Marked With a Seal

person-1821412_1920For years, I spiraled into self-destruction, ultimately ending up homeless. Well before my eighteenth birthday. I don’t know the statistics, but I do know the probability of one climbing out of that mess aren’t high.

But God.

If not for Him, if not for His grace, and honestly, if not for a sweet woman named Dorothy who shared the gospel with a frizzy haired, poor trailer park kid decades before my life spiraled, I’d still be roaming the streets or Tacoma. Or dead. (Join me for one of our Wholly Loved Conference to hear more of my story, how God pursued me, a woman from the Bible named Sarai, and what it means to live wholly loved.)

These were my thoughts as I read June Foster’s devotion the other day, because I do believe, that afternoon when sweet Dorothy shared the gospel, and when God grabbed hold of my heart, He marked me as His, pursuing me, wooing me, and surrounding me with His healing, restorative, life-transforming love.

Marked With a Seal by author June Foster 

A rewarding way to study the Bible is to select a few verses of scripture and as a Sunday school teacher from long ago said, “eat them.” To devoir every word and see what the Lord wants me to learn.

Recently I did that with Ephesians 1:13-14. I discovered something remarkable.

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” Yep. That’s me. I heard the message and after a few months of stubborn rejection, I received the truth into my own life, asking Jesus to be my Savior.

But what happens when we do that? “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” I could picture myself tightly gripping a deed to a house, a document that guaranteed the dwelling belonged to me. But the Holy Spirit is much more than a deed on a house or a stock certificate. He is the guarantee that proclaims our future home—an eternity with the Lord.For God so loved the world

So then I thought about the seal with which I am marked. I laughed and asked God if He would show me a picture of it. I got the impression He was telling me it is not seen with physical eyes but with spiritual. I called on my Abba, Father and asked, “but if I could see it, what would it look like.”

A beautiful image formed in my mind. It was a golden cross sitting over my heart. Praise God for His deposit guaranteeing our salvation. Something we can hold onto until the day we see Him face to face.

***

Have you heard the following song:

We’re hidden safe. He’s holding tight to us, in the good, the bad, the uncertain–through it all. Rest in that this morning.

For those facing difficult situations, and with them, questions you can’t find answers for, I encourage you to read Julie Aruduini’s guest post on Wholly LovedWhen You Do Everything Right. 

***

june-fosterAn award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. In 2013, June’s book Give Us This Day was a finalist in EPIC’s eBook awards and in 2014 a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards for best first book. Ryan’s Father was one of three finalists in the published contemporary fiction category of the 2014 Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Writing Contest and Awards. Deliver Us was a finalist in COTT’s 2014 Laurel Awards. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day, As We Forgive, and Deliver Us, and Hometown Fourth of July. Ryan’s Father is published by WhiteFire Publishing. Red and the Wolf, a modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, is available from Amazon.com. The Almond Tree series, For All Eternity, Echoes From the Past, What God Knew, and Almond Street Mission are available at Amazon.com as well. Misty Hollow is published by Helping Hands Press. June enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. Recently June has seen publication of Christmas at Raccoon Creek and Lavender Fields Inn. Visit June at junefoster.com.

lavender-fields-innLavender Fields Inn:

Love grows amid the flowers in the magnificent Rockies at Lavender Fields Inn, but romance can be deceptive at times.

Wren Tabor hopes the cool Colorado air at Lavender Fields Inn will heal her aching heart after her former boyfriend betrays her. When she literally bumps into handsome accountant Graham Maier, the painful memories from the past begin to fade. But after she sees Graham kissing another woman, she figures no man can be trusted.

Graham Maier needs to prove to his father he’s as capable as his brother Greg. The Rocky Mountain Anglers’ Tournament at Gold Pan Lake will give him the chance. But he must win first place. After he meets Wren, a woman like the unnamed girl who’s occupied his dreams, he can’t understand why she suddenly won’t speak to him.

Can Wren learn to trust men again? Can Graham understand how valuable he is in God’s sight?

Buy it HERE!

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Raising Children Who Reveal Christ

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I had a very difficult pregnancy, one characterized by the constant fear that I would lose the precious child I’d prayed for, that I’d grown to love so deeply, from the moment I knew she existed. One night in particular, everyone–myself, my husband, our doctor–was certain I had. I was awakened in the middle of the night by a strong, rapid, and continual trembling and rolling in my abdomen followed by significant bleeding, and my husband rushed me to the hospital. As I lay on that cold, hard table, all I could  pray was, “No. Please Lord, no.”

I went home that night with my sweet Ashley, still very much alive, but my prayers took on a desperation after that. A bit of bargaining*. “Lord, if you’ll just help me keep this baby to term, I’ll give her back to you.”

I remembered that promise often in the days and years ahead: When I was tired and table-rock-943215_1920-1tempted to forgo our nightly Bible reading. When I was frustrated and tempted to take the easy road, parenting wise. When my heart was breaking over something she’d endured and I was tempted to focus on fixing the situation rather than helping her grow in Christ.

All I can say is, 19 years later, as I see the young woman God’s molded our girl into, I’m oh-so-grateful for that promise and how God used it to help me raise a child who does her best to reveal Christ.

This is our focus this week in our For the Love Bible study, and my special guest author Candee Fick talks about what this looked like for John the Baptist’s parents and how we can follow their example.

Raising Children Who Reveal Christ
by Candee Fick

It’s not everyone who gets a supernatural birth announcement or a miraculous baby after years of infertility. Personally, I think Zechariah and Elizabeth might have needed the baby-179378_640overly-dramatic beginning to give them the stamina and dedication to prepare their child for his destiny—to prepare the way for the Messiah. Every day they saw John’s face they had to remember that God was intimately involved in their lives, and then remember that John was born to tell others about the coming Christ.

Can you imagine the stories shared around the fire? John must have grown up surrounded by village tales of a heavenly voice in the Temple and a temporarily-speechless father not to mention an entire hill country wondering what he would grow up to become.

John’s life was the stuff of legends and the angel even said he would be great. Being told he would be filled with the Holy Spirit and go before the Lord in the power of Elijah could have led him to believe that he was something special.

And he was.

Except he wasn’t the greatest. Somewhere along the way, his parents not only raised John with the skills he would need to fulfill his personal mission of bringing the people of Israel desert-1197972_640back to God, they had to teach him to deflect the attention toward God. Huge crowds gathered to listen to John’s message of repentance, then one day John looked up from baptizing folks on the banks of the Jordan River and knew the time had come for his audience to follow Someone else instead. Between the Holy Spirit and the training he received from his parents, John obviously recognized the pivotal moment for what it was and transferred the crowd’s fickle attention with his announcement for them to “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

How did John’s parents raise a child who pointed others to Christ?

  • First, Zechariah and Elizabeth lived a personal example of faith. Between their priestly lineage and the gift of prophecy at critical moments, John couldn’t help but be raised with a solid foundation of truth and the knowledge of God’s power through history.
  • Second, they obviously also set up some behavioral boundaries to keep him on the right path and not derail his future. The angel told them to keep him away from the wine and fermented drinks (a cultural sign that he was set apart for God’s work) while later in the first chapter of Luke it states that John lived in the wilderness before he began his public life.
  • Third, I have to believe that every time John did something great or had some amazing insight thanks to the Holy Spirit in his life, his parents pointed out how that was an example of God working in and through him. Always pointing John back to person-371015_640God so that he could in turn point others to God.

I’ve got a son who is gifted with some serious athletic talent. In fact, he lettered in four sports his senior year of high school and is now in college with a basketball scholarship. All that to say, it would have been very easy for him to get a big head and strut his stuff down the hallways.

While this isn’t on the scale of a John the Baptist, as a mother I have tried to constantly remind my son of the Gift-Giver and his responsibility to use those gifts in a way that points people back to God. I strive to keep the presence of God in the middle of our family through prayer, devotions, and natural testimonies of what God is doing in my own life. To identify examples of God’s hand at work in the lives of others. Ultimately, my hope is that my oldest son will use his platform as an athlete to be the right kind of example for younger boys to model as he deflects attention heavenward.

Consistently pointing back to Christ is a difficult lesson to learn and even harder to live. Yet aren’t we all called to do the same, to use our gifts for God’s glory and then become less so that God’s message can become more? Thanks to the influence of his parents, John learned to to do just that.

***

danceoverme-500x750-1Danielle Lefontaine, a fledgling actress raised to the lullaby of Broadway, searches for her long-lost brother and her place on the stage, but a jealous cast member and numerous fruitless leads threaten to drop the curtain on her dreams and shine a spotlight on her longing for a place to belong. Meanwhile, Alex Sheridan is living his dream except for someone to share it with. When Dani dances into his life, he hopes he’s found the missing piece to his heart but fears the bright lights of a bigger stage could steal her away.

Will the rhythm of dancing feet usher in their deepest desires or leave them stranded in the wings?

Find Dance Over Me on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

And for a funny, more lighthearted post by Candee, visit my alter ego’s blog to read how she lives in continual weather-confusion. (You can read that HERE.)

***

candee-fick_headshotCandee Fick is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at football, basketball, baseball, and Special Olympics games. In what little free time remains, she enjoys exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.

Connect with Candee on her web site, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Google+.

Let’s talk about this! If you’re parenting now, what are some ways you try to raise your children to point to and reveal Christ? What makes this hard? If your children are grown, what were some ways you did this while they were growing up? Can you see the results of your efforts now that they’re adults? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments below on Facebook at Living by Grace, or join our Facebook Bible study group For the Love to discuss this further. Because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

john12-24versejpgAnd for those following our Bible study, here’s this week’s memory verse, one God intends for each of us to live out, daily, and to teach our children to do the same.

*Note: God’s will cannot be “bargained” nor does this post intend to support that or encourage one to even try. Rather, it shares a moment of heartache and terror and my human response, and how God later used that, because He truly can use it all–our successes and failures, our steps of obedience and our regrets and weaknesses.

Learning Through a Child

Photo by David Castillo taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by David Castillo taken from freedigitalphotos.net

I admit it, I’m a needy Christian. I crave need and crave constant attention from my heavenly Father, especially when He’s nudging me into a new area. I want to be reminded of things He’s told me a thousand times, and more than anything, I need to know He’s always there, to feel His presence walking beside me.

Yes, I’m a needy child, but I don’t think God minds.  Today my guest  Teresa Tysinger, shares what she recently learned through her daughter about fear, insecurity, and divine reassurance. Read on and be encouraged.

“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” – Matthew 28.20

What My Daughter Taught Me about Being a Child of God
by Teresa Tysinger

Labor with my daughter, Emma, took over thirty-two hours. She began walking at only nine months old, learned to cook herself scrambled eggs at four years, and was only five when she took the dog out for her morning walk down the street while my husband and I were still sleeping. Now half way to eight years old, she reminds us that soon she’ll be mailbox-959299_640driving. She’s independent, determined, helpful, and maybe a just tad stubborn. It’s easy to forget she’s still a young child.

We recently moved into a new home. As night descended for our first night sleeping in the new place, Emma whined about bedtime as I tucked her in. The following conversation tugged at my heart in unexpected ways.

“Mama, can I sleep with you and daddy, just for tonight?” Her big brown eyes pleaded with me.

“Aren’t you excited about sleeping in your new room?”

“No. What if I wake up in the middle of the night and forget where you are?” Her little hand reached out and held mine tightly, as if afraid I’d be lost if she let go.

“We’ll leave a light on so you can find your way to our room if you wake up, okay?”

“But…Mama…” she whined.

“Emma…” Prickles of frustration marched up my arm. Boxes waited to be unpacked. You aremySunshineLaundry needed to put away. So much to do. It would be a big help if this bedtime process sped up.

“Will you at least sing me a lullaby so I can hear your voice in my head while I sleep? That’ll remind me where I am.”

Her eyes closed, waiting for me to sing. I swallowed past the lump formed in my throat and crooned out You Are My Sunshine. As the last word hung in the air, her breathing was calm and rhythmic, face relaxed. Bless her.

When I made my way back to the living room full of boxes and bubble wrap, it dawned on me how similar we must seem to God as his weary children. We need constant reassurance that he’s there. We need to be reminded of his promises. And we need just to go to his Word to let his promises ring true in our hearts so we remember where (and whose) we are.

“And behold, I am with you always,
until the end of the age.” – Matthew 28.20

Parenting is so hard. The demands are constant, challenges plenty, and rewards child-praying-hands-1510773_640sometimes seem too subtle to recognize. I struggle with patience and selflessness. While Emma needed a simple reminder of her security in our new home—a reminder of her parents’ presence—she taught me about being a child of God through her ability and gumption to ask for what she needed.

Don’t miss these lessons parenting provides. I’m so thankful for my fiercely independent, yet still young and vulnerable, seven year old.

***

teresatysinger_bioTeresa Tysinger is a wife and mother transplanted from North Carolina to North Texas. When not working as the Director of Communications for a large downtown church, she writes charming southern romances, inspired by grace. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Religious Communicators’ Council, and the Association for Women in Communications, Teresa has spent over a decade committed to telling stories of faith through written word. She loves coffee, caramel, and stories with happy endings.

Connect with Teresa at:
Facebook – Teresa Tysinger, Author
Twitter – @TMTysinger
Website & Blog – http://teresatysinger.com

***

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about it: Emma asked Teresa to sing her a lullaby so she’ll hear her mama’s voice while she’s sleeping and remember where she is. Have you ever experienced that deep need, whether with another person or with the Lord? How did you fill that need? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.

 Before you go, some fun book news! Two of my novels are currently available from Amazon at significant discounts!

Intertwined is on sale (paperback version!) for $6.78! That’s 58% off the e0d5a-intertwined_n154121regular price! Get it HERE and read the first 2 chapters for free HERE. Aaaaannnnnd, my latest release, Breaking Free, is on sale (paperback version) for $4.21! Get it HERE!

Pulling Back the Veil on Christian Love

ID-100201732Scroll through social media long enough, and chances are you’ll read a few (or more) negative posts regarding Christians and Christianity. Some say we’re intolerant, others that we’re hateful, close-minded, or out of touch, or whatever. Find a negative adjective, and I’m pretty sure you can find a statement connecting it to Christ-followers.

Granted, there are those among us who do indeed fit those descriptions, but from my experience, when I step back and truly consider, those angry (or perhaps confused) individuals are the minority. The vast number of Christians I know are doing amazing things. They’re feeding the hungry, adopting orphans, walking beside single moms, bringing clean water to the sick and thirsty, medical care to the ill, and more. So much more.

Yesterday I considered all the ways God’s children have shown up in my life lately, of all the sacrificial giving of time and resources I’ve seen displayed, not by one, not by two or three, but by a large number of believers with whom I have contact.

All this points not to the good of the human heart, nor to the quality of my friends (thoughgirl-1186895_1920 I think they’re amazing) but rather to the power of the Holy Spirit, at work in us. And every act of love displayed by one of God’s children points to His ever-reaching, ever-faithful Daddy’s heart.

Let me explain:

God has called our family to something hard, amazing, beautiful, and frightening. He has called us to help initiate life change and healing, to show the truth and depth of His love, even when–especially when!–that love is spurned.

This in and of itself is not unique to Christians. I believe we all as humans long to make an impact, to help others, and to see our world change. But wanting and doing are entirely different things, and on our own, in our own strength, we lack the power to truly live “all in,” sacrificially, for a significant length of time. 

Let me explain–from my experience. Lately, many have showered me with accolades, saying they view me as giving, loving, and … saint-like. But I’m not. So not. On my own, I’m selfish, fearful, distracted, impatient, ever-viewing the world through a me-centered lens.

And that’s where the tug-push-pull comes in–an inner wrestling of God’s Spirit with mine, and an intimate time where He personally meets with me, changing my thinking, softening my heart, and empowering me to follow, wholeheartedly, His leading.

Here’s how it starts. I’ll step out in love and faith, only to have my love spurned. My natural, human reaction? To get frustrated, maybe even angry, discouraged, and to want to pull back. To self-protect and withdraw–to take the easy route.

But then, in the midst of my selfish thinking, God speaks gently to my heart. Sometimes He’ll remind me of His love. Always, He’ll help me see the situation and the other person through His eyes.

Let me pause here. That is the most powerful, most attitude and heart changing aspect of walking in a close relationship with Christ–being granted the ability to see, truly see, other’s through Christ’s eyes–to catch a glimpse past behaviors and words to the hurting, bleeding heart within.

When that happens, everything changes, in an instant. Anger is turned to compassion. Frustration to peace. Discouragement to hope. Selfishness to love. And suddenly, one is filled with a passion so strong, they cannot not act, cannot not love.

Gal 2-20verse jpgThis has been my journey lately, a daily teeter totter, and praise God, He has been winning–love has been winning. Not because there’s anything remotely good within me, but because God has proven strong on my behalf. Again and again and again. And through it all, I’ve grown even closer to Him as He overwhelms me with the revelation of the depth of His love for our hurting world.

When I started this post, I planned to share all the ways God’s children have shown up for our family as we seek to obey Him. But as I wrote, it took a bit of a detour, hopefully one that was God directed.

For now, I leave you with this–if you’ve never experienced the love and life-changing power of God’s Spirit living within, today can be the day–the day you quit trying to live on your own and in your own strength, the day you stop seeking temporary fillers to the emptiness within, the day you know what it’s like to be loved deeply, at your core, and held close by your heavenly Father, from now to eternity. (Find out how HERE.)

For those of you who do have a relationship with Christ, I challenge you (and me) to get and stay connected–to Him. Make your relationship with Christ your top priority and to carve out time when you rest in His presence, allowing Him to change your perspective, soften your heart, and empower you to do that which He has called you to do. Because in Him, you have everything you need to live the life He desires.

I leave you with one of my favorite verses:

“By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of 2Peter3-1versejpgthis by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT).

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! What is God calling you to do? In what ways has He empowered and equipped you to do that? In what ways has He revealed His love to you through others? Share your stories with us here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace, because God is worthy of our praise and the whole world needs to know about all the great things He does and has done!

But before you go–an invitation to my Omaha Metro friends. Join me and my sister in Christ, singer Shelly Conn, at Chocolaterie Stam for a fun afternoon of live music, books, readings, and chocolate!

Chocolaterie Signing-page-001

Loving Fiercely

Their love is fierce, in the passionate moments and in the conflict, and though I know they’d rather skip the fighting all together, they’ve learned how to hold on. Tight.

Love isn’t always flowers, date nights, and long, intimate conversations. Even the best of marriages have teeth-gritting, foot-stomping moments. Those moments can absolutely shatter your marriage, or you can find a way to push through.

Today I’m honored and tickled to have my sweet brother and sister-in-law on my blog.

-However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.-Ephesians 5-33, ESV

Warm Cups of Tea
by HaYoung Jung Febus

I woke up this morning to a very awake husband whispering(ish), “Jakkiya, do you want 20160309_073940some tea?… Jakkiya, do you want some tea? … Jakkiya, I already boiled the water. Jakkiya, do you want some tea?”

Now, for those of you that hear about our marriage off-Facebook, know that my husband and I can be fiercely affectionate to each other…and equally fierce in our fights, as well. Like, really fierce. I think this is what makes these whisper(ish)’s and teas all the more special for me.

We have both felt “defeated” as we repeat certain conversations over and over and over. And over. A wise friend once told me of the 20151230_114539importance of “persevering in repeated conversations” in marriage. Yet there have been times we both literally felt like we had depleted every ounce of perseverance juice in our souls—every ounce.

However, through these warm cups of tea, the Holy Spirit is very much alive in our household, and I experience the Spirit’s love through my husband. I know my husband doesn’t make me tea in horrendous hours of the morning just because I am so great to him. I know that he’s seen the ugliest side of me—he will see more—and the miracle is that he still chooses to serve and love, because the Spirit is very much alive in him.

Even after this wonderful cup of tea, we will still fight. We will still have deadlock areas that seem impossible to figure out. We have baggage that will take a lifetime to unpack. And it still hurts that my husband doesn’t think I’m funny, because let’s be real people, I’m hilarious. But as long as we have these milk tea-moments in our marriage going on, I know we will only learn to love better. I 20160318_184554know we have already learned to love better and praise God for that every day. Well…almost every day.

Conclusion: Husbands, thou shalt make caffeinated beverages for thee wives every morning. Thank you, husband.

***

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Let’s talk about this: HaYoung shared a bit about her marriage and the fighting–and how the Holy Spirit uses simple peace offerings from her husband to show His love and keep hers and Raymond’s strong. Do you see “milk-tea moments” in your own  marriage? How do you intentionally reconnect after a conflict or during times of stress?

For those following me online, here’s where I’ve been this past week:

Today I’m on Putting On the New talking about intentional obedience and deliberate grace. Join me HERE.

Tuesday, I was busy! I dropped in at Seriously Write and spoke about how authors can get their books into libraries and stores. Join the conversation HERE. I also went over to Seekerville to share my observations about those who have a winning mindset. Join the fun HERE.

On Saturday, I had the joy of visiting Edie Melson on The Write Conversation. I spoke about narrowing the scope of your blogging. Join the conversation HERE.

And finally, last Friday, I shared how reaching the end of myself led to freedom on Elaine Stock’s site. Read the story HERE and join in the conversation.

10426573_10205915387019579_6039181238012022411_nFor those who live in or near the Omaha Metro, join me on April 9th at Barnes and Noble near the Oakview mall between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. I’ll be signing copies of my latest novel, Breaking Free (and maybe all my other novels as well. I’ll find out). Come in, say hi, grab a latte or mocha at the cafe’, grab an autographed copy of my novel for you or a loved one, and let’s chat! And help me spread the word by inviting your friends! You can do so by sending an email through the B&N link then click on “email” in the bottom right. Click HERE. 

Thank God It’s NOT About ME!

Sherris pictureToday I’m thrilled to have fellow ACFW member, Sherri Stone here on my blog. I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to notice a common theme in the devotions I’ve posted lately. And no, I don’t plan what my guest bloggers write about. 😉 The theme? Pretty sure it’s clear in her title. Wow, this one is a hard one to get. Maybe that’s why God keeps repeating it. 🙂

Oh, and before I go much further, I wanted to announce the winner of last week’s give-away. Elaine Stock, you’re it! I’ve gotta admit, having won give-aways hosted on your blog twice now, I’m uber thrilled! I’ll email you soon to chat about the best way to get Janet’s book, Heaven’s Pray, to you.

Thank God It’s NOT About ME!!

         I’ve been a social worker for over twenty years, and as you might imagine that has brought me face to face with more problems than I care to remember. Some situations are out of our control as humans, but it’s startling to know how many miseries are self-induced. When you have my job it’s also quite frustrating to see how many “crises” come your way because of someone else’s actions.

One Saturday when I was on call I heard from one of my nurses that a patient was out of diabetic testing supplies and had been for several days. Of course it didn’t become a crisis until Saturday. Replacing those items is not difficult during the week when resources are readily available, but on the weekend…

I was mad. I had a patient to take care of and a nurse to support, and no solutions were coming to mind. I needed to pray but because I felt angry I didn’t feel like I had the right to pray. I certainly wasn’t feeling very ‘spiritual’.

You’re already thinking it, aren’t you? When you least feel it, that’s when you most need to do it. In fact, in that moment God was already speaking to my heart, and as he does so many times, he used that situation as a teaching moment for me. It’s as if he spoke out loud and said, “If I were bound by your feelings, I would be totally useless to you. When will you remember that it’s not about you? It’s never about you. I AM the One whose strength and wisdom matter. I AM the One whose love never waivers. I AM the One who is never surprised. IAM the One with ALL that you will ever need. Ask me.

         Ask me.

So I did. I vented my frustration and thanked Him that no matter how much of a mess my emotions were He was and would always be God. I also thanked Him ahead of time for taking care of the problem, which of course He did.

I do need reminding from time to time, though, so there is now a tab in my bible that marks Numbers 22, the story of Balaam’s donkey. The tab simply says “NOT ABOUT ME!”  God chose to use a donkey to speak to Balaam. (The amazing thing is that Balaam talked back, but that’s a story for another day.) The point is, God can use whatever or whomever is available. Sometimes that’s a donkey. Sometimes that’s me. Sometimes there’s not much difference.

Can we be thankful in all situations? Yes. Is it easy. Of course not. It takes remembering party-balloons-1-1158924-mwhere to focus our thanks. If we wait to feel thankful we have missed it. God is not now, nor will He ever be handicapped by our emotions. Picture God as a large boulder holding down the strings of many balloons. The balloons are our emotions and they may hold perfectly still on a calm day, or they may be whipped into  a frenzy in a storm, but they will never move the rock!

A thankful heart is not a feeling. It is a choice. Every day, in every situation we have the right, and God’s permission to come to Him at any time no matter how we feel.  We develop a heart quick to give thanks when we take our burdens to him – no matter how we feel – trust Him for the results, and give thanks for who He is.

Blessings,

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thes. 5:18, NLT).

Sherri is a medical social worker with hospice. She is currently working on her Dark Family Secrets Series, but is also collaborating with her hospice chaplain on a book about the hospice experience. This is her third year with ACFW.  Connect with her at  www.sherristone.net or http://www.facebook.com/sherrilynnestone or on Twitter @sherristone2.

 LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Join the conversation here, in the comments below, or at Living by Grace on Facebook.
I’m sure you’ve all been where Sherri was, when the last thing you want to do is pray. So, what did you do? And what happened? Our pastor said something last Sunday that I found immensely beautiful. He reminded us in those times when we can’t or don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us. (Romans 8:26) To me, that’s a beautiful reminder of grace. God knows we’re fallible, weak, emotional… But He loves us anyway, and praise God, His faithfulness is not dependent on ours. Granted, that doesn’t mean we toss our hands up and say, “I’m done. Go ahead and pray for me, God.” Nope, because as Janet reminded us last week, prayer is more than popping off a request list. It’s about drawing near to our Creator and allowing Him to align our hearts with His. Allowing Him to fill us with a joy that goes beyond our circumstances and a peace that surpasses understanding.

The Divine Dance

When Steve and I were first married, we took up country dancing. Well, we tried, anyway. A local bar offered free lessons one afternoon a week, so each week we’d go and do our best to scurry across the dance floor, preferably in time to the music. We weren’t very good. Actually, we stunk, so I decided to practice at home. I went to our local library and checked out dance instruction videos, and while my husband was at work, I practiced. Then I met him at the door with arms positioned, ready to dance.

The more I “learned” the worse I got. I stepped on his feet, jerked left when he wanted to go right, and combined, we created a robotic display that was anything but romantic. You see, the problem was I was so convinced I knew how to dance, I lost sight of my dance partner.

I think often, I’m like that with God. I’m so focused on what I know to do, whether that be reading my Bible, teaching a Sunday school class, or fulfilling various responsibilities, it’s easy to take my eyes off the dancer. It’s easy to turn what should be an act of intimate surrender into rote behavior which ultimately leads to burn-out and ineffectiveness. But when I surrender to the dancer, forsaking my ideas and agendas, clearing my vision of everything but my Lead Dancer, Everything flows.

Have you ever watched professional ballroom dancers or skating partners? There’s an intimate dynamic that occurs between them. The crowd can scream and holler, cameras can flash, but they don’t see it. They are focused 100% on their partner, attuned to the slightest signal, responding instantly, beautifully, effortlessly.

What if we knew God that intimately? What if we were so focused on Him, so in tune with Him, like Jesus we could say, “I do only what my Father wills.”? And what keeps us from that? What keeps us angsting, striving, and experiencing burn-out?

On Sunday I spent the afternoon studying the Holy Spirit. Throughout Scripture, we are told the Holy Spirit guides us, has fellowship with us, teaches us, fills us, prays for us, and overshadows us.

2 Corinthian 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”

Fellowship–intimate interaction.

John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”

Life-giving. Apart from Him, apart from full submission to Him, our efforts lead to futility. No matter how great our ministry, how in-depth our Bible study time, or how devoted our service, if it’s not ignited, guided and sustained by the Holy Spirit, it will be nothing but the effort of man operating on the wisdom of man to do the things of man. But we were called to more!

2 Samuel 23:2 “The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; His word was on my tongue.”

Our ultimate goal as Christians should be to be cleansed and open vessels, ready to do God’s will. Like funnels, conduits of God’s power and grace.

Ephesians 5:18 “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

To be filled, we must first be emptied–of ourselves, our sin, our wants, our desires. I believe anytime we cling to anything–even good things–other than God, they become a hinderance to the working of the Holy Spirit. That job we fear losing, the ministry we can’t let fail, whatever it is, when we begin to strive for it, hold tight to it, we begin to operate in our own will. To be overshadowed, we need to stay surrendered completely, focused on our Dancer, not the dance. Otherwise, I believe, our actions lack power. Why? Because we’ve left our dancer behind.

Lord, may we be like Paul, so driven by Your Spirit, so infused by Your presence, that Your love compels us. (1 Corinthians 9:16) Remove all expectations and obligations except that of drawing near to You in full surrender, listening to Your voice, and obeying. Draw us into Your Dance, Oh, Lord.

 
Let’s talk about this!

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about living fully surrendered, Spirit-driven and empowered lives. We all want to be there, right? We all want to experience the “power of His resurrection.” Stop and consider, what are some things that get in the way of experiencing the abundant life God promised? And what steps can you take to draw near, to come empty, and to receive all that God has in store for you?

What might our churches, our homes, our cities look like if Christians joined and stayed in the divine dance?