Quote from Dwight L Moody

Is our culture creating the “walk-away kind”? Granted, relationships have always been tough—to form and to keep, and sometimes we do need to sever unhealthy ties, especially if a particular person routinely steals our joy, effectiveness, and peace. But with all of the “toxic people” graphics I’ve seen in my social media feed the past few years, I worry we’ve learned to label every unpleasant interaction with imperfect people as poisonous. That we’ve found ways to justify remaining planted within our comfort zones surrounded by those who tell us what we want to hear.    

The other day, a friend shared recent interactions with her adult daughter. The two had issues to work through, false perceptions to correct, and misunderstandings to clear up. Initially, both parties appeared interested in seeking resolution and health, until my friend began setting boundaries and speaking truth regarding past issues. Having read the texts, I knew she’d chosen her words carefully and presented them with gentleness and love. In essence, she was inviting her daughter into something beautiful and whole. But to reach that place, they both needed the courage to be honest with themselves and with one another. 

The latter comes much easier, doesn’t it? Admitting we’re broken and a bit of a mess, however, tends to prick some of our deepest insecurities and fears, primarily because few of us truly understand how to live anchored in grace. Unfortunately, most of us have had way too much experience with the converse. Living in our profoundly broken world among profoundly broken people, we’ve grown accustomed to others cutting us off, rather than inviting us close, when we fail to meet their expectations. This is especially true for those, like my friend’s daughter, who don’t know Jesus.

This should not, however, be true of you and I. Because here’s the thing—if responding to others with Christ-like love came easily, such interactions wouldn’t leave our watching world confounded. Yet, Jesus, the One who laid His life down so you and I might live, stated without any disclaimers, that others would know us by our love. True, healthy, honest, and growing love.

The type that takes work, humility, incredible bravery, and perseverance. 

In Acts 2:1, the Bible says the first century Christ followers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (NIV). 

Acts 2:42 ESV

This passage may read familiar to you. It did to me, only this morning one word I’d previously skimmed over grabbed my attention. These men and women devoted themselves to one another and growing in Christ. Theirs weren’t casual interactions they engaged in when convenient or conversations felt comfortable. They remained steadfast and diligent, persevering with “intense effort” and at times “despite difficulty.”

No doubt because there were many times when it would’ve been much easier to walk away. Just as it will be for me and you. 

We will often find it easier to:

  • Self-protect and isolate than to deepen our relationships and risk getting hurt.  
  • Feed our pride than to cultivate the humility necessary to break down barriers, resolve conflicts, and heal hurts.
  • Hide behind our well-rehearsed, cheery Sunday morning smiles and slogans than to allow others to see our imperfections.
  • Attack rather than receive, defend rather than hear, and isolate rather than grow.  

But none of those behaviors will bring the relationship depth our souls crave. To the contrary. When we choose to live like the world, we tend to find ourselves in the same lonely and fearful places into which everyone else has fallen. We begin to experience the “beyond-expectations” life Christ promised, however, when we push past the fears and sinful tendencies that keep us in bondage to boldly seek Jesus, His people, and His ways.

Let’s talk about this. When have you experienced determined, steadfast love? To whom might God be calling you to show that type of love? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all encourage and learn from one another.

And make sure to connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon.

I also encourage you to check out the latest Faith Over Fear episode:

God’s Promise to Place The Lonely in Families – Ep. 104 Faith Over Fear

Sadly, we live in an increasingly disconnected culture where many people are forced to endure the pain of loneliness. Others, perhaps having felt isolated in the past, have developed a strong fear of loneliness. Still others, due to previous wounds, have come to expect rejection and, out of fear of future hurt, remain in emotional hiding. If any of these scenarios resonate with you, be encouraged: God planted the need for connection deep within the human heart, which means He doesn’t want us to live disconnected and He invites us to trust Him to lead us to those with whom we can feel seen, known, and loved. Find the Ephesians Bible Reading plan at:https://my.bible.com/reading-plans/25255Find Wholly Loved at:https://www.WhollyLoved.comFind out about Wholly Loved’s small groups at:https://whollyloved.com/resources/online-studies/Find Wholly Loved Ministries at:WhollyLoved.comJoin the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Group (also on Facebook):https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769Group Discussion Questions:1. When have you felt unknown and unseen? 2. Consider your typical interactions. Do you tend to feel rejected or accepted? If you feel rejected, how have past hurts impacted this, if at all?3. When have you felt seen and known? 4. How does it feel to know that God cares about your relationships and doesn’t want you to feel alone? 5. If you struggle with loneliness, are there places you can go or clubs you can join in order to build connections? If so, where?6. How would you describe the health of your faith community?7. If you cannot go to people, how can you use technology in order to connect with others? 8. What are some truths you can remind yourself of the next time you feel unvalued and unseen?
  1. God’s Promise to Place The Lonely in Families – Ep. 104
  2. Trusting God’s Promise to Give Us Abundant Life – Ep. 103
  3. Trusting God’s Promise to Give Our Lives Purpose – Ep. 102
  4. Trusting God's Presence to Guide Us – Ep. 101
  5. Trusting God’s Promise to Remain Present – Ep. 100

Jenn Henn Quote 1

Forgive and Forget

Guest Post by Jennifer Henn

This post first appeared on Wholly Loved.com

Maybe you’ve always heard, “Forgive and forget.” But what do you do when it’s impossible to forget? A certain song, smell, or a curse blurted in anger, and, at lightning speed, our mind remembers. Even when the memory laid dormant for several years.

I woke up to sheer panic, my bed shaking. When I opened my eyes, the mirror on the wall wildly swung back and forth. As soon as I caught my breath, I let out a terrified scream. My parents couldn’t come to me—they were rushing to secure the cupboards so all the dishes wouldn’t fall out. The early-morning San Fernando earthquake became a permanent memory in my six-year-old brain.

We moved from California the next year, and it wasn’t until decades later, in Georgia, when I felt the earth tremor once again. My husband was in the bathroom shaving and didn’t even feel it. Newscasters joked about how most people didn’t even know we’d had an earthquake. I knew. Some things you never forget.

Everyone hasn’t gone through a natural disaster, but everyone will experience fear and trauma. Often, people in their life cause their pain. Our emotions are an intricate part of who we are. Some memories, especially traumatic ones, refuse to leave. We may not be able to forget a painful memory, but we can control whether or not we will dwell on it.

Jenn Henn Quote 2

God has never asked me to deny, or “forget,” hard situations of my past. Instead, He calls me to walk in truth and then asks, “Now how are you going to handle it?” and “Am I enough?”

When Christ died a cruel death for our sin, He never denied our offenses against Him. He forgave us because we couldn’t save ourselves. I can’t be like Christ and save anyone, but I can forgive them.

In the Bible, a disciple asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22 NIV).

When I think about someone who wronged me, I’m reminded of a parable Jesus told of a man who owed a king a huge debt he could never repay (Matthew 18:23-35). The man begged the king for mercy, and the king forgave the debt. However, the forgiven man went to another who owed him a small amount of money and insisted on immediate payment.

This second debtor begged for more time to pay, but the forgiven man’s heart was hard, and he refused to give more time to pay the debt.

Word got back to the king. “Hey King, remember that guy’s big debt you forgave? Well, now he wants a man thrown in jail for a much smaller amount of money owed.” (Paraphrased.)

Outraged at the man’s lack of mercy, the king had him brought back to court and thrown into jail.

Chills go down my spine as I recall this story, for I remember my reluctance sometimes to forgive others. While I don’t need to forget what happened, God gives me mercy in abundance, and I should offer the same to others—even those who wronged me horribly.

Therefore, I have to make a conscience choice to forgive. Sometimes, over and over. When situations trigger a memory, the quicker I forgive and move on, the better. Moving on doesn’t mean I forget every wrong endured. If I did, I might stay in an unhealthy relationship or miss out on a lot of good lessons. But I do forgive.

Think about it. If we really were made to forget every wrong done to us, we’d keep going back for more abuses or continue in poor judgement. We wouldn’t be able to walk in truth.

We need to consider other’s deeds with wisdom and truth. If your friend is not responsible with their finances, you don’t lend them money. If your teen is known to take drugs, you don’t lend him or her your car. The circumstances can range from mild to tragic. With truth, understanding, and love, we can honor people and still set appropriate boundaries based on their character.

When I have bitter feelings toward someone, I know I’m resistant to forgiveness. That’s when focusing on the cross helps.

Christ forgives me not because I’ve changed or paid Him back for my wrong, but because of His love for me. I need to love others in the same way.

God understands how hard it is to forgive some offenses over and over. That’s okay—just keep your eyes on Jesus, the One who forgives all the sins of the world, and know you are cared for. He sees you and loves you deeply.

Get to Know Jennifer:

Years ago, Jennifer asked God, “As the gray hairs come in, make me wise.” Today, her gray hair may be camouflaged, but she has compassion and wisdom to share. She’s mentored women through a variety of leadership roles, small group meetings, and now through Wholly Loved online groups. Jennifer also serves the homeschool community through conferences and writing.

Jennifer Henn's headshot

She shares how you can teach your children at home, while enjoying the freedom to explore their individual interests. Her first book, Take the Mystery Out of Homeschooling: A How-To Guide, takes parents incrementally through the basics of homeschooling and offers practical advice so they can make informed decisions. Jennifer and her husband live in Metro Atlanta where their nest is down to one chick. Besides writing and speaking, she is the secretary for Christian Authors Guild, a member of Word Weavers Intl, and serves on the mission’s assessment team at her local church. Visit Jennifer online at JenniferHenn.com, connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Instagram, and find her book on Amazon HERE.

Before you go, I have fun news. Grace Fox and I are now hosting Bible Study Tools’ Your Daily Bible Verse. You can find us HERE.

I also encourage you to check out the latest Faith Over Fear Podcast episode: The Courage to Grieve.

God’s Promise to Place The Lonely in Families – Ep. 104 Faith Over Fear

Sadly, we live in an increasingly disconnected culture where many people are forced to endure the pain of loneliness. Others, perhaps having felt isolated in the past, have developed a strong fear of loneliness. Still others, due to previous wounds, have come to expect rejection and, out of fear of future hurt, remain in emotional hiding. If any of these scenarios resonate with you, be encouraged: God planted the need for connection deep within the human heart, which means He doesn’t want us to live disconnected and He invites us to trust Him to lead us to those with whom we can feel seen, known, and loved. Find the Ephesians Bible Reading plan at:https://my.bible.com/reading-plans/25255Find Wholly Loved at:https://www.WhollyLoved.comFind out about Wholly Loved’s small groups at:https://whollyloved.com/resources/online-studies/Find Wholly Loved Ministries at:WhollyLoved.comJoin the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Group (also on Facebook):https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769Group Discussion Questions:1. When have you felt unknown and unseen? 2. Consider your typical interactions. Do you tend to feel rejected or accepted? If you feel rejected, how have past hurts impacted this, if at all?3. When have you felt seen and known? 4. How does it feel to know that God cares about your relationships and doesn’t want you to feel alone? 5. If you struggle with loneliness, are there places you can go or clubs you can join in order to build connections? If so, where?6. How would you describe the health of your faith community?7. If you cannot go to people, how can you use technology in order to connect with others? 8. What are some truths you can remind yourself of the next time you feel unvalued and unseen?
  1. God’s Promise to Place The Lonely in Families – Ep. 104
  2. Trusting God’s Promise to Give Us Abundant Life – Ep. 103
  3. Trusting God’s Promise to Give Our Lives Purpose – Ep. 102
  4. Trusting God's Presence to Guide Us – Ep. 101
  5. Trusting God’s Promise to Remain Present – Ep. 100

Graphic with quote on grace

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that most of our negative encounters, conflicts, and relational barriers stem from fear. And in this, from a failure to accept, understand, and live in grace. When we mess up, think we have, or worry someone else determines we have, we tend to hide, to blame, to deflect, and point fingers. Many of us have come to recognize these unhealthy reactions in ourselves. But are we also able to see these tendencies in others?

We have a tendency to see the outward symptoms, but God zeroes in on the heart. We see the failings. God sees those too, but always with His eye set on each of our potential. You may have heard the sculptor analogy, may even have used it to comfort yourself.

Man chiseling stone

It says, in essence, that just as the artists sees his finished masterpiece in a slab of stone, once all the excess has been chipped away and rough edges sanded smooth, so too God sees His masterpiece hidden within our sin and brokenness. And like a careful craftsman, He slowly, gently, patiently molds us into men and women who more accurately reflect His Son.

But here’s the thing—we’re not the only ones He’s molding, and we’re not the only ones in need of grace. We’re not the only ones who need to be reminded that there indeed is grace.

My daughter often says, “Every painting has an ugly phase,” a phase, frankly, the artist never wants to display. Some may even bolt the doors to the studio, barring entrance until their work reaches a certain standard.

I suspect this is true for many of the people you and I encounter. They long to be fully known and fully loved. We all do. But they’re afraid of rejection. So, whenever someone begins to jiggle their doorknob or their unfinished pieces begin to show, they react. They lash out, withdraw, or both. Humans have exhibited this pattern of fear-based behavior since the beginning of time, since the very first humans committed their very first sin.

You might be familiar with this story preserved in Genesis 3. God gave Adam and Eve a clear and reasonable command. They could enjoy everything in the literal paradise God had created except for the fruit from a single tree. They disobeyed, despite the abundance, and immediately felt the weight of their sin. Shame entered their heart and caused them to hide, to deflect, and to blame. (Gen. 3:7-14) They felt exposed and immediately sought to cover their shame, to in effect plaster over their sin. But nothing they did could appease their guilt or remove their shame.

So, how did God respond?

He moved in. “Where are you?” He asked (v. 9), and not because He didn’t know. Rather, He was calling them out of hiding, into the light of His presence once more*. Then, verse 21 tells us, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” This was the first animal sacrifice in history, a vivid picture of Christ’s death to come. In other words, through this covering, God did for them what they couldn’t do for themselves; He covered them in grace.

The same grace He provided to you and I. A grace He wants us to not only experience but also put on full display.

Our God is still calling people out of hiding, and He longs to use us to do so. May He help us to see, respond to, and love others in the same way He loves us so that through us everyone we encounter may catch a glimpse of His life-changing grace.

*Idea taken from Tara Rye, a Wholly Loved Team Member, and her thoughts on this biblical account.

Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plan

As you prayerfully work through various relationships, you may find Wholly Loved’s 20 Days to Relational Health Bible plan helpful. Locate it HERE.

And for all of us parents, grandparents, guardians, aunts, and uncles, I encourage you to listen to my latest Faith Over Fear Podcast, titled Raising Courageous Kids. Because we all have a responsibility to love the next generation well.

God’s Promise to Place The Lonely in Families – Ep. 104 Faith Over Fear

Sadly, we live in an increasingly disconnected culture where many people are forced to endure the pain of loneliness. Others, perhaps having felt isolated in the past, have developed a strong fear of loneliness. Still others, due to previous wounds, have come to expect rejection and, out of fear of future hurt, remain in emotional hiding. If any of these scenarios resonate with you, be encouraged: God planted the need for connection deep within the human heart, which means He doesn’t want us to live disconnected and He invites us to trust Him to lead us to those with whom we can feel seen, known, and loved. Find the Ephesians Bible Reading plan at:https://my.bible.com/reading-plans/25255Find Wholly Loved at:https://www.WhollyLoved.comFind out about Wholly Loved’s small groups at:https://whollyloved.com/resources/online-studies/Find Wholly Loved Ministries at:WhollyLoved.comJoin the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Group (also on Facebook):https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769Group Discussion Questions:1. When have you felt unknown and unseen? 2. Consider your typical interactions. Do you tend to feel rejected or accepted? If you feel rejected, how have past hurts impacted this, if at all?3. When have you felt seen and known? 4. How does it feel to know that God cares about your relationships and doesn’t want you to feel alone? 5. If you struggle with loneliness, are there places you can go or clubs you can join in order to build connections? If so, where?6. How would you describe the health of your faith community?7. If you cannot go to people, how can you use technology in order to connect with others? 8. What are some truths you can remind yourself of the next time you feel unvalued and unseen?
  1. God’s Promise to Place The Lonely in Families – Ep. 104
  2. Trusting God’s Promise to Give Us Abundant Life – Ep. 103
  3. Trusting God’s Promise to Give Our Lives Purpose – Ep. 102
  4. Trusting God's Presence to Guide Us – Ep. 101
  5. Trusting God’s Promise to Remain Present – Ep. 100

And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram! Find Wholly Loved Ministries HERE.

*Scripture taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Angry coupleOur response to conflict can either lead to healing and deeper connections or ugliness. I’ve experienced both. Honestly, I’ve caused both. I’ve had times where fear motivated me to remain quiet when I knew God was calling me to speak. I’ve also blurted way too many statements I came to regret, many times moments after I opened my mouth. And I’ve watched God bring about incredible health––in marriages and families, ministries, churches, and communities––through Christ-centered, honest, but difficult conversations.

Whenever we separate truth and love, dysfunction and distrust grow. Plus, we miss a huge opportunity to advance Christ’s message of reconciliation. According to Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert the reconcilation Christ offers “means putting things back into their right relationship again.[1]” Speaking on God’s desires, the authors remind us, in every interaction, “the goal is to restore people to a full expression of humanness, to being what God created us all to be, people who glorify God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.”

This is, in part, what it means to act as a peacemaker––someone who actively brings shalom into every interaction. Our Christ-centered interactions also provide tangible examples of our love, commitment, and trust.

When, in our aversion to conflict, we choose self-protection over relational health, our actions speak in ways we likely didn’t intend.

Here are 5 statements conflict avoidance makes:

1. I don’t trust you.

When our fear hinders our communication, we’re in essence demonstrating our lack of trust in the other person. We either don’t trust the relationship to withstand the discussion or we don’t trust the other person to respond well. If this is the case, perhaps the best place to start is with honesty. For example, we could say, “I greatly value our relationship, and I have a fear that I might say something to jeopardize that.” Then see how the person responds.

2. I don’t truly value this relationship.

Unresolved issues tend to lead to bitterness and frustration, which in turn harm our friendships, often more than if we’d had the courage to initiate a difficult conversation.

3. I love myself more than you.

When I shy away from uncomfortable discussions, especially those involving someone else’s behavior, I woman sitting in windowwant to believe I’m doing so out of love for the other person. But most often, self-love is to blame. True, Christ-centered love says, “I’m going to seek your best, even if that upsets you or causes you to leave. I love you enough to risk making you angry.”

4. I choose comfort over your and my long term growth.

I don’t like feeling uncomfortable, and I don’t always handle challenging conversations well. As a result, I’d much prefer to ignore problems when they arise. But God calls me to love with courage and self-sacrifice. If Jesus, my role model, Savior, and Lord, willingly incurred horrific abuse to bring me freedom and spiritual health and wholeness, then I can embrace personal discomfort, awkwardness, and weakness to love you well.

5. I don’t trust Jesus to actively heal and deepen our relationship.

We all make mistakes. We react in ways we wish we hadn’t and say things we should’ve never voiced. Some situations leave us confused, and in our confusion, we can feel paralyzed. What should we say, how should we say it, and when? When we remain in that confused state, we’re in essence saying we don’t believe Jesus can fill in our gaps and redeem our regrets. We’re saying we don’t believe He remains sovereign over the hearts of man.

Thankfully, we don’t have to handle anything, relational conflict included, on our own. The Holy Spirit lives in us, stirring us to speak as He directs. In everything, He leads all of His children to increased health and freedom.

[1]Corbett, Steve. Fikkert, Brian. “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself.” (2009) Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers

If this is an area you struggle with, or simply want to grow in, listen to my latest podcast episode called the Courage to Have Hard Conversations.

You might find this article helpful also: “7 Things You Need to Know When Talking to Difficult People.”

Grace quote on purple background

When I say or do something unkind, I love to claim grace for myself. But what about when others hurt or mistreat me? What about those moments when others behave as, well, flawed people in need of Jesus? How can I show them the same truth-and-grace-based love that Jesus shows me?

My guest today tackled this question, and the answer God led her to saved her marriage.

I Was Eaten Up by Discontent

By Kathy Collard Miller

By the time Larry and I had been married seven years, I couldn’t understand why he didn’t love me anymore. He was working two jobs, had a flying hobby and was never home. I certainly was home with a strong-willed two-year-old and a newborn. I never went anywhere but Larry chose to do everything he wanted, seemingly without any thought of me.

If only he would stay home and help me with these kids, I wouldn’t be angry all the time and we could be a happy family. But no matter how much I complained to him and demanded God change Larry, nothing happened. Even God has abandoned me, I concluded.

One morning Larry announced he would be gone flying the entire day. I said, “I’ll get the kids ready. We’ll go with…”

“Kathy, you can’t go. I rented a two-seater plane and Joe is going.”

“But Larry, you’re never home. You work too many hours. You…”

“Kathy, I’m working all those hours to secure our financial future. You just don’t appreciate all I’m doing.”

My face grew hot with fury. “Money isn’t helping me cope with these kids! I get so angry,” I snapped.

“Kathy, that’s just typical motherhood blues. You’ll be fine. See you later.”

Larry walked through the laundry room into the garage, closing the laundry room door behind him. I was eating an apple and hurled the half eaten apple toward the closing door. The apple shattered on impact and red and white apple pieces flew throughout the laundry room adhering to the ceiling and the walls. I whirled around and marched into my bedroom, dropping to kneel beside my bed. “Lord, make that plane crash! I don’t care if he ever comes home again.”

Larry’s plane didn’t crash, but I felt as if my life crashed into a pit of depression and fury fueled by discontentment.

During the following months, the pieces of apple rotted, adhered to the walls and ceiling of my laundry room. Every day I saw them as a memorial to my rotten marriage and my life, rehearsing every evidence of my disappointing life.

One day months later, I sensed God say to me in my heart, “Tell Larry you love him.” I was shocked to hear God’s prodding. I didn’t love Larry and I believed he hated me—so I wasn’t about to give Larry ammunition against me. After all, if he heard those three little words, “I love you,” that I hadn’t said or thought for over two years, he might think I was approving of his negligence. I flatly refused.

God repeated the message and I refused again! Then I sensed the Holy Spirit giving a different message: “Then think it the next time you see Larry.”

  1. If he doesn’t hear me then he can’t use it against me. Then I’ll do it, even if it’s not true.

That evening, Larry returned from a flying trip. I stared at him, gulped, and thought, “I love you…” and then added, “but I don’t really.” Although I was obeying God, I still couldn’t believe it could ever be true.

I continued making that choice and God directed me to study Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who Phil 1:6 on purple backgroundbegan a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (ESV). That helped me see I was demanding perfection from myself and from Larry. But just as God was patient with me in my journey of growth, I could be patient with Larry. He would never love me perfectly but God could. I realized my discontent was being fueled by my perfectionism.

What a difference. I began giving Larry credit for the simplest thing he did for us. I complimented him and refused to rehearse his faults. No longer did Larry feel like a failure who could never please me. In turn, he wanted to become more of a godly man. He changed jobs and didn’t have the money to fly. He choose to stay home more. We weren’t keeping track of the other’s failures. Little by little we grew in unconditional love and grace, the very opposite of discontent.

That was in 1978 and now, many years later, Larry and I continue to choose contentment by acknowledging the other’s loving choices and forgiving each other’s imperfections. We tell each other several times a day specifically how much we love and appreciate each other. We want God glorified through our story.

Let’s talk about this! How quick are you to offer others grace? Who is one person God might want you to actively show grace to today? What are some ways you’ve grown in this area? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plan, Resting in Grace. Find it HERE.

Get to know Kathy:

Kathy Miller's headshotKathy Collard Miller tells her story of overcoming being an angry mom and discontented wife in her book No More Anger: Hope for An Out-of-Control Mom (Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.) She is also a speaker who has spoken in 8 foreign countries and over 30 US States. www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Learn more about her book, Hope for An Out-of-Control Mom:

How can I have hurt my own child? Why am I book cover for No More Angerso angry at my husband?

*What is it like to be in the heart and mind of an out of control mother?
*What is it like to hate yourself so much that you plan to take your own life?
*What is it like to believe God has given up on you and there is no hope?
*What is it like to see the emotional and physical pain you’re inflicting on your child?

The rest of the story …

*You’ll also learn what it’s like to see anger replaced by patience.
*You’ll also learn what it’s like to overcome suicidal thoughts.
*You’ll also learn what it’s like to know God never gives up on you.
*You’ll also learn what it’s like to see healing in the lives of those you wounded.

Kathy Collard Miller tells the riveting true story of being an angry and abusive mother. At the same time, she was a Christian who prayed for an instantaneous deliverance of her deep-seated anger. God answered yes through a process of growth. He also healed her relationship with her husband.

Is ‘no more anger’ possible? Let Kathy’s story assure you through hope and God’s help, the answer is ‘Yes!’–Carol Kent, author, speaker.

Buy the book HERE.

***

Make sure to check out Jennifer Slattery’s latest podcast episode: Moving Past Fear of Exposure. We can live in hiding, in shame, or we can live in the confidence of grace. The former leads to isolation and loneliness. The latter to peace and increased relational intimacy with God and others.

You might also enjoy:

How to Stop Identifying With Your Sin by Jennifer on iBelieve

Holding Tight to Our Spouse as Christ Holds Tight to Us, also by Jennifer

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram and find her ministry, Wholly Loved, HERE.

Book discussion inviteMake sure to join her on Thursday evenings, starting April 23rd, for a faith-building book discussion aimed at helping us conquer our anxieties. Contact her HERE for more info!

 

 

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!

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.

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!

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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.

 

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?

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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