Pulling Back the Veil on Christian Love

ID-100201732Scroll through social media long enough, and chances are you’ll read a few (or more) negative posts regarding Christians and Christianity. Some say we’re intolerant, others that we’re hateful, close-minded, or out of touch, or whatever. Find a negative adjective, and I’m pretty sure you can find a statement connecting it to Christ-followers.

Granted, there are those among us who do indeed fit those descriptions, but from my experience, when I step back and truly consider, those angry (or perhaps confused) individuals are the minority. The vast number of Christians I know are doing amazing things. They’re feeding the hungry, adopting orphans, walking beside single moms, bringing clean water to the sick and thirsty, medical care to the ill, and more. So much more.

Yesterday I considered all the ways God’s children have shown up in my life lately, of all the sacrificial giving of time and resources I’ve seen displayed, not by one, not by two or three, but by a large number of believers with whom I have contact.

All this points not to the good of the human heart, nor to the quality of my friends (thoughgirl-1186895_1920 I think they’re amazing) but rather to the power of the Holy Spirit, at work in us. And every act of love displayed by one of God’s children points to His ever-reaching, ever-faithful Daddy’s heart.

Let me explain:

God has called our family to something hard, amazing, beautiful, and frightening. He has called us to help initiate life change and healing, to show the truth and depth of His love, even when–especially when!–that love is spurned.

This in and of itself is not unique to Christians. I believe we all as humans long to make an impact, to help others, and to see our world change. But wanting and doing are entirely different things, and on our own, in our own strength, we lack the power to truly live “all in,” sacrificially, for a significant length of time. 

Let me explain–from my experience. Lately, many have showered me with accolades, saying they view me as giving, loving, and … saint-like. But I’m not. So not. On my own, I’m selfish, fearful, distracted, impatient, ever-viewing the world through a me-centered lens.

And that’s where the tug-push-pull comes in–an inner wrestling of God’s Spirit with mine, and an intimate time where He personally meets with me, changing my thinking, softening my heart, and empowering me to follow, wholeheartedly, His leading.

Here’s how it starts. I’ll step out in love and faith, only to have my love spurned. My natural, human reaction? To get frustrated, maybe even angry, discouraged, and to want to pull back. To self-protect and withdraw–to take the easy route.

But then, in the midst of my selfish thinking, God speaks gently to my heart. Sometimes He’ll remind me of His love. Always, He’ll help me see the situation and the other person through His eyes.

Let me pause here. That is the most powerful, most attitude and heart changing aspect of walking in a close relationship with Christ–being granted the ability to see, truly see, other’s through Christ’s eyes–to catch a glimpse past behaviors and words to the hurting, bleeding heart within.

When that happens, everything changes, in an instant. Anger is turned to compassion. Frustration to peace. Discouragement to hope. Selfishness to love. And suddenly, one is filled with a passion so strong, they cannot not act, cannot not love.

Gal 2-20verse jpgThis has been my journey lately, a daily teeter totter, and praise God, He has been winning–love has been winning. Not because there’s anything remotely good within me, but because God has proven strong on my behalf. Again and again and again. And through it all, I’ve grown even closer to Him as He overwhelms me with the revelation of the depth of His love for our hurting world.

When I started this post, I planned to share all the ways God’s children have shown up for our family as we seek to obey Him. But as I wrote, it took a bit of a detour, hopefully one that was God directed.

For now, I leave you with this–if you’ve never experienced the love and life-changing power of God’s Spirit living within, today can be the day–the day you quit trying to live on your own and in your own strength, the day you stop seeking temporary fillers to the emptiness within, the day you know what it’s like to be loved deeply, at your core, and held close by your heavenly Father, from now to eternity. (Find out how HERE.)

For those of you who do have a relationship with Christ, I challenge you (and me) to get and stay connected–to Him. Make your relationship with Christ your top priority and to carve out time when you rest in His presence, allowing Him to change your perspective, soften your heart, and empower you to do that which He has called you to do. Because in Him, you have everything you need to live the life He desires.

I leave you with one of my favorite verses:

“By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of 2Peter3-1versejpgthis by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT).

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! What is God calling you to do? In what ways has He empowered and equipped you to do that? In what ways has He revealed His love to you through others? Share your stories with us here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace, because God is worthy of our praise and the whole world needs to know about all the great things He does and has done!

But before you go–an invitation to my Omaha Metro friends. Join me and my sister in Christ, singer Shelly Conn, at Chocolaterie Stam for a fun afternoon of live music, books, readings, and chocolate!

Chocolaterie Signing-page-001

Releasing Our Kids to Find Their Calling

As a mom, I love to imagine what God might have planned for our daughter. I know He’s got a plan–an eternally valuable role–uniquely crafted for her. A crucial role in God’s kingdom.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I’ve learned, more often than not God’s plans are so utterly different than anything I could fathom. And yet, when His plan begins to unfold, it all makes sense. We can look back and see the people and events God placed in an individual’s life taking them one step further.

As parents, the best thing we can do, in my opinion, is to embrace and encourage every dream our children have, teaching them to move forward with an eyes-wide-open expectancy. Because we never know which flight of fancy will lead to their divine-calling.

Today’s post is from my daughter. Ashley has always been creative. As a child, she’d craft elaborate two-story houses from paper. I’ve always been impressed with her ability to look at an intricate weaving or piece of jewelry, figure out how it’s made, and replicate it. But although this impressed me, I never gave it much thought … until we visited El Salvador last summer.

While we waited for crusades to start, she studied a wide-banded, beaded bracelets she’d purchased from the locals. Within ten minutes, she’d figured out how it was made and how to replicate it. Our church was teaching orphans how to make jewelry, and she wondered if perhaps she could help with the instruction, teaching them to make the bracelet she’d just deciphered. Although she never got this opportunity (yet. Grin), she didn’t give up beading nor her desire to use her love of beads to bring joy and hope to others.

Today she shares her story, or should I say, the beginning of her story. 😉

Bracelets for the Beautiful by Ashley Slattery

About a year ago my church helped serve a meal at a homeless shelter, and while I was there these two little girls were fascinated with the bracelets I was wearing. I ended up giving the bangles to them and they were excited. It made me think, if it made those feel beautiful would it make others? so I decided to use my beading skills to make bracelets for homeless ladies, make them feel loved and beautiful like those little girls did that way. Last month I had an opportunity to do so. My family when to a homeless ministry called Taking it to the Streets in Omaha, and I brought 20 some bracelets with me and gave them to the ladies there. I loved seeing that my hobby could bless them. It truly amazed me that a simple craft  put a smile on their faces. It showed me that God truly does have a use in mind for every aspect of you.

***

God willing, Ashley hopes to teach the ladies down at Taking it to the Streets how to make jewelry. She hopes this will not only give them a marketable skill, but something they can feel good about–a hope-infusing sense of accomplishment. It’s hard for someone who’s been beaten down to strive for better. (Read When Helping Hurts, a phenomenal book about the psychological struggles inherent with poverty.) But often, success is contagious–motivating.

Thanks to July’s Reach Out Donors: Elaine Marie Cooper with the Road to Deer Runand the Promise of Deer RunSandra Robbins with Shattered IdentityKatie Ganshert with Wildflowers From WinterJoAnn Durgin with Awakeningand Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity

Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Send it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.

Authors, agents, and publishers, if you or one of your authors/clients would like to donate a book to one of the Reach Out gift baskets, shoot me an email at the above address.

The Campaign Continues

I want to thank you all for your support with what Sharyline Cochran and I are trying to do to help global orphans. I’ve been popping about the web, visiting my loving blog hosts, reading y’all’s encouraging comments telling me you voted. Who knows if we’ll win the $5,500 dollars for Gothreads and The Raining Season, but even if we don’t, my prayer is that you’ve met two great ministries and you’ve paused to contemplate how you might help.

This morning I wrote a letter to an orphan friend in El Salvador. In it, I shared a bit about our move and my daughter’s concerns. I started to tell her about how God showed me I was to be my daughter’s friend, then stopped. This young girl doesn’t have a mom to help her during tough transitions, to hold her during lonely nights. Would my mention of the relationship my daughter and I bring her pain? I chose to err on the side of caution and avoided that topic.

I can’t give this girl or any of the other orphans in our world a mom, but I can find a way to join what God’s doing. Will you join me?

For those of you who’d rather skip the posts and head straight to Mary Kay’s for voting, follow this link. But please, no laughing when you see my mug shot. Or at least, if you do get a chuckle or two, don’t tell me about it. Thanks!

Here are a few more bloggers who’ve hosted me this week. Much thanks to them! (And if you missed the previous bloggers and posts, you can find them here.)

At Phyllis Wheeler’s blog: When my daughter was young, I spent a great deal of time shining up the inside and outside of our house. I wrapped so much of who I was in what others could see. Pretty ugly, huh? God thoughts so, and as I grew closer to Him, He redirect my heart to things of greater value—eternal value. (Read more here.)

At Dicky To’s:
Last summer, I spoke with a woman regarding the number of homeless children in our world. I had just finished mailing a package to orphans in El Salvador, and my heart was burdened not only for these young girls, but for the countless other children worldwide in similar situations. I’m not sure what kind of response I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I received. (Read the rest here.)

At Inkwell Inspirations:
“When most of us think of Sodom and Gomorrah, our minds jump to sexual sin. Isn’t that how we treat most sins? It’s easy to think of the “big ones” like sexual immorality and murder, overlooking those “minor” offenses like selfishness, slander, and greed. But does God follow a similar classification?” (Read the rest here.)

And a fun “character tour” from a novel inspired by my time with orphans: “Hello, I’m Irma, from Jennifer Slattery’s novel, Never Forsaken. I am Fatima’s best friend. Or should I say, I was. I haven’t seen her in some time, ever since I … (deep inhale, followed by a slow exhale) it is not for me to say.” (To read the rest, follow this link then click on “blog.”)

At Patricia Dyers--loved her intro, which I’ll paste here. But be sure to pop by her blog to read the post in its entirety: My Bible reading this morning was in the book of Psalms. The first couple of verses: “Blessed is he who considers the poor; The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. 2 The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive, And he will be blessed on the earth;” Psalm 41: 1-2(NKJV). (Read the rest here.)