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!

 

Like a Moth to a Flame…

IMG_7480Pause to consider your circle. Have you surrounded yourself with others who are just like you? When was the last time you reached out to a nonbelieving neighbor or initiated conversation with a stranger? Sound frightening? Maybe. But remember, Christ has not given us a spirit of fear! Today my sweet friend, Jennifer Hallmark, shares her thoughts on what it means to walk as children of light.

A Candle in the Dark

By Jennifer Hallmark

photo by photoexplorer

photo by photoexplorer

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children…For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…” Ephesians 5:1,8 NKJV

Are we imitators of God? To walk as children of light means to radiate a positive, Christ-like attitude toward people in your family, community, and world. One former pastor preached several sermons on being a light in the dark, not in a room already lit by many candles.

Every Sunday and Wednesday at churches all over the world, buildings are lit with many lights. While it is important to fellowship with other believers, our ministry should extend beyond this. My candle is a nice addition to our church, but when I take my candle out into a dark area, it becomes much more important. Our light is Christ’s love and grace revealed in us. We need to point people to the ultimate light, Jesus Christ.

People are drawn to light. Notice the way cars congregate under the only street light near a store. Light attracts and the light given to us when we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior should attract interest, at least.

Why do we seek jobs and neighborhoods among Christians? We’re much more comfortable and less fearful being a light in a room full of lights. Are we afraid of the dark? God calls us to be light where there is little to no light. Volunteering at local shelters or soup kitchen is one way to shine in the darkness. St. Francis of Assisi said ‘All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.’ Are we willing to love people where they are, even if we are the only candle in sight? We can ask God to help us to be willing and fight through any fear we might have.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-15 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (NKJV).

No more hiding our light under baskets or among other lights. It’s time to toss our comfort level to one side and step out. We needn’t fear anymore, for the Holy Spirit will strengthen us to do whatever God calls us to do. Someone is walking on a dark path in your world. They need the comfort we can bring and the true light to their path; Jesus. Will you be the one to shine and point the way?

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Jennifer Hallmark is a writer by nature, artist at heart, and daughter of God by His grace. She’s published over 200 articles and interviews on the internet, short stories in several magazines and been part of two book compilations, A Dozen Apologies, and Sweet Freedom A La Mode. She is currently shopping her contemporary southern fiction novel, When Wedding and Weather Collide. She’s contributed to two compilations, one that will release in June with Write Integrity Press called Unlikely Merger and a non-fiction compilation releasing in the summer called  Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage. 

Visit her online at Alabama-Inspired Fiction, and the group blog she co-founded focus on her books, love of the South, and helping writers. Keep up to day with her and her writing by subscribing to her monthly newsletter at her author page. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. For fun, she loves to read detective fiction from the Golden Age, watch movies like LOTR, and play with her two precious granddaughters. Jennifer and her husband, Danny, have spent their married life in Alabama and have a basset hound, Max.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! What are you doing to share the light of Christ? What is one thing you can do today to bring light into a dark situation? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Are You Repellant or Attractive

Are you repellant or attractive? Pause to think of that for a moment. Consider your interactions with others. Are people drawn to you or do they try to avoid you? How do they feel after having spent time with you? This is an area I feel God has been challenging me in lately. Daily, He’s challenging me to take my eyes off myself, off my agenda and challenges, and look around. Because it’s hard to love others when I’m consumed with me.

Today my sweet friend Julie Arduini, author of Entrusted, shares her thoughts on lighting up our world.

melodylodgekoct132_editedThe Attractive Light by Julie Arduini

We moved into what we’re believing is our “forever home” a couple months ago. It’s a place where we can have ministry events, entertain, encourage, and I even have an office to write. What’s also new for us is it’s in a development. Even after daily errands we’re still like tourists gawking at the homes and finding new things to enjoy each day.

Earlier this week I noticed something. One home has a gorgeous light in their foyer that when turned on is something you can see as you drive by. The home was designed to showcase that light and it’s attractive. I’m drawn to it every time I drive by. When turned off, it looks like every other house. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was “that house” until I looked closer and realized the fixture was there.

Isn’t that the same for us as believers in Christ? For the most part, we’re an easy group to find. You can see the joy in faces. Kind eyes. Smiles that allow others to put down their guard and share. Trust. And hopefully accept the invitation to a relationship with the One who invites through His love.

The world? It’s a place that isn’t eternally attractive. There isn’t much warm and inviting about it, and people are driven to fill a gap with superficial things that will be as productive as a hamster wheel. When I’m at events that aren’t ministry related or church-affiliated, it feels dark. Honestly, I wish a lot of the times I could pass by and avoid it all.

But we’re called to be like Him. To be that light. And as I drove by the house later that day the light was back on. For me it was a reminder. This has been a stressful year and I’ve been tempted more than once to check out. Ignore the need I saw. Keep a grudge when I was ID-100179171wronged. But that’s a mentality much like the beautiful house with the light turned off.

It’s a dark world filled with people craving light. Let’s re affirm our commitment to be the vessels He will use to bring light.

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Julie Arduini is an author with a passion to encourage readers to find freedom through surrender. Her first Adirondack contemporary romance, Entrusted, gives readers hope to surrender fear. A Walk Through the Valley will soon be available as an infertility devotional with 5 other authors. She blogs every other Wednesday at Christians Read and is a frequent contributor to Jasmine’s Place. To learn more about her writing and love of chocolate, visit http://juliearduini.com. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children.

Entrusted FRONT Cover_editedEntrusted:

Jenna Anderson, sassy city-girl, plows—literally—into Speculator Falls with a busted GPS, arriving in town as the new senior center director. She has only one goal—that of belonging no matter how out of place she appears and how angry she makes town councilman and grocer Ben Regan.

Her new life is so rural there are no traffic lights, and when she learns her car isn’t equipped to handle the mountain terrain, Ben’s grandmother offers her late husband’s vehicle, further alienating the local businessman.

As she endears herself to the seniors at the center and creates a vision full of ideas, programs, and equipment, she ruffles Ben’s plans to keep Speculator Falls void of change, including the store his grandfather built.

The two work through community events and shared heartbreak only to face off in a town council meeting where Ben publically rejects her proposal for the senior center, causing Jenna to react out of her fears about belonging.

She returns to Ohio where she realizes she needs to surrender her plans for the center and fears about belonging and trust her Heavenly Father when facing fear, change, loss, and love.

Buy it here.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Pause to think of people you know. Do any of them draw you to them? Make you feel special? Valued? Loved? Why is that?m Now pause to ask yourself this question: How do people feel around me? Am I acting like a light? What can I do to shine more brightly? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Before I go, I wanted to invite my Omaha Metro friends to my next book sighing, which will be held this Saturday. Come, bring a friend, and your sweet tooth because there will be chocolate! (And candy corn flavored taffy, my new favorite candy! 🙂 )Jennifer Slattery Poster_Community (1)-page-001 And be sure to pop by Beth’s blog tomorrow for our next Beyond I Do Bible study lesson. 🙂

Other posts you might enjoy:

Shining in the Dark

Are You Cancerous or Contagious

 

 

 

 

Run to the Darkness

Before I get too far, I’m going to send you over to author Gail Pallotta’s blog to read a marriage devotion I wrote about my awesome husband. Upon first glance, my honey might appear rough around the edges. He’s big, strong, and focused. Ah, but he’s really a soft, fluffy teddy bear in hiding. Read Love Letters to see what I mean. But enough about him…

It is easy to live in self-protection mode. It is comfortable to surround ourselves with Christians, seated in a nice, safe, predictable church pew. But as I read the Bible, I never see God calling Christians into seclusion. Picture Joseph in an Egyptian prison. Egypt was a pagan land. How many prisoners, enslaved by darkness, watched Joseph pray day after day? And what about Paul? One of our favorite stories is of Paul singing in prison. How brightly did his light shine surrounded by inmates? And what about Daniel, or Jonah?

When our daughter was young we lived in Southern California. Life in California is unique in many ways. It is not uncommon for a child to go through life without ever touching snow. You can live on top of your neighbors and not know them. You’ll spend hours in your car, not moving (rush-hour traffic). You’ll drive forty-five minutes to find the hiking trails cut in center of the city. You’ll sit in your back yard, which will likely be covered in cement or gravel, and stare into the night sky in search of those ultra-bright stars that somehow manage to outshine the city lights.

One evening, we wanted her to see the night sky without the “dimming” city lights, so we drove to the desert. We lived on the edge of the Mojave, so it didn’t take long, but once we got there, the view was spectacular! The stars that appeared so faint at home blazed, and numerous stars that were previously out-glimmered by streetlights, dotted the sky.

This image often comes to mind when I pray for guidance. As new opportunities come my way, my first reaction is always self-protection—to remain tucked in my nice church pew, surrounded by brightly shining Christians, waiting…just waiting for that occasional non-Christian to trickle in. And yet, where does our light shine the brightest? In the dark. God’s love is extravagant, initiating, self-sacrificing. God’s love penetrated the darkness.

John 1:1-5

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness cannot, does not, will not overcome it. So, carry your candle and run to the darkness.

Armed For Victory by Robin Prater

Today’s devo comes from Robin Prater’s the Robin’s Nest. I visit Robin’s blog frequently. The past few years, she has faced numerous challenges, and yet, through it all, her faith remains strong and her witness bright. Most only read her words and will never know the deep reservoir of strength they come from. Yet those of us who know Robin personally are challenged by her faithful obedience–she is truly a modern day Joseph.
This article first appeared on her blog on November 10th, 2010.
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No matter where I am, in light or dark, I can see God in everything big and small. From the tiny butterfly to the biggest constellations. I am a star gazer. I love looking at the night sky and seeing before me a beauty that takes my breath away. We can see God in everything. He makes His glory known. How can we look around and not see a magnificent Creator who holds everything in His hands?
Have you ever studied the constellation Orion? It is one of those fascinating pictures of God placing light in just the right places for us to see clearly a portrait of His mighty power. Orion is known as the Great Hunter. When we look at Orion we see a helmet, a belt, a sword, a shield and feet. It is a picture–a reminder, of the armor of God.

Isaiah 40:26 “Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; Not one is missing.”

Job 9:9-10 “He made the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades, and the chambers of the south; He does great things past finding out, Yes, wonders without numbers.”

The constellation of Orion reminds me nightly to put on, afresh, the armor I have been given.

*Belt of Truth

*Breastplate of Righteousness

*Sandals of Peace

*Shield of Faith

*Helmet of Salvation

*Sword of the Spirit

Ephesians 6:10-20 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to the end with all perseverance, and supplication for all the saints and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

God gives us all we need to face each day and face it without fear, with joy. The question is, have you put it on, or are you going about your day unclothed? I love how  a solitary flicker of light breaks the darkness. The same is with our hearts. Just a little of God goes a long way my friends. He fills us with all we need and more. His creation radiates His love. The cross revealed His passion. His passion is for His children.

In Orion’s belt there are three bright stars. I do not think it coincidence that there are three bright stars in the belt, which would be the belt of truth. What is truth? John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.'” We have the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three in one, the Holy Trinity, which is truth. We have His Word, the Bible, to saturate our minds and dispel all deception and falsehood.

God’s truth surrounds us and holds everything else in place. God’s truth enables you to live for him, like a glimmering lamp shattering the darkness.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before me, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

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And remember, if you think Robin’s post should make it to our top 3 of 2010, “like” it, tweet it, fb share it or leave a comment and I’ll tally them all for our end of the month reveal. And if you’re confused about the armor of God, check out this article: What is the Full Armor of God?