All Things Renewed

Some decisions will affect the rest of our lives. What happens when, years later, you worry you chose incorrectly? My guest today, Christine Lindsay, shares a vulnerable story of how one of the most emotional, most important moments of her life went all wrong … and what God showed her through that experience.

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He Takes Away and He Gives Back
by Christine Lindsay

Do you ever wonder if God is cruel? At certain times I’ve curled my fist tight and shook it wedge-1471409_640under the very nose of my creator, blaming Him for my heartache.

In 1979 I was an unmarried mother and when my baby girl was 3 days old I relinquished Sarah to adoption. Twenty long years of prayer later, I searched for and was reunited with my adult birth-daughter. Though I was happily married by then to a wonderful man and we had 3 children of our own, I yearned to see my firstborn. But the reunion I prayed for all those years was not the reunion I received.

I was so sure that because the adoption was done through a Christian organization, and the adopting parents were also Christians (like myself) that our reunion would be easy, filled with laughter at finally meeting each other. But people are made up of such different emotional stuff.

Here is an excerpt from Finding Sarah Finding Me:

The kids hear me sobbing, the three of them stay in the living room out of the maelstrom of my unleashed emotions. David pulls me into the kitchen and holds me close. I’ve kept a woman-1006102_640lock on my disappointment all day, having hoped for so much more closeness than Sarah has been able to offer. Now it unleashes, a wounded tiger uncaged.

“I’ve prayed for twenty years,” I yell at David as I pull away, “prayed for twenty years that God would prepare their hearts so that no one would feel hurt. And this is the best he could do! This… this is the biggest disappointment of my life!” I cry out, “and God knows I’ve had enough of them.”

David takes hold of me again. I resist, but he holds tight while my mind fights to sift through the avalanche of my emotions. I want to get to know my beautiful birth daughter, but my dream lies at my feet like shattered glass. She is my daughter, but not my daughter. I’m not a part of her family, nor have Sarah or her parents ever considered such a thing. Her mom and dad don’t even want to meet me.

One of the greatest lies the enemy wants the followers of Christ to believe is that God is The Clan 2014out to steal our joy. That God is out to torment us and make our lives miserable. Remember that our enemy is a deceiver, a liar. I discovered this a number of years later, when the Lord resurrected my old dream to have a special relationship with my birth-daughter Sarah. Instead of impatiently shaking my fist in His face, I should have waited in peace for the new beginning that He would devise in His timing. My life is a walking testimony to the resurrection of old dreams.

The next time you are tempted to believe that God is cruel, remember that He is the God of resurrections and new beginnings. Joel 2:25 (NIV) “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you.

***

Small size Finding Sarah Finding Me girl (1)Sometimes it is only through giving up our hearts that we learn to trust the Lord.

Adoption. It’s something that touches one in three people today, a word that will conjure different emotions in those people touched by it. A word that might represent the greatest hope…the greatest question…the greatest sacrifice. But most of all, it’s a word that represents God’s immense love for his people.

Join birth mother Christine Lindsay as she shares the heartaches, hopes, and epiphanies of her journey to reunion with the daughter she gave up…and to understanding her true identity in Christ along the way.

Through her story and glimpses into the lives of other families in the adoption triad, readers will see the beauty of our broken families, broken hearts, and broken dreams when we entrust them to our loving God.

FREE Chapter One of Finding Sarah Finding Me by clicking HERE

PURCHASE FINDING SARAH FINDING ME on Amazon (paperback and ebook) and Barnes and Noble (coming soon).

***

ChristineLindsayChristine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction. Tales of her Irish ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India inspired her multi-award-winning series Twilight of the British Raj, Book 1 Shadowed in Silk, Book 2 Captured by Moonlight, and the explosive finale Veiled at Midnight.

Christine’s Irish wit and her use of setting as a character is evident in her contemporary romance Londonderry Dreaming. Her newest release Sofi’s Bridge also features a dashing Irish hero.

Aside from being a busy writer and speaker, Christine and her husband live on the west coast of Canada. Coming August 2016 is the release of Christine’s non-fiction book Finding Sarah—Finding Me: A Birthmother’s Story.

Please drop by Christine’s website www.ChristineLindsay.org or follow her on Amazon and Twitter. Subscribe to her quarterly newsletter, and be her friend on Pinterest , Facebook, and  Goodreads.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Christine opened up to us about part of her journey as a birth-mother, and how the reunion wasn’t what she’d hoped or prayed for. What in life have you come up to, hoping and praying for one result, but receiving something different…something hard? Did you believe, at the time, that God was cruel? Were you able to overcome that belief? If you have any Scripture you’d like to share with us, please share in the comments below or over at Living by Grace. And know that I’m praying for each of you.

 

 

breakingfree_n1664109Before you go! My newest release, Breaking Free, is now on sale! Visit Amazon to buy the paperback for only $3.58 or the Kindle version for only $2.99!

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Peace In the Storms of Life

hand-792920_1920Rescue doesn’t always come, and we don’t always get those things that we desperately ask for. Why would God withhold something from us, when it’d be such an easy thing for Him to grant? If He’s all powerful, why does He leave us in our crisis? Does He not care? Can’t He hear us?

We all have them: “storms” in the midst of our lives. Whether those storms are relationships, jobs (or lack thereof), health, or any number of other trials, we all hope and pray for rescue. But maybe there’s something more than rescue that we need.

Peace

Can We Expect God to Rescue Us?
by Tamera Lynn Kraft

There’s a Bible story in Mark 34 is one that resonates to us all. Jesus told His disciples to
get on the boat with Him and go to the other side. Jesus went to sleep on the voyage. Meanwhile, a great wind suddenly appeared and tossed the boat to the point where the disciples were in a panic. At this point, one of them noticed Jesus asleep. They woke Him and said. “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

photo-1443376133869-19bce1f036e1There are times when we all are in that situation. The wind is blowing, the waves are overwhelming us, and Jesus seems to be asleep at the wheel. It’s times like these we are tempted to wonder if God really cares. Can we really expect God to rescue us from this mess we’re in? The truth is there are times God doesn’t rescue His children. Peter was delivered from prison and certain death when an angel was sent to rescue him, but a few years later, he was martyred by hanging on a cross upside down. God doesn’t always rescue us, but sometimes He does.

Even when God doesn’t come to the rescue or send the cavalry, He still is there for us. The galile_cstory of the disciples in the storm ends in Mark 4:39. “Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.”

In this case, Jesus rescued the disciples by speaking to the storm and rebuking the wind. He said, “Peace, be still.” Sometimes Jesus will rescue us by speaking to the storm, but sometimes Jesus will speak peace into our hearts in the midst of the storm.

In my new novella, Resurrection of Hope, Vivian has gone through lots of storms. Her fiancé died in the Great War. Her entire family died of the influenza pandemic. If that wasn’t bad enough, she was evicted from her home because of her father’s gambling debts. She lost hope that God would ever rescue her. At the point when she was at her lowest, God sent Henry in her life to save her, but she still needed the hope and peace only God gives. She needed God to speak peace to her spirit.

Sometimes God will calm the storms; sometimes He won’t, but we can always count on God to speak peace to our spirits.

***

 

ResurrectionOfHopeCoverArt72dpi (1)Resurrection of Hope:

She thought he was her knight in shining armor, but will a marriage of convenience prove her wrong?

After Vivian’s fiancé dies in the Great War, she thinks her life is over. But Henry, her fiancé’s best friend, comes to the rescue offering a marriage of convenience. He claims he promised his friend he would take care of her. She grows to love him, but she knows it will never work because he never shows any love for her.

Henry adores Vivian and has pledged to take care of her, but he won’t risk their friendship by letting her know. She’s still in love with the man who died in the Great War. He won’t risk heartache by revealing his true emotions.

Resurrection of Hope is available at Desert Breeze Publishing, Amazon (eBook), Amazon (paperback), Barnes & Noble, and All Romance eBooks.

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Web1Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures. She loves to write historical fiction set in the United States because there are so many stories in American history. There are strong elements of faith, romance, suspense and adventure in her stories. She has received 2nd place in the NOCW contest, 3rd place TARA writer’s contest, and is a finalist in the Frasier Writing Contest and has other novellas in print. She’s been married for 37 years to the love of her life, Rick, and has two married adult children and two grandchildren.

You can contact Tamera on her website at http://tameralynnkraft.net, Word Sharpeners, Facebook, and Twitter.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Peace in the midst of the storms of our life is impossible to attain on our own. Thankfully, Jesus has promised us His peace. What are some ways the Lord has given you peace when you’ve most needed it? Are there any Bible verses you’d like to share with us that give you comfort? Please share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace. We can all use some peace and comfort!

Other articles, books, and blog posts you might helpful:

What Happens When God is Late?

Why Would an All-knowing God Test Us???

Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong

God Meant it for Good

 

Trusting the Author

If you’re reading this, it is likely because you love stories. Whether you’re a reader, a writer, or love a good movie or TV show, we all relate to story. However, sometimes that story takes an unexpected turn. When it does, do we stop reading or watching? Or do we trust the author? Today, my sweet friend, Carrie, joins me to talk about the middle of the story.

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In the Middle of the Story
by Carrie Schmidt

Since I was very little, my life has been all about story. I drank it in wherever I could, however I could, in whatever form it came.  Especially books. Always books.

And one of my very favorite things about “story” is how every story at its root is ultimately a reflection of THE Story. God’s Story of redemption.  The Truest of true stories. The one bible-1031288_640that starts with “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1) as its “once upon a time” and ends with the happiest “happily ever after” of them all (Revelation 21:3-4).

But that’s another blog post for another time.

Sort-of.

Because right now I’m in the middle of my own story.

Life is not at all going the way I had planned. Especially not the way I had dreamed. And trusting God in the middle of this not-going-according-to-plan story He’s writing for me? Well, to say it’s not always easy would be one of my greatest understatements ever.

And yet… I do this on a much smaller level every time I read a new novel or watch a new movie. You do, too.

If we had stopped reading Pride and Prejudice in the middle of the story, Mr. Darcy would never have become one of the greatest heartthrobs in romance. Instead, he would be forever memorialized in our minds as arrogant and aloof and a relationship-wrecker. And Colin Firth would have not been nearly as famous… but perhaps he would have been drier.

books-1141910_640If we had stopped reading Little Women in the middle, we may not have grieved quite so much … or gotten quite so irritated … but we also certainly would not have rejoiced as much either. We wouldn’t have seen independence and triumph and unexpected selfless love.

What about the movie Sleepless in Seattle? If we had turned it off halfway through, we might think that Tom Hanks (spoiler alert – although, really, if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s your own fault, haha!) ended up with that annoying woman and Meg Ryan went back home from her stalking research trip and settled for the adorable but boring Bill Pullman who didn’t understand her.

But we keep reading. And we keep watching.

Why? Because we trust the author, the screenwriter, the director. We trust them to give us the happily ever after, the need for which – incidentally – is imbedded in our hearts and called “eternity” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We trust them even though we don’t know them.

In God’s Story, our own personal happily ever afters may not look like we envisioned. But that’s because our individual separate stories aren’t individual or separate. They are subplots in THE Story, all threads of grace and redemption that tie together in one ultimate Narrative called Jesus. We can trust Him because we know Him.

When the middle of your story looks a bit chaotic, a little murky or a lot hopeless, trust the horse-58374_640Author and Finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). Trust Him to complete the story He’s started writing in you (Philippians 1:6), the one He’s promised to keep writing even after everyone else thinks the story is over.

Because the truth is – it’s not over until our Prince Charming comes riding in on His white horse to sweep His bride off her feet and conquer the enemy with a single word (Revelation 19).

And that’s my favorite story of them all.

***

img_4522Carrie Schmidt (aka MeezCarrie) is an avid reader, a book reviewer, a story addict, a KissingBooks fan and a book boyfriend collector. She also loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. Her passion in blogging/reviewing is to connect readers with a new favorite author or book, especially in the Christian fiction genre. Carrie lives in central Kentucky with her hubby Eric and their quirky dog Zuzu and is the long distance cool aunt to nine nieces and nephews. When she’s not reading or reviewing or “cool-aunting”, Carrie teaches English as a Second/Other Language to international adults. Learn more about Carrie at http://readingismysuperpower.org.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Carrie opened up about how her life, in the middle of her story, isn’t going according to how she planned. I think it’s safe to say that most of us feel that way. However, she also talked about not giving up in the middle of our story and trusting the Author. Have you ever felt like giving up in the middle of your own story? How did the Lord bring you through that chapter? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below (or over at Living by Grace) so we can encourage and pray for one another.

Christ, the Church, and Marriage

We often go into marriage expecting it to be easier than it truly is. Did you enter your marriage thinking that being a Christian would insulate you from struggles, only to stumble–or witness your spouse stumble–and have to walk a path littered with pain? If you have–or currently are–there is hope!

-Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.-Hebrews 10-23, E

Marriage: a Representation of Christ and the Church
by Toni Shiloh

A lot of us enter marriage with a heart full of love and expectations of happy ever after. When struggles appear we either fold under the pressure or keep trucking on. Then the portrait-119851_640struggles get harder. The tally sheet longer. Until you find yourself at the crossroads of stay married or divorce.

What I’ve learned in my ten plus years of marriage is that easy isn’t a path in marriage. I thought that being a representation of Christ and the Church guaranteed easy. It seemed it should be a representation of purity and righteousness.

Then I stumbled. Stumbled so far I fell into the pit, dragging my husband right along with me. Funny how rock bottom shows you your choices don’t just affect you alone.

Then God happened.

He made me see how sinful I was. Made me realize my need of a Savior and His grace.

Then my husband forgave me. He chose to let love cover a multitude of my sins. Watching his behavior, reading my Bible, talking to God, all of it made me realize the truth of Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”

Our marriage was a true representation of Christ and the Church.

My husband died to his self and gave his life and dreams, hopes, expectations up all to sunshine-923890_640forgive me. He showed me unconditional love.

I was the church. The bride in need of forgiveness and salvation. My husband acted as Christ, forgiving me. We became one in our union and showed our friends and family what Christ’s actions truly meant.

I implore you, if you’re struggling in your marriage, remember Christ’s sacrifice. Cling to His hope and pick the road to resurrect your marriage. Seek His wisdom and guidance and He will be faithful to give it.

***

A Life to LiveMia is headed to the famed Nottingham for a month long vacation. She never imagined she’d run into her high-school sweetheart thousands of miles away from her home town. Why would God throw them back together?

Caleb always regretted the way things ended with his high-school girlfriend, Mia. After a chance encounter in the streets of Nottingham, Caleb feels God is giving him a second chance to right the wrongs he committed. Unbeknownst to him, Mia has secrets that may require his forgiveness. Will her past overshadow his wrongs?

As Mia and Caleb work through old hurts and broken hearts will they let the blessing of forgiveness redeem their relationship?

Find A Life to Live on Amazon and Nook.

***

Toni ShilohToni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), an Air Force veteran, and a member of the body of Christ.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She likes to volunteer at her children’s school. When she’s not writing, she’s reading. An avid reader of Christian fiction, she writes reviews on her blog and enjoys helping other authors find readers.

She self-published a Christian contemporary romance novella, A Life to Live, and is at work writing her next novel.

Find Toni on her website, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and the group blog, Putting On the New.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Toni shared from experience how she stumbled in her marriage only to have her husband extend the love and grace of Christ. Have you experienced grace and forgiveness in your marriage? Or have you been the one to extend such love as Christ has for the Church? What Scripture helped you through such difficult times? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.

As a fun aside, Toni is highlighting my debut novel, Beyond I Do, on her blog today. Pop over to have a peak-see! I’m also on Jo Huddleston’s blog, talking about how we find our inner strength. Join me HERE.

Then come back Monday, because I’ve got some fun news to share, and some questions I want to ask you. 🙂

 

 

When God Calls Your Child to the Hard

Seeing our children make decisions that can bring about pain is hard for any parent. But remembering those sweet moments of motherhood can help ease that pain.

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Painful Parenting
by Gail Kittleson

The biblical Elizabeth, Zachariah’s wife, reminds us how precious a child is. Having waited decades to bear a child, Elizabeth had no choice but to give up.pregnant-422982_640

She did her best to keep honoring God. But then, the miracle—Gabriel appeared to Zachariah, who failed to believe and lost his voice until the birth.

But not Elizabeth. She went off and spent five months “relishing her pregnancy.” Her overflowing praise song encouraged Mary, Jesus’ mother, in her early pregnancy.

We can only imagine Elizabeth’s overwhelming joy at birthing a baby boy. Long past the age of mothering, she cherished every moment.

I wonder if her joints ached, and if she cried tears of relief when little Johnny finally went to sleep at night? And yet, even then that original joy laced her exhaustion.

But John’s headstrong nature led him down uncommon paths—some would say bizarre. When he butted heads with the Pharisees, did Elizabeth reflect on those early, malleable days of her good little boy?

Parenting can become a pain, yet the potential of growing right along with our offspring beckons us. Growing often hurts, but as we allow our children to walk—even if they foot-509723_640stumble—life’s up and down road, we’re guided back to our own road. Still plenty of challenges waiting for us . . . always room to grow in character.

Like every mother, Elizabeth wanted the best for her son, but did she live to observe him become John the Baptist, the Messiah’s forerunner? If so, she suffered great pain, for his was no easy road. His ignominious death would break any mother’s heart.

Sometimes, focusing on our memories of that first unique moment of motherhood is the best we can do.

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Pearl Harbor attacked! The United States is at war.

51W0Exm3+CL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_But Addie fights her own battles on the Iowa home front. Her controlling husband Harold vents his rage on her when his father’s stoke prevents him from joining the military. He degrades Addie, ridicules her productive victory garden, and even labels her childlessness as God’s punishment.

When he manipulates his way into a military unit bound for Normandy, Addie learns that her best friend Kate’s pilot husband has died on a mission, leaving her stranded in London in desperate straits.

Will Addie be able to help Kate, and find courage to trust God with her future?

Find In Times Like These on Amazon.

***

Gail KittlesonGail lives in northern Iowa with her husband of thirty-eight years. They enjoy family and the Arizona Ponderosa pine forest in winter. Gail’s all about words—she loves to read, write, edit for other authors, and facilitate writing workshops.

In her latest release, In Times Like These, a young World War II farm wife longs to become a parent, but her husband blames her for their childlessness. Readers resonate to Addie’s home front made-do attitude and cheer her on to find her voice while the war ignites battles all over the world.

Find Gail on her web site, Facebook, and Amazon.

Let’s talk about this. When our children our young, our primary aim is to raise them to be fully devoted Christ followers, or at least, it should be. But what happens when those children who were raised to seek after Christ and His will begin to put feet to their faith? How would you respond if your child said they wanted to serve Christ in the Middle East? Or Northern Korea? Or in another dangerous and difficult way? Our daughter has shared some potential God-nudges with us, and as I listened, there were times the Mama Bear in me rose up, and I longed to redirect her. To protect her–from all the unknowns she might face. But I realized doing so would encourage her to live a partial faith and would send the message: “I want you to obey God fully–when it’s easy, safe, and convenient.” And I couldn’t do that. I hope my resolve to continually point her to surrender lasts when it comes time for her to step out in whatever direction God leads, even if He leads her in a way I find unsettling. Because I know, deep in my protective Mama’s heart, true joy and fulfillment come from full surrender.

When has God nudged your children in a direction that felt uncomfortable for you, and how did you respond? Did God use anything–a verse, song, maybe note from a friend, to encourage you during that time? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on Facebook, because we can all learn from each other.

Before I go, to those who prayed for my trip to Des Moines, thank you! God showed up in such a mighty way. I should maybe write a blog post about it, so you can celebrate His awesome mercy with me. Stay tuned! 🙂

No Stepford Wives for God

I think we’ve all asked the question a time or two. And when evil or illness or heartache touches us or someone we love, the question rages louder. Some questions, I believe, will never be fully answered–fully understood–this side of heaven. But in the meantime, God allows us to ponder immensely confusing questions, and I believe, He is blessed most when we ask not one another but instead, turn to Him. For whoever turns to Him, He will never turn away. Today, fellow ACFW member Linda Samaritoni shares her thoughts on the age old question–How can an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God allow evil?

No Stepford Wives for God by Linda Samaritoni

If God loves everyone as Christians are so fond of telling the world, then why does He allow evil? Why doesn’t He just make people love Him, and all would be right in our universe? These questions keep cropping up while I am involved with my current work-in-progress novel. I’ve heard several attempted answers, and while I may agree with some of them, the responses don’t satisfy my heart.

There is the “Just Trust and Obey” answer. Certainly, as a Christian, I need to trust and obey Jesus in everything, but those actions on my part don’t solve the riddle of an all-powerful God putting up with evil, even if I know it’s temporary.

thinkingThen there’s the “Tapestry” answer. I like that one better. Because God knows everything, He can see beyond my immediate pain in the midst of evil. He knows how He is going to use the situation for my future good. That’s comforting, but it doesn’t answer the question as to why He allows evil in the first place. But “Tapestry” is a difficult concept for humans to comprehend. When I consider that He knows the endless possibilities for every individual on earth who has ever lived or will ever live, “Tapestry” is mind-boggling. I have to step away; my brain can’t wrap around the concept, and the emotional result is awfully close to a panic attack.

I’ve called the answer with the most potential to assist my finite understanding “No Stepford Wives.” Within a limited analogy, I can relate the earthly to the heavenly and gain some knowledge and wisdom. The term ‘Stepford Wife’ has become synonymous with creating something that “loves” you. Stepford wives never argued with their husbands, never left dishes in the sink, never suffered from headaches at bedtime. They were perfect – but ultimately dissatisfying. Why? Because they never loved their husbands of their own free will. The husband knew that he had manufactured feelings. Would she still love him if he relinquished control?

God doesn’t want to make us love Him either. He could. We could all be living in some version of the Garden of Eden, little robots with no thoughts of our own. Perhaps, we would be happier in our ignorance, but we wouldn’t know the joy of choosing to love others. Nor, I suspect, would God be satisfied with His creation.

I’ve read that God is the most emotional Being that exists. He is more joyful than we can comprehend, and His sorrow goes deeper than any of us could ever bear. He made us to be creatures like Himself in that we are capable of loving, willing to make sacrifices for someone else. And the greatest gift we can offer is to love Him because we want to.

When humans do not love God, they choose to not love God, and evil results. God already knows how He will deal with it. In the meantime, He is willing to create further generations who have the opportunity to choose to love Him, and whenever individuals make God the center of their lives, He sits back and says, “It is good.”

Jeremiah 31:3 – [The Lord says:] “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

Linda Samaritoni lives near Indianapolis. She teaches Spanish in a private elementary school and enjoys writing and music. She has completed two novels, one for children, one women’s contemporary and is currently working on a YA novel. Linda is married and has three sons and two granddaughters, the lights of her life, after Jesus!

Check out Linda’s blog at www.my2ndnature.wordpress.com for more posts comparing the temporal and the spiritual.

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I like questions. But more than that, I like answers. Clear, easily contained, easy to explain answers. But unfortunately, my small, often inconsistent and finite mind will never truly grasp the mind and ways of God, at least, not this side of heaven. But that doesn’t keep me from asking, from reading His Word, His purest self-revelation known to man. And when I do that–when I draw near to God with an open, teachable heart, an amazing thing happens. Suddenly, many of my burning questions begin to fade in the indescribable peace of His presence.

Let’s talk about this: What do you do when questions regarding faith arise? In what ways do you believe God answers our questions? In your experience, does He normally answer right away or take time, and why do you think this is? As parents, how can we encourage our children to turn to God and His Word for spiritual answers? And lastly, have you been able to see a blessing or protection or perhaps moment of healing in hindsight, perhaps after a situation that initially seemed unbearable? I’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. 

What Does God Expect of Us?

Most of you know, our family moved from one state to another last summer. Moving is always hard, but for teens, I believe, even more so. Our daughter really struggled … but God met her, met all of us, through a loving church. Truly, the youth group helped carry our daughter through that time. Today Robin Gilbert  Luftig reminds us to be the church God desires–one that’s saturated by love and grace.

What Is Expected of Us?

loveyourneighborA young girl sits alone on the pew, hoping—yet dreading—someone will ask to sit with her. Her clothes are nondescript and she wears little makeup. Her hair is neat yet combed just right to conceal her face. She knows how to blend into a crowd. She’s had years of practice learning how not to be seen. She doesn’t seem to want to be seen … but does she?

Please, see me. Look at me. Talk to me. Let me know I matter. I have a secret I want to share, but I’m afraid to risk it with you.

An elderly man slowly walks into the church and sits down in your favorite spot. It appears he’s missed several 967875_41580221bathing opportunities and hasn’t shaved in days. His clothes are worn and his shoes flop when he shuffles. The only glint from him comes from the worn wedding ring he wears on his gnarled finger. He looks a bit sad; a bit lost.

Please, see me. My wife just passed away and I’m so lonely. I want to talk to you, but I’m afraid to show you my pain.

These or people like these sit in pews across the country every Sunday. Sadly, many of them go home just as they came in: alone and in pain, still searching for relief yet afraid to risk reaching out.

What do we do?

Jesus’ words are very clear. Get to know and involve yourself in the lives of those around you. Matthew 31:36-40, shares a conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We don’t need to offer an intense theological dissertation on a point of doctrine. We may just need to smile … say “hello, my name is ______, what’s your name?” When we see and acknowledge others, they may give us the opportunity to really see them. We may even be able to show them the love Jesus talked about.

Think about that the next time you have a visitor at church. Maybe their needs are so great words won’t be spoken, until they know you care.

***

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Robin Gilbert Luftig has worked for many years to help broken people understand that God loves them. In 2009, she founded Renew Ministries, with the purpose of sharing with spiritually- and emotionally-broken men and women that God has a plan for their healing. She’s written From Pain to Peace: The Journey of Forgiveness After Divorce, available at Amazon.com. She is currently writing a book on accepting God’s restoration

Robin lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, Lew, and counts serving broken-hearted people as one of her greatest privileges.

You can follow Robin’s blog at http://robingilbertluftig.wordpress.com/ and on Facebook at Renew Ministries with Robin Gilbert Luftig

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Books about failed marriages abound on bookstore shelves. Readers in search of resources to re-energize themselves in the wake of a divorce can find vast and varied literature on inward and outward healing. So why another book on divorce? From Pain to Peace offers a unique perspective on post-marriage relationships. The premise of this work is that everyone benefits from establishing healthy relationships after divorce-primarily ex-spouses, but also the children and other family members and friends. This book promotes the act of forgiveness that lies at the heart of the healing process. Written in a lively and engaging style and using frequent support from Scripture, this book offers a Christian view on the subject. Also included are personal experiences as well as testimonials from others to support this premise. Stories are included from people in variety of roles-for example, ex-spouses, ex-in-laws, children, and stepchildren-who share their feelings and experiences and who recount stories of their own divorce process.

Buy it here!

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LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Perhaps you are going through a difficult time right now. It might be tempting to isolate. In fact, it might seem to take too much work or energy to get involved with church activities, but what if that is precisely how God wants to reach out to you–through the love of others? Or perhaps you know of individuals entering your church sanctuary who appear withdrawn, sullen … hurting. Maybe even angry (which most often is the result of pain). How might God want to use you to reach out to them? What are some easy, non-threatening ways we can do that?

Finally, has God used church members to minister to you during a particularly painful time? Share your experience here and let us celebrate God’s love together. 🙂

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