Keeping Our Eyes on the Call and the God Who Calls

Woman staring out at a field with text pulled from the post.

Image by Priscilla Du Preeze on Unsplash

Sometimes I feel bombarded by a world of takers and, when my eyes land on them instead of my Savior, I begin to feel discouraged. Frustrated. Taken advantage of. I know God calls me to serve Him above all else and to follow His will. In other words, to concern myself with obedience and nothing else. But so often my vision drifts off the path He’s laid out for me and onto others. Like the apostle Peter in John 21:21, I ask my Savior, “But what about him, Lord?”

To which God responds, “You must follow Me” (NIV).

I’ve heard others say they want to be leaders, but I wonder if they realize what this means. Leading means giving all of yourself without expecting anything in return. It means elevating others while you slip quietly into the background. It’s giving others the credit for wins and taking full responsibility for each loss.

In short, it’s doing all you can to act like Jesus, the One who gave His life so that we might live.

Honestly, that’s every Christian’s call, and we’re all leaders in some capacity. Whether we’re guiding little ones each day, speaking life into our coworkers, or demonstrating to our neighbors what it looks like to follow God.

We all have a sphere of influence, precious hearts God has entrusted to our care, and He asks us to lead them well. With passion, strength, courage, perseverance, and self-sacrifice.

In order to do so, our eyes must be locked on our Savior and whatever task He’s assigned.

He reminded me of this truth this morning as I was reading about Ezra’s commission to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. This call came while the Jews were in captivity, living in a foreign nation. I imagine many felt stuck. As if their situation was too bleak for hope. But then God “stirred the heart of Cyrus” the King of Persia to proclaim in writing, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are the Lord’s people may go there for this task. And may the Lord God be with you!” (NLT).

God is sovereign. No matter what is going on around us, regardless of our challenges or circumstances, we can rest in this truth. Our ministries, that assignment we can’t afford to botch—He reigns over those as well.

And notice, it is God who calls His people to action—those who chose to respond. In other words, when God gives us a task, not everyone will contribute. But those whom God calls will, as Ezra 1:5 demonstrates. “Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and the Levites and leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord” (NLT).

We’re not alone in this walk of obedience. God is always with us, and though some may leave, betray us, or take advantage of us, others won’t. Others will help and encourage and support. And God will provide everything else. All we need and more.

This is precisely what He did for those rebuilding His Temple. Ezra 1:6 says, “And all their neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings” (NLT).

God amply supplied.

He’ll do the same for us. When I’m focused on God and resting in His sovereignty, I’m freed to move forward in peace Woman walking down road with text pulled from post.and faith. I’m not defeated or frustrated by other people’s actions, because I know God’s in control and will guide me toward His very best. If I’ve spent hours working on an important topic someone else gets credit for, I’m not phased because I know God’s bigger. If others don’t come through or leave in the middle of a job, I won’t feel defeated because I know God will supply what I need when I need it to complete precisely what He has planned.

Let’s talk about this! Do you ever have the wandering, “What about him, Lord?” When are you most prone to do so? How does (or might) remembering God’s sovereignty–over you, your situation or ministry, and those in your sphere–help you remain focused and encouraged? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

For those wanting to follow along with my Bible reading (as I have a feeling many of my preceding posts will stem from that), here’s a daily reading list. (I’m reading out of a chronological Bible so am simultaneously in Ezra, Haggai, Daniel, and Psalms.) I’ll share some questions you can use each day to help you process what God might be telling you below. They’re pulled from Day One Option One of Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study.

Day one: 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-11

Day two: Ezra 2

Day three: Psalm 126, 147

Day four: Ezra 3

Day five: Ezra 4

Day six: Spend a day reviewing, journaling on, and praying over what God showed you during your day one-five Bible reading time.

Questions you can work through as you read your daily Bible passages:

Who are the main characters in this passage?

What does this passage reveal about the human condition, such as:

  • Mankind’s rebellion against/obedience toward God?
  • Mankind’s attempts to fill their needs apart from Him or relying on Him for their needs?
  • Mankind’s attempts to reach Him on their own terms?

What does this passage reveal regarding God’s nature?

What does/might this passage reveal about God’s plans?

How might this passage reveal mankind’s need for the gospel?

In what ways are you/have you been similar to one or more of the characters in this passage?

What might God want you to know through this section of Scripture?

What might He be asking you to do?

End your reading in prayer, asking God to help you apply the biblical truths discovered and live out whatever you sense Him impressing on your heart.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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When God Says Give Up

Women with head down

Image by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

I’ve tried running my life, and it landed me in a mess. The more I fight for control, the more that which I’m fighting for begins to control me. But surrender …

My guest today, novelist and pastor Nathan D. Maki, shares how God called him to give up something he held dear, and what resulted from that. Read his thoughts then share yours in the comments below.

***

Have you ever felt like giving up? Sure you have. Exhausted by the race, flattened by the burden, devastated by the loss…we all hit the wall at some point. If I can be perfectly candid, I’ve been teetering on the edge of giving up writing. Between pastoring a small church, managing a business to pay the bills, and being husband and father to my wife and son the thought of releasing one thing – my writing – is seductive.

“It’s more of a hobby anyway,” I told myself. “It’s not really taking off or paying off for the amount of work and time involved. Maybe you’re a hack anyway.”

Yes, that kind of uplifting, positive self-talk.

But then God told me to give up.

God told me to give up my selfish struggle for success. To relinquish the dream of quitting my day job and just writing and pastoring till He comes or my days end. To give up this book, The Keeper’s Crown. As a symbol of that surrender, he told me not to put a penny of its profits in my pocket.

I’ll be honest, that wasn’t easy. This book is my baby that I’ve worked on for three years hoping it would be my break-out novel. A year ago, when I was still querying agents and dreaming of a deal with a major publisher it probably would have been unthinkable. But God had brought me to a place of surrender. Of giving up. And instead, I gave it to Him.

And you know what? As soon as I agreed to give up peace settled over me. It’s like my whole perspective changed in that moment, and I suddenly realized that I’d Man sitting in nature, contemplativebecome jaded because I was measuring success all wrong. I was measuring in copies sold and dollars and cents, in fame and recognition, in book deals and all the rest. But that’s not how God measures success. In fact, that’s what The Keeper’s Crown is all about, how to measure Godly success – which the Apostle Paul would say is simply obeying what God tells you to do, regardless of the results. I guess I’d kind of forgotten that until God smacked me upside the head at that altar on a Sunday morning not too long ago.

So half the proceeds of this book are going to Hope for Orphans, an orphanage my parents started in a little village in Congo. Half to our church’s breakfast fund, where my wife and our ladies have been serving disadvantaged kids a hot breakfast every Sunday for the past 8 years. That’s what God asked. Jesus sure does love the little children.

The Keeper’s Crown and my writing career are God’s hands now, and looking back through the Scriptures, that’s an exciting thought.

quote imageGod asked a man named Abraham to give up his son Isaac, and he not only received his son back alive but became the Father of the Faithful. (Genesis 22:2)

God asked a nervous wreck named Gideon to give up the safety of his winepress, then turned him into a warrior who brought safety to his entire country by driving out the invaders. (Judges 6 and 7)

God asked three young Hebrew captives in Babylon to give up their lives to the furnace and then brought them out unscathed to make a believer out of King Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 3)

God asked a handful of fishermen to give up their ships and nets, and they founded the Church. (Mark 1:16-20)

God asked Paul to give up his freedom, and he preached to the Emperor of Rome and converted even those of Nero’s household and his Praetorian Guard. Paul gave up his life, but attained a victor’s laurel and immortality. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

What will God do with what I’ve given up? Only time will tell, but I’m crazy excited to find out!

What is God asking you to give up? And how will you answer?

***

cover image for the Keeper's CrownCheck out Nathan’s novel, The Keeper’s Crown!

Quintus

As a boy, he dared to fight Nero. Worse, he won.

Stripped of his family, the love of his life, and his self-respect, he sets out on a quest to win a victor’s crown, rescue his parents, and restore his family’s honor. But his path to glory in the restless province of Judaea is threatened by the corrupt governor Felix, the murderous priest Melechi, and most of all by the rabble-rousing Paul of Tarsus.

When Quintus finds himself in Rome chained to Paul all hope of a crown seems lost, but Paul’s example makes him question the true meaning of success. And why does Jael, the mysterious young Jewess who once saved his life, now respond with barely restrained flashes of hate?

Jael

The Romans took her father and her brother from her.

Now Jael vows to fight for her father’s faith, fulfill her brother’s oath, and avenge their deaths. But the further she travels with Paul and Quintus the more she feels torn. Can she follow her heart and still keep her vow?

Paul

He turned the world upside down.

Paul never expected to end his ministry in chains, but even still, he is determined to carry the gospel to Rome and the Emperor Nero himself. But what if those who need the gospel most are those closest to him?

As the Great Fire strikes Rome, fanning Nero’s persecution of the Christians to a white-hot fury, murderous secrets, impossible choices, and steadfast faith will lead to tragedy and triumph.

Grab a copy HERE.

Join Nathan on Monday, April 2 from 11-3 for a fun, Facebook launch party. There will be Q & A with yours truly, trivia and games, a virtual tour of Rome via pictures he took on his trip, hourly e-book giveaways, and two grand prizes of signed proof copy paperbacks (of only 5 proofs ever printed.) Plus, you’ll get to connect with other book lovers!

Get to know the author!

author headshiot--Nathan MakiA life-long love for historical fiction and a passion to create high-intensity, realistic novels from a Christian world view has propelled Nathan Maki into his writing career. He is the author of the War Within series of novels set in Ancient Rome, and most recently The Keeper’s Crown, a novel of the Apostle Paul.

A recent trip to Rome to walk the ancient streets, explore the Catacombs, and stand in the Coliseum plunged Nathan even deeper into the ancient world he brings to life for his readers. Nathan’s novels combine the faith and romance of Francine Rivers’s Mark of the Lion trilogy with the action and adventure of Bernard Cornwell or Conn Iggulden. Nathan lives in Ontario, Canada, with his wife, son, and three very spoiled dogs. He pastors a church and manages his own business in addition to his writing. Sometimes he even sleeps.

Connect with Nathan online:

Facebook

on his website

Follow him on Twitter: @NathanDMaki

Email him at: NathanDMaki(at)hotmail(dot)com

The Hardest Thing to Surrender

woman sitting on rooftop gazing at citylineIf God were calling me to a  temporary fast, I could do it. Give up sugar? Ice cream? Television and technology? Foregoing those things wouldn’t be easy, but I could do it. But this, what God’s calling me to surrender, indefinitely, feels more harder than anything He’s asked of me before. This thing cuts to the core of my hopes and dreams, triggers insecurities and fear, and ultimately, reveals where my heart truly lies.

So what is this thing that God calls me, persistently, to relinquish?

Control.

My agenda. My time and my to-do list. Whatever I’m striving for that keeps me from saying, at each moment, “Not my will, but Yours, Lord Jesus, be done.”

When I’m sitting with my Bible, reading of His love and care, meditating on all He’s done for me, surrender comes easily. Or perhaps I should say, easier. “Take everything, Lord. And help me to obey You. Help me to give up everything to follow after You.”

But then the day begins, and pricks of selfishness weaken my resolve and hinder my obedience. My prayers sound more like complaints and long-winded requests than commitments to my Savior.

This is my greatest, most fervent and frequent battle—the battle against self, saturated in pride and selfishness.

But Christ calls me to love—not with the conditional, temporary, convenient love our world offers, but the kind He demonstrated when He stripped Himself of all His heavenly glory, took on flesh, and died in my selfish, prideful place. (Phil. 2:5-11)

For over a year now, I’ve been praying about some things, and He’s answered, but not in the way I expected. I’m looking ahead at all the lives I long for Him to touch through me, but His focus is zeroed in on something of utmost importance, something that enables great ministry to occur and true love to flow, and that’s my heart.

If I want to be used by God and touch lives for eternity, my life must be touched first by the transforming power of God, the God who shows me how to love, to surrender, and to give all of myself no matter the cost.

Even if it means surrendering everything I hold dear.

In Romans 12:1, Paul urges us to “offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices.” In other words, to live sacrificially for Christ, not just today, or when it’s urgent or convenient, but always. To put God’s agenda above our own.

This is the call. The first step to greatness, and it begins with a quiet, yet desperate plea, “Change me, Lord. Help me. Do whatever you need to

Woman thinking

image by Chalis on Unsplash

within me to make me pliable in Your hands, a cleansed and open vessel always and ready to do Your will and Your will only.”

***

Let’s talk about this! Did anything resonate with you as you read today’s post? Is God asking you to lay down, or perhaps pick up, anything? What makes that hard? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other!

If you enjoyed today’s post, I encourage you to sign up for my free, quarterly e-mailing! Subscribers receive image of cover for study based on 1 Timothygreat, free content sent directly to their inbox along with a free, 36-lesson study (ebook form) based on truths presented in 1 Timothy (sent separately). (If you signed up and haven’t yet received your free study, please contact me through this website so I can get that to you!) You can sign up HERE. I also encourage you to visit my blog on Crosswalk. Find out how to join me for one of my upcoming events HERE, and learn more about my speaking ministry HERE.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Shining Light in the Dark

Every day is a battle—for truth versus deception. For relational intimacy versus isolation. For growth and godliness versus sin and self-destruction. Ultimately, for agape love (toward God and others) versus self-love.

This—the battle against self—is by far my greatest battle. This is what threatens to derail me more than any outward casualty or setback I may experience. Self-love leads me toward self-elevation (which is idolatry). Agape love centers me in the will of Christ.

At their root, each of these is a battle between light and darkness.

Two extremes, continually pitted against one another. The only solution? Surrender to Jesus Christ.

It’s almost ironic, as I type this this morning, over a week before it will go “live,” I am and have been in the throws of this battle, one I thought I’d won but a week prior. And the week before that. And the week before that as I prayerfully “crucify my flesh” as Scripture puts it, asking the Holy Spirit to give me the strength to offer all of me to Him as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).

And yet, here I am again, resisting the ugly within me so the pure, honorable, self-sacrificing love of Christ can shine forth.

My battle plan? Prayer and praise as I seek to be filled with more and more of Christ, knowing when that happens, all else will fade away. Because He is my treasure, and this present world is short but eternity is forever.

About five years ago, I spoke to women living in a women and children’s shelter in Kansas City, women who had lost nearly everything—their homes, their livelihoods, their self-respect. Some were experiencing the consequences of poor choices. Some were, but not all. Others were simply in a really rough place, likely crying out to God, asking Him why. Why had He allowed them to reach that place?

Did He not see them? Was He deaf to their cries? Had He forgotten them?

Did He not care?

But what if, in fact, His attentive eye was zeroed in on them, in the middle of their darkness, as He shined His love and light through them?

That night, I shared the story of Joseph, a man who, from the very beginning had been given an incredible promise from God—that God would raise him, second to the youngest of twelve sons, to a place of leadership, where the rest of his family would “bow down” to him.

photo by Viktoria Hall-Waldhauser from Unsplash

If you’re familiar with this account, you know God had much more planned for Joseph than simply familial leadership. But first, Joseph went through some incredibly hard years facing struggles and humiliation that would, quite frankly, send me hiding in by bedroom with the blankets pulled up to my chin and a big ol’ bag of tootsie rolls within reach.

You can read his story in its entirety in Genesis 37-51, but to paraphrase, God allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery, dragged to a foreign land where he was stripped of all rights and forced to spend his every waking moment in service to another, and then thrown into prison. And at each step, he was given a choice: focus on himself and all he’d lost or perhaps all he “deserved,” (after all, he’d been called, personally, by Creator God!), or surrender and live, 100% in obedience to and for the glory of His Creator.

Because he chose the latter, he shined the light of God in the middle of some incredibly dark places.

I believe this was the battle God had called him to, and make no mistake, it was an intense, moment-by-moment battle! This was also the battle God called Timothy to, as he pastored that church, filled with false teaching and division, in Ephesus. And it’s a battle God calls each one of us to, as we stand against discontentment, selfish ambition, and greed—the very attitudes that had caused the false teachers in Ephesus to wreak such destruction (1 Tim. 1:6-7, 6:4-5).

And so, this brings our study full-circle with the reminder that it’s all about love. God’s kind of love. A love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.

We can fight many battles in any given day, but the battle that wars within is the most vital, because everything else stems from that. We are most effective when we are most yielded to God’s Spirit at work within and through us. He has a plan, a good, victorious plan, for tackling whatever battle is warring around us, and He may (or may not) use us to fight it.

But make no mistake; He’s the One who will do the fighting. He’s the One who will win the victory. Our role is quite simple—to surrender and obey. If we do anything else, we’ll merely be getting in His way.

For those who’ve been following the 1 Timothy Bible study, this weekend, I encourage you to take time review what you’ve learned in the previous weeks. Journal what God has shown you, and simply take time to rest at His feet. Make Romans 12:1 your prayer:

Dear Lord, in view of Your mercy, in view of all You’ve done for me, help me to offer my body—my time, my thoughts, my will; my whole self—to You, as a living sacrifice because of all You have done for me. May that be how I, daily, worship You.”

Pray this prayer often, and then wait and see what God does. Wait and see how He uses you to bring healing to the hurting, life to the dead, and sight to the blind.

What resonated most with you in today’s post? What inner battle do you tend to fight the most, and what can you do today to strengthen your connection with Christ–the One who has equipped and empowered us for victory? What are some ways you fight the battle against self-love?

FREE! Receive great, free content (short stories, recipes, devotions, and more!) directly to your inbox by signing up for my quarterly newsletter HERE!

Freedom From Entitlement

 

When in the middle of a crisis, one word dominates my mind—help! I’d do anything, give up anything, if only God would come through. But oh how quickly pride and entitlement creep in, once the chaos has passed.

It was maybe ten years ago, we were living in a beautiful, spacious home in a gated community, attended a church we loved, and I spent my days doing what I loved—homeschooling our daughter.

In a flash, everything changed, leaving me scrambling, fearful, and crying out for aid.

Our daughter and I were sitting at the breakfast bar, completing her lessons, when I heard the familiar screech-rumble of the garage door opening. I glanced at the time, finding it strange that my husband would come home so early.

When he walked past me without a word a moment later, heading straight for our bedroom, I knew something was wrong.

I immediately followed.

The defeat I saw in his eyes tore at my heart, but what he said after weakened my knees.

That morning began a six-month bout of unemployment that left us scrambling and me crying out to God, “Help us, please! Fix this.”

Then one day, He did. By this point, we’d depleted the last of our savings, and, with all our belongings in storage, we’d moved to a 500 square-foot, furnished, rent-by-the-month apartment. My husband had found temporary contract work while continuing to seek something more permanent.

It’s interesting what happens, when life hits hard and everything is reduced to necessity. In that tiny apartment, with its cheap used furniture, paper-thin walls, and stained and torn linoleum, I learned to become content. To rejoice, actually, in what I had. By taking away our big, fancy house and all the other fluff I’d come to rely on, God granted me an incredible gift—the ability to cherish those things that mattered most—time with my husband and daughter.

So when His aid came and He opened a door for my husband at Union Pacific railroad in Kansas City, MO, I thought I’d arrived. I’d learned my lesson, had found contentment, and could move forward, receiving God’s blessings with open hands.

Open hands that, once they quit clinging to Christ, quickly grasped and strived, until my easily-swayed heart became consumed with a sense of entitlement. It started while house hunting. Needless to say, our budget had changed drastically, and the houses our realtor showed us looked much different than the large, newly built home we’d frantically sold in Louisiana. As we toured smaller, older, and less aesthetically appealing homes, a sense of entitlement emerged, initiating an ugly and growing discontentment.

It was as if I’d forgotten all God had done—how He’d held my family together, kept us from debt, and provided for us at just the right time.

I had fallen into the same pattern the Israelites had, after God miraculously freed them from slavery to Egypt, provided for them in the desert, and personally led them, by a pillar of fire by night and a sun-shielding cloud by day, to the Promised Land.

“They forgot what He had done—the great wonders He had shown them” (Psalm 78:11 NLT).

They forgot and became discontent, and their discontentment turned their hearts from God, from the One who saved them, the One who loved them, and who cared for them as a parent for their young.

There’s danger in forgetting. Or perhaps I should say, there’s incredible power in remembering all God’s done. It frees us from entitlement, keeps us humble, grateful, and I believe, surrendered with a heart that’s ready to receive whatever God has for us.

Let’s talk about this! Do you ever find yourself slipping into a sense of entitlement? Do you notice, when you do, that your discontentment and misery increases? What do you do to stay centered in gratitude and surrender? In what ways has God used life circumstances to purge the sense of entitlement from you? Share your stories, suggestions, and examples with us, because we can all learn from each other!

You might also enjoy:

 

“Be Joyful Always” by Chaka Heinze

“Have Faith Like a Child” by Brooke Williams

Choosing to Rest in the Chaos

20170105_094135It’s that time again–when my already busy schedule feels squeezed, my calendar is packed full of obligations and author interviews, and amidst it all, my brain determines to take a brief vacation.

Leaving me with two choices: Try harder and chain myself to my computer, or take a hiatus.

I’ve decided to do the latter, starting tomorrow, not because I’m quitting. I’m far too stubborn for that. Rather, because, well, I need a break. And I believe there are times when we simply need to retreat. To refuel. And spend time with those you love.

And I can do that, because quite frankly, this writing thing, my ministry, and really everything God calls me to do is not up to me. Part of it is–the obedient part. The rest? That’s all God. Because He’s bigger than my schedule, my blank computer screen, or anything I could stress and angst about.

About ten, maybe fifteen years ago, the children’s director at the church we attended asked if I’d be the “point person” for our Vacation Bible School–the first VBS we’d done, at least, since my family had been attending. Can I share my ignorance here? I didn’t know what a point person was and assumed it was someone who, well, pointed people in the right direction. So I was like (in my head), “Sure. I can greet parents as they come in, direct children to their appropriate groups, whatever. No problem.”

Fast forward a month or so, and the children’s staff asked me to go to a VBS informational meeting. Again, I had no idea what that was but figured, sure. I can go, listen, and bring back information.

Um, no. They sent me to a VBS curriculum fair to help select curriculum.

help-1724292_1280Great, right? Except … I’d never been to a VBS. Ever. Up until that moment, I hadn’t a clue what they were. Actually, I still wasn’t sure, even after I spent an afternoon flipping through curriculum and talking to people.

Maybe a month later, with curriculum picked and purchased, I sat on my bed and spread the material before me. Trying to figure out what in the world I was to do with it all. Not knowing what else to do, I read it. Every page of every booklet. Took notes. Then stared at my notes, wondering what in the world I was to do next.

Fast forward another few months, and I was once again sitting with my material spread before me, only this time I was pool side. I’d joined my husband on a business trip, and I’d brought the VBS curriculum with me. By now, I had more of an idea of what to do, and I’d even begun to form a team of volunteers–all of whom were much more knowledgable and experienced in this area than I, praise God!

I was still confused, and yet, I felt incredible peace. Because somehow, somewhere between when I first accepted the assignment to that moment at the pool, I’d come to the realization that our church’s VBS event wasn’t up tohand-1044883_1920 me. I would do my best, learn what I could, and enjoy the process. I’d let God take care of the rest.

At this time, I got to chatting to a woman lounging in a pool chair beside me. I don’t remember our conversation, except for me sharing what I was working on and how I was surrendering the results to God.

Her reply: “That’s what you get when dealing with volunteers. They don’t care about the outcome.”

And I thought, ‘Nope. That’s what you get from walking beside Christ. You know you’re not responsible for the outcome.’

Fast forward another couple of months, and our church had a phenomenal Vacation Bible study that drew a large number of children from the community. Kids accepted Christ, volunteers experienced the joy of serving Him, and the peace I felt that morning at the pool dominated my heart the entire week.

I’d like to say that peace, that level of surrender, stayed with me over the decades since, but unfortunately, it hasn’t. I have a tendency to want to hold too tightly to my assignments, to throw my expectations into the mix, along with a chunk of my pride, making it hard for me to surrender. But every once in a while, often when I’ve reached the end of myself, I sense God saying to me, “Remember …?”

And then I smile, nod, close my computer, and loosen my grip.

For those of you wanting to follow my online book/blog/author tour … I’ll catch you up next week. 😉

restoringlove_n174111In the meantime, here’s more info on my latest release, Restoring Love:

Mitch, a contractor and house-flipper, is restoring a beautiful old house in an idyllic Midwestern neighborhood. Angela, a woman filled with regrets and recently transplanted to his area, is anything but idyllic. She’s almost his worst nightmare, and she’s also working on restoring something—herself. As he struggles to keep his business afloat and she works to overcome mistakes of her past, these two unlikely friends soon discover they have something unexpected in common—a young mom who is fighting to give her children a better life after her husband’s incarceration. While both Mitch and Angela are drawn to help this young mother survive, they also find themselves drawn to each other. Will a lifetime of regrets hold them back or unite them and bring redemption along with true love?

From There to Here

Being a parent can teach us so much. Not just about parenting, but about our relationship with God and how He forgives us. As parents, this is a crucial quality to develop. Our kids will never feel secure in our love if we hold on to anger, bitterness, and grudges. So what does God do with a woman who struggles with forgiveness, for others and herself? Read on to find out.

MamaMondaysjpg

Learning to Live in Grace
by Joi Copeland

From there…                                         …to here.

Life is full of changes, isn’t it? As the saying goes, “The only two things we expect will never change are taxes and change itself.” Of course, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So perhaps there are three things that will never change!

Over the last eleven years (my youngest is eleven), as a mom of three boys, I’ve heard many phrases. Phrases like, “Oh bless your heart! You have your hands full!”

“Are you trying for a girl?”

“How do you get anything done?”

But in all actuality, I’ve prayed to be a mom of boys. I love being a “boy’s mom!” I grew up smack dab in the middle of four sisters. I know girls. I know the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Don’t get me wrong. Raising boys isn’t easy. There have been days when I’ve wanted to pick up a glass of wine, and I don’t even drink! Then there are days when I am so brothers-835141_640thankful I have my boys.

Yes, they fight. And it drives me batty. What they taught me, however, is they forgive and move on fairly quickly. I don’t know about you, but as a woman, it’s tough to let go of my anger and move on. I hold on to grudges, I bring up the past. Even if I say I forgive someone, it takes me a bit of time to get back to normal.

Not so with the men in my life! They fight and argue (we don’t tolerate punching fights…never ok to solve a problem using your fists). Yet, I find that more often than not, within ten minutes, they are fine and all is forgiven. Seriously, ALL is FORGIVEN.

Over the last fourteen years of raising my oldest, I’ve learned to let things go. We’ve had hard days, no doubt. Yet, when apologies are spoken, it is up to me to move on. Holding their sin against them isn’t healthy. Bringing up the past isn’t healthy.

And it’s not how God treats me, either. My sins are as far as the east is from the west. God doesn’t tell me what I do wrong over and over again. I come, apologize, and He forgives. Seriously, ALL is FORGIVEN. Why do I insist on holding on to my guilt? When I yell at my kids, (I know. It’s shocking that I do, but it happens). When I snap at my boys person-1352040_640because I’ve had a tough day. When I gripe at my husband when he doesn’t deserve it, or when I gripe at him period.

My boys have taught me a lot about letting go. I encourage you, as well–let it go. The bad that happened today, let it go. The guilt we feel as moms when we don’t do something correctly, let it go. Being a mom has taken me from there (the place of holding grudges and sins against others) to here (the place of letting go). It’s a wild ride, isn’t it? But life is an adventure, and I love the adventure I’m on with my husband and three boys!

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COPELAND-HopeForTheJourney_cover.inddHope for the Journey:

Kayla Musso has been married to her husband, Brad, for several years. Having just had a baby, Kayla feels her life couldn’t be more perfect. Then one day, Brad drops a bomb shell on her that threatens to destroy everything they have worked so hard for in their marriage. Suddenly she is faced with a choice to forgive or let go of the life she loves so much.

Emily Sorenson had always been the picture of health, but when a trip to the doctor becomes the shock of her life, she is faced with a decision, like Kayla, to either fight the battle before her or give up the life she loves. In addition, her husband Jake has to come to grips with the struggle before them as well. As he does, he begins to question God. How could He let Emily go through such pain? As he wrestles with his questions, he faces his own dilemma. Would he be willing to seek God in his time of despair or will he walk away from everything so dear to him?

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CopelandphotoJoi Copeland is married to a wonderful man, Chris, and has three amazing boys, Garrison, Gage, and Gavin. She lives in Denver, Colorado, but within the year, hopes to be living in Galway, Ireland. Joi’s love of writing began at a young age. She wrote short stories for several years, and in 2009, she began writing her first novel, Hope for Tomorrow.

Joi’s books include: Hope for Tomorrow, book 1Hope for the Journey, book 2Hope from the Past, book 3Letters of LoveChristmas Rayne, a novellaand Sheriff Bride Rob’s Story, a novella.

Find Joi on Facebook, Amazon, and her web site.

Let’s talk about this: Forgiving can be hard, but letting go and never bringing up the past during an argument can be even harder. Has someone ever brought up your past sins to you? How did that make you feel? How have you learned to let go? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We can all learn from one another!