Creeping, Pestering Sins

Image of women hiding behind a plantSome sins are blatant and appalled by all, but others seem to be much more tolerated, perhaps even welcomed. Until we see the destruction they cause. Unchecked, these sorts of pests tend to multiply as one white lie bleeds into another, one casually spoken gossip expands to a story, and that pride that, initially, went unnoticed, grows to dominating proportions, soon destroying friendships and hurting those we love.

Sin, big and small, hidden and seen, infects and destroys. But as my guest today shares, our lives and relationships don’t have to be casualties in our battle against sin. There are steps we can take to find and maintain victory.

Creeping, Pestering Sins

by Amy Anguish

I was sitting here, pondering what wisdom I could possibly impart to help someone else with her life when mine isn’t always perfect. And then I saw it.

A mouse.

Funny thing. I actually had a pet mouse when I was in high school. That’s when I discovered how cute they are. Awe. I was like Cinderella – you know, minus the whole evil step-family and slaving away during the day thing.

But undomesticated mice are a different story. They aren’t quiet, clean, and don’t ask if they can share your food first. They just rip a corner off the package and dive in—literally. And when they die under a refrigerator they stink worse than my son’s diapers.

We have our fifth mouse in two months. We’ve disposed of at least four so far. We’ve tried three different kinds of traps. Evidently, they talk to each other, because each trap only works once. We have the wavelength emitters in our plugs that are supposed to discourage the beasts from coming in, but at this point am beginning to doubt anything will work.

I think I found the hole they’re coming in through this afternoon. As long as that opening remains, more will come, no matter how many we exterminate. It’s inevitable. We’re in a quiet neighborhood with trees nearby so there will be mice. But if we can close off how they get from the crawlspace to inside … that’s going to be the cure.

Sin is similar. I can trap and evict things like worry, gossip, anger, hate, or jealousy but if I don’t “stop up the hole” where they’re coming in, I’ll have to do it all again. Now, I know I can’t just plug up my head and keep bad things out of it. But I can avoid the places and entertainment and spending extensive time with friends who are prone to using such things. And I can spend more time engaging in better things and interacting with more encouraging people.

It’s like the story Jesus told in Matthew chapter 12 about the house swept clean: “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.  Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first.” Matthew 12:43-45 (ESV)*

So, let’s take Paul’s advice in the letter he wrote to the Philippians: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8,9 (ESV)

So, maybe I don’t want to be Cinderella, having mice live in my home. Instead, in my house and my life, I think it’s time to plug up some holes and keep the nasty little buggers out.

Let’s talk about this! Do you have a “rodent” problem? What kinds of holes are letting bad things into your life? Share your thoughts and stories–and your sin-exterminating tips–in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

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Before you go, make sure to sign up for my (Jennifer’s) free quarterly newsletter, releasing at the end of this month. Subscribers image of cover for study based on 1 Timothyreceive great content, like a short story, devotion, recipe, and more, sent directly to their inbox along with a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (ebook, sent separately). You can sign up HERE. And make sure you stop over at the Wholly Loved Blog to watch a great video devotion by speaker and worship leader Christa Cottam’s.

 

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Amy Anguish's Author photoAmy Anguish grew up a preacher’s kid, and in spite of having lived in seven different states that are all south of the Mason Dixon line, she is not a football fan. Currently, she resides in Tennessee with her husband, daughter, and son, and usually a cat or two. Amy graduated with a degree in English from Freed-Hardeman University and hopes in all her creative endeavors to glorify God, but especially in her writing. She wants her stories to show that while Christians face real struggles, it can still work out for good.

 

Check out her book!

An Unexpected Legacy:

“Smoothies brought them together, but would the past tear them apart?”Book cover image for An Unexpected Legacy

When Chad Manning introduces himself to Jessica Garcia at her favorite smoothie shop, it’s like he stepped out of one of her romance novels. But as she tentatively walks into a relationship with this man of her dreams, secrets from their past threaten to shatter their already fragile bond. Chad and Jessica must struggle to figure out if their relationship has a chance or if there is nothing between them but a love of smoothies.

Buy it HERE!

The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®). ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.

The Road to Restoration

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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.

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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.

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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.

Christ, the Church, and Marriage

We often go into marriage expecting it to be easier than it truly is. Did you enter your marriage thinking that being a Christian would insulate you from struggles, only to stumble–or witness your spouse stumble–and have to walk a path littered with pain? If you have–or currently are–there is hope!

-Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.-Hebrews 10-23, E

Marriage: a Representation of Christ and the Church
by Toni Shiloh

A lot of us enter marriage with a heart full of love and expectations of happy ever after. When struggles appear we either fold under the pressure or keep trucking on. Then the portrait-119851_640struggles get harder. The tally sheet longer. Until you find yourself at the crossroads of stay married or divorce.

What I’ve learned in my ten plus years of marriage is that easy isn’t a path in marriage. I thought that being a representation of Christ and the Church guaranteed easy. It seemed it should be a representation of purity and righteousness.

Then I stumbled. Stumbled so far I fell into the pit, dragging my husband right along with me. Funny how rock bottom shows you your choices don’t just affect you alone.

Then God happened.

He made me see how sinful I was. Made me realize my need of a Savior and His grace.

Then my husband forgave me. He chose to let love cover a multitude of my sins. Watching his behavior, reading my Bible, talking to God, all of it made me realize the truth of Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”

Our marriage was a true representation of Christ and the Church.

My husband died to his self and gave his life and dreams, hopes, expectations up all to sunshine-923890_640forgive me. He showed me unconditional love.

I was the church. The bride in need of forgiveness and salvation. My husband acted as Christ, forgiving me. We became one in our union and showed our friends and family what Christ’s actions truly meant.

I implore you, if you’re struggling in your marriage, remember Christ’s sacrifice. Cling to His hope and pick the road to resurrect your marriage. Seek His wisdom and guidance and He will be faithful to give it.

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A Life to LiveMia is headed to the famed Nottingham for a month long vacation. She never imagined she’d run into her high-school sweetheart thousands of miles away from her home town. Why would God throw them back together?

Caleb always regretted the way things ended with his high-school girlfriend, Mia. After a chance encounter in the streets of Nottingham, Caleb feels God is giving him a second chance to right the wrongs he committed. Unbeknownst to him, Mia has secrets that may require his forgiveness. Will her past overshadow his wrongs?

As Mia and Caleb work through old hurts and broken hearts will they let the blessing of forgiveness redeem their relationship?

Find A Life to Live on Amazon and Nook.

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Toni ShilohToni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), an Air Force veteran, and a member of the body of Christ.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She likes to volunteer at her children’s school. When she’s not writing, she’s reading. An avid reader of Christian fiction, she writes reviews on her blog and enjoys helping other authors find readers.

She self-published a Christian contemporary romance novella, A Life to Live, and is at work writing her next novel.

Find Toni on her website, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and the group blog, Putting On the New.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Toni shared from experience how she stumbled in her marriage only to have her husband extend the love and grace of Christ. Have you experienced grace and forgiveness in your marriage? Or have you been the one to extend such love as Christ has for the Church? What Scripture helped you through such difficult times? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.

As a fun aside, Toni is highlighting my debut novel, Beyond I Do, on her blog today. Pop over to have a peak-see! I’m also on Jo Huddleston’s blog, talking about how we find our inner strength. Join me HERE.

Then come back Monday, because I’ve got some fun news to share, and some questions I want to ask you. 🙂

 

 

Looking Back and Moving Forward

HopeversejpgYou may have heard the expression, you can’t move forward when you remain fixated on the past. When our thoughts are consumed with old hurts or successes we’ve experienced. We may even begin to wonder if God is through with us, but friend, Christian’s don’t have shelf lives. If you’re breathing, God has a plan for you. A glorious, hope-filled plan.

Today, Michael Ehret shares how clinging to the past can hurt us, and shows us through his experience how we can move forward and see what God is doing in us now.

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Where are you reveling?
by Michael Ehret

In high school, I won a couple awards for various things now long forgotten and unimportant. One award, however, stood out for me because I worked so hard to get it and, award-833992_640I must admit, I felt I deserved it.

Each year the drama department of our high school would hold an awards ceremony—our own little Oscar night in Elkhart, Indiana. My tribe then was the drama and choir folks. As far as we were concerned, these awards were it—the be all and end all of the year.

In my senior year, I almost didn’t attend the banquet because tradition held that the “Best Actor” award went to the male lead in the fall musical. I did not get that role (Georg Von Trapp in The Sound of Music) after tryouts and was still sore about it because I really wanted that “Best Actor” trophy—and now I wouldn’t get it and would have to pretend to congratulate the guy who would get it. Talk about a “Best Actor”-worthy performance!

But I went. When my name was called as the winner of that coveted trophy, it was a true shock. But it shouldn’t have been. Because I had done considerable work on the stage in other productions that year (and, truth be told, I was a senior—there are benefits).

I thought of that moment in my life when I came across this passage of Scripture the other day:

Eternal One: Don’t revel only in the past, or spend all your time recounting the victories of days gone by. Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as i speak, and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none” (Isaiah 43:18-19, The Voice).

 

When I think about winning that trophy now, and I do frequently, it’s not an altogether happy memory. Looking back, I can see how my anger at not getting that one role (that ended up not mattering) colored my whole year. And I see a selfish young man that God has had to do considerable work with.

I’m grateful for that soul work, but there remains much to do in my life because Isaiah’s admonition to the Israelites—and to me—is still instructive.

I’ve forgiven the young me for his selfishness in the past, but until recently I was still living (reveling) in the past in other aspects of my life, namely my writing. I’ve dealt with this in other places recently (Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE), so I won’t go over that again today.

Today let’s look forward. Today let’s look at Verse 19: “Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak, and you’re about to see it. I am woman-591576_640preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none.”

When Isaiah cautions against reveling in the past he does so not because looking back and learning from the past is bad, but because excessive looking back can keep you from looking forward—can keep you from seeing what God is doing (or wants to do) now in your life.

This is exactly what I did when I allowed a bad editor appointment to derail my writing for years. I gave up on many opportunities that God might have set in front of me because I was glued, pie-eyed, to the video in my brain of that editor telling me my writing wasn’t ready (it wasn’t). I looked back because I was afraid to look forward.

Don’t let that happen to you, whether you’re a writer or not. Look back at the past to learn from it—to gain motivation to look forward. But don’t look back so much that you end up living there. There’s no real life in the past.

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a418a046dd1af61c5a01697fccf6257fMichael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star.

 

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about it: Today, Michael shared his experiences with reveling in his past and how he moved on. Are you struggling with letting go of something now? Have you had something from the past you used to hang on to? How did you move beyond it? Share your thoughts on Facebook at Living by Grace or in the comments below. We can all use some encouragement and help!

If you follow me online, here’s where I’ve been this week:

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of visiting with Mary Vee where I spoke about how God can use deep pain and sorrow to bring about eternal gain. Read it HERE. I also had the privilege of being interviewed on Lena Nelson Dooley’s blog. You can read it HERE–and there’s a giveaway of my latest release, Breaking FreeFinally (Friday was a busy day!), I spent some time with Robin Lee Hatcher in an interview. Join in the conversation HERE, and don’t forget to subscribe to her newsletter for another chance to win a copy of Breaking Free.

On Monday, Robin E. Mason highlighted me on her “New Week, New Face” feature where I wrote about the personality of a writer–I’m truly normal…or as normal as one can get. Come talk with us HERE.

Tuesday saw me over at The Singing Librarian for an interview you can read HERE. She also reviewed Breaking Free, which you can read HERE.

If you’re local, I’ll be at Divine Truth Christian Bookstore in La Vista, NE this Saturday for a book signing. I would love to see you there!

Divine Truth April 23

And if you’re within driving distance of Omaha, I do hope you’ll join me at the Wordsowers Conference where I’ll be teaching how one can craft characters that grab hold of readers on a deeply emotional level.

One last thing. In August, I’ll be in Nashville for the first Christian Fiction Reader’s Retreat. Head HERE to read about who will be there and to register. I would love to see you there!

Other resources you may enjoy:

Releasing the Past to Live in the Now 

A Woman With a Past, a God With a Future by Elsa Kok

When the Ones You Love are Suffering

There are times when our desire to help must be restrained, because sometimes in the helping we do more harm than good. As difficult as it may be, sometimes the best thing we can do is step back and get out of God’s way. Today my guest, Christine Lindsey, tells us about one of those times.

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When the Ones You Love are Suffering
by Christine Lindsay

As a mom and now a grandmother, one of the hardest things for me is to stop stepping in each time one of my loved ones suffer.

hands-216981_640I come from a long line of “savior” type personalities. People with this particular personality trait often choose careers in caregiving, such as doctors and nurses. Even as an administrative assistant, one of my strongest bents was to help others, solve problems, fix situations.

How can one be faulted for helping others? What’s wrong with bringing comfort? As Christians that’s what God urges us to do…right?

Unless your help is hindering God from what He is doing in that person’s life.

As a mom I have been right in the middle of helping my kids and thought, am I a stumbling block to my children gaining the wisdom they need?

All good parents will use appropriate discipline to teach their children the lessons of life when they’re little. As we mature in our Christian faith, we come to accept God’s discipline in our own lives, so why do we step in so often to “fix” the situations in our adult kids’ lives, and thereby stop them from learning what we have learned?

This particular truth inspired my latest historical romance Sofi’s Bridge. In Sofi’s Bridge, the hero and the heroine both had to learn the same lesson that I had to learn in my life—that we cannot save our loved ones. Only Christ can do that.fashion-1283944_640

This often means letting our loved one go through a time of suffering, one of the hardest acts of love on the part of a parent or grandparent. Step back and let God work.

Here is a brief excerpt from Sofi’s Bridge where Dr. Neil Galloway recognizes this important spiritual lesson:

Back when Neil and Jimmy were only lads, the two of them hanging on to their father’s hand as they walked to church on a Sunday morn. Bells chimed all over Belfast. Inside the gray stone building, Neil had listened to the minister preach of what Christ had done on the cross for all mankind, taking the punishment that people like him deserved.

Now in this jail cell, Neil sat up and leaned his elbows on his knees. His hands dangled between them like heavy weights. As a boy he’d believed in what Jesus had done. But as an adult he’d demeaned that sacrifice. Instead, he’d tried to be Jimmy’s savior. But how could he save anyone, him a fallible human being?

Lord, I’ve been a fool. He dropped his face into his hands.  

Remember, the next time you are tempted to step in a fix something in the life of someone you love, 1 Peter 4:19 (NASB): Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”

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SofisBridge_w11814_750Seattle Debutant Sofi Andersson will do everything in her power to protect her sister who is suffering from shock over their father’s death. Charles, the family busy-body, threatens to lock Trina in a sanatorium—a whitewashed term for an insane asylum—so Sofi will rescue her little sister, even if it means running away to the Cascade Mountains with only the new gardener Neil Macpherson to protect them. But in a cabin high in the Cascades, Sofi begins to recognize that the handsome immigrant from Ireland harbors secrets of his own. Can she trust this man whose gentle manner brings such peace to her traumatized sister and such tumult to her own emotions? And can Neil, the gardener continue to hide from Sofi that he is really Dr. Neil Galloway, a man wanted for murder by the British police? Only an act of faith and love will bridge the distance that separates lies from truth and safety.

Read the first chapter of Sofi’s Bridge HERE

PURCHASE LINKS FOR SOFI’S BRIDGE:
Amazon.com Sofi’s Bridge (Paper & Ebook)
Pelican Book Group (Paper & Ebook)

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ChristineLindsayChristine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction. Tales of her Irish ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India inspired her multi-award-winning series Twilight of the British Raj, Book 1 Shadowed in Silk, Book 2 Captured by Moonlight, and the explosive finale Veiled at Midnight.

Christine’s Irish wit and her use of setting as a character is evident in her contemporary romance Londonderry Dreaming. Her newest release Sofi’s Bridge also features a dashing Irish hero.

Aside from being a busy writer and speaker, Christine and her husband live on the west coast of Canada. Coming August 2016 is the release of Christine’s non-fiction book Finding Sarah—Finding Me: A Birthmother’s Story.

Please drop by Christine’s website www.ChristineLindsay.org or follow her on Amazon on Twitter. Subscribe to her quarterly newsletter, and be her friend on Pinterest, Facebook, and  Goodreads.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Nothing wrenches my heart like watching my daughter struggle. I long to shelter from every pain, but if I did, she’d grow up stunted and ill-equipped to handle life and those assignments God has planned for her. There’ve been numerous times when, I’ve watched her go through a difficult period, a whisper to my heart let me know God was in it. That was hard to hear, but also reassuring, because I know He is good, loving, and sovereign. I know He has a hope-filled plan for her and is, at this moment, working out that plan. And sometimes the best thing I can do it get out of His way.

And pray. I can always pray.

Can you share any stories of watching your children struggle but seeing God bring good from it? What was the hardest part for you as a parent? When have you had to step back and “let go and let God?” Share your thoughts, experiences, and advice with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace, because we can all learn from each other!

If you follow me on social media, here’s where I’ve been this week!

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of being a guest on Janet Sketchley’s blog, talking about the spiritual side of writing my latest book, Breaking Free. Join in the conversation HERE.

Tuesday saw me visiting with Gail Pallotta as I talked about being present in the present. Come visit HERE.

And yesterday, I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Carrie Schmidt on Reading is My Superpower. Join the fun HERE. (Don’t miss the giveaway of Breaking Free in the post, too!) Carrie also posted a very humbling review of Breaking Free. Read her thoughts HERE.

Before you go, if you’re in or close to Lincoln, Nebraska, I’d love to see you at Barnes & Noble this Saturday from 2-3pm!

Barnes and Noble April 16

And if you’re within driving distance of Omaha, I do hope you’ll join me at the Wordsowers Conference where I’ll be teaching how one can craft characters that grab hold of readers on a deeply emotional level.

One last thing. In August, I’ll be in Nashville for the first Christian Fiction Reader’s Retreat. Head HERE to read about who will be there and to register. I would love to see you there!

Other resources you may enjoy or find helpful:

But is That Love

Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Divine Prayers For Despairing Parents by Susanne Sheppmann

You Know My Words Before I Spill Them

shutupSometimes I think I’d do well to bind my mouth with duct tape before going out. From blurted inconsideracies to complaints and arguments over trivial things that, when pointed out, reveal more about me than the actual issue.

Why, oh why is the tongue so hard to tame? Or am I the only one eating my feet a good chunk of the time? footnmouth-1

If only I’d remain safely behind my computer with its delete key.

My biggest problem? OJM disease–overactive jaw muscles and a very me-centered brain that likes to believe I have the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, and necessary input for every debate.

The problem with this? Proverbs 10:19 puts it so well: “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut” (NLT).

I suppose it’s a law of averages thing–you spew enough words some of them are bound to be sinful, hurtful, not productive or effective.

So what’s the solution? Invest in duck tape? Hide out in my bedroom? Throw up my hands with the concession that this is who I am?

None of those options progress the gospel, which is a huge problem, me being Christian and all as quite frankly, it is for the sake of the gospel I–and other Christians–are still here. On earth, I mean.

So once again I ask, what’s the solution?

Gritting my teeth and proceeding with the utmost determination won’t solve this, not long-term, anyway, because the moment I relax or get distracted I’ll revert to my old, verbose ways.

PrayerwThe best, the only solution is to continually draw near to God, allowing Him to work in and through me.

Pausing to acknowledge Him while I wash the dishes.

Praying while I fold the clothes.

Singing songs of praise, out loud or internally, while I go about my daily tasks.

Checking negativity and consciously focusing on my Savior and all He’s done instead.

For Christ-like behavior comes not from me but from Him.

Consider David’s words in Psalm 139:4 “You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD” (NLT).

In other words, God knows, the moment you sit down to read your Bible each morning, when you’re going to flub it in the day ahead.

And He’s already got a plan in place. More than that, He’s ready and able to communicate that plan, to guide you, your thoughts, and your words to those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. (Phil. 4:8)

God is true. God is honorable. God is right, pure, lovely, and admirable.

See where I’m going with this?

What’s the solution to a wayward tongue? To fix our eyes–our thoughts and focus–on God, checking in with Him throughout the day, pausing to acknowledge His presence when we’re stopped at a stop light or waiting in a check-out line. Listening to His soft, gentle whisper that guides us throughout the day and continually draws us to Himself, the only place we’ll receive the strength and peace needed to speak words of love, grace, and truth.

Because living the Christian life isn’t about trying harder but rather, drawing closer to our Savior.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. What is your greatest struggle? How might checking in with God throughout the day help you in that area? How might centering your thoughts on Him fill your heart with praise and peace?

How much room is there for angst, frustration, or ungodliness in a heart filled–saturated–with praise?

If you enjoyed this post, you might find the following helpful:

Grabbing Hold of God Moments

Don’t Try Harder, Love More

Cultivating a Thankful heart

Oh, and since my book launch is but a few days away, and since some of you aren’t on Facebook, I thought you might want to know where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Yesterday I chatted with the editor of Family Fiction about my book, where the story came from, and what I hoped y’all would gain from it. You can read the interview here.

On July 4th and 11th, fellow ACFW writer Janet Sketchley interviewed two of my characters from Beyond I Do. You can get to know Ainsley here and Richard here.

On July 7th I chatted about books in general (and my addiction to them) on Writing For the Soul. You can join the discussion here.

On July 28th, I was honored to be on June Foster’s Author Spotlight. You can join me here.

My sweet friend Jennifer Hallmark was interviewed regarding her contributions to Sweet Freedom, the book itself, and her writing journey. You can read about all that here.

Next month, book launch month, I’ll be all over the web, but unfortunately, I’ve run out of time for link posting. 😉

As a fun aside, I recently finished plotting book three in my Midwestern Romance series, two stories that continue where Beyond I Do leaves off. Here’s hoping my publisher loves the plot and premise for books two and three as much as I do! I should also add, with my books release but days away, the pre-release discount will soon be over. So… if you were planning on buying the book, now’s a great time.

 

 

Fleeing From Sin

Today’s reading: Proverbs 5

Today’s focal verse: Proverbs 5:8 Stay away from her!
Don’t go near the door of her house!

Today’s Focus: Guarding against sin

This week’s memory verse: 

Proverbs 3:9-10

Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best of everything you produce. Then He will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.

Sin doesn’t “just happen.” Temptation arises everywhere, but many times, before the temptation comes, we’ll find we’ve placed ourselves where we shouldn’t be or have exposed ourselves to something we shouldn’t have.

If you are or have been a parent, you probably remember how diligently you guarded your child/children, especially when they were young. You Hear no evilmonitored what they watched on television and took a special interest in who their friends were. In yesterday’s devotion, written by Delia Latham, she reminded us of the need to guard our hearts with the same diligence.

Today I encourage you to guard not only your hearts, but your steps as well.

Affairs don’t just happen, and no one is immune.

In 1 Corinthians 10:12, Paul warns us: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”

And in Matthew 26:41, Jesus urges us to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

Or, in other words, to be on guard for the pitfalls of our flesh.

Pause for a moment to consider the warnings in Proverbs 5 in light of your own life and marriage. What are the dangers of thinking we we won’t sin?

What are some ways to guard ourselves against infidelity?

Pause for a moment to think back to Proverbs chapters 1-4. What role does the heart and ming–what we think about–play in sin?

Let’s talk about this! You can join the conversation by leaving comments below or by joining our Yahoo study group.


Click to join ProverbsStudy

Join us tomorrow when my sweet friend and one of our Yahoo Proverbs study members discusses this further.

Tripping on Cracks

Proverbs 4:26 Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.

We live in the midwest. (That’s my claim, anyway. Although according to those Midwest bloggers at the Barn Door, I’m out of the “zone.”) But we get nasty blizzards, tornadoes, thunderstorms, and have hot, humid summers. I’ve even seen a few Toto’s running around our neighborhood. To me, a native westerner, all signs of the Midwest. We’ve also got the beautiful deciduous trees with thick trunks and branches. Which means, we’ve got roots–the ones that wiggle beneath sidewalks, uplifting big chunks of cement. These ruts and raises turn an easy jog into quite an obstacle course.

Most times I navigate over the bumps and crevices with no problem, but every once in a while, when I’m tired or lost in thought, the raised cement catches me off guard and sends me flying. Not a pretty sight. In fact, I’ve been known to stop traffic, and not in a good way. (Nothing like seeing a thirtysomething howl like a toddler before falling prostrate on the cement. Yep. Attractive.) So I pick myself up off the ground, tell the gawkers I’m okay, and glance back at the mammoth boulder I tripped over. Heat sears my cheeks as I realize I stumbled over not a boulder, but the tiniest of cracks.

After one particularly embarrassing fall, I decided to choose my route a bit more carefully. I forewent the raised slabs of cement, opting for a smooth roadway instead.

I think our spiritual life is like this sometimes. Often we can traipse through life without a bump or a stumble. During those times, it’s easy to get over-confident. Sin will never happen to us. We’re strong. But then, when we least expect it, we trip over a bump in the road. Might not even be a big bump. But it’s big enough to send us flying.

God knows this about us and has provided warnings in His Word, like the one quoted at the beginning of this post. He wants us to choose level paths–to live with intentionality. This level path we choose might look different for each of us. If we struggle with drinking, it means no hanging out in bars. If we struggle with impure thoughts, we probably need to avoid many of today’s secular novels, movies, and television shows. If we struggle with disinterment, we might need to toss out those clothing catalogs. If we struggle with gossip, we might need to be selective about who we spend our time with. I know. Sounds restrictive. Perhaps even unnecessary, but take it from a fellow pavement-eater, choosing level paths is much more pleasant than loosing skin.

What about you? Any rerouting God might want to do in your life? Maybe you’ve already made a hard right, veering on a new, smooth course. We’d love to hear about it. Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about ways to avoid that rather embarrassing fall.

Anything Hiding Behind Camouflage? Guest Post by Joanne Sher

Today’s post, written by my devo-writing partner and dear friend, Joanne Sher, challenges us to search deep in our hearts, past the superficial, laying all of us at the cleansing alter of Christ. Make sure to stop by her blog to leave an encouraging word and show your support.

Anything Hiding Behind Camouflage by Joanne Sher

We’re coming up to that time of year when it’s a good idea to watch yourself when you’re out in the woods–especially if you’re Bambi.

Firearm Deer Hunting Season will be starting in just a few months here in Michigan, and those hunters could be anywhere.

I’m not a hunter, as much as that may (or may not) surprise you. Nobody in my or my husband’s immediate family is either (that I know of, anyway). I don’t know that I quite get the fascination that folks have with heading out with their gun and shooting animals.

But camouflage I get (and if you’re curious, I JUST learned how to spell that word!). If you’re gonna be out among wildlife, you definitely do NOT want to be noticed. I’m not sure how smart deer are, but if I’d seen some strange two-legged creature walking through the forest with a stick and my deer friend suddenly fell to the ground beside me, I’d want to avoid those “two-legged creatures” from then on.

But if you are camouflaged (like this… um… handsome guy to the left, for example), the prey have no reason to fear–or at least they don’t think they do. The deer will put their guard down, and before they know it: bang bang, fall down, venison jerky.

This reminds me of the sin in our lives. Sometimes, it’s pretty obvious, and all we have to do is run the other way to avoid it.

But that isn’t always the case.

Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15

Satan, and sin, is often difficult to distinguish from the day-to-day stuff we do, and even the things that are glorifying to God. Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is still wrong. Doing too much of a good thing can also be sin.

So, when things look fine, don’t let your guard down. Sin is out there, disguised as fun or “not so bad” or something else equally harmless-looking. Watch for the camouflage.

Joanne Sher is a Jew by birth, a Christian by rebirth, and a writer by gift. A native Southern Californian, she now lives happily in West Michigan with her husbad and two school-aged children.

Her first book, still seeking a home, explores God’s preparation, protection and provision through her husband’s serious health issues. She is also working on a biblical fiction set during King Saul’s reign and centered around the handmaiden of Saul’s daughter Michal.

She is also a blogger, not only at her own site,but at the FaithWriters blog, where she posts daily. She also posts monthly at Jewels of Encouragement, The Barn Door, and Internet Cafe Devotions.

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God, What Do You Want Me to Do???

My post title appears to be one of the most frequently asked questions in Christianity. It’s an important question and one that should always be on the forefront of our minds every moment of every day, but if we’re not careful, this question can render us ineffective. I think it’s easy to slip into perpetual spin mode. If we spend more time seeking God’s will than doing it, before long, spiders will spin cobwebs in our hair.

And most of the time, when we ask that question, we’re not looking for an answer to the here and now. We want the ten-year plan. We want reassurance that God will use us, or fix us, or fix the problem we’re dealing with. But as I’ve said before, I think God often operates on a “need to know” basis. Meaning, He shows us step B once we’ve completed step A. Why? Because He’s more concerned with the condition of our heart than our location on the journey. He wants us completely dependent on Him and knows if He gives us too much information, we’ll drop His hand and take off running.

So what do we do if we’re in the waiting stage? We draw near, pray, trust and obey.

Draw Near

We make it a habit to spend time with God, and in so doing, learn to distinguish His voice. We grow accustomed to His presence, allowing His Spirit to do whatever is necessary in us to bring about His good, pleasing and perfect will.

We Pray

We make our communication with God our top priority, but we don’t pray just for ourselves. We pray for others and God’s kingdom. As we pray that God’s kingdom be expanded, God aligns our hearts to His kingdom goal.

We trust

Throughout Scripture God has promised to lead, guide, transform, and equip us. The question then is not, will God show us His will, but instead, will we obey it when He does?

Which leads me to my final step–We obey

I believe we know God’s will more than we care to admit. We want the big plan–the plan to lead a county-wide outreach event or a promotion or some other “one day” event, but God wants us to obey now, in the little things. And when we are faithful with the little things–showing respect, love and patience to our spouses; spending time daily in God’s Word; serving in areas we may never receive praise for–God begins to expand our boundaries and our reach. But never so we can become inflated. In fact, whenever our pride begins to grow, we can probably count on a dose of pride-dashing humility because pride gets in the way. Effectiveness comes from full, humble, surrender.

I’m going to leave you with a passage from Psalm. As you read it, lay your angst aside and go forward with your day, knowing God will guide you in His perfect timing. In fact, He is guiding you now. Make sure you don’t get so focused on the what-ifs of tomorrow you lose sight on what God is doing today.

And, as you ask God to show you His will, ask yourself this question: am I ready to obey without question or hesitation, no matter what God asks me to do? Because God doesn’t need more commandos. He needs more Toto’s.

Psalm 25 (NIV–emphasis, shown in parenthesis, mine)

In you, (not our schedule, ten-year plan or bank account) LORD my God,
   I put my trust.

 2 I trust in you; (If we truly trust God to do what He says He’ll do and be who He says He is, then what is there to fear or worry about?)
   do not let me be put to shame,
   nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one who hopes in you
   will ever be put to shame, (I believe this may be because as you draw near to God, He removes the “I” from us. When we have died to ourselves, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Because really, it’s not about us and as I’ve said before, dead men don’t bleed. )

but shame will come on those
   who are treacherous without cause.

 4 Show me your ways, LORD,
   teach me your paths.

(Notice David asks God to teach him. Each day of our faith walk is like stepping into a giant classroom. As we move closer to God, He molds us and teaches us to do His will as He prepares us to complete the next step in our faith journey. Remember algebra from school? The teacher didn’t show you geometry until you’d mastered the basic steps of algebra. You want to be used by God? Then master what He’s showing you now by living each day in full surrendered obedience.)

5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my Savior,
   and my hope is in you all day long. (Guide me–walk beside me, step by step, moment by moment.)
6 Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love,
   for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
   and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
   for you, LORD, are good.

 8 Good and upright is the LORD;
   therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
   and teaches them his way.

(Because we know God is good, loving, faithful, and true, we can relax and enjoy the journey knowing He will guide us and teach us. Our job is to draw near and obey. His job is to teach, guide, and bless His plan.)

10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
   toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, LORD,
   forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

 12 Who, then, are those who fear the LORD?
   He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
   and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The LORD confides in those who fear him; (This is one of the most beautiful passages in Scripture. It speaks of intimacy.) he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the LORD,
   for only he will release my feet from the snare. (This verse makes me think of a blind man trusting in his guide for each step, so in tune to his guide’s footsteps, the man senses the slightest turn. May we be so in tune with God, ever looking to Him, we allow Him to direct each and every step of our journey.)

 16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
   for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
   and free me from my anguish.
18 Look on my affliction and my distress 
   and take away all my sins.  (This is the third time David asked God to forgive, forget, or remove his sins. Sin is the greatest barrier to hearing God’s will. If we want to hear God and live in intimate fellowship with Him, we must be diligent about removing all sin from our life.) 
19 See how numerous are my enemies
   and how fiercely they hate me!

 20 Guard my life and rescue me;
   do not let me be put to shame,
   for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
   because my hope, LORD, is in you.

 22 Deliver Israel, O God,
   from all their troubles!