husband’s eyes when I told him that I needed to watch the old version of “True Grit” for my book research.

“Awesome!” he so enthusiastically replied. We had recently seen the newer version at the theatre and were very impressed not only with the acting, but also with the beautiful Texas scenery highlighted in the 2010 movie. But my historian/consultant in Massachusetts recommended the older version of the movie that showed a commonly used river transport from the 19th century. Although my novel I am researching takes place in the 18th century, ferry technology had apparently remained stable for quite some time.

Since the library copy of “True Grit” was checked out, we decided to just buy one at—you guessed it—WalMart. We inserted the shiny new DVD. Steve and I displayed our most astute movie critic poses in front of the screen, practically daring the 1969 movie to out-perform the new. Well, weren’t we surprised that in many respects, the old was far superior. The Duke won the contest.

But it wasn’t just Wayne’s believable performance as crusty U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn that swayed Steve and I; it was the emotion portrayed by Kim Darby as Miss Mattie Ross, the 14-year-old bent on avenging her father’s death. Eyeing Rooster at his toughest, Mattie declares with teenage conviction and smugness, “He has TRUE grit.”

So what exactly is true grit? I decided to pose the question to several fairly alert adults in our Sunday morning Bible study. Sustained by coffee and spiritually refreshed from church service, the participants in my non-scientific survey did not fail me. Answers came quicker than I could write them down.

My husband of course, had to give his humorous take: “True grit means that it’s time to change the vacuum cleaner bag.” He’s so funny (insert groan)…but I DO appreciate his dedication to using our Dyson regularly, thus sparing my nurse-fatigued back.

Other participants were more serious.

Rick said, “It’s having a backbone—guts.”

“Perseverance,” said Teri. “Having resolve.”

And Joe said right-to-the-point, “It’s someone who knows what he stands for.”

Ah, yes.

Rooster Cogburn knew what he stood for. He represented the law in his territory and he was not above placing himself in danger to carry out that resolve. Ever wonder why he had to wear a patch over one eye?

Picture Marshal Cogburn. He’s not exactly swarthy. He’s out of shape and looks like he’s seen a few too many gunfights. But he stays focused on not one but four armed outlaws ready to take him on. He sits up in the saddle, pulls out his handgun with one hand and his rifle with the other. He doesn’t run away but he faces his enemies and meets them head-on—with resolve, perseverance, and guts. Rooster really knows what he stands for.

Do we as Christians have true grit? Are we intimidated by the spiritual bullets that fire at us because we feel outnumbered? Or do we resist them with confidence in the Lord and His Word—in His ability to shoot down the adversary with spiritual weapons of righteousness? Not self-righteouness—but HIS righteousness.

In 2 Timothy 1:7 it reads:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (NIV)

We all get excited by the “power” promised in this verse. We’re ready to be strong like Rooster and pull out our six shooters to gun down the attacks of the enemy. But the subsequent words can get lost if we’re not careful. Let’s start with the word “love.”

And while we are talking about adversaries and enemies, let’s be astute about pointing out that we are to “love” our earthly enemies. The adversaries that we are to fight against are the spiritual ones that war against our souls. We are to make every attempt to be peacemakers with those who are not our friends. Sometimes that works better than others, since we live in a fallen world. Sin separates people. But we are to always love, even our enemies.

But it’s the third word in the verse in Timothy that is a stickler for all of us: self-discipline. It’s not just talking about resisting that dessert or being better at exercising regularly, although these are noble disciplines. We need to be spiritually disciplined. Just like we need healthy foods for strong bodies, strong spirits will not be nourished by avoiding God’s Word or starving ourselves from prayer time alone with our Heavenly Father. We need spiritual sustenance to be strong in the Lord. It takes a self-disciplined walk with the Savior to be spiritually ready to resist the attacks of the real enemy—Satan.

I can never read this section of Scripture often enough from the book of Ephesians. It talks about being ready and prepared for spiritual battle:

“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”   Ephesians 6: 10-20 (NIV)

We can be as fearless as Rooster Cogburn facing his enemies. We don’t want to face the battle on our own strength, however, but with the power behind the sword of the spirit. We can have true grit, for His glory.

Elaine Marie Cooper grew up in Massachusetts but now lives in the Midwest with her husband Steve, her three dogs and one huge cat. She has two married sons and triplet grandbabies, who are often referred to (by her) as “the most beautiful grandbabies in the world.” Elaine’s only daughter, Bethany, passed away in 2003 from a brain tumor.

A retired registered nurse, Elaine has been a magazine freelance writer for many years, and is a regular contributor to a blog on the Midwest called The Barn Door (www.thebarndoor.net) and Reflections. She is also the author of her debut novel called The Road to Deer Run and is currently writing the sequel.

Elaine Cooper can be reached on FaceBook or visit her website at: DeerRunBooks.com

About The Road to Deer Run

The year is 1777 and the colonies of America are at war with England. In the midst of this fierce and painful conflict, two enemies—a wounded British soldier and a colonial farmwoman—are brought together through circumstances that challenge their fortitude, their faith and their ability to forgive. In the struggle comes healing and love. But as their destinies become intertwined, so do the forces that oppose them.

What Are Reviewers Saying about “The Road to Deer Run”?

“A heartwarming love story, sensitively written and a well-researched bit of American history. The book has a solid faith-based perspective that sets it apart.”

—   Jean LemMom, former Editor, Better Homes & Gardens Magazine

“A captivating tale of love, honor, redemption, and patriotism….Cooper breathes life into her characters and their world in an entertaining way with generous details and facts.”

—   Wanda Ventling, Editor in Chief, Life: Beautiful Magazine

“With subplots as appealing as the main story, the book is well researched, well written, and well worth the purchase price. Ready for the sequel.”

— Kirkus Discoveries Reviews

“The Road to Deer Run” is available at:

Amazon.com

BarnesandNoble.com

IUniverse.com

DeerRunBooks.com