question mark

Before I launch into today’s post, question: How many of you are enjoying my following chronologically through the New Testament? Were you aware that’s what I’ve been doing? (For example, today’s post covers the reading passage for day one of week 31.) I ask because this has been super challenging, y’all! If you’re enjoying this journey and find it helpful, then I’ll keep pushing on. But if you’re not … I might reconsider my content plans. 🙂 Let me know in the comments.

And now back to your regularly schedule post …

When my actions and reactions don’t resemble the love and grace of Christ, I know I’ve left my Savior behind. This happens every time I allow my fear and pride, rather than Christ, take the lead. Soon, I develop an us-vs-them mentality. As people become issues, love, that which Christ told us to radiate most clearly, begins to grow cold. 

Praying through Luke 9 this past week, I sensed God calling me to evaluate my pride-filled Pharisitical tendencies within me. Those times when I serve from a place of superiority, and reveal this in the ugliness that follows. When that sense of superiority entices me to fight for a mound of dirt that isn’t worth my, or your, or anyone else’s time, ignoring the hill–Calvary–our Savior fixed His gaze upon.

Luke 9:51 records some of the most beautiful words in Scripture: “​​As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (NIV). 

Knowing all He’d face there, maybe even feeling some of the anguish that would later consume His soul “to the point of death” in the Garden, He set walked with determined steps. 

And once again, He and His disciples stopped through Samaria along the way. Only this time, they didn’t receive the same welcome. In fact, they were rejected, as they had numerous times before. 

Only this time, James and John didn’t become grieved, as one might expect, considering all the Samaritans were forfeiting. They weren’t even annoyed, as can occur with road weary travelers. 

No. They became enraged. Murderously, so. “Lord,” they said, upon seeing how the Samaritans rejected Christ, “do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

Am I the only one struck by the sad contrast? The One with every right to obliterate not just the people in that village, but all of mankind as well, was determined to reach Jerusalem, no matter how difficult each step must’ve been. 

The hill upon which His love would be vividly displayed–for those who received and rejected Him. The disciples didn’t understand that. I suspect they were blinded by pride, thinking they, the chosen ones, had lowered themselves simply to enter that village. Their sense of superiority tainted any love they might otherwise have displayed.

Sadly, pride likely lay at the root of the Samaritan’s actions as well. Scholars remind us they welcomed Christ readily enough when He came “from some unknown region of Judæa where He had been baptising (John 3:22; John 4:3).” Knowing He was heading toward Jerusalem, the place the Jews had long contended as the only proper place to worship, however? And not to the temple they’d built on Mount Gerizzim? Implying that, perhaps, they were wrong?

Unthinkable! 

How sad to think their indignation blinded them to the truth Christ had so beautifully proclaimed to the Samaritan woman He’d met at Jacob’s well, early in His ministry. He didn’t come to tell us where to worship but rather Who to worship. 

How grieved Jesus must’ve been that day, to see putrid reservoirs of pride well up within hearts on both sides, where streams of living water should’ve begun to flow.

While I’ve never asked God to obliterate an entire town, I’ve seen my pride repel the very people God died to save. 

Lord, remind us, daily, of our need for You, precisely why we need You so desperately, so that our hearts won’t decay from the sin of superiority. Fill us so fully with Your love, only what is good and lovely and pure can remain. 

For those following the chronological New Testament reading plan …

Week 31 Bible reading plan image

Guest Post by the Heroes 2 Team

Quote on Christ feeding a hungry soul on an image of a woman gazing upward.

In a world of rush, will we still be able to find what really matters? 

I grew up in a family with high regard for education. My parents told me this was  our key to success and the only inheritance they could give us. But there were no books in our home, the kind my classmates used to bring at school–tales and fiction! We only had Bibles and handed-down devotionals from my uncle who was a pastor.

As a young person, I learned the verse, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33, KJV). I felt it was beautiful! I loved the “all these things shall be added unto you” part and realized I found the formula to success!

Or so I thought.

I studied hard, prayed hard, and asked God for blessings in all that I did. I thought I was invincible! Well, how could I fail right? The Lord was my ally! However, my heart wasn’t in the right place. I was seeking personal honor and success, not to  glorify God or advance His kingdom.

We all have a tendency to seek for something we don’t have. Don’t we? Wealth, position, or influence. We think if we achieve that award, get a salary increase, or increase our following on social media, maybe then we can be truly happy. 

But when we’re lost or caught in the middle of a crossroad, we often find ourselves looking for a sign, a miracle, or divine intervention. When things aren’t going our way, we want answers. We check out all other routes except for the Lord.

Sadly, many souls today are spiritually malnourished. While we’re often in a  rush to feed the body and can fail to feed our souls.

The Earthly Manna 

Scripture tells us of a time when Jesus miraculously provided for a large, hungry group of men, women, and children. The next day, they went looking for Jesus. After Jesus fed the five thousand, men came looking after Him.


The Savior knew their hearts. They were looking for Him to satisfy their physical needs. But Jesus was offering a superior Bread. The Bread of eternal life.

He told them, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval” (John 6:26, 27, ESV).

Jesus offers us the same invitation. 

The Bread of Life

In a world of hustle and bustle, it can be difficult to hush for a while, to pause, to ponder, and to realign ourselves with our  real purpose. It’s easy to get lost and disoriented amidst life’s pressures; we tend to focus too much on the physical, temporal, and visible.

Although there is nothing wrong with attending to one’s needs, But no one but Jesus can satisfy the hunger of our souls. As He said in Matthew 4:4, In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (ESV).

In giving His body for the world, God made a way for us to be saved from eternal death. Christ promised, in John 11:26 that, “everyone who lives and believes in [Him] shall never die” (ESV).

Jesus cares for our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, and we can trust Him to provide. 

to worry about many things and to cling to false securities. This hinders our trust in and dependence on Christ. 

God is not indifferent to the wants of His children. He who calls us by name and  numbers the hairs on our head knows our needs and longings of our heart.

He reminds His children, Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matthew 7:8, ESV).

Today may we remind ourselves that the God who multiplied the loaves and fishes  is the same God who will provide us too.

In Him we will receive what we truly need.

More about Heroes 2

Heroes 2 is a Bible trivia game released by the Hope Channel. It is a sequel to the game, Heroes, which was released way back in 2013. The latest game version is in its new 3D animation, comes with unique features, and has more challenging Bible questions in four languages: English, Portuguese, Spanish, and French. The game is available on both iOS and Android.

Find them HERE, and make sure to tell others about this app!

For those following our Chronological New Testament reading plan …

Bible plan image

A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72 Faith Over Fear

In our ongoing battle against anxiety and fear, it can be challenging to find resources that are filled with truth and presented from a place of understanding and grace. It can be even more challenging to find biblically sound, heart-safe resources presented from a strong and mature Christ-follower who understands, because they’ve shared similar struggles. This is why books like Grace Fox’s Moving from Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation are so invaluable. Written by a career global worker who could’ve easily lost her newborn daughter, Grace knows what it’s like to wrestle with the deep truths of God during times of intense fear. In this interview, she shares one of her most frightening moments to date, how God met her in her fear, and practical ways listeners can move from fear to increased faith and freedom. Find Grace at: https://www.gracefox.com/blog https://www.facebook.com/gracefox.author https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Podcast episode referenced: Faith Over Fear Episode 63: Finding Peace in the God of Heaven's Armies Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. When do you tend to feel most vulnerable? 3. How do you normally respond when you feel vulnerable? 4. What truths or songs help you remember God’s love, strength, and faithfulness? 5. When had God reminded you of truth or passage during a time of fear? 6. What are some practical ways you remind yourself of God’s goodness, faithfulness, power, and/or sovereignty? 7. What are some practical ways you have or can remind yourself of ways God has cared for you in the past? 8. Why is it important to turn to God when we’re afraid? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Rudzhan Nagiev
  1. A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72
  2. Living Supernaturally Empowered – Ep. 71
  3. Hearing God’s Voice: The Peace That Comes from Being Supernaturally Led – Ep. 70
  4. Uncovering What’s Beneath Our Emotional Reactions with Steve Carter – Ep. 69
  5. Finding Courage in God Our Abba Father – Ep. 68

Quote from post with a floral abstract background.

Jesus routinely elevated, honored, and welcomed those society pushed to the fringe or rejected outright. Can you imagine the emotional healing He must’ve brought to those individuals? The message of love and grace that He sent them?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched one young woman in particular experience a similar journey. For years, most of her church experience, actually, she was told that she was too much—too loud and intimidating, too intense, too dominant.  

That no man would want to marry a woman “smarter” than him. These were the messages sent by those in her faith community.  

“I felt like they were talking about all of me,” she said, “instead of a particular character trait. So, I tried to be quieter and tone myself down when I met new people and was in group settings. But that wasn’t who I was and I always ended up being ‘loud and opinionated,’ and so I left the interactions feeing like I’d failed and that everyone probably thought I was annoying.”

The place designed to help her thrive as a confident daughter of Christ became a stifling, lonely environment that led to increased insecurity. She quickly realized, she didn’t fit into people’s preconceived ideas of biblical womanhood. To her, this meant she didn’t fit in the church.

To put it simply, she attends church despite the church.

Praise God she’s now in a safe place where she’s learning to heal. And perhaps most importantly, where she can voice her thoughts, her doubts, and even her pain without fear. A place where she’s beginning to come alive, as God intended—to live fully as the strong yet loving, determined yet teachable woman He created her to be. It’s such a beautiful thing to see.

I thought of her journey, and the stories I’ve heard from numerous women over the years, as I read Luke 8:1-3. Scripture tells us, shortly after a “sinful woman” anointed Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36-50), “Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (NIV).

These once sick and sinful ladies joined Jesus and His male disciples. This would’ve been unheard of during that time. To travel with, and therefore learn from, a Rabbi? That was something women didn’t do. And yet, Jesus welcomed them close and invited them to play a vital—and public—role in His ministry.

I imagine a lot of people misunderstood their actions. Shouldn’t they be home raising children, or helping someone else raise children? What could they possibly need religious teaching for? Why would Jesus even allow such a thing? Or waste His time on them for that matter?

And yet, God recorded their devotion in Scripture, I believe to tell all women everywhere: you’re invited.

Quote from post on orange abstract floral background.

When others push us out, God says we’re invited.

When others misjudge and discount us, God says we’re invited.

When others tell us we don’t fit, we’re not enough or too much, God says we. Are. Invited.

For those, like my friend, who walked into church despite the church—you are invited. And loved. Valued, and in Christ, empowered, and called. God has a plan for you. He didn’t place that spark in your soul, that passion and unique insight, simply to bench you. He’s chosen you to play a unique and vitally important role in advancing His kingdom.

I’m sure for some of you this post stirred up something. Honestly, that’s precisely why I didn’t want to write on this passage. In fact, I sat and stared at it for some time this morning, thinking of all the ways I could avoid it. But again, my husband’s words of wisdom propelled me forward: “If that’s the passage you’re on,” and it is, as we’ve been following Scripture chronologically, “then I’d say you need to write on it.”

And so I did. Knowing some of my readers might not like what I have to say. But also knowing for others, this post might help initiate healing. I’d love to know your thoughts. When have you “gone to church despite the church” and how did Jesus meet you there?

Share your thoughts in the comments below or connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

Additional Resources:

How to Heal When You’ve been Hurt by the Church by Cortni Marrazzo

For those following our chronological reading plan through the New Testament, today’s post kicked off day one’s reading.

If you’re not wanting to follow our chronological plan but are still interested in a Bible plan, you may enjoy reading through Ephesians. Find that plan HERE.

You might also enjoy listening to the latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode on having the courage to be vulnerable.

A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72 Faith Over Fear

In our ongoing battle against anxiety and fear, it can be challenging to find resources that are filled with truth and presented from a place of understanding and grace. It can be even more challenging to find biblically sound, heart-safe resources presented from a strong and mature Christ-follower who understands, because they’ve shared similar struggles. This is why books like Grace Fox’s Moving from Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation are so invaluable. Written by a career global worker who could’ve easily lost her newborn daughter, Grace knows what it’s like to wrestle with the deep truths of God during times of intense fear. In this interview, she shares one of her most frightening moments to date, how God met her in her fear, and practical ways listeners can move from fear to increased faith and freedom. Find Grace at: https://www.gracefox.com/blog https://www.facebook.com/gracefox.author https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Podcast episode referenced: Faith Over Fear Episode 63: Finding Peace in the God of Heaven's Armies Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. When do you tend to feel most vulnerable? 3. How do you normally respond when you feel vulnerable? 4. What truths or songs help you remember God’s love, strength, and faithfulness? 5. When had God reminded you of truth or passage during a time of fear? 6. What are some practical ways you remind yourself of God’s goodness, faithfulness, power, and/or sovereignty? 7. What are some practical ways you have or can remind yourself of ways God has cared for you in the past? 8. Why is it important to turn to God when we’re afraid? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Rudzhan Nagiev
  1. A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72
  2. Living Supernaturally Empowered – Ep. 71
  3. Hearing God’s Voice: The Peace That Comes from Being Supernaturally Led – Ep. 70
  4. Uncovering What’s Beneath Our Emotional Reactions with Steve Carter – Ep. 69
  5. Finding Courage in God Our Abba Father – Ep. 68

Quote on sitting with those who are hurting

(Today’s devotion comes from this week’s first day’s Bible reading passage. See plan below.)

My pride, insecurity, and fierce hold on my comfort level challenge my ability to love others well. I give of my time and my money, my energy … but only so much.  To love deeper, I need to sit. Sit with my Savior, the One who floods my soul with everything good and right and lovely. And I need to sit in other people’s pain so that it becomes my own.

Years ago, I watched a profound video that halted my thoughts and convicted my soul. In it, a man was advocating for orphans he’d encountered personally while visiting a developing country. Seeing them face-to-face as they scrounged through garbage cans, those children, once statistics easily forgotten, became real. And in that moment, God asked him how he’d respond if the child digging through trash were his child. Then God told him the child was His—God’s.

I have to pause there. I know I can’t take on every wrong, but I can speak love and hope to those God brings near. Through grace and truth-filled actions, I can introduce them to my Savior. Even if that means actively tearing through the barriers that keep them from Him.

I can follow the example of the men who carried a paralytic—perhaps a friend or family member—to Christ. Scripture doesn’t tell us how far they’d traveled, whether a mile or ten. During this time many considered paralytics cursed by God. As a result, these individuals often experienced ongoing rejection. I imagine the loneliness hurt most. But the men in John 12 stood by their friend. Even if that meant pushing through a throng of desperate people, embracing the stigma of that of that time of associating with a paralytic, and potentially angering the religious elite—those with the power to expel people from their faith community. (John 12:42.)

The Bible says everyone “gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door …” (Mark 2:2, NIV).

Pause to envision these men standing on the outskirts, surveying the crowd. Place yourself in that position for a moment, needing to push through with someone our culture stigmatized.

Who is that person for you? The one our society keeps on the fringe, ignores, and even disdains?

If you were those men, would you have hung back, telling yourself all the reasons Jesus didn’t have time for your friend?

That’s not how these men responded. Verses 2-5 tells us,  “Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.”

That’d be the equivalent of someone removing your window to crawl inside your house. Polite, civilized people just don’t do that sort of thing.

Those desperate to see their loved ones encounter Christ do.

The result? Verse 5 states, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”

When Jesus saw their faith.

Their faith propelled these men into action. They knew their friend needed Jesus and faith propels lovecouldn’t reach Him on his own, so they bridged the gap. They broke through the barriers keeping the paralytic from life, and received what they longed for and more.

Reading this, I wonder—who does God want me to step into the gap for? What “roof” might I need to unhinge or “crowd” might I need to push through? More importantly, will I? Or will I stand on the fringe, waiting for an easy opening, one that fits my schedule, my comfort level?

What about you? Who might God be asking you to bring to Him? Will you?

For those following our chronological New Testament Bible reading plan:

Bible reading plan week 10

Speaking of loving one another well, let’s start with one of our most precious relationships. Join me and my Wholly Loved team for our upcoming mother-daughter conference, Beautiful Mess.

Find out more HERE.

woman standing at dusk watching the sun set
Image by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

What happens when God doesn’t intervene? When circumstances grow worse, doors close, and illness lingers?

Is He still good?

Does He still love us?

Intellectually, we know sometimes bad things happen to good people, but sitting in the middle of chaos and catastrophe, doubts take hold.

A couple years ago, while on her first college coop, our daughter’s depression spiked. She did all the appropriate Christiany things. She went to church, read her Bible, meditated on Scripture, and prayed.

She prayed and prayed and prayed. And yet, her depression remained. And though she knew they were lies, comments she’d heard previously tore at her hope.

Just have faith, then your depression will go away.

Mental illness is a spiritual issue. If you’re close to Jesus, you’ll be happy.

Have Jesus, have joy.

It got to where going to church, the one place she was supposed to feel safe and find healing, increased her pain.

Made her feel less than. Insufficient. Unseen and unloved by her Creator.

But still she went, and one lonely Sunday morning, God met her there and gave her hope. Not that she’d get better, although with self-care she has. In fact, the sermon talked about times when God, for whatever reason, doesn’t intervene Woman looking contemplated with text pulled from postor heal. But whether we see His hand or not, He remains.

His love is unshakable.

That Sunday morning, in the middle of her depression, God let her know that she was okay. That their relationship was okay.

That He held her and wouldn’t let go.

We all need to know that, especially when life feels hard. We need to know that the One who formed galaxies by a mere command sees us and is alert to our suffering.

God doesn’t always act as we expect or even desire.

Imagine having given your entire life to serve Him, only to find yourself imprisoned and awaiting execution. Imagine the questions, the doubt, the intense inner wrestling.

The bursts of hope followed by crushing defeat and despair.

Just over two thousand years ago, a faithful prophet sat in a dark, dank dungeon. The stench of decomposing bodies, the cold that ate at his bones, wore down his courage and faith.

The man who first encountered Jesus from within his mother’s womb, who wept at the presence of the incarnate God, then a fetus. Who decades later proclaimed, with certainty, that He was “the lamb of God who took away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), the man who’d witnessed the Spirit landing upon Him like a dove and had heard the Father call Him His Son (Luke 3:22), feared, perhaps he’d been wrong.

Could it be Jesus wasn’t the long-promised Savior?

For surely, after all John had done, all he’d given up for the sake of Christ, God wouldn’t leave him in an ancient dungeon to die.

But as each day dragged into the next, without so much as a glimmer of light to distinguish them, John the Baptist’s certainty turned to doubt. In the confusion that can only come from deep pain, he sent one of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else” (Matthew 11:3)

John knew about all Christ had been doing. Even more, he knew what He hadn’t done, and in that moment, the one unanswered prayer drowned out every miracle proclaimed.

But Jesus reassured him, not by promising his rescue but instead, by reminding him of who He was.

“Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen,” Jesus told John’s disciples. “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good news is preached to the poor” (Matthew 11:4).

In other words, “I’m still good, powerful, present, and in control.”

Then, immediately, Jesus spoke to the crowds, “I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).

This was how Jesus addressed John’s doubt. Not with anger or disgust or rebuke. But with reminders of His power and affirmation of His love.

Sunset with quote pulled from postHe responds to our doubt in the same way. God may not answer our prayers as we’d like. He may not rescue us from that difficult situation or bring long-desired healing. But when we come to Him honestly with our doubt and despair, He’ll center us in who He is and His love for us.

How might remembering those truths strengthen you for difficult situations? How can focusing on who God is and His heart for you bring hope in the middle of despair?

This week, at Wildewood Christian, we’ve been talking about remaining faithful through disillusionment. Whenever life cover for Bible studydoesn’t play out as we’d hoped or expected, we can feel discouraged, defeated, and disillusioned. How might reminding ourselves of God’s love, often, help us during those times? If you’d like to watch the full session, filled with tips for weathering disillusionment periods with hope and grace, you can watch it on Wholly Loved’s YouTube channel HERE. If you don’t have the study but would like to grab a copy, you can do so for free HERE. You can pick up a print copy HERE.

You may also be interested in:

When Disappointment Steals Our Joy, by Wholly Loved’s guest blogger Donna Jones

And one of my favorite books: Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong by

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

quote with Christmas night sky backgroundWrapped within the tinsel, lights, and candies of Christmas, there’s a thread of anticipation as, daily, children eye the presents tucked beneath the tree, daydreaming about what might be hid inside. They shake the boxes, test their weight, analyze their shape, hoping that special toy or gadget lies inside.

Ever since paradise was shattered, mankind has anxiously awaited a gift–one that would make all things right and undue the mess we’d become. The one, the Person, who would empty Himself for the world He loved, presenting us all with the most precious gift imaginable–life.

My guest today shares a cute Christmas memory that reminded her of the Creator’s gift of God incarnate.

God Revealed Through the Gift by Linda Rondeau

author Linda Randeau's headshotI’ve often wondered why people feel a need to disguise a gift. I expect they want to enhance the element of surprise by making the receiver wonder and guess. Most likely this was how my brother felt on his twelfth Christmas as he placed the humongous box labeled “For Dad” under the tree.

I shook my head as I remembered the laborious efforts my brother undertook to make certain Dad could not identify his gift before opening the package. He found five boxes that fit one into the other, placed the gift in the smallest one, wrapped it, and then placed the box into another box until the belt was inside my brother’s version of a Scandinavian puzzle. After two hours and six rolls of wrapping paper, he was satisfied Dad would be delighted … like digging for buried treasure.

When Christmas morning arrived, my brother asked Dad to open his present first instead of last, as was the custom. My father nodded, and my brother, pretending the box was heavy, dragged Dad’s gift over to him. My father shook the box, then stroked his chin. “Now, I wonder what this could be?”

As Dad made the first tear in the paper, my brother could contain his excitement no longer. “You’d never know it was a belt, would you, Dad?”

The memory of the Great Belt Guffaw always brings a smile. It’s one of my favorite Christmas memories. But, I’m also wisemen following the starstruck with a reminder of another gift, God’s son, his greatest treasure. Only, God didn’t conceal the promised birth with vague innuendos, mysterious wrappings, or pretense. No obscure disguises. He prepared the world, so the Messiah’s arrival could be recognized.

Even evil Herod discovered the Promised One would be born Bethlehem, an event that was shared by shepherds and kings alike. Angels sang, and a star lit the sky for all to see. Rather than hide his perfect gift in layers of distractions, God wrapped his love in revelation.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse (Romans 1:20 NIV).

***

Let’s talk about this! As I read Linda’s post and her brother’s excitement to share his special gift with his dad, I thought first of mankind’s anticipation for the Savior, and had to ask myself, to I approach God incarnate with the same joy? I also thought of God the Father, the ultimate gift giver and wondered, does he gaze down on us with that same anticipation, waiting patiently, lovingly for us to unwrap the precious gift He gave through His Son? What about you? What resonated most with you as you read Linda’s post? What are you doing to build hope-filled anticipation for time with Jesus this Christmas? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

For those navigating relational challenges this Christmas, I encourage you to visit Wholly Loved to read about how to find peace in the middle of relational dysfunction.  

You might also enjoy What Kind of Love–A Mother’s Look at God Incarnate. 

I also encourage you to sign up for my free, quarterly newsletter to receive inspirational content sent directly to your inbox. You can sign up HERE.

Get to know Linda!

Award winning author, Linda Wood Randeau writes to demonstrate our worst past, surrendered to God becomes our best future. A veteran social worker, Linda now resides in Hagerstown, Maryland. Readers may visit her web site at www.lindarondeau.com. Contact the author on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus and Goodreads.

Check out her latest release, Miracle on Main Street:

“Christmas is a time for miracles,” Ryan McDougal tells his mother, when he is told that a long lost cousin, Millie, has resurfaced after nearly forty years, the cousin whose picture his mother clasped the day his father abandoned him. Though they occurred decades apart, he always believed the two disappearances were connected like opposite links of a chain.

With Millie’s arrival, perhaps he might finally receive the answers he so desperately sought. However, Ryan has a third thorn in his side, more devastating than any mystery. His wife, the love of his life, has left his arms and his bed. How long before she moves out of the house and takes his beloved son with her? He prays for his own Christmas miracle. Millie’s anticipated visit prompts Ryan’s mother to reveal secrets that bring all to light. However, when past and present collide, the truth is more than Ryan can bear.

Buy it HERE!

And for those still Christmas shopping, When Dawn Breaks, my novel reviewers have called hilarious and heartwarming, is currently on sale for under $5 (print version). You can check it out HERE!

Merry Christmas all! I hope you take time–make time!–to truly enjoy the best gift presented this season–God with us!

 

JohnStudy1

 

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.

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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.)

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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.

JohnStudy1

 

The pain of infertility runs deep and cannot fully be understood unless one has experienced it. I suppose that’s true of anything we face, be it tragedy, joblessness, illness … Last week in For the Love Bible study, we talked about how to stay strong when it feels as if our prayers fall on deaf ears, and Chaka Heinze shared an incredibly powerful testimony revealing how this plays out in her life. You can read that HERE. Then, Monday, Maria Morgan talked about choosing faith over doubt. You can read that HERE. Today those two messages come together in a celebratory post by my sweet friend Susan Aken.

When the waiting ends
by Susan Aken

“But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.” Luke 1:7

“LORD, Please hear my prayer! You know my heart and how I long for a child. I want to shy-863056_640hold my own baby and know the joy of motherhood. I desire this with all my soul. Will You give me a child? If not, help me bear this pain and find contentment with empty arms. If it is Your will, please show me what to do. Help me to trust You.”

The cry of a childless woman runs deep. This longing is confronted at every turn with a woman who is a mother. The new babe who smells so sweet. The woman lovingly caressing her swollen abdomen. The toddler who runs around on chubby legs. On and on.

Living in a culture where being childless was a sign of God’s displeasure added to Elizabeth’s pain. Maybe she asked herself, “What did I do wrong?” Sympathetic and condescending smiles mocked her.

“Look at poor Elizabeth! I’m glad it isn’t me.”

Elizabeth’s one recorded quote after becoming pregnant is telling,

“’The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.’” Luke 1:25 (NIV)

Why can’t I have a child Lord? Why do other women get this blessing and not me?

I felt that pain. I always wanted a husband, children and the American dream. But things didn’t happen the way I hoped. I found myself single at the age of twenty-nine. Not the way I’d have written my story. Then I met my wonderful husband, got married and prepared my heart for children. I soon discovered he wasn’t ready (he was younger than I) so I waited.

Years went by. He decided he didn’t want children. I won’t share the whole girl-926225_640story here but I found myself at the age of thirty-eight hoping to get pregnant by means of insemination. Month after month nothing happened. After a year of special treatments, I faced the truth I might not ever be a mom and my prayers were similar to the one I began with. Similar to what Elizabeth may have prayed.

Then came a phone call about a baby boy who needed a mom and dad. Twenty-two hours later I was holding our son! Like Elizabeth my miracle came. The wait was over.

Euphoria! Grace in the form of a newborn baby. A love letter from God. Grace in every cry and squeak. Grace in arms filled with a sweet baby boy. I knew that I didn’t deserve the miracle God

Week 3 memory verse
Week 3 memory verse

gave. We made several decisions along the way that should’ve taken us off the miracle list. I hadn’t even been seeking God with my whole heart.

child-337540_640Did Elizabeth feel that euphoria? I’m certain she did! Did she see grace in the face of that newborn boy? I believe so.

She went from shame to rejoicing.

I wouldn’t change one thing about how our son came to us. I imagine Elizabeth would say the same. God’s timing is always perfect.

In that moment, when the waiting ends, God’s grace is painted in living color and all we can do is bow and give thanks.

“For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him.” 1 Samuel 1:27 (ESV)

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Amazing Hope:

This is a 40-day devotional book on the topic of hope. Each day’s amazingdevotion includes verses from the Bible, inspirational thoughts by the author, reflection questions and a prayer. The topics include many of the struggles common to us all such as parenting, death, fear, sin, and the futility of daily life. There are also devotions on the character of God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the power of God’s word and other topics. These writings express the hope that gets me through each day and I pray they will also help you.

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susanakenSusan is a homemaker, substitute teacher and writer. She lives in Nebraska but was born and raised in Oklahoma. Her greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed her and set her free. Her other loves are her husband and son (she is now an empty-nester). Susan enjoys reading, photography, spending time with family and friends and writing. She has a heart for prayer ministry and loves her church!

Connect with Susan on her web site and Lulu.com.

Let’s talk about this! When our prayers aren’t answered on our timetable, when our waiting takes years, even decades, we may assume God isn’t listening or that He doesn’t plan to answer our prayers at all. But Scripture tells us God is always working on our behalf. That doesn’t mean He’ll grant every one of our desires, but it does mean He will always and only do what is for our best.

This brings me to this week’s memory verse: “From ancient times no one has heard or perceived, no eye has seen any livingbygracepic-jpGod besides You, who intervenes for those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 64:4 NET).

Can you share a time when it felt as if God wasn’t listening only to find out later He’d been working behind the scenes, setting things into motion, on your behalf? How might focusing on His promise to work things out for our good (Romans 8:28) help you maintain hope and spiritual strength during a time of waiting?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace or For the Love Bible study, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Merging two people with different personalities, ideas, thoughts … and sins … can make marriage hard. Today, my guest, Karen Pashley, shares with us the hope and foundation we have in God to make our marriages not just work, but thrive.

We love because He first loved us.

The Trials and Triumphs of a God-Centered Marriage
by Karen Pashley

Let’s face it, being married is not easy.

Pair up two individuals with different personalities, energy levels and tastes, ask them to pair-707506_640manage a household, children, social  commitments, and their careers on a daily basis and you have a recipe for friction.

Throw in the fact that we are sinners—and at times our sin will hurt, disappoint and anger our spouses.

Small irritations, like hogging the remote or continually leaving wet towels on the bed are not so hard to overcome.

But what about the biggies? What if your spouse has an affair? Struggles with an addiction? Or develops a nasty temper? That’s when the vows you declared on your wedding day actually become your reality.

To love, honor, and cherish. Through good times and bad, For richer or poorer, in sickness and health.

Without the grace and mercy of Christ, marriage doesn’t seem like a logical idea at all, does it?

Falling in love is the easy part. Loving our spouses for a lifetime takes commitment, determination, and disciplining our minds to trust in God.love-699480_640

1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”

Conjuring up love when our souls are weary, or stressed, or hurting is virtually impossible without the love of Christ flowing through us.

God designed man and woman to be uniquely and wonderfully different, yet He planned for us to come together and become partners in marriage. He knew this would not be an easy task for us—His first couple blew it big time, yielding to the sin that so easily ensnares.

We’ve been blowing it ever since.

But, the Lord is good, and kind and merciful. He did not haphazardly concoct this scheme called marriage and then leave us to our own feeble means to make it work.

Jesus gave us the gift of His Holy Spirit so that we could experience His perfect love for us (1 John 4:13). And when we embrace that unfathomable Love—despite our frailties, shortcomings, and sins—we can love our spouses, in spite of their frailties, shortcomings, and sins.

What a wonderful, thoughtful God he is! He has equipped us to receive and give love to one another through His own Spirit!

christ-776786_640We can love our spouses in and through anything, if we embrace the love our Father has for us.

I like the way the Bible spells it out for us in 1 John 4:10-12:

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

My new novel explores how a Christian family deals with the consequences of the husband’s infidelity. Each character wrestles with their own flaws while searching for the answers to their pain. Only when they yield to the love God has for them can they begin the journey towards forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.

Readers and reviewers often contact me to share how this story profoundly affected them and their approach towards situations needing healing and forgiveness in their own lives. I hope you’ll consider reading—may your soul be refreshed with the living water of Jesus’ love.

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Precious in His Sight:

The story of one determined wife, her guilt-ridden husband, and the other woman, whose struggle may set them all free . . .

PreciousinHisSight_CVR2What if your husband was cheating? What would you do?

Feisty, tenacious, and adorably flawed, Sugar Brennan is fiercely committed to her family, her traditional Christian values, and her spotless reputation in her affluent Southern community. When she discovers her husband Clay has been unfaithful, Sugar is determined to right the wrongs in her life.

Then Clay’s former mistress returns to Westfield with devastating news, posing a heart-wrenching dilemma that challenges Sugar to rethink all she’s believed about faith, family, and the healing power of forgiveness.

She’s been raised in a preacher’s home, taught to love her enemies.

She’s got the fish sticker on her car and a collection of good works under her belt.

But . . . reach out to the woman who nearly destroyed her marriage? Surely God wouldn’t ask her to go that far.

“This book will stir your emotions, warm your heart, and ignite a longing in your spirit to know the One who loves us unconditionally . . . no matter who we are or what we’ve done.”   —Denise Jackson, NYT bestselling author and wife of country music superstar Alan Jackson

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IMG_8533-Karen Pashley writes and speaks with wit and candor about relevant, often gut-wrenching topics that resonate with women of all ages. Her Amazon best selling novel Precious in His Sight is hailed as “a story of betrayal, heartbreak, and reconciliation with unrelenting themes of grace, forgiveness, and Christian duty” by Publishers Weekly. Karen lives with her husband and youngest daughter in Nashville, Tennessee, where they enjoy the rich culture, glorious landscapes, and the occasional celebrity sighting. Read more at  http://www.karenpashley.com

Order Karen’s inspiring novel at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Walmart.com.

Connect with Karen on her websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Loving our spouse is an ongoing, deliberate choice we make, but it’s only possible because of 1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us.” How do you show and act out your love for others? How have others shown you love? Share your thoughts, ideas, and encouragement in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.