Now Free on Kindle!

SweetFreedomCover

All Affra wanted was to find love–real love, but her desperation led her into the arms of an angry, lust-filled man, a man who, like all the others she’d known, used her for his pleasure than tossed her aside. But one afternoon, she met another man–one unlike any she’d known before. Could this man love her, truly love her? And would she let him, or would her past wounds keep her heart barricaded?

He grew up in a God-fearing, loving home. So how did he end up on the streets of California addicted to heroine, not caring if he lived or died?

Not long after learning of her pregnancy, Kelly Liberto’s doctor delivered terrifying news. She had cancer. While pregnant. How could cancer turn into a blessing? When it leads to a deeper unveiling and an even deeper healing–healing of wounds she wasn’t even aware she had!

A night in the hospital plunged Jodie Bailey, author of Freefall, into deep emotional bondage, a bondage that not only trapped her heart, but kept her physically trapped in the four walls of her home. Friends couldn’t help. Psychiatrists were at a loss. What would it take to help her break free of “these” four walls?

Marriage. True love … tainted by an ugly addiction–one that threatened to destroy Joanne Joy Underwood and her precious sons. What would it take for her to break free of her husband’s toxic addiction?

Gail Pallotta, author of Stopped Cold shares a beautiful fictional story of a grandmother who appears to have lost all hope, all drive for living. How can simple slivers of fabric reignite the flame within?

Melissa Finnegan tells a beautiful story of one woman, abandoned by her husband, who needs to learn to love again. But can she release her pain and unveil her shrouded heart in order to do so? (Currently on her blog, Melissa talks about how God led her to write her story, Burned. You can read about that here.)

Tanya Eavanson, author of Unconditional, talks about the freedom found in surrendering our wounds to Christ and trusting in Him and Him alone for our healing. (Tanya will be on television Monday. I imagine you can find out more by visiting her blog and leaving her a comment asking about it.)

Beth Farley’s beautiful poems stir our hearts afresh with love for our gentle, gracious, all-powerful Savior.

Elizabeth Veldboom had every right to be angry, but would feeding her anger and bitterness lead to emotional bondage?

I know many of you have already received the free PDF version of Sweet Freedom. You should be able to read this on your ereader, however, if you’d prefer to download the Kindle version, you can now do so for free! (Through July 7th.) Feel free to share the below link with anyone you believe might be blessed by this compilation. Our desire is that each story will stir your hearts afresh with a deep thirst for Jesus Christ and His freeing Spirit. He died to set you free. That’s how much He loves you and longs for you to walk in His freedom.

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How Deep is Your Love?

It’s easy to praise God when all is going well, but what about when life turns upside down? When we lived in Louisiana, we went through a period of unemployment that left us scrambling to sell our home before landing in debt. One afternoon as I sat in my van pouring my heart out to God, He asked me, “Do you love me now?” Basically, He asked me if my love was dependent on what He could or would do for me. Would I be a fair-weather Christian looking for a spiritual Genie or was I looking for a true, lasting, intimate relationship?

Thousands of years ago, Noah faced a similar choice. When the world as he knew it fell apart, would he still honor God, or would he choose to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, surrendering all to the Giver of life.

I stumbled upon today’s post, written by my dear friend and debut novelist, Jodie Bailey, when God was showing me what it meant to live a life of gratitude and praise. I hope you are blessed and challenged, like I was, by it.

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Genesis 6:9 (GWT)–This is the account of Noah and his descendants.  Noah had God’s approval and was a man of integrity among the people of his time.  He walked with God.

It’s hard to believe, but the people of Noah’s time were even more depraved than people today.  In fact, among the people of the earth, Noah (and likely those in his family) were the only ones who were considered to have integrity.  That’s an appalling thing to think about, isn’t it?  That in the entire world, only one person walked with God?

Makes our walk seem a little bit easier, doesn’t it?  It’s easy to watch the news and lament.  I’ve done it many times, so many times that I’ve essentially quit watching the news.  (I read it elsewhere.  Being uninformed is worse than being angry.)  No matter how bad it is right now, at least we have others to pray with and to be there for us.  I’ve seen it in the most amazing way over the past month or so, the way believers rally around each other in prayer even when they don’t know what they’re praying for exactly.  Who did Noah have to turn to?

Know the other thing?  We can’t complain about the way things are.  You don’t hear Noah complaining.  And he had every reason.  The thing is, we can still take action.  We can still band together against the wrong in the world.  God has us here at this time for a reason.  And trust me, it’s not to gripe about the way things are.  It’s to change them.  Shouldn’t our voices be heard now more than ever?  Noah had no one to stand with him.  We have countless others.  Why do we remain silent?  What would happen if we all spoke truth instead of sitting back and watching it happen?

Okay, so my toes hurt.  I’m talking about me here.  I know I don’t speak out near enough.  It’s time to use our voices more, don’t you think?

-JB

Jodie Bailey’s first novel, Freefall, releases in November 2012. She has been published in Teen magazine and collaborated on PWOC International’s latest Bible study. She has a B.A. double major in English literature and writing, and an M.Ed. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. She teaches middle school and lives in North Carolina with her husband and daughter. Visit her online.

Let’s talk about this. How might trials and difficulties reveal the depths of your faith? And how do our actions and reactions, both positive and negative, affect our witness? Do you have any stories you can share of a time when God turned a painful time into a blessing or an opportunity to serve?

The Song We’re Singing

The song, “Praise You in the Storm”, by Casting Crowns expanded on in the following post by friend and fellow writer, Jodie Bailey, came out during one of my family’s most difficult times. It felt like the world was falling apart around me, under me, like I’d fall apart, too. Through this song (and verses, devotionals, and a million other God-moments sprinkled throughout our day) God carried us through. Looking back, that painful time miraculously transformed our family and brought about some incredible healing. Not one tear was wasted and standing on the other side of the valley seven (or so) years later, I can honestly say if given the choice, I’d go through it all again. (You can read a snippet of this story in Majesty House’s Kernels of Faith, coming out in September. I’ll link when it goes to print.) If you’re going through a valley or a hurricane-like storm today, hold tight to the words in this song and God’s promise to stay beside, to carry you, and to hold you close to His heart. He’ll never leave you nor forsake you. Let Him be your strength made perfect in weakness.

The Song We’re Singing by Jodie Bailey

If you don’t know this by now, you’ve been living under a rock…  I’m a Southern girl, a Carolina girl (“best in the world”), a true blue Tarheel.  I’m proud of where I come from.  I’m proud of belonging to the Bible belt.  Since my husband and I were married in 1996, we’ve lived all over the country, but you truly can’t take the Southern out of this girl.

As a Carolina girl, I am not a big fan of March. Okay, wait. March Madness and ACC basketball… yes.  March weather… not so much.  You see, March is notorious.  On March 28, 1984, there were 24 confirmed tornadoes in the Carolinas.  A whopping seven of them rated F4.  One storm that tore through Red Springs stayed on the ground for 45 miles and was, in places, two miles wide.  The nearest one to us was probably ten miles away, but I can remember driving through a few weeks later with my dad, to a small town that had been leveled.  It looked like the pictures you see of Hiroshima after the bomb.  It was surreal, etched in my brain, scary…

Last week, I realized we are entering March.  For a little while, I got a little concerned and started wondering what I’d do when the storm came.  I’m always relieved when it passes, but sometimes, I get a little pre-emptive and start to worry about the next storm when it’s not even on the horizon yet.  Because, you see, there will always be another storm.

Isn’t life like that?  We don’t know when it’s coming, but there will always be another storm.  In fact, just a handful of months after that weather disaster, my parents divorced.  I had my own personal storm. Somehow, in my head, the two events twined together and, for months, I hated thunderstorms, lived in fear of them ripping my life away.  One puffy cloud in a clear blue sky sent me into hysterics.  My ten-year-old self didn’t know how to cope.

Then, one day, I sat on the deck of a beach house and watched a storm out at sea.  Lightning chased through the clouds and made beautiful patterns and flashes.  In that moment, God showed me how beautiful a storm can be.  Don’t get me wrong, I hate going through them, but even in the most horrid moment, there is something worth noticing.  See, God never allows us to weather a storm for no reason.  There is always beauty to be found, always something that–maybe in the midst of it and maybe on the other side–can change us for His glory.  I think knowing He is in charge is why we can praise him in the storm….

Jodie Bailey was Playwright of the Year in Methodist University’s annual Hail! Dionysus competition and has written plays performed by the Monarch Playmakers. She has been published in Teen magazine and collaborated on PWOC International’s latest Bible study. She has a B.A. double major in English literature and writing, and an M.Ed. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, the Christian Writers Guild, and Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. She lives in Tennessee with her husband and daughter.

Jodie is an avid reader, a life-long writer, and an aspiring beach bum.  She is a stubborn child who resisted God’s calling for two decades until He hit her over the head with a Beth Moore Bible Study book, and she finally figured out He wanted her to be a writer.  When not tapping away at the keyboard, she watches NCIS reruns, eats too many chocolate chip cookies, wishes she were at the beach, roughhouses with her daughter, and follows her Army husband around the country. (Her debut novel, Freefall, releases in November from Steeple Hill.)

Visit her online.

Remember, if you loved today’s post, leave a comment, FB share it, “like” it, or tweet it, and I’ll tally each comment, share, like, and tweet to determine which three posts were your favorite. I have one more post for my top 20 of 2011. After I post that, I’ll announce the top three sometime in the next three days.

Do You Get It…Truly?

I’m selfish and discontent at my core. It’s easy for me to skim over the many blessings God’s provided, focusing instead on those things I don’t have. Like a spoiled two-year old. Counting my blessings helps, although even then, my prayers are often ego-centric. “Thank you Lord for….” But what if I didn’t have all those things? What happens when life gets tough? Will my praises and thanks dwindle?

Today Jodie Bailey challengs us to dive deeper in our praises. There’s a verse in Romans I love. It starts with, “In view of God’s mercy.” That’s a loaded phrase, but today I encourage you to take it even deeper. God’s grace is infathomable, but He’s more than what He does, and I believe our worship must extend beyond our “benefits.” We bow before Him because of who He is, the Creator of the universe, our Redeemer, Savior, closest friend. 

(As you read the following post, I challenge you to honestly ponder something: Do you know God? I mean, really know Him, as He truly is? If not, ask  Him to reveal Himself to you, and to remove whatever it is that gets in the way of you having an intimate relationship with Him. Because God doesn’t want to be our cosmic genie nor our distant observer. He longs to be our Abba daddy and our closest friend.)

Do You Get It by Jodie Bailey

Psalm 116:16-17–O Lord, surely I am Your servant,  I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid,  You have loosed my bonds.  To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord.

If we had any idea at all what we owe God, don’t you think it would knock us backwards to consider it?  If you really sat down and gave it some thought and started counting your blessings, you wouldn’t get far before you’d realize the debt is much bigger than you’ll ever be able to pay.  I mean, God is worthy of praise and thanksgiving simply because HE EXISTS.  (And by the way, that’s one of the reasons I love it when He calls Himself I AM.  Gives me chills.  He IS.  That’s all He needs to be.  Think about that for a while…)  But He didn’t stop at existing.  He didn’t stop at making us exist.  He lavished us with grace and mercy and gifts beyond our wildest dreams, even some gifts we don’t realize He’s given us.

Consider salvation.  Have you ever thought about what you’ve been delivered from?  Not surface thought, but deep thought? Tell me that isn’t worthy of devoting every single second of your life to Him.  Some of us have been healed of diseases.  Some of us have been delivered from horrors we thought we’d have to face the rest of our lives.  Some of us have been freed from sins that should have been our undoing.  How much do we owe Him?

We owe Him everything.  Our next breath.  The works of our hands.  The praises from our lips.  But do we give Him that?  If you’re like me, chances are, you don’t.  And that’s a shame.  In this new year, it’s one of the things I’m working on, seeing every bit of my life in relation to God.  Realizing that every single thing I do should be for Him.  Giving Him my all.  It’s hard.  It requires a complete reprogramming of my sinful human mind.  But I want it.  It’s what we all should want, to be God’s servant.  Read the verse again.  Boy, do we ever owe Him big time…

Jodie invites you to share your favorite verse from Psalm 107-127 in the comments, and I invite you to FB share, tweet, or “like” this post…if you’d like to see it in my top three of 2011. 

Jodie Bailey was Playwright of the Year in Methodist University’s annual Hail! Dionysus competition and has written plays performed by the Monarch Playmakers. She has been published in Teen magazine and collaborated on PWOC International’s latest Bible study. She has a B.A. double major in English literature and writing, and an M.Ed. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, the Christian Writers Guild, and Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. She lives in Tennessee with her husband and daughter.

Jodie is an avid reader, a life-long writer, and an aspiring beach bum.  She is a stubborn child who resisted God’s calling for two decades until He hit her over the head with a Beth Moore Bible Study book, and she finally figured out He wanted her to be a writer.  When not tapping away at the keyboard, she watches NCIS reruns, eats too many chocolate chip cookies, wishes she were at the beach, roughhouses with her daughter, and follows her Army husband around the country.

Visit Jodie online.

God Goes Before Us, by Jodie Bailey

My daughter often jokes that her father and I will have “permagrins” when we are old. She follows this with an explanation of how weird we both are, adding, “But weird is never boring.” She’s at that age of analysis–where everything is explored, digested and discussed. Yesterday after a particularly giggly drive on our way home from the orthodontist, she said, “Have you noticed how all Christian moms are a bit goofy?” She then went on to talk about some of the Christian women she knew, comparing and contrasting them to some of the moms of her non-Christian friends. She wanted to know if being a Christian made you goofy. I had to laugh at her simple, tell-it-like-it-is, teenage logic. Then, once we were done sharing a giggle and a few, “Remember when,” stories, I asked her why she thought that was. Why were the Christians she knew so much happier than those who didn’t know Christ? She said, “Jesus must be really funny!” Ah, from the mouth of babes! Although I do think God must have a sense of humor (ever seen an angler fish?), you and I know there’s much more to it than that.

Knowing Jesus means knowing peace. Our family has faced numerous ups and downs, but even in the depths of trial, we can rejoice because we know-know-know God is in control. Because of God’s ever protective hand on our lives, the stress is not so stressful, the difficulty not so difficult and the pain not nearly as intense. And what happens when stress, angst and fear are removed? Joy is allowed to bubble freely.

Today’s post reminds us that we are not alone. God is ever-present, in the good times and the bad. He goes before us and levels the mountains and breaks through bars of iron. He walks beside us, holding us up when we are tired. He goes behind us, ready to catch us should we fall. And He goes with us, filling us with the love that penetrates so deeply, it overflows in love, joy, peace, goodness and self-control.

Today’s devo first appeared on Jodie Bailey’s personal blog on September 1st. As you read it, take time to really digest the truth presented. No matter where you go, God is with you. His love will never fail and His mercies are new every morning. He knows the answer to every problem you’ll ever face and He has the power to see you through.

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Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)–The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

I love this verse (and the dozens like it in the Bible), because I still struggle to remember that God goes with me… everywhere… always.  It’s so easy to get bogged down in my plans and worries and concerns that I miss the fact He is right there beside me.

But the cool part of this verse is in the very first six words:  The Lord Himself goes before you…

Not only does He go with us, He goes before us.  Everywhere we go, He has already been.  He’s already prepared the way.  No detour in our lives surprises Him.  No “out of the blue” happening catches Him off guard.  By the time we get there, He’s seen it all.  Oh, if that’s not comforting, I don’t know what is.  Why worry about tomorrow?  God’s already seen it.

So, as you peruse Deuteronomy, what verse leaps out at you?  Share it in the comments of this blog or blog about it yourself and leave us a link. Just be sure to link back to us.  Looking forward to hearing what you find!

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Jodie Bailey was Playwright of the Year in Methodist University’s annual Hail! Dionysus competition and has written plays performed by the Monarch Playmakers. She has been published in Teen magazine and collaborated on PWOC International’s latest Bible study. She has a B.A. double major in English literature and writing, and an M.Ed. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, the Christian Writers Guild, and Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. She lives in Tennessee with her husband and daughter.

She is an avid reader, a life-long writer, and an aspiring beach bum.  She is a stubborn child who resisted God’s calling for two decades until He hit her over the head with a Beth Moore Bible Study book, and she finally figured out He wanted her to be a writer.  When not tapping away at the keyboard, she watches NCIS reruns, eats too many chocolate chip cookies, wishes she were at the beach, roughhouses with her daughter, and follows her Army husband around the country.

We are nearing the end of our top twenty of 2010. In January, God willing, we’ll focus on intentional living, albeit with a few less posts per week.

If you loved today’s devo and think it should make my top three of 2010, leave a comment, fb share it, “like” it or tweet it. (And, I highly recommend you hop on over to Jodie’s blog for her Word Wednesday! She’s always got a nugget to share.)