Walking Closely With Jesus — Guest Blogger

Grace quote from Max Luccado

Walking Closely with Jesus

By Jo Massaro

Years ago, I asked a life-changing question, “How could a woman who had an abortion, multiple marriages and a traumatic brain injury, have a relationship with Jesus?”

This forced me to face the hurts, habits, and pain  hidden away and never dealt with. I wore a smile, but covered the heartbreak hidden in the darkest places.

My longing to be someone else reminds me of a song from the movie, Mulan. Like me, she struggled to find herself.

I was 23 with three children when I became pregnant again. My husband didn’t want another child, so I decided to have an abortion. The sun was out on the day of my procedure, but I felt scared and so alone.

Nine months later, an accident occurred and my son, Jason, died the day before his second birthday.  I was certain that God had punished me for what I’d done nearly a year before. Depression and thoughts of suicide became my friends. When a child dies, the life you once led, no longer exists. Even though we had two daughters, this void became unbearable. My husband used alcohol and drugs to dull his pain. After two more children, we were broken beyond repair.

This led to our divorce.

Five years later I married again and within a year I faced another divorce. I wanted to commit suicide.

Picture of an icebergMy brokenness was like an iceberg. Others see the top but ninety percent of my pain lay below the surface–abandonment, isolation, fear, trauma, loss, disappointments, depression and co-dependency. This was what I felt from the time I was a child that carried into my adulthood. I was searching for love in the wrong places.

My life was one of sin, lies, deception and isolation.

I knew Jesus existed, but didn’t realize who He really was nor how to experience and live in the grace He offered.

I met and married my third husband, and he brought me to his church. When the pastor asked if anyone wanted to accept Jesus,  I raised my hand. I didn’t understand all that happened, but I knew Jesus made me feel loved and accepted, and I wanted more of Him.

A few years later, I was involved in a car accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury, (TBI). I lost the ability to read, drive, function as a wife and mother; my vision was affected and my thinking felt foggy. My husband told me every morning I’d say, “Just one more day, Jesus,” but I don’t remember this.

One day while I listened to the audio Bible, words from Scripture gripped me:

“When the woman heard about Jesus, she came up through the crowd behind Him and touched his cloak. For she kept saying, ‘If I could only touch His clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she sensed in her body that she was healed of her affliction” (Mark 5:27-29, NIV).

I realized that if Jesus healed this woman, He could heal me. Believing this with all my heart, I began to pray.

Over the years, God has healed me and today my life is full of God’s grace and peace and praise for all God has done.

God created me with a plan and purpose and stayed with me throughout my pain and heartache. I walk today in love and with a husband of 26 years.

My deeply rooted relationship with Jesus reminds me of two beautiful rivers located in Manaus, Brazil. Each are unique as in the deep darkness (blackwater) of the Rio Negro and the pale sandy (whitewater) of the Rio Solimoes.

These bodies of water run side by side for six miles before they become one. In those six miles, the light of the Rio Solimoes slowly begins to engulf the darkness of the Rio Negro. Darkness now becomes light.

Similarly, Jesus works below the surface and brings light into deep, dark places as only he can. But it takes time after Woman staring out at the sea with text pulled from the post. the two meet for change to occur.

In God’s loving hands, I was transformed and washed clean by the blood of the lamb .

This mirrors our walk with Jesus . When we accept Him as Savior, He takes the old and dirty parts of our lives and gently brings us into a new life with Him.

I’ve asked the Lord to draw deeper into my relationship with Him and conform me to His image. I know we say and hear this all the time, but I was determined to allow Jesus to do surgery on my heart and dissect that which was dead and lifeless and bring healing and wholeness in its place.

I’m grateful for the love and contentment I have in Jesus.

Let’s talk about this! How  has God healed you or brought you to deeper freedom? What are some ways you’re living in that freedom?

Meet Jo Massaro!

 

Jo Massaro's author photoJo is founder and curator of Yahweh Sisterhood Book Club that meets the first Thursday of each month. You not only read the book but get to meet the author either in person or through Facebook.

As a speaker, Jo brings humor, energy, authenticity, faith, and strength she found in the Word of God. She describes her journey through her darkest times and how God brought her to a relationship with the Light of the World.

She offers themed messages to your group, and works with your team to customize a topic you have selected. She speaks before small or large groups, churches, or wherever God leads her.

For further information on the book club visit:

www.yahwehsisterhoodbookclub.com

Contact Jo at:  jomassarospeaker@gmail.com

 

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

 

6 Ways to Change the World

Sometimes it feels as if darkness has overpowered light, sorrow dominates joy, and confusion and fear infiltrate peace. Watching the news play out before me, or perhaps even sitting with a hurting friend, can make me feel powerless. Ineffectual.

But Scripture tells me this is a lie. In Christ, I–we–have the power to transform our world. Each day, with every word and action Image of a flower with words pulled from the text. we choose, every smile we offer, we can speak hope into despair, love into loneliness, and healing into the most broken and beaten down hearts.

We have the power of the risen, victorious, life-and-light bringing Savior residing within.

Here are six ways we can unleash that power:

Engage.

In our hyper-interactive culture, tweets, posts, and likes often replace face-to-face encounters. The result: Many feel unseen. Insignificant. Unvalued. Simply taking the time to engage others in conversation, even if but for a moment, can encourage a deflated heart. Because remember, we’re representatives and reflectors of El Roi, the God who sees. May we reflect Him well.
Two women sitting together with text pulled from post

Choose grace.

I mess up a hundred times each day. I respond with frustration instead of kindness. I behave selfishly instead of releasing my Father’s love. And many, many times I let my mouth (or keyboard) run when I should simply walk away. But though each unChristlike reaction breaks my heart and, often, lead me to confession, I’m also very quick to offer myself grace. I was tired, stressed, overwhelmed … perhaps caught off guard. Yet do I offer the same grace to others? Do I make allowances for their faults or “make much” of every blunder? Whenever I choose the former, I reveal a bit of Jesus and point others to Him.

Stand up.

I don’t want to get political here, and yet … even as I type, I have to ask myself: When did standing up for the oppressed, beaten down, discarded, and marginalized become a political act? Or at least, deemed as such? It’s not. Rather, it’s honoring the commands of the One who left heaven to rescue the oppressed–those burdened and enslaved by sin–who tells us to speak out for those who don’t have a voice.

Bring light into someone else’s darkness.

Did you ever make flashlight shadows when you were a kid? Did you ever try to do this in a well-lit room? Didn’t work, right? So what’d you do? Most likely you closed yourself in a darkened bathroom where the beams from your flashlight radiated strong and bright. Whenever we seek out, reach out, and intentionally walk beside those shrouded in darkness, we flood their world with light.

Show kindness.

Offer a smile, a hug, a word of encouragement, and open door. Never underestimate the power of a simple yet intentional kind act done for another. It can soothe anger, counter distrust, and open hearts to the love of Christ. In everything we do and every word we speak, may we remember it’s God’s kindness that leads people to repentance.

Pray.

May we see every act of darkness, ugly display of hate, and destructive outburst of anger as a reminder to turn to our unchanging, unconquerable power source—Jesus Christ. Those moments spent on our knees may feel … anticlimactic. We image of woman praying with text pulled from postmay be tempted to think our time doing—serving in ministry, feeding the hungry, typing out oodles and oodles of words for books and blog posts—holds more value. But Scripture promises this is far from true. Prayer isn’t meant to be something we do in random still moments before our real work begins. Prayer is our first and most important work, regardless the task, because ultimately, only Jesus can truly change a heart and a world. When we prioritize prayer, we’re acknowledging we believe this to be true.

Imagine if we each chose to do one of the above each day. Imagine how our families, relationships, neighborhoods—our world—might change.

What is one way you plan to be a world-changer today? Share your “I’m gonna!” thoughts along with anything else you’d add to my list in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another! And in Christ, we can change the world!

 

Rippling Waters

It was my third grade year, and I was the awkward, sad, frizzy-haired little girl in need of a friend. I found one in Mrs. Eldridge. I don’t know if she was a Christian, but I suspect she was. That’s the only way I know to explain the love that radiated from her whenever she looked at me, the gentleness that blanketed her words whenever she spoke to me, and the consistency with which she reached out to me.

And I’m almost certain she had no idea the impact she had on me, but when we get to heaven, man is she in for a massive hug!

Passing the Baton
by Mary Bowen

As ripples in water spread outward in ever-widening circles, each of us influences many others. Even the famous evangelist Billy Graham stands on the shoulders of five men in his past. On a Saturday in 1856, Edward Kimball decided to follow up with one of his Sunday school teenagers and talked to Dwight Moody about Christ’s love in the back of a Boston boot store. Years later, under Moody’s preaching, Wilbur Chapman became a believer and then a pastor.

Under his ministry baseball player Billy Sunday was saved. He started preaching, and Mordecai Ham found salvation. Later, as Ham shared the gospel near his high school, a teenager named Billy Graham responded. Through him, nearly 2 billion people have now heard the message of salvation.

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Billy Graham 

I also owe certain people a tremendous debt of gratitude for their spiritual investment in me. The first person to pass the baton of faith was my remarkable mother. She embraced life with both arms, loving people freely and initiating many family adventures. My brothers and I felt enjoyed, even celebrated, in our unique talents. Like the “giving tree” in the popular children’s book, she gladly sacrificed for us in so many ways. For six years she led my Girl Scout meetings, and always cheered with Daddy at my brothers’ football games and wrestling matches.  At the University of Louisville, Mother’s geology students would often seek her out for counsel. I remember lively dinner conversations with Nigerian students she invited over. Mother stayed involved in my life later on when things got hard. Her tenacious prayers and fasting over several years led to agods-intentions-toward-us-are-always-good transformation in my life. Through her I felt God’s unfailing love.

Someone else from my family has also profoundly influenced me for God. My brother Bob, like Mother, believed in me and always saw the best. Bob put his heart into whatever he did, and loved people well.

“Only two things in this life will last — God and people,” he would say. Bob delighted in his family most of all, lavishing time and energy on them. Whether he was designing machine parts at work, seeding the lawn, or kayaking with his boys, he gave it his best effort. Joy percolated just below the surface, often emerging as a smile or joke.

This inner abundance didn’t disappear when he learned he had stage 4 cancer. “God‘s intentions toward us are always good,” he assured us. “Whatever happens, don’t blame God!”  Through an agonizing year he clung to his faith like a life raft. At home or in his hospital room, we often reminisced about family times and shared our favorite Scriptures with one another. The Lord was very near. Bob especially liked Isaiah 40:31. The last day we talked, he told us he’d be experiencing that verse first-hand, his strength renewed like an eagle.

hawk-1535127_640God arranged an air show in October to remind me of Bob. Resting after hiking up a mountain, my husband and I gasped in wonder as a hawk gracefully curved and soared above us. Catching a ride on a column of air, or thermal, it hovered motionless in perfect calm a few moments. Then a sun dog appeared, a rainbow-colored patch in the clouds. Instantly I was back with Bob at his hospital window, marveling together at those ice crystals refracting the sunlight.

Life is unpredictable, and precious. How grateful I am for those who passed the baton of faith to me. They loved me so much I’ll never be the same.

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dscn1905Mary Bowen writes and edits for Grace Ministries International in Marietta, Georgia. For many years her articles and poetry have been published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She has worked as a reporter and freelancer, and served as an editor with the North American Mission Board.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about it: Mary shared how key people in her life were so influential in her relationship with the Lord. Who has been influential in your life? And how are you intentionally pouring into someone else’s life so they, too, may experience the joy of salvation? Leave your thoughts here or over on Living by Grace. We’re here to surround and pray for one another through this life!

What Is To Come

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Iris Peters, faithful daughter of Christ, 1973-2012

As death grew closer for my sweet friend, Iris Peters, a woman who valiantly battled brain cancer, our conversations turned increasingly toward heaven. She had so many questions, and as she and I wrestled with this heavy and pressing topic, we realized it wasn’t often addressed in the evangelical community.

Why is that? It can be hard to have an eternal perspective when our longing is never fed. But if we truly understood what awaits us, what God has prepared for us, our every breath would be, “Come Lord Jesus, come.”

This, my friend, is why I consider my chronic illness and pain a blessing–because it daily reminds me, as Mary Bowen, my guest proclaims, that “The Best is Yet to Be.” As you read her post, pause to rest in God’s presence this morning. And dream with me about the day when there will be no more sadness, no more sin and destruction, and no more pain.

The Best is Yet to Be
by Mary Bowen

We’ve all felt it, a “quiet but throbbing ache,” as Joni Eareckson Tada calls it in Heaven, Your Real Home. Inside we can sense a restless yearning for more and better. The relentless alarm-clock-590383_640ticking of the clock often seems like an enemy, snatching away our pleasant moments all too soon. Time makes us feel as if we’re caught in a strong current rushing downstream towards the waterfall of death.

Why do we long for permanent peace and love? Because we were created for them. “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men. . .” (Eccl. 3:11). God made us for heaven: “. . .so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose. . .” (2 Cor. 5:4, 5). In the Trinity God enjoys such wonderful fellowship that He created us for this same intimate communion with Himself and one another. (The Sacred Romance).

Last summer I reveled in my “happy place” on the patio with the purple, yellow, orange and fuchsia of our flowers. But I don’t want to just see beauty, I want to experience it, as C.S. Lewis wrote, “. . . to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it” (The Weight of Glory, 1949).  We’ll do that in heaven.

Our happiest times with family and friends seem to pull back heaven’s mysterious curtain, revealing a glimpse of our life to come.  In his comprehensive book, Heaven, Randy Alcorn landscape-1590888_640tantalizes with descriptions of rich fellowship, incredible beauty and joy, and adventures. We’ll each have exciting assignments from God.

So it’s not just floating around on clouds playing a harp and enduring endless worship services? I sighed with relief when I discovered that heaven won’t be boring, because God isn’t. We are “destined for unlimited pleasure at the deepest level,” writes Joni (Heaven. . . Your Real Home, 1995). The famous poet Robert Browning affirmed, “There’s a further good conceivable beyond the utmost earth can realize” (“Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau,” 1871).

As we set our hearts and minds on things above (Col. 3:1,2), we are pleasing God. Life on earth will never satisfy us completely. Disappointments and heartaches make us long for heaven. Yet our trials are not wasted, but actually count for something. A godly response to them will be rewarded in heaven. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, person-371015_640but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Appearances are everything in our society; an athlete’s ability, a model’s figure are all admired. But their strength and beauty diminish with time, finally pushing them to the outside as younger ones step in to take their place. How we all fear aging! Yet for the Christian, each day brings us closer to heaven. We can accept what others fear, because we know that our time on earth is not the end of the story. C. S. Lewis wrote that this life is like only the title page of a book, and chapter one starts in heaven. Then, each successive chapter will be better than the last. . .”The [school] term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning!” (The Last Battle, 1956).

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dscn1905Mary Bowen writes and edits for Grace Ministries International in Marietta, Georgia. For many years her articles and poetry have been published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She has worked as a reporter and freelancer, and served as an editor with the North American Mission Board.

 

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Mary shared such a joyful post on our life to come! Do you experience joy at the thought of being with Jesus? What are you looking forward to most? Do you feel fear when you consider death? If so, I would love to pray for you.

Leave your thoughts–and encouragement!–in the comments below or over on Living By Grace on Facebook. We can learn so much from one another!

 

Sheltering Our Kids (And a Giveaway)

If only we could keep our children in a bubble, point them to only the best resources and influences, and saturate their brain with nothing but truth. And yet, that would drastically stunt their growth and likely get in the way of all God wants to do in and through them. There’s a fine line between sheltering our kids and shielding them. So where do we draw that line? My guest today, Tessa Emily Hall, writes a helpful post that encourages us to point our children to Jesus. Read on–and be sure to enter Tessa’s giveaway at the end of this post!

Is Sheltering Teens More Dangerous Than Exposing Them?
by Tessa Emily Hall

unwritten-melody-quote01Is sheltering kids the answer to keeping them safe from the sin and danger that lurks in our world today? In effort to explore this question, I wrote a YA novel, Unwritten Melody. The protagonist in this story, Cassie, is a 17-year-old who has been raised by her overbearing grandmother. As a result of the strict rules, she develops a hunger to ultimately go against her grandmother’s wishes.

We all need rules and guidelines to follow, but could too much of this potentially lead to more harm than good?

Let’s look at the possible dangers that could result from this:

  1. Kids might long to break free from their bubble as they become desperate for “freedom”.
  2. Their walk with God could become based on rules and regulations (“religion”) rather than from a pure adoration for Him, wanting to obey Him, and an understanding of His Son’s sacrifice.
  3. They might not know how to witness to unbelievers since they’ll have no way to identify with them.
  4. If the kid is raised believing that being a Christian consists of all rules and no fun then Christianity might leave a bad taste in their mouth.dad-909510_640
  5. They might not have the chance to walk out their own faith without having to rely on the faith of their parents’.
  6. If the kid is resentful toward their sheltered lifestyle, when they’re given their first taste of freedom, they might rebel in attempt to make up for “what they’ve lost”.
  7. It might cause them to believe their parents sheltered them out of spite rather than love.
  8. They could become resentful toward their parents for keeping them from being “normal”.
  9. The lack of life they experience might cause them to experience depression. They might feel as though they’ve become a slave to rules, have no purpose in life, and aren’t worthy to live the life they’ve longed for. (This is a lie Cassie believes in Unwritten Melody.)
  10. It might cause them to develop a low-self esteem. (In Unwritten Melody,Cassie believes the reason she’s shy is because of the way she was raised by her overprotective grandmother. It’s this temperament that makes her feel as though she doesn’t measure up to other teens and has few friends.)

Since Satan is the ruler of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), we should be careful not to become influenced by the ways of the world. So how can Christians strike a balance between shielding and sheltering?

Encourage children to establish a personal relationship with Jesus. When they fall in love with their Savior and are lead by the Holy Spirit, they won’t have a desire to live a life cross-423157_1920that displeases Him. Show them that the rules set by authority are there to help them, not to keep them from having fun. And remember to always lead and discipline in the spirit of love.

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Parents should introduce their kids to Jesus. When it’s time to let go, they should trust that the Holy Spirit will lead, guide, direct, help—and yes, shelter their kids from the danger that threatens to put an end to their faith.

Even when kids do become exposed to the world, they’ll remain much safer in the hands of Jesus than they could ever be if sheltered only by their parents at home.

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Enter for your chance to win the Unwritten Melody Prize Pack! Two winners will be selected and announced on Tessa’s blog the final day of tour (Friday, December 9th) and will be notified via email.

unwritten-melody-giveaway

This prize pack includes…

  • E-copy of Unwritten Melody
  • Signed paperback copy of Purple Moon
  • Unwritten Melody mug, filled with goodies
  • Unwritten Melody swag, including a bookmark, pen, and poster
  • Starbucks mocha flavored instant coffee
  • Free Unwritten Melody: Page-By-Page Secrets PDF
  • Handmade journal
  • Typewritten thank you note

*This giveaway is open to the US only 

Enter here:  a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Unwritten Melody:

Does breaking free require breaking the rules?

unwritten-melody_webCassie Gilbert lives every day in the shadows of her deceased mom’s rebellion. But now that she’s seventeen, she finds herself longing to break away from her grandmother’s suffocating rules, experience what it’s like to be a regular teenager, and fulfill her songwriting dreams.

James Russo, former American Spotlight contestant, escapes to small town Willow Creek, SC hoping to flee from his tarnished past. When a school project pairs him with the shy principal’s granddaughter, he’s determined to get to know this Emily-Dickinson-obsessed and typewriter-using girl. His plan? Convince Cassie to co-write songs for his demo album.

As Cassie gets to know James over “project meetings” (more like opportunities to match her lyrics with his melodies), she becomes intrigued by his sense of adventure and contagious passion for music. But soon, his past becomes exposed. Cassie’s left to wonder—did she make the same mistake Mom did by falling for the bad boy?

Then, Grandma’s control pushes her over the edge. Cassie must choose between remaining in the chains of yesterday, or delving into her own freedom by completing the melody her mom left behind.

Buy it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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tessa-emily-hall_headshot1Tessa Emily Hall writes inspirational yet authentic YA fiction to show others they’re not alone—and because she remembers the teen life like it was yesterday (or a few years ago). The debut novel she wrote at 16-years-old, Purple Moon (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) was a Selah 2014 Finalist. Her second novel, Unwritten Melody, releases with Clean Reads November 2016. She’s the Founder of PursueMagazine.net, a magazine that inspires teens to embrace their calling. She also enjoys helping writers achieve their dreams through her internship at Hartline Literary Agency.

When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, Tessa can be found making healthy homemade lattes, speaking to teens, decorating her insulin pump, and acting in Christian films. She writes in a small town nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Southeastern coast. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website.

Connect With Tessa on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: When our daughter was young, we sheltered her–in numerous ways. We homeschooled, and I was very careful about who she spent time with and what I allowed her to experience. But I didn’t do this on a whim. I knew this was how God was leading me. Fast forward to her seventh grade year, and suddenly, God turned the tables on me. He told me it was time to release her–to the public school arena. Again, I followed His leading, though I was terrified her innocence would be shattered along with her faith. The opposite happened–her faith and reliance on her Savior grew, and God gave her clear vision into her encounters. In other words, she began to see a clear distinction between good and evil, light and dark, and she was drawn to shine with the love and truth of Christ.

The key then–prayer. Momma’s, make prayer the most important part of your day. Pray for your kids regularly, and pray for yourself–that God would reveal their hearts to you and give you clear wisdom as to how to raise them. Because only He knows what they’ll face and what they’ll need to experience to prepare them for that. (If you and your group would like to hear more, ask me about my Parenting to the Heart talk. I’d love to come share what God has shown me with your Bible study/women’s ministry/moms group. Contact me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com to find out more.)

Your turn! How have you achieved a balance between shielding and sheltering? Do you believe over-sheltering kids could lead to more harm than good? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace on Facebook.

Visit Sarah Ruut’s blog (scroll down) to learn where else Tessa will be on her blog tour. 

The Road to Restoration

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The Road to Restoration
by Jan Pierce

Luke 3: 4-6 “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight. Every ravine shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough roads smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” 

We believers are aware of the need to “fill the valleys and level the hills” for those who have never heard the Gospel. They may not understand God’s ways or the depth of their sin. They don’t grasp their need of a Savior. But how do we deal with long-time Christians who fall into sin?

They know better.

I’d been saved for over twenty years and my husband was a pastor. I taught Sunday School and women’s groups. I’d studied the Bible forward and backward for many years. I knew heartsickness-428103_640about sin and the wiles of the enemy.

I knew better.

But even though I knew, over the course of several months I allowed a relationship with another church leader to go beyond the bounds of friendship. I moved into a secretive and “romantic” relationship with a man not my husband. And though the relationship never became sexual, my heart was divided.

We’d been friends for years, enjoyed social times as couples, gone on leadership retreats, worked side by side to build a church. We’d even lived with the family for a time while we were in the process of buying a home. We were friends. We loved their children and they loved ours.

I sinned.

Once the relationship became common knowledge we were required to go before the church and confess. We were not allowed to speak to one another again. He lost his leadership position and moved away. I lost my good reputation.

Although all of this took place over twenty years ago, some of the lessons learned are as nature-669592_640fresh today as they were then. I learned first-hand about ways to minister to those caught in the web of sin. I learned what helps and what doesn’t.

My Father God sent Jesus to die for my sins. He wanted me restored to Him. And I was. But as I look back on that time I realize we Christians often don’t know how to love someone back on their feet. We mess it up.

From My Perspective:

  • Though I’d behaved in sinful ways I was shocked at my own behavior.
  • I didn’t expect anyone to overlook my sin or condone it.
  • I was numb both in mind and spirit—it felt as if I had watched another person’s behaviors.
  • Long lists of scriptures handed to me by well-meaning believers were not helpful.
  • Notes and letters of condemnation and shame broke me further.
  • At the most horrible time of my life most friends and acquaintances had no idea how to help. They disappeared.

Over many months and years I received my healing. I traced the roots of my unhealthy need for approval that led to attention seeking. I came to understand some of the “ministry” I received had not been at all helpful, though well-intentioned.

How can we do better? How can we help to “make the crooked straight and the rough roads smooth?”  These are the actions and behaviors that brought healing and eventual wholeness to my heart.

Unconditional Love

While I didn’t expect or want friends to condone what I’d done, I was not able to take in corrective words at rope-1469244_640that time. I was in shock. I was grieved beyond words. I could barely get through the days—going to work, cooking meals, being me. Those who were able to reassure me of their unconditional love were like healing balm to my raw heart. One woman said, “I don’t care what you did, I love you anyway.” Another stood in church beside me and read a verse of God’s redemption with a strong, firm voice. A man I barely knew wrote me a letter telling of the struggles in his own marriage and sending encouraging words filled with love. I’ll never forget those who acknowledged that I’d fallen, but loved me until the day I could stand again.

The Gift of Time

Because we were in positions of leadership, everyone involved went through painful transitions. We lost our leadership positions. We eventually lost our church body. We were like lepers calling out “unclean.” Friends disappeared like a mist. A teacher friend once said, “Nobody loves you when you have head lice.” It was like that. Those who were willing to spend time with me, talk with me, listen and pray—they were gold.

Honesty Concerning Consequences

When sin twists its way into our lives there are dreadful consequences. There is no reason girl-517555_640to minimize them. One friend said: “It will eventually be like a broken bone that’s healed. There will always be that knit-together place,  that scar.” And he was right. The consequences were great. Innocent people were hurt. The ripples of the events traveled out to family members, friends and beyond. We lost people we loved. I had to face dark places in my own being that I’d ignored to my own hurt. To be honest, years and years have passed, but there are still awkward meetings with friends from those days—a wedding where we run into them, a funeral we don’t attend because we would run into them. It’s a sad fact that sin destroys. But…

Moving On

Praise God He sent Jesus to die for the very sins I committed. It was a long time before I healed. It took encouraging words from a new pastor who helped me get “unstuck” from shame and guilt. He offered to pray with me, counsel with me—whatever it took to regain love-699480_640my true identity as a beloved daughter of the King.

There’s a time for mourning and then there’s a time for moving on. I returned to teaching and leading women in the church. My husband and I began a ministry to Christians in India. We rejoiced that our marriage not only survived but became stronger and healthier. We counted our blessings.

John preached the message: “Repent, the King is coming.” And He did. He came and died for your sins and mine. He came to restore and heal. Let’s join hands with Him to bring restoration and hope to His people.

*** 

homegrown-family-fun-frontToday’s children are missing out on old-fashioned unstructured creative play. They seldom run and play outdoors. They don’t spend time building forts or making mud pies. Their primary choices involve computerized screentime. While computerized games and activities can be educational, they eat up the time that would otherwise be spent in active, kid-powered play—the work of childhood. Homegrown Family Fun: Unplugged offers hundreds of ways to encourage healthy play, both indoors and out. Find this helpful family resource at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net.

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jan-109acrop1Jan Pierce is a Christian wife, mother of two, grandmother of four little boys and a retired school teacher. She draws on her life experiences to write both fiction and non-fiction. She is the author of Homegrown Readers and the newly-released Homegrown Family Fun: Unplugged. Both  available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net.

No Longer Alone

 

We’re taking a brief break from our For the Love series to center ourselves in Christ.

I’ve heard it said one doesn’t truly understand that Christ is enough until He is all that they have. When Jenna Victoria’s world came undone, God showed up. Read on to see how, and may her story encourage you to hold tighter to the God who never leaves nor forsakes.

Going It Alone ~ Not Quite
by Jenna Victoria

When our world gets crazy busy with interruptions or requests, we might envy the many species God created that choose being solo over one-of-a-crowd. From red cross-1448946_640panda to platypus, sloth to skunk or eagle to armadillo—these creatures revel in their solitude.

Frustration with crowds aside, there’s a lot to say in support of seclusion. Especially Christian solitude, as this partial verse in John’s Gospel attests.  For when we are alone, we are not actually alone. Our Savior, our Father in heaven, is with us. How magnificent it is to grasp this truth.

In 2012, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal breast cancer. After a long road of prayers, chemo, a right mastectomy, and radiation, my family, friends, coworkers and I celebrated my being cancer-free in early 2013. Five weeks later, that was no longer true. The cancer spread to the scar tissue of my mastectomy site, and to the left side breast and lymph nodes. Re-radiation, a lumpectomy and more chemo followed. In 2014 and 2015, as treatment continued, friends and family started to draw back. Close relatives and friends who had formerly been by my side, returned to their own lives and commitments – and rightly so. My rock, my one special knight-in-shining-armor then decided at the end of 2015 they had enough and essentially walked away. I was alone, I thought.

As the days and weeks of early 2016 drew out, I clung even more tightly to the One who book-1209805_640never leaves us or forsakes us. I downloaded more than 1000 Christian podcasts from preachers all over the world, and listened to the Word being taught every night. I soaked every drop of wisdom into my brain. I listened to praise & worship songs, studied the Bible and let God’s thoughts fill my thoughts.

In time, that head knowledge became heart knowledge. In my loneliness, I heard the whispered words of my Savior, “I am enough.”  As the cancer is now staged as metastatic, I will always be on some type of IV chemotherapy, but I don’t sit in the infusion suite alone. God is with me. I have contentment and, unbelievably, unshakeable joy in the midst of my circumstances and my solitude. The words “I am enough” wield great power. This sense of peace is not of my strength and ability; it is 100% from God and it did not happen overnight. I chose to embrace God as being enough, and He has become my portion.

It is comforting to know that John, our “companion in tribulation,” was given the words of the book of Revelation to write down, while he was alone, in exile on the island of Patmos.

I’d like to believe he, too, heard those same words from our Lord.  “I am enough.”

It is my prayer that those of us in desert places and filled with loneliness also receive grace to hear them too.

***

war-of-the-heart-2

When a vintage snow globe sends Boston dress designer Louise Martin & British B&B owner George Walker back in time to London, December 1940, they race against the clock to reconcile a feud between their families and solve a 75-year-old mystery. As Louise relies on God; and on George for guidance, friendship then love, will the future George envisions strangle her own dreams? Will their love survive generations of mistrust, the Blitz and being stranded in wartime 1940, possibly never to return to their former lives?

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jennavictoriaEver since her grandfather co-created Twinkies, Snowballs & Hostess cupcakes for Intercontinental Baking Company, circa 1959, Jenna’s yet to taste a cake she hasn’t liked.
Jenna is the author of  “fiction that feeds your faith” – Happily-Ever-After romance & romantic suspense stories with a Christian world view. She also writes clean, wholesome romances. Her stories emulate those she enjoys reading…with a heroine who is in grave danger & a hero who is smart enough to get out of her way as she kicks butt & takes down names… and those that feature the sweetest of fairy-tale-ending love stories.

She writes romances that glorify God and His sacrificial love through His Son, Jesus Christ and show how He gives us hope & peace amidst unbearable situations. After her first breast cancer diagnosis in 2012, several reoccurrences and metastasis, Jenna continues to praise God and trust His oversight in her life; and continues to write more books.

Connect with Jenna on her website and Facebook.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! First, do you have any words of encouragement you can give Jenna? I cannot imagine going through what she is, and to turn such heartache into an opportunity to proclaim God’s goodness–wow.

Can you share a time when you discovered, in a deeper way than ever before, that God was enough? Share your thoughts, questions, and examples here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace, because we can all encourage and learn from one another!