Creating a Culture of Grace

Image of woman looking out over horizon

Image by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Our response to other people’s failures and mistakes matter. A lot.

Grace isn’t overlooking sin or acting as if it’s acceptable nor is it diminishing its effects.

Grace says: “I know you messed up here, and that stinks. But your actions won’t push me away. Instead, they motivate me to draw closer. Because I know you can do better. I believe you will do better, and I’ll be walking beside you each step of the way.”

Our daughter has always been the type who longs to please. She needs to know her father and I are proud of her and at times, she has an unhealthy fear of displeasing us. When she was younger, I often told her, “I almost want you to fail in this so that you can see failure isn’t the end of the world.” I wanted her to make some big mistakes so that her fear of making them would diminish.

Mostly, I wanted her to experience grace and learn to live in it.

This past year, she got engaged, which opens up a whole new set of potential “failures.” Failures I know she and her fiancé will experience, perhaps even again and again. They won’t always make the right choices or love one another well. They’ll argue and say things they wish they hadn’t. They’ll make poor career decisions, some that may even cost them tens of thousands.

But they’ll be okay, because they’ll always have the grace of God, of one another, and of my husband and I to fall back on. My prayer is that the knowledge of those truths will provide the safety, the catalyst, for their growth.

Fear paralyzes, but Scripture says perfect love casts out fear.

Let me play on those words a bit. We all fear we’ll be cast out. That we’ll do something that will cause others to reject us and cut us off. But love draws near, and the love that draws near casts out the fear of being cast off. If I instill nothing else into our daughter’s heart, I want it to be this: My love remains.

Imagine our relationships, our churches and Bible study groups, if we learned to communicate grace-based love, not just with our words, but more importantly, with our actions and reactions.

This begs the question: how do we create a culture of grace?

I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but I feel I get closer when I consider God’s heart for me. Here’s how we can mirror that heart to others.

Understand failure will occur.

We’re all in a process of growing. We know this intellectually but can easily forget when someone else behaves in a less than loving or godly way. Often, when I disciplined our daughter when she was growing up, I’d say, “You’re supposed to mess up. You’re a kid. That’s why God gave you parents.”

That didn’t mean I condoned or ignored her behavior. It meant I saw it through a grace-and-growth based lens. Paul putflower image with text from Phil. 1:6 it this way, when speaking to the relatively new believers in Philippi: “[I am] confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).

Notice:

  • Paul knew the believers hadn’t reached a state of completion. He dropped his expectations of perfection.
  • He didn’t take ownership for their growth. Oh, what peace we experience when we stop owning other people’s behavior! As their spiritual mentor, Paul was responsible to teach, exhort, and train. He was not responsible for how the Philippians responded.
  • His confidence wasn’t in his teaching or even in the Philippians’ ability to grow. His confidence rested in Christ, the author and perfector of their faith, the only One with the power to change lives.

Prioritize relationships above behavior, mistakes, and incidents.

This means viewing everything as an opportunity to connect, to get to the heart level. Jesus excelled at this. When He met a woman who’d been married five times and was living with a man out of wedlock, He didn’t zero in on her relationship history. Instead, He saw and spoke to her heart, her need, saying, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink”—or, who I am—“you would’ve asked Him and He would’ve given you living water” (John 4:10, NIV).

Jesus offered Himself. Completely.

When He met a tax collector who’d swindled money from others, He didn’t list all the man’s sins. Instead, He drew the man close, saying, “Come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5, NIV).

Relationships change people. When healthy and filled with grace, they give others a safe place to land, to become honest with themselves and others, and to grow.

Deal with things as they come then move on.

When our daughter was a teenager, she and I went through a “passive aggressive” phase where we routinely threw snarky comments at one another. Whenever we took time to unpack these interactions, we learned one of us had spoken out of hurt or fear. Watch others, or even better, analyze yourself, and I suspect you’ll discover the same.

Usually, this behavior stems from aversion to conflict, yet that is precisely where it leads—to ongoing, unresolved conflict. We discovered how important, how healing and powerful, it can be to simply state our feelings and concerns. This allowed us to deal with them honestly and fully—to get to the real issue, which so often wasn’t what we originally suspected. Then, once we’d addressed that, we moved on, grudge and hostility free.

Granted, I’ll never love others as Christ loves me. I’ll have moments of snark, of hurt feelings and misperceptions, but I want to grow in this area. I want to create a culture of grace, where relationships are prioritized over mistakes and poor behavior and growth is valued above perfection.

Let’s talk about this! What are some ways you’ve experienced grace-based relationships? Can you share any examples with us? What are some ways you try to intentionally create a culture of grace, and what results have you seen?

Speaking of living in and giving out grace, have you grabbed your free copy of Becoming His Princess yet? You can do HERE.

cover for Bible studyDo you ever feel insignificant or unseen? As if what you do or even who you are isn’t quite good enough? Does your confidence level vary based on who you’re around and how their bank account or how accomplishment list compares to yours? If so, this study, based on the life of Sarah from the Old Testament Scriptures, is for you.

For seven weeks, we’ll follow her uncertain and at times terrifying journey from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur to the land promised to her husband, and ultimately, the place of rest God beckons each of us toward. He met her in the middle of her pain, her shame, and all her striving, and rewrote her story—through grace. A grace bigger than her greatest failures and that proved sufficient for all her insufficiencies.Step by step, God taught this once-scorned woman to live as His beloved, His princess.

As we follow her journey recorded in the pages of Scripture, He’ll help us do the same. We’ll learn to center our identity in Christ, recognize His power and presence in our most challenging circumstances, find rest from our striving, and live daily in His grace.

And before you go, fun news! Christina Sparks, you won a copy of Janet Thompson’s book, Everyday Brave! I’ll email you soon to connect you with her so you can get her your mailing address. Thanks for engaging with us last week!

When Others Hurt Us

Image by Gokil on Unsplash

My friend’s comments and attitude stunned me and left me clamoring for a reply. At first, I had none. An evening excursion I’d anticipated with joy, that I’d set aside time for, paid money for, was quickly turning to regret.

The words tumbling out of my friend’s mouth weren’t only hurtful, they were unjustified. It was almost as if she were searching for things to criticize and condemn. Though I persevered, doing my best to enjoy the rest of our time together, my mind kept rehashing every painful statement.

My emotional reaction would’ve been different had she had been calling out sin, or perhaps lovingly pointing me to growth. Then I would’ve known her remarks came from a place of love. But that didn’t seem to be the case. Every declaration appeared to erupt from a place of … indignation.

Why was she so angry? Did she really view me the way her words implied?

The next day, still nursing the sting from the night before, I was rehashing it all through prayer to God. Every statement she’d made, why it was wrong and unfair, and what each revealed regarding the state of her heart.

About two minutes into my rant, God’s voice swept through my mind: “Be the friend to her you quote pulled from text on green backgroundwant her to be to you.”

In other words, show grace. Recognize that, yes, her words and behavior had been ugly, but there were countless times mine were as well. If I were to list every time I’ve done or said something hurtful to someone I love, I’d be buried in paper and ink.

I never have and never will love others perfectly.

Neither would my friend. Most likely, her behavior the night before stemmed from something completely outside of our encounter. She was probably hurting or experiencing stress or uncertainty in some area. Or perhaps she’d merely slipped into a sinful state. We’ve all done that.

But God’s love and gentle presence remains, and knowing we still have a great deal of growth ahead, He lovingly convicts then picks us up and carries us to that next level of grace.

Philippians 1:6 tells us all who belong to Christ are in a state of progress. We’re teetering someplace between who we once were and who we’ll become. This verse brings great comfort when we’re the ones who’ve tilted back toward sinful behaviors, but this hope-filled promise involves those who hurt us as well.

With every interaction, especially the most painful and disappointing, may we all remember that each one of us are in a state of becoming. God will complete the work in us, and perhaps most importantly, He carries the bulk of the weight.

Learning–the Hard Way–to Be a Blessing

grace quote with flowers in the backgroundI don’t like failing–at anything. But I especially hate when my failure hurts someone else. Unfortunately, there’ve been numerous times when I’ve sensed God asking me to do something–to say something or reach out to someone–but didn’t. There have been even more times when I’ve felt a prick in my heart cautioning me not to act, but my pride propelled me forward anyway.

Praise God for His grace that can turn every failure into a growth opportunity and ultimately, a win. Today my guest, Kass Fogle, shares a time when she found this to be true and what God taught her through that situation.

Learning–the Hard Way–How to Love Others Well

By Kass Fogle

The most self-absorbed person I know is writing this blog. Though I pray against my selfishness regularly, most of my plans revolve around me.

And every day, God’s love and mercy convicts me and reminds me to follow the example of Jesus. Christ surrendered His place with God and, fully obedient, he humbled himself to put the needs of others first.

Though I’ve learned to stop and pay attention to this lesson, it wasn’t always this way.

I missed a friendship opportunity with a friend from high school who was hurting deeply. She lost two daughters in a tragic car accident and reached out to me via social media. While we communicated back and forth a few times, we never connected in person. Though she was only three hours away, I didn’t get an address so I could visit. I didn’t grab a phone number for a quick call of encouragement.

Instead, I listened to the lies filling my head: “You can’t explain this. You can’t help. She has other friends who live closer.”

And I also heard another other voice whisper, “You don’t have to explain. You have to love. She needs you.”

If my heart ached in disappointment for listening to the louder voice, it shattered over my disobedience to God.

Because I’m accountable for which voice I listen to and believe. And instead of swimming in the vortex of shame, I’m choosing to obey my Father.quote pulled from post with image of two friends together

Though I take responsibility for my failures, I believe God will use them for the glory of His kingdom. With the example above, He chose to use my poor decisions as a friend to teach me how to better care for others. And not just in a ‘coffeehouse-pay-it-forward” way, but in a Holy Spirit inspired “I can’t wait to share it” way.

Through this, I learned how to better care for others:

  1. Loyalty First – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17, ESV). I have a group of unquestionably faithful girlfriends. But sometimes we’re called to show loyalty to those outside our “inner circle”. We can show the same type of care to those we’re closest to and those we aren’t. In those situations, it’s all about obedience.

Not good with words? Come bearing gifts – a coffee cup, a pretty pen, a bracelet, or a snuggly pillow – anything you think will bring comfort.

Not good with words in times of suffering? Try: “You matter.” “Would you like for me to pray with you now or in private at home?” “I’d like to come over and sit with you for a while.”

  1. Transform Your Mind – Sometimes we don’t help others because we think their values, traditions, or social networks are too different from ours. But I suggest we pay close attention to people who pop into our lives repeatedly. Most likely, they’re there for a reason. We can call them by name and ask God how he wants us to engage with them. Who knows? Maybe they’re there to bless or grow us.

While we need to recognize if someone is not meant to be in our life, we can also pray that God removes our judgmental tendencies so we can become open to the gift of friendship God has in store for us.

Remember friends, we don’t bless others so we’ll be blessed, we bless because He first loved us.

We’ve been saved by the power of the holy spirit, through the blood of the Son, and the grace and mercy of our Father, so our hearts are prepared to best share the blessing with others.

Just for reading today, you can get a free journal page by clicking on Friendship With a Purpose –While you’re there, check out the other freebies!

***

Let’s talk about this! When has a past failure taught you how to better show grace? Do you have anything else you’d add to how we can love our friends well? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Get to know Kass!

 

Kass Fogle's author photoKass Fogle is a Contemporary Christian Author, Speaker and Blogger who lives with her husband and two children in South-Central Illinois. Her first novel, Ruth’s Garden placed third for Contemporary Christian Fiction at the Write to Publish Conference in 2018.

Her new website, THE INTROVERTED BELIEVER will launch in late 2018 and will focus on encouraging fellow introverts in their work, marriage and friendships. Be sure and subscribe to her website kassfogle.com to stay up to date on the launch progress.

When she is not working the day job you can find her at the local coffee house writing, at home baking, hanging out with family or causing trouble with her tight-knit group of girlfriends. Kass is also a raging Football Mom.

Follow her on Twitter @kassfogle, find her on Pinterest, and connect with her on Facebook .

She invites you to email her a prayer or other request at kassfogle(at)gmail(dot)com.

Before you go! I encourage you to read my thoughts on finding the courage to obey when others deem our actions foolish. You can read that HERE. And mommas of little ones, you may find my post on MOPS International encouraging. You can read that HERE.

 

Our Need For a “Tribe”

Woman sitting by herself in an empty churchIf you read my recent article on Crosswalk, you know almost half of Americans struggle with deep loneliness. We long for connection. We were created to live interdependently. But in our busy, selfie-taking, and increasingly disconnected culture, it can be crazy-hard to find and cultivate healthy, thriving relationships. My guest today discusses this universal need, challenges to it, and how Jesus and the church were designed to fill that need. As you read Jason Joyner’s thoughts, prayerfully consider your friendships. Have you found your “tribe”? Your inner circle–those people who know your ugly and love you anyway? If not, ask Jesus to show you why and how you can move from isolation to deep connection.

Do You Have a Tribe?

by Jason Joyner

In a world that’s supposed to be growing closer, are you feeling isolated?

Today we’re more connected than ever. We always carry our phone with us. Why wait for a letter or card in the mail when you can text someone? People can travel to the other side of the world within twenty-four hours. We have the power of the internet to associate with each other.

Still, it seems people are increasingly lonely. Despite the way Facebook and other social media pretends to bring us together, they may actually isolate us, if not used properly. We post our happy side of life and see the same from others. Then when we run into them and ask how they’re doing, if they mention something seen online, we can glibly say, “Oh, I saw that,” and shut down the conversation.

If we’re too spread out with “friends” online it can keep us from getting into depth of relationship with a smaller group.

However, if we’re aware of this tendency, we can fight it. We can even use social media, our smart phones, and technologies that can push us apart to bring us together.

There’s a concept going around called “having a tribe.” The term was popularized by author Seth Godin, but it draws from a deeper well. Basically, a group of friends with text pulled from posttribe was a community. People within it knew their role and had assurance that others had their back. Being in such a tight-knit group is a deep source of identity. In our fragmented world, being in a tribe can bring life.

As Christians, we’re called to do life with one another all the time, not just gather for an hour or two on Sundays. Did you know that there are 59 mentions of “one another” in the New Testament? We’re supposed to love one another, be at peace with one another, encourage one another. This is the Christian version of Seth Godin’s concept.

I’ve seen this in my life through a group called Realm Makers. I’m a science fiction and fantasy writer and a Christian. I live in a region where there aren’t many Christians like me, and there aren’t a lot of people who enjoy these fantastical stories. It’s rare to find someone who shares my faith and a love for these genres.

I found Realm Makers, a conference for Christians who write sci-fi/fantasy a few years ago, and I’ve made some deep friendships within this group. We get together once a year in the conference, but stay connected through social media, video apps, and email. We encourage, pray, rejoice, and mourn with each other.

Having a group of friends that know me and are so supportive, has made such a difference. I don’t feel as isolated. I can enjoy my local church body more, because I don’t have expectations of others fitting that niche in my life. My Realm Makers friends meet that connection, so I can enjoy others where they are.

Two friends with quote from postsEven Christians, a family of faith designed by God to live in close community with one another, can get isolated in this modern world. But we have a built-in tribe through our shared faith in Jesus. Don’t let the busyness of the world or the shallowness of social media rob you of that connection. Reach out to others. Be that “one another” someone needs, so they can feel that sense of belonging. You can use the tools of our time to build deeper relationships.

If you do that, you’ll find your tribe, and you’ll be blessed for it.

Let’s talk about this! Do you feel like you have a tribe? What steps can you do to find such a community?

***

Jen here. Before you go, make sure to sign up for Jennifer’s free quarterly e-mailing. Subscribers receive great content–a short story, inspirational message, recipe and more–sent directly to their inbox, and a free, 36-lesson Bible study. Sign up HERE. (If you sign up for my newsletter but don’t receive the link to the downloadable study in your welcome email, please contact me.)

Get to know Jason:

Jason Joyner's author photoJason C. Joyner is a physician assistant, a writer, a Jesus-lover, and a Star Wars geek. He’s traveled from the jungles of Thailand to the cities of Australia and the Bavarian Alps of Germany. He lives in Idaho with his lovely wife, three boys, and daughter managing the chaos of sports and superheroes in his own home. Launch, a YA superhero story, is his first published novel.

Connect with him online by joining his Facebook group, The Heroes’ Hangout and follow him on Twitter and Instagram

Check out Jason’s novel, Launch:

Sixteen-year-olds Demarcus Bartlett and Lily Beausoliel are among a select group of youth invited to an exclusive, Cover image for Launch by Jason Joynerall-expenses-paid conference at social media giant Alturas’ California headquarters. Led by charismatic founder Simon Mazor, the world’s youngest billionaire, this isn’t the typical honors society. It seems that everyone here has some secret, untapped potential, some power that may not be entirely of this world. An ancient prophecy suggests that if these teens combine their abilities, they could change the course of history. The only question is: Will it be for better or for worse? Grab your copy HERE or on Barnes and Noble

 

 

 

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.

billy-graham-393749_960_720

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.

***

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.

***

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!

The Road to Restoration

johnstudy1

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.

***

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.

Keeping It God-Centered

Merging two people with different personalities, ideas, thoughts … and sins … can make marriage hard. Today, my guest, Karen Pashley, shares with us the hope and foundation we have in God to make our marriages not just work, but thrive.

We love because He first loved us.

The Trials and Triumphs of a God-Centered Marriage
by Karen Pashley

Let’s face it, being married is not easy.

Pair up two individuals with different personalities, energy levels and tastes, ask them to pair-707506_640manage a household, children, social  commitments, and their careers on a daily basis and you have a recipe for friction.

Throw in the fact that we are sinners—and at times our sin will hurt, disappoint and anger our spouses.

Small irritations, like hogging the remote or continually leaving wet towels on the bed are not so hard to overcome.

But what about the biggies? What if your spouse has an affair? Struggles with an addiction? Or develops a nasty temper? That’s when the vows you declared on your wedding day actually become your reality.

To love, honor, and cherish. Through good times and bad, For richer or poorer, in sickness and health.

Without the grace and mercy of Christ, marriage doesn’t seem like a logical idea at all, does it?

Falling in love is the easy part. Loving our spouses for a lifetime takes commitment, determination, and disciplining our minds to trust in God.love-699480_640

1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”

Conjuring up love when our souls are weary, or stressed, or hurting is virtually impossible without the love of Christ flowing through us.

God designed man and woman to be uniquely and wonderfully different, yet He planned for us to come together and become partners in marriage. He knew this would not be an easy task for us—His first couple blew it big time, yielding to the sin that so easily ensnares.

We’ve been blowing it ever since.

But, the Lord is good, and kind and merciful. He did not haphazardly concoct this scheme called marriage and then leave us to our own feeble means to make it work.

Jesus gave us the gift of His Holy Spirit so that we could experience His perfect love for us (1 John 4:13). And when we embrace that unfathomable Love—despite our frailties, shortcomings, and sins—we can love our spouses, in spite of their frailties, shortcomings, and sins.

What a wonderful, thoughtful God he is! He has equipped us to receive and give love to one another through His own Spirit!

christ-776786_640We can love our spouses in and through anything, if we embrace the love our Father has for us.

I like the way the Bible spells it out for us in 1 John 4:10-12:

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

My new novel explores how a Christian family deals with the consequences of the husband’s infidelity. Each character wrestles with their own flaws while searching for the answers to their pain. Only when they yield to the love God has for them can they begin the journey towards forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.

Readers and reviewers often contact me to share how this story profoundly affected them and their approach towards situations needing healing and forgiveness in their own lives. I hope you’ll consider reading—may your soul be refreshed with the living water of Jesus’ love.

***

Precious in His Sight:

The story of one determined wife, her guilt-ridden husband, and the other woman, whose struggle may set them all free . . .

PreciousinHisSight_CVR2What if your husband was cheating? What would you do?

Feisty, tenacious, and adorably flawed, Sugar Brennan is fiercely committed to her family, her traditional Christian values, and her spotless reputation in her affluent Southern community. When she discovers her husband Clay has been unfaithful, Sugar is determined to right the wrongs in her life.

Then Clay’s former mistress returns to Westfield with devastating news, posing a heart-wrenching dilemma that challenges Sugar to rethink all she’s believed about faith, family, and the healing power of forgiveness.

She’s been raised in a preacher’s home, taught to love her enemies.

She’s got the fish sticker on her car and a collection of good works under her belt.

But . . . reach out to the woman who nearly destroyed her marriage? Surely God wouldn’t ask her to go that far.

“This book will stir your emotions, warm your heart, and ignite a longing in your spirit to know the One who loves us unconditionally . . . no matter who we are or what we’ve done.”   —Denise Jackson, NYT bestselling author and wife of country music superstar Alan Jackson

***

IMG_8533-Karen Pashley writes and speaks with wit and candor about relevant, often gut-wrenching topics that resonate with women of all ages. Her Amazon best selling novel Precious in His Sight is hailed as “a story of betrayal, heartbreak, and reconciliation with unrelenting themes of grace, forgiveness, and Christian duty” by Publishers Weekly. Karen lives with her husband and youngest daughter in Nashville, Tennessee, where they enjoy the rich culture, glorious landscapes, and the occasional celebrity sighting. Read more at  http://www.karenpashley.com

Order Karen’s inspiring novel at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Walmart.com.

Connect with Karen on her websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Loving our spouse is an ongoing, deliberate choice we make, but it’s only possible because of 1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us.” How do you show and act out your love for others? How have others shown you love? Share your thoughts, ideas, and encouragement in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.