Many years ago, I felt God calling me to launch a ministry only to have it die less than two years later. That was a confusing and painful season where I questioned my ability to hear God. For surely, if the call came from Him, He would’ve kept it–and me–from failing.

For a while, that experience left me jaded. Whenever I sensed a divine nudge to do anything that carried a hint of risk, I shut it down, certain my efforts would only end in defeat and discouragement. Thankfully, our God is equally gentle and persistent. He knows we’ll never experience the depth of life He’s promised living in hiding or distracted by our world’s incessant noise. And so, bit by bit, He nudged me forward, revealing His will and drawing me closer to Himself.

With each step, my vision became a little clear, and I began to view my world–present and past–through His truth. In this, He helped me see a major cause of my previous failure-I had attempted to serve Him alone. While revealing His heart for interdependent living, He connected me with others heading in the same direction. He invited us to link arms, and thus, Wholly Loved Ministries was born.

Honestly, serving with others hasn’t always been easy. My rough edges have rubbed against theirs, and vice versa. We’ve had disagreements, and challenged one another’s insecurities on more than one occasion. But we’ve also supported, encouraged, laughed with, and prayed for one another. Together, we and the ministry have experienced incredible growth and a sharpened focus. Our temporary disagreements over nonessentials have clarified and strengthened our commitment to those things that define us and our mission.

I believe, had we pulled away during times of conflict, the opposite would have occurred. I fear, feeding the pride that demands to prove oneself right would’ve driven us to remain staunchly committed to secondary beliefs and convictions, marring the beautiful mosaic God was creating before He’d laid a quarter of the tiles.

This extends far beyond the ministry unfolding within church walls to every opportunity we embrace and encounter. According to Scripture, our ministry includes every area of our lives, from making school lunches, attending work meetings, and waiting in line at the grocery store. This means, we cannot live fully as God desires or accomplish all He’s assigned without asking for help. However, doing so will require a great deal of courage, humility, and strength.

Courage in refusing one of our culture’s most pervasive–and defeating–lies that true strength is revealed through independence.

Humility in admitting that we’re incapable of pursuing our call alone. That we are, in essence, needy, and humility in making our needs known.

Strength to stand against the sin that separates and isolates and to pick up the phone, send that email, or cross the street, to forsake the masks that hide our insufficiencies beneath our polished veneers, look our brothers and sisters in the eye, to seek a shoulder and a hand while offering the same to them.

And if we don’t? If we remain in our self-protected and self-deceived independent states? Not only will that hinder all God wants to do in and through us, but we’ll hinder someone else’s ministry and growth as well. In short, we become roadblocks rather than stepping stones and bridges. Roadblocks to those God might otherwise call to come alongside us, but also to those, like our spouses or children, we inevitably force to help carry our burden or short change in our effort to do so alone.

Consider this poem, written by Susan Aken, a precious and talented woman with whom I’ve had the privilege of linking arms:

My cup is full.
It overflows!
Brimming over with
Corrected perceptions.
God’s love
Washes over me,
Embraces me,
Gives me vision.
I see I’m not alone.
I’m meant to lock arms with my sisters in Christ.
We serve together.
We’re all part of the same picture.
We need each other.
No more listening to the lie:
“You can do this alone.”
We are one voice.
A body where each part is necessary.
Each beautiful and unique.
Father, help me embrace
the place You have for me and to shine.
Help me support the sisters
you’ve surrounded me with
and encourage them
as they also shine for You.
You’re the center.
You’re the head.
You’re the reason we’re here.
Be glorified.
Fulfill Your purpose in each one.

Connect with Susan through her website.

Before you go, make sure to check out the latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode where I chat with author Jennifer Tucker, author of Breath as Prayer: Calm Your Anxiety, Focus Your Mind, and Renew Your Soul.

Breaking Body Image Shame With Rachael Gilbert Faith Over Fear

Do all the parties, cookie exchanges, and holiday meals this time of year prick your insecurities and create anxiety? Do you find yourself simultaneously enjoying home-baked treats and calculating how many hours at the gym each bite will cost? More importantly, do you ever long for the day when you don't stress about your body? In our photo-shopped, filtered, social media culture, is that even possible? Faith Over Fear guest Rachael Gilbert, author of Image Restored, says yes and shares her inside out approach to learning to feel comfortable in our skin, whatever shape it encompasses.  (Scroll down for discussion/reflective questions.) Resource Mentioned: Image Restored: Tear Down Shame and Insecurity to Experience a Body Image Renovation.  Connect with Rachael Gilbert: On her website On Instagram On Facebook On her Amazon Author Page Find Jennifer Slattery: On her website Instagram Facebook Amazon Find Wholly Loved: On their website Join the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group  Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Facebook Group Discussion/Reflective Questions: What resonated with you most in this episode? What body image messages have you absorbed from your social circle? What body image messages have you received from generations before you? How often do you put your thoughts "on trial"? How often do you check your negative thinking against the truth of Scripture? In what ways might a negative body image be impacting your relationships How might your life change were you to feel confident in your skin? What is one action step God might be asking you to take, having listened to this episode? Discover more Christian podcasts at and inquire about advertising opportunities at
  1. Breaking Body Image Shame With Rachael Gilbert
  2. Facing Opposition – Experiencing Jesus
  3. Strength to Thrive Despite Opposition
  4. How God Prepares Us to Face Opposition
  5. When Obedience Leads to Hostility – Standing Strong Amidst Opposition P. 1

woman sitting outside

Imagine forsaking your way of life to answer a call, pouring your life into following God, however He leads, only to learn, at the end of a long, difficult journey, your efforts will eventually come to naught. Those people you prayed for will turn away from God. Those relationships you fought for will fall apart anyway. That ministry you built and nurtured and grew from nothing but a vague idea will die completely.

Some 3,500 years ago*, God called a meek shepherd to leave his way of life in Midian to accept a monumental task—to free God’s people from centuries of oppression. After some hesitation, this man, named Moses, agreed, successfully liberated the Israelites, and led them to the land God promised them.

But this wasn’t just a rescue mission. Through Moses, God was changing worldviews and revealing His heart and will to the world.

Moses’ life is an example of surrendered obedience. Though he never entered the land God had promised, when his time on earth concluded, he could look back over all the lives he’d touched and imagine, with confidence, the legacy he’d leave.

Except that wasn’t exactly what happened. Though he did leave a legacy, I suspect it wasn’t what Moses had hoped for. As he was about to die, God said, in essence, “Everything you’ve worked for, everything I’ve called you to, will fail. The people I loved, provided for, and protected are going to rebel against Me.” (Deut. 32)

They would enter the Promised land as God had promised, and in response, the people would reject their Creator. God knew this, before He led them out of Egypt and drew them near.

Because God’s faithfulness is never dependent on our actions.quote from post.

Nor is our ministry dependent on results. That said, regardless of how things end, during our lifetime, or even for generations to come, God’s will prevails. We saw this, quite clearly, through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and we’ll see it again when He returns to earth to reign for forever more.

As we wait, we’re called to be faithful. To focus on Him and His will done in and through us. That is and always will be enough.

More than enough.

Though it had to sting, to hear his life’s work would soon deteriorate, Moses could die in peace, because he’d done as God had commanded.

When we do the same, and daily step out in faith and surrendered obedience, we can call it a win, regardless of the results of our efforts. And despite what may feel like a huge loss today, we can celebrate knowing in the end, Christ triumphs.

Let’s talk about this! Are you tired? Has something you’ve worked for turned out different than you expected? How might focusing on the faithfulness of God instead of the often faithlessness of others help you stay focused and encouraged? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

For those who live local, join me for two great events! Live teaching of Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study (Register HERE), and one of our Fully Alive Conferences. You can find out more and click through links to register HERE.

You can snag your free copy (ebook) of the study HERE.

Have you ever felt God nudge you to do something so out of the norm, so unexpected, you frantically searched for a “unless” clause? There have been countless times when God’s dropped me in something I felt ill-equipped or ill-prepared for, but looking back, those have been the times when I’ve felt closest to God and when I’ve learned the most. And each time, standing on the other side having seen God moved, I’ve been so grateful I said yes. Because God never called us to a stagnant life. Rather, He calls us to full surrender, unhindered obedience. Today my sweet friend and Maria Looking Upfellow Living by Grace hostess Maria Morgan shares a time when God thrust her out of her comfort zone and what she learned from it.

Stepping Out of the Zone by Maria Morgan


My comfort zone. It’s aptly named, because it’s where I feel comfortable. I’m familiar with the people and places within this zone.  I know what to expect. I can be myself and not risk rejection. It’s a safe place.

Recently, my husband, Steve, and I travelled to North Carolina for a charity golf tournament. The event was sponsored by Steve’s company, and was attended by over a hundred people. People I didn’t know.

I was definitely outside my comfort zone. And to add to my discomfort, my lack of expertise in the area of golf left me wondering what to discuss with them. Would we have anything in common?


Be a friend

I wouldn’t classify myself as shy. But I don’t normally go out of my way to meet strangers either.

As the first dinner party got under way, I remembered some words of wisdom from Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly…” (Proverbs 18:24; KJV).  That was something I could do – be pleasant and welcoming, and show a genuine interest in those to whom I was introduced.  I stepped outside my ‘zone.’



Focus on others

Over the next couple days, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people, and realized an advantage of leaving my comfort zone. I was focused on others, and no longer concentrating on what was convenient for me.

On our drive back to Georgia, Steve and I talked about the importance of getting together with others. As Christians, we’re instructed to be “…given to hospitality,” (Romans 12:13b).

Make time for what’s important

We were conscious of the fact that we had allowed our schedules to prevent us from following through on this directive. When we realized what we’d been missing, it wasn’t difficult to get out the calendar and begin planning to invite friends and acquaintances over for a time of fun and fellowship.

Are you stuck in your comfort zone? What step are you willing to take today to move beyond what’s comfortable?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for challenging me to step out in faith beyond my comfort zone. Your Word provides wisdom for every situation. Help me to practice hospitality with those you bring across my path. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


*Maria I. Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker. She’s passionate about sharing the truths of God’s Word with today’s generation. She lives in Georgia with her husband and daughter. Visit her on the web and download a free copy of her eBook God Speaking @

Let’s talk about this!

When has God asked you to step outside your comfort zone, and what were the results? Share your thoughts and God-moments with us in the comments below or join the Facebook discussion at Living by Grace.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fellowship–intimate interaction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk about this!

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

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

Five to seven years ago, God nudged me to start a web-based children’s ministry. This was a major learning curve, but God was faithful, and day-by-day, the ministry grew. I traveled around the United States, from Southern California, to Maryland, speaking to various Sunday school classes, youth groups, Bible study groups, Christian school classes, and homeschool groups. (I also performed monologues, embarrassing, but effective.) My sister joined me, making the endeavor all the sweeter.

A large portion of our ministry was online. Because we believed in the power of story, we turned everything into a story, from biblical history and apologetics to devotionals.

But then things got hard. Web-hackers came in droves. One got in on my birthday and messed with a page, moving the text around. My computer started acting like it had influenza, crashing, locking up, digesting large documents. We never lost our audience, but experienced so many problems coming from so many different directions, I began to spend ALL my time doing defensive-web work and 0 time proclaiming the gospel. My sister got busy, and before long, I continued alone, climbing a steep, gravel slope, and getting nowhere.

Sermon after sermon, verse after verse, reminded me we weren’t to go it alone. That God provides partners to help us complete the ministry He has for us. This frustrated and hurt me, because I felt He had abandoned me and my ministry. After all, I didn’t choose to go it alone. I lost my partner. I didn’t realize He was laying the groundwork for a future ministry, one I wasn’t even aware of at that time.

At first I persevered, but the more I prayed about it, the more I felt God pulling me from the ministry. It didn’t make sense. Had I heard Him wrong when He first called me to it? But no, the call had been clear and I’d received ample confirmation. Had I messed up? Failed?

The latter question worried me for some time because I couldn’t wrap my head around why God would call me to launch a ministry, then pull me from it. So I kept trudging through, fighting with my computer and the hackers, ignoring the still, small voice that called me to move on.

Our site had a store. When hackers got into my online store and blocked me out, my stomach sank. I can’t quite describe the feeling. Luckily all the information on our site was encrypted and secure, but I was done–out of my league and ill-equipped to deal with the onslaught. All I wanted to do was tell people about Jesus, yet, all I was doing was fixing computer problems. Pointless, frustrating, discouraging.

So I shut it down. It broke my heart, left me more confused than ever. I began to question my ability to hear God. And again, I felt like I’d failed.

And then I stumbled upon Christ to the World Ministry, an international ministry that uses…stories…(radio dramas) to proclaim the gospel of Christ. When Dr. Art Criscoe, my editor, invited me to join the CTTW team, suddenly it all made sense. The earlier ministry wasn’t a mistake. I hadn’t heard wrong. It was merely a stepping stone, training, so I would be equipped for the one God had planned. And now, I can do what I love–write–without having to worry about computer stuff or hackers or tax forms. Plus, God’s expanded my reach, from the US to world-wide.

And had I clung to the latter, I would have missed out.

Closing our ministry was painful. Confusing. Discouraging. I had no idea what lay ahead, and I wanted to cling to the familiar, even though it wasn’t working. But to move ahead, I had to let go.

The same was true of the Israelites mentioned in the book of Ezra. After 70 years of captivity, the exiles from Judah were allowed to return. Almost 50,000 made the long journey home, but many stayed in Persia. They’d grown comfortable with their new lifestyle. Many had accumulated wealth, and the journey back to Jerusalem was long and rough. For them, embarking on the unknown wasn’t worth giving up what they had. They wouldn’t let go and therefore, remained in the land of their captivity.

As 2012 starts, I challenge you to spend some time in prayer asking God what He has for planned for you this year. Is there something you need to let go of in order to follow after His better? Is there a sin or time-sapping habit getting in the way?

Or maybe you’re still in captivity, clinging to a life that’s not really a life, afraid to take that step of faith. But like the Jewish captives, God longs to bring you freedom. The journey may not always be easy, but it will be glorious, healing, freeing, fulfilling. And you won’t have to go it alone. God will walk with, will carry you if He needs to, every step of the way.

He’s calling to you. Release the death-grip you’re holding onto your life. Let it go, so you may live.

Prayerfully listen to the words of the following song, with an open heart.

Let’s talk about this!

Join me at Living by Grace as we encourage one another to live in full surrender, letting go of those things that get in God’s way as we press toward the goal He has mapped out for us.

What about you? Has God asked you to let go of something? What made that hard? And what was the result?

Before I get too far, I want to route you over to Rose McCauley’s blog where you can read an article I wrote about my husband. Commercials bombard us with one “necessary” gift after another, but what do our spouses really want?

Now back to my top twenty of 2010. Today’s post first appeared on Ed Bahler’s site on October 27, and it reminded me of a church my husband and I used to attend in Southern California. It was a rather large church, yet it was one of the closest-knit I have ever been a part of. It was dominated by love and a sense of acceptance.

As I’ve mentioned previously, we’ve moved a lot and as a result, I’ve been part of numerous churches. This has actually been quite a blessing. Each church has its strengths and weaknesses, along with a unique slant. Not doctrinally speaking, but one church may be passionate about small groups, another about youth ministries, and yet another about international missions. The church we attended in California was passionate about discipleship. Their motto: developing fully devoted followers of Christ. And it showed. While there, I started a Saturday youth outreach program, a family ministry, an annual Easter outreach event (not sure if it’s still going), my husband and I led a marriage study–the list goes on. What makes this unique is that each of these ministries were new. It wasn’t like the church had an established program and was looking for warm bodies to fill it. It was that I (or in the case of the marriage study, we) went to the communities pastor with an idea, and he sent us off with a warm smile, a handshake and a “You can do it!”

Because of their, “You can do it! Let us help you,” attitude, our church had a rather diverse make-up of ministries and I experienced more spiritual growth than at any other time in my walk with Christ. I remember the day I sat in the communities pastor’s office, bubbling over with my idea of starting a ministry for young families. I asked, “Why don’t we have one?” To which he replied, “Because no one’s  done it.” And viola, it was that easy. He didn’t route me to a bunch of ministry leaders, didn’t initiate countless church planning meetings. It was, “Great idea! Let me know if you need any help.”

During our time there, I got the strong impression that the programs weren’t nearly as important as the people. They were focused on the growth of each and every member of the body.  I’m sure I wore the ministry staff ragged! Because they didn’t just give the okay then cut me loose. They trained me. Staff members would sit in the meetings I organized, they invited me to free training summits, they provided training materials and with each step, they walked along side me. I often wonder, what if they’d said no? What if they’d been so focused on their programs that they viewed me and my rather explosive ideas as burdensome? Perhaps I wouldn’t be in children’s ministry today. I certainly wouldn’t have the wealth of knowledge and experience that those events allotted and the training classes provided.

As you read today’s blog, think about how you can apply this idea to your life. If you’re a parent or grandparent, how can you walk along side the children entrusted to your leadership? If you lead a study, how can you draw others in? And remember, God unites the body, not so we can turn everyone into a foot, but so that each member can do their part, as God wills and leads.

*                             *                            *

In recent discussions with leaders from around the country, the big topic is how to thrive in this new environment. Are we experiencing a reset…a step change in the way the world is working?

The prospect of career congressmen being booted from office next week would suggest that there has been a change. The major adjustments in the business landscape suggest this as well.

But what about the church?

My friend Todd Wilson (Exponential Network of church planters) believes that a major reset in ministry is at hand. In the past, the church has been institutional, with a parental attitude about Kingdom work. The message has been, “We can do it, you can help.” And most boomers were content to pay their tithe and get on with life.

But the future is different. It’s about engaging and equipping people to do the work. Home Depot got it and their home improvement slogan, “You can do it, we can help,” was a remarkable success. They picked up on the step change in how young people engage life, their career, and the church. If church leaders hope to engage the next generation then they must make this step change and buy into the ministry vision of:

“You can do it, we can help.”

So younger generation….is this where you are?

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8

*                               *                               *

Ed is the CEO of Aspen Group and a church leadership coach. He’s passionate about helping churches “ALIGN” their ministry, leadership and facilities with the multi-ethnic, post Christian culture we are rapidly moving into.

Find out more about Ed by visiting the following websites:,

We have one more devo for my top twenty of 2010, then, on the 31st, come back to see the top three! And remember, if you loved today’s devo, fb share it, tweet it, “like” it or leave a comment. And…Rose invites you to leave a comment on her blog as well. When you do, you’ll be entered into a drawing to receive a free book. Woo-hoo!