The Danger in Forgetting

by guest blogger Jana Kelley

There are numerous things I would rather forget, like words I've spoken in haste, mistakes I've made, stupid and embarrassing things I've done. And yet, there are other things I must choose, diligently, to remember, because there's great danger in forgetting. History shows a forgetful heart often gives way to a cold and unbelieving heart. 

Today Jana Kelley, author of Door to Freedom, reminds us of the danger of forgetting, reminding us that some things weren't meant to be forgotten. Ever. They were to be meditated on, cherished, and passed down from one generation to the next.

“Mom, tell me that story about when I quoted a verse to you while you were driving.”

Ironically, I am driving as my son makes his request. I grin. “You mean the time I was trying to drive our car from the dirt on the side of the road into the speeding traffic on an African highway?” I ask, even though I know the answer. He nods and I start in. “Well, I was scared because the maneuver was pretty ambitious. As I did it, I heard you, five-years-old at the time, use some words from a memory verse we had been working on. Let’s see, it was Isaiah 41:10.”

My son, now a teenager, laughs and joins me in the exclamation, “Oh Lord! Hold our hand!”

Our sons love to hear stories from their childhood. I enjoy retelling their antics.

Recently, I’ve been asking my parents to tell me stories from my childhood. Why? Because I don’t want to forget.

That’s how we keep the memories…the lessons…alive.

Because forgetfulness is powerful.

Take the legacy of Joshua in the Old Testament for example. He led the Israelites to victory in the Promised Land. Through Joshua, God conquered their enemies and gave them a land “flowing with milk and honey.” (Joshua 5:6,7)

But, after Joshua died, “another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10)

In fact, the Old Testament recounts story after story of the kings of Israel and Judah who left God and did not keep their promise to be faithful to Him.

Why?

Because they forgot. Forgetfulness is that powerful.

God knew mankind’s tendency to forget. Before His chosen people even entered the Promised Land, God warned them.

“Impress [ My commandments] on your children.” He said. “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”(Deut. 6:7-9) He commanded them to tell their children about Him and His decrees—to weave the words into their very lives.

God even predicted that after a few years of comfortable living, they would be tempted to forget the hundreds of years they relied on God for their very existence.

One generation. Boom. They broke their promise.

What happened?

Parents forgot to tell their children.  

When parents forgot to tell their children the mighty works of God, they themselves forgot what He had done for them.

When God’s people forgot what He had done for them, they forgot to obey Him.

When they forgot to obey God, they forgot to look to Him when faced with troubles. They turned to other things for their security.

Generations of forgetfulness passed and by the time Jesus walked among the people  they had no anchor, no direction.

No wonder Jesus had compassion on them: “they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

Is it the same for you and me today? Of course! We have that same forgetful tendency that the Israelites had.

But here’s the good news:

Remembering is just as powerful as forgetting. When we stop to recount the works of God in our lives, we remember all He has done. When we remember all He has done, we want to obey Him. When we obey God, we look only to Him when we face difficult and even impossible situations.

David, when confronted with problems beyond his ability to conquer, recalled the mighty deeds of God (Psalm 77) and that’s where He found strength.

The same strength is available for us today. We serve a mighty God. Let’s not forget the mighty things He has done. His works are to be shared with next generation. It only takes one generation to forget. Let’s be the generation that remembers.

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Let's talk about this! What are some ways we can intentionally remind us of the things God has done and what He's promised? How can we share those things with others, whether our children, family, friends, and neighbors? How can our sharing "the mighty deeds of God" help point others to Him? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or join the discussion on our Facebook Page, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

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Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life, and later grew her passion for writing. One month after graduating from East Texas Baptist University, Jana married and by their second anniversary, she and her husband had moved to Africa. Jana and her husband and three sons currently live in Southeast Asia.

Jana is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a blogger, a contributor to Voices of the Faithful by Beth Moore (Books 1 & 2) and has written a trilogy set in Northern Sudan. The third book, Mercy Triumphs will release in September. Jana loves to connect with her readers. You can learn more about her at janakelley.com.

Her novel, Door to Freedom:

It's rough and it's smooth. It's dark and it's light. It's a masterpiece. It's us. Here in Sudan. We are scared of it and drawn to it. There is an open door, and there is much opposition.

In the dusty, Islamic country of Sudan, Mia, who is raising her family in a Muslim country, has learned to boldly share her faith. Rania, the daughter of a wealthy Sudanese Arab, seeks to find the reason for her sister's sudden disappearance. Mia holds some of the answers, but both women quickly discover they must each walk through their own doors to freedom, the freedom that only comes when you trust God's sovereignty more than manmade security.

Buy it HERE

 

Hearing From God

by Lyndsey Baker

We want to know God's voice. We want to know what He has to tell us. And if you’ve been a Christian for a while, you probably know that the Bible is our primary source to discover what He wants and how to learn His voice. But the Bible can be hard to read and even more difficult to see how it applies to us. Frequently, it can feel like an item on our to-do lists with all the frustration it can arouse. We either give up, because it is hard, or obey, because it’s the right thing to do, but we don't know how to make it a beneficial part of our lives.

However, the Bible isn't only about obedience and application. It is our opportunity to actively seek God and learn more about who He is; to build a relationship with Him. The more we learn about who He is, the more we will desire Him, hear His voice and want to live in surrendered obedience for Him.

I struggled with this for such a long time! It was much easier learning from sermons or Christian fiction than actually opening my Bible. The Bible felt heavy and daunting. Then God started showing me that maybe I was looking at the Bible from the wrong perspective.

My sister has severe Cerebral Palsy and is considered non-verbal. Our conversations consist of yes or no questions. Every sentence is a game (or ten) of 20 Questions. This means that communication with her can be quite difficult and at times impossible, even when the whole family is trying to figure it out together. This difficulty doesn't stop me from talking to her or figuring out what she has to say. On the contrary, I work much harder and pay much better attention to what she is saying than I probably do for my husband, because of the effort required.

So why am I willing to put that much effort into understanding my sister and what does that have to do with reading the Bible? I love my sister. My love for her and my desire to have that relationship with her makes me willing to put in the hard work to understand her. So God's question to me was, do I love Him?

The Bible isn't just a book of to-dos and obedience checklists. It is His loving message to us, to me, about who He is and how I can know Him better. It is a conversation. Yes, at times it can be heavy and hard to understand. I, like my sister, am limited in understanding and knowledge and cannot speak or understand anything as well as God. My sister and I are willing to put in the effort to converse for the sake of relationship and I can choose to do the same with God and His conversation, the Bible.

When I look at the Bible as a way to learn more about who He is and what He has to say, I'm not as worried about the lists of right and wrong to follow or even what I don't understand. I’m simply coming to Him; building that relationship. If I’m really stuck figuring something out, I call in the reinforcements to help me, the same as I do with my sister. And as with my sister, my understanding and ability to hear God has increased greatly with practice. The time I’ve invested in God and His word has been richly rewarded. I find I even miss that time reading His words to me when my schedule runs amuck and I don’t spend that time with Him.

If you're just beginning, start small and don’t worry about the application. That will come in time and the Bible is not a text book. Start looking for what you are learning about the truth and character of God as if He were someone you just met. Look for the overarching story He’s telling. As you grow in your knowledge and love for Him, you will naturally build a greater understanding of the Bible and an ability to see what applications He has for you. You will learn to hear His voice.

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Let's talk about this! Do you have a regular Bible reading time? If so, what do you enjoy most about that time? If not, what do you think keeps you from developing that habit? Did anything in Lyndsey's post resonate with you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or by joining the conversation on our Facebook Page, because we can all learn from and encourage each other!

 

The Walking Wounded: Getting Past the Hurts of Broken Friendships

by Chaka Heinze

We are the walking wounded. Shielded in self-protective cocoons. Afraid to be vulnerable, and yet desiring real friendship in the depths of our lonely hearts.

Many of us have been taught that our God, Yahweh, is a relational God. The Trinity is a great mystery. One God, but three parts. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, existing in perfect relationship.

And as God created us in his image, He created us also to be relational beings. It was completely possible for God to create Adam to exist in the garden satisfied in his relationship with Him. Fulfilled in every way. But God had put in Adam the desire for companionship, and made that evident to us when He said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” This statement declares the truth that we were designed for relationship. Relationship with God, and relationship with other people.

But for many women I’ve spoken to, friendships are difficult to attain and even harder to maintain. Why do we struggle to hold onto that for which we were specifically gifted?

Because we are the walking wounded.

We’ve given our hearts only to have them broken, we’ve invested in friends only to have them stop returning our calls or unfriend us on Facebook. Gossip. Betrayal. Jealousy. Misunderstandings. Friendships are destroyed, and we who were created to be relational withdraw. Vulnerability becomes a liability when we’re in self-protective mode. And many of us become more afraid of the hurt than bothered by the loneliness.

I did.

Eleven years ago, I took a huge step. After much direction from God, I began attending a new church. I didn’t leave because I was angry at anyone or even because I disagreed with fundamental doctrine. God simply led me to follow my husband to a place where we could worship together and heal as a family.

I didn’t realize that the change would end some of my dearest friendships. Women I’d grown up with through college. Women I’d stepped alongside into family life. I don’t know if it was too hard for them to accept the change, or just easier for me to let go, but, I was broken by the loss. Devastated.

What I didn’t realize is that the loss cost me more than those friendships. Eleven years later, it is still affecting my ability to make vulnerable connections with new friends.

Dear friends, how do we move from self-protection to a place where our hearts are ripe for deep, abiding relationships?

Take ownership. If you need to apologize, apologize.

The Bible teaches that an unapologetic attitude affects not only our friendships, but can even affect our gift giving to God. If you remember that a brother or sister has something against you when you go to offer a gift to God at the altar, Matthew teaches, “First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:24 NIV).

Say you’re sorry when you need to.

However, it’s important to be prepared to let go if the apology is refused. Romans 12:18 teaches that we are to live at peace with everyone as far as it depends on us. We can’t control what another chooses to do with our apology, we can only control our behavior. And, you’ll be surprised at how your willingness to apologize enables God to prepare your heart for future friendships.

Accept apologies.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).

Their apology may not restore the friendship to its original place, but not holding grudges helps us not to harden our hearts so that we can remain open to vulnerable relationships in the future.

Entrust yourself to God, and take a risk.

When no reconciliation is to be had, wrongs aren’t acknowledged, and trust is irrevocably broken, it’s time to entrust yourself to the One who rights all wrongs, restores what’s broken, and makes everything new. We live in a fallen world, there will always be hardship, and suffering, and hurt. But in the midst of all that, we can still have real, deep, and abiding friendships. If we’re willing to risk giving our wounded hearts again, we can have friendships that bring mutual joy, help, and hope.

We were created by a relational God to live in relationship with Him and with one another. Let’s decide not to let fear of future hurt allow us to settle for present loneliness. In Him, we can deal with wounds that have limited our capacity for relationships and have the deep, life-giving friendships for which we were made.

Let's talk about this! What are your next steps to have the friendships God desires for you? Join us on the Wholly Loved Facebook page and share your thoughts, experiments, and examples with us.

Making lasting friendships can be hard and necessarily involves risk. It's much easier to take those risks when we know how deeply loved we are--when we know how to live deeply loved. Learning to live wholly and deeply loved is a lifelong process, one that involves dropping all the lies we've come to believe about ourselves and allowing God's truth to permeate every part of our minds. It also involves allowing Him to heal our hurts so that we can begin to see ourselves as He sees us. So that we can begin to live authentically, as we were created. 

We want to help you do just that! Join us for our next Wholly Loved Conference this September at Bethany Lutheran in Elkhorn! Learn more HERE!

Find out about other Wholly Events by visiting our Events Page!

We'd love to come to you! Check out our new conference theme: Bold and Brave, and email us at contact(at)whollyloved(dot)com to book us for your next conference or women's event. 

The Beauty of Scars

Sometimes it can be hard to feel God's love. Sometimes it can be hard to see His hand. Sometimes our view of who He is can get entangled in the hard of our day-to-day, and we might begin to lose sight of or even doubt His tender Father's heart. And yet, as our guest Tara Johnson reminds us, He's telling a story in and through us. May He grant us the vision to see it. 

The Beauty of Scars

by Tara Johnson

Stories are everywhere if we just ask God to open our eyes, and our stories are the most beautiful of all.

Our family recently vacationed in the stunning Pacific northwest. As our children flew colorful kites, waded through frigid waves and dug in white sand, I walked through the wide stretch of beach, enjoying the gritty feeling of sand between my toes. Gulls squawked overhead and the scent of decaying sea life and salt water permeated the air as I walked along, noting the items washed up on the shore.

Small sea creatures with tiny claws, white shells with striations of purple, orange backed crabs, twisted cords of driftwood, seaweed and round pebbles. It's always interesting to see what the thundering waves spit out during high tide.

I had already found a particularly beautiful seashell. In just the right light, it shimmered like glitter. Its surface was like white, polished chalk, but it was broken. Beautiful but shattered. The turbulent waters had battered it beyond repair.

A large stone caught my attention, worn smooth by the pounding waves. The hard edges had been ground away leaving it easy to the touch, but the rock was also unremarkable. Dull of color with no interesting marks or features. The surf had beaten it down until it resembled every other stone dotting the shoreline. Round, smooth, lackluster.

As the cold wind tugged my hair across my mouth, I knelt when my toe bumped a rock different from everything else I'd seen. It wasn't pretty as far as color goes, nor smooth or glittery yet it intrigued me the most.

Why?

Because it bore the imprints of dozens of tiny sea creatures who had once burrowed in its depths, yet now it was washed clean.

It was scarred, but it told me a story. It drew me in and fanned my curiosity to life. The indelible marks had forever branded it and its journey through the rough ocean waters. It had survived the mighty Pacific to find rest on the shore.

We all have wounds and scars. Some of us put on a show, slapping on our greasepaint and glittering makeup, praying no one will notice how broken we are, yet the world continues to break us until we feel we're only shards of the person God intended us to be.

Some of us have let our culture so beat us and mold us and play with our minds and hearts that we no longer have our own identity. We look like everybody else and wonder why we feel helplessly lost, unnoticed and unappreciated. We've become people pleasers without a voice, without color. We've thrown away our God-given destiny and are aching to reclaim it.

Some of us are visibly scarred. We may not be as pretty as the seashell or as smooth and acceptable as the round stones, but do not discount the sharp beauty of the imprinted rock, for it tells a story. People who are seeking will notice it. They will ask, for it has the fingerprints of redemption all over it. It's a story of survival and victory in the hands of the Creator. Those scars may be the key to unlocking someone else's prison. Wear the scars with humility but never hide them.

Stories are all around us if we'll only open our eyes, and ours are the most beautiful of all.

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Tara Johnson is an author, speaker and singer from Alexander, AR.  A passionate lover of stories, she loves to travel to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher's kid, and a steep battle with depression and perfectionism.

Her first nonfiction book Hollow Victory: How to Identify and Disarm 5 Landmines that Make Victorious Christian Living Feel Like a Lie was released in 2014.  She has won the Bronze Medal in the Frazier awards hosted by My Book Therapy and has articles published in Plain Truth Magazine and Live It Loud Magazine and has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio and Enduring Word radio. Tara is a member of ACFW and is represented by Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Agency. She and her husband Todd have been married for nineteen years and the Lord has blessed them with five children:  Bethany, Callie, Nate, as well as Taylor Lynn and Morgan Lane who are with Jesus.

Follow her on Twitter at @TaraMinistry, connect with her on Facebook and follow her Author Page,  check out her music at Reverbnation, and follow on Instagram

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Let's talk about this! Can you see God's hand and character revealed in your story? Can you or have you seen His hand and character revealed in someone else's story? Share your examples with us! Join the conversation on Facebook at Wholly Loved.

And if your struggling to see the beauty in your story and God's love revealed in all the hard and painful, consider coming to our next Wholly Loved Conference hosted by Bethany Lutheran in Elkhorn, NE. Visit our Events Page for more information.           

When We Don't Understand

by Dawn Ford

“But why?” I said with a distinct whine in my voice.

This was a commonplace phrase from my childhood. Being the youngest of four and the only girl, I was often left out or left behind. I detested it.

It didn’t matter that the boys were playing full contact football, or that one brother could pitch over a 90 mph baseball. I didn’t see the issue. Didn’t my parents know it was unfair to make me sit out?

 I wouldn’t get hurt, I reasoned. I could handle the rough play. My mother wasn’t swayed, though, so I had to sneak my way into my brother’s games. And every time it happened. I got hurt, and ended up crying. My brother’s always got in trouble. They finally ended up not playing around me at all, and I was more left out than before. Like I was missing out on all the fun.

This resentment followed me into adulthood, at least until I had my own kids. When you’re sitting on the other end of the issue it’s much easier to see the big picture. The first time I had to hold one of my sons back from playing with someone because I knew it he was out of his league, I had to smile at his pout and stomp of feet.

I knew his pain. I understood the hurt at being left out and being “denied something fun.” I also knew there were more important things than being included in one game. So I wasn’t surprised when I got the whining question that echoed my childhood, ‘But why can’t I–?’

As adults we still do this. We whine and pout when something doesn’t go like we wanted it to. When we don’t get to do or be something we desired. “But, why?”

I can almost imagine God chuckling at us like my mom did with me and I did with my son.

Proverbs 15:9 tells us, “The mind of man plans his way. But the Lord directs his steps” (NAS). We often think we know what’s best. If God would just see fit to do (whatever), we could handle it we reason. We refuse to see the harm in something we see as a good thing. But is it?

Isaiah 55:8-9 informs us, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts your thoughts” (NAS).

We see the here and now. God sees the eternal. We feel left out now. God wants us with Him forever.

Aren’t you glad God isn’t swayed with our foot-stomping meltdowns?

Let's talk about this! You may have heard the phrase, "Often we see best through our rearview mirror." Can you share a time when God told you no, and though you didn't understand at the time but later realized He was protecting you, or perhaps growing you, or maybe leading in a direction that was for your best? Join us over on Facebook and share your thoughts, examples, and stories with us, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

When We Push Past Discomfort to Say Yes to God

How many times has fear or an aversion to discomfort kept you from living out God's will? How many times have you avoided someone or something that made you uncomfortable, choosing instead to do that which was easy and safe? 

As you read today's post by our guest blogger Elizabeth Griffin, consider how God might do for you what He did for her ... if you'd but say yes. 

Bold and Brave in a Bus Called Love

by Elizabeth Griffin

The smell of urine was unmistakable in the parking lot of Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. Later I would learn that I had parked where all the men relieve themselves. I stepped over pools of brownish-yellow on my way to the sidewalk, which was strewn with men and women who were drunk and high, waiting to get inside for the night.

After three months as interim press relations manager at the Mission, it was time to do the thing farthest outside of my comfort zone: Search & Rescue. I was there to accompany a French reporter writing a story on homelessness. If not for him, I might never have gone.

Search & Rescue consists of a team of six leaders with five vans that have the word LOVE plastered on their sides. These transport mission leaders and volunteers all over the city every night from 8 p.m. to midnight. They pull off the road under bridges and next to warehouses, announce their presence to the people living in vans, tents, or RVs, and then hand out blankets, socks, sandwiches, and hot cocoa.

The French journalist never showed up, but it was too late to turn back. Even when a fight broke out on the sidewalk, I resisted the urge to hop in my car, take the freeway home, and curl up on the couch with my puppy.

Everyone I work with says going on Search & Rescue is life changing, but I struggled with judging those coming to us for help, and I questioned whether we were making a difference. I wanted to feel compassion, but I didn’t. So I began praying for God’s heart.

Richard, the director of Search & Rescue, gave his testimony and it reminded me that no one is beyond God’s redeeming reach. After living as an addict without a home for years, he went to sleep one night praying to die and woke up surrounded by Christians. They convinced him to come to the Mission for the night. Then he went through its yearlong addiction recovery program, got clean and sober, and started bringing hope to others on the streets.

Then I talked with Jennifer, a woman who had lived on the streets for most of her life. She was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and I couldn’t help shivering for her. I had three layers on and still felt cold. When she told me that all of her underwear and bras had been stolen, I cringed, knowing how vulnerable I would feel in her position. Jennifer was a heroin addict who was taking an anti-opioid drug and was one month clean. Inwardly, I cheered her on.

And finally, I met Tiffany. She was one-day sober, and having a hard time. She told me that she sleeps for days whenever she tries to stop drinking. I looked her in the eyes and began telling her how much God loved her, how He wanted her to be free and have a good life, and that no matter what—even if she slipped and drank again—He would always love her.

Tiffany’s beautiful dark eyes welled up with tears. A believer, she welcomed my prayer for her, and I urged her to call our women’s program. She said she’d think about it.

We embraced, and as she walked back to her tent I knew she was the reason I had come that night. God had me there for her.

Later, several friends said I was brave to go. In some ways, that’s true. I was scared, but did it anyway. But the thing that changed everything was love. I asked for it, and God gave it to me. Once I loved with His love, I knew why I was there. Then I was able to be bold and didn’t need to be quite so brave.

Elizabeth Griffin has published more than 500 articles in newspapers, anthologies and magazines in addition to the books Fragile X, Fragile Hope: Finding Joy in Parenting a Child with Special Needs and Margot’s Story, which can both be purchased through Amazon. Her favorite thing to write is true stories about inspirational people. Her current passions are writing for an international network of church planters and her blog “Follow the Dots,” found at elizabethgriffin.comVisit Elizabeth online. 

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When have you sensed God asking you to do something outside of your comfort zone? Did you obey? If so, what helped you do that? In what ways did God strengthen you as you obeyed? Elizabeth said once she loved with God's love, she was able to be bold and didn't need to be quite so brave. What do you think she meant by that? How do you think that is true? Join the discussion on our Facebook page and share your thoughts with us! 

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God's love is so far-reaching and incomprehensible. It's beyond anything our human minds could ever understand, and yet, we catch a glimpse of it best, I believe, when we yield to Him and allow Him to love others through us, as Elizabeth did. We were created to live bold, victorious lives of incredible freedom and impact, but this freedom and courage doesn't come from us. Instead, it comes from Christ within us. 

In Philippians 3:10, Paul says he longs to know "the power of [Christ's] resurrection." The power that raised Christ from the dead--that's a lot of power! And according to Scripture, if we have trusted in Christ for salvation, that power lives in us. Our prayer echoes Paul's in Ephesians 1:18-20, that "the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which [God] has called you ... and his incomparably great power for us who believe." 

When we live fully, wholly loved, there's nothing to fear, and in Christ, we have everything we need to live bold, brave, and impactful lives! We want to help you do just that! Visit our Events Page to learn about one of our upcoming conferences and be on the lookout for our new Bold and Brave Conference. If you're a ministry leader, email us at contact(at)whollyloved(dot)com to book us for your next women's event. 

Live Wholeheartedly

Are you living the life God desires? Are you embracing your identity in Him, and all that means and entails? Are you surrendering your gifts--the gifts He's given you, to be used by Him, for His glory and as He sees fit, or have you allowed a false sense of humility to hold you back?

Jesus said He came to give us life abundant. Full, satisfying life. Today our guest Kristen Hogrefe shares a secret on one of the ways we can grab hold of this precious gift God offers.  

Live Wholeheartedly

by Kristen Hogrefe

Whole. The word indicates completion, even perfection. A whole carton of eggs is one where no egg is missing or cracked. A whole loaf of bread hasn’t yet been sliced.

Although these things might be perfect and complete, they aren’t usable or even enjoyable until we crack and slice. We must first cook the eggs before we can savor them. Slicing must come before slathering butter or jam on a fresh piece of bread.

Afterward, the carton and loaf are no longer perfectly complete, but they’re serving their purpose more fully than they were originally.

Life is a little like that carton and loaf. God has given us gifts and abilities. Maybe we’ve practiced them, polished them, but we hesitate to make the first cut—to share them.

What if we fail? What if no one listens? What if no one appreciates our efforts?

I have bad news and good news. The bad news is that some people won’t listen or appreciate—or even begin to understand when we seek to live out the purpose God has for us. The good news is that they don’t matter (well, not much).

What matters is living obediently to God’s calling.

Serve Faithfully

Since my teenage years, I’ve been singing in church but have little formal training. Although I never felt called to pursue a musical degree or career, I still enjoy singing solos and in ensembles when my music director asks me.

Sometimes, my voice sounds golden, and sometimes, well, it takes creative liberties I never granted it. I remember driving home after a not-so-flawless solo, wondering why I keep singing. There are many people better trained and more qualified than I am. Why did the choir director give me the solo in the first place?

The answer seeped slowly into my soul. God never called me to be perfect, as much as I would like to be. He called me to praise Him and point others to Him.

“He has put a new song in my mouth—

Praise to our God;

Many will see it and fear,

And will trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:3 NKJV)

When we live wholeheartedly, we use whatever gifts we have with faithfulness—not for the praise of men but for the glory of God.

Give Humbly

Even when we feel prepared, giving of ourselves involves risk. I’ve been writing for nearly two decades, and no matter how many times I read over a project, I always find something to cut, change, or improve.

At some point, though, I have to let go—to release my control and let God take my words and use them how He chooses.

Humility isn’t self-deprecating and doesn’t belittle while secretly hoping for elevation. Instead, a humble attitude recognizes that God can and does use us—flaws and all—to work out His plan.

The prerequisites for service don’t require advance placement. Micah 6:8 spells out God’s entry-level expectations.

“… And what does the Lord require of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?” (NKJV).

We’re not responsible for the outcome when we use our gifts. We must only be obedient and use them.

Go ahead. Slice the bread, and generously spread God’s love using the abilities He’s entrusted to you. That’s living wholeheartedly.

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Let's talk about this! How do you feel about Kristen's definition of humility? 

Kristen Hogrefe is an author, speaker, and English teacher. She also serves as a mentor for Word Weavers International and works with the teens in her church’s youth group. Her new release, The Revisionary (Write Integrity Press), is the first book in her YA trilogy The Rogues. The novel is a dystopia of a different kind—one where characters look back to their civilization’s heritage for hope and wisdom to move forward. You can find Kristen outdoors in the Florida sunshine or online at KristenHogrefe.com.

Follow her on Twitter (@kjhogrefe), connect with her on Facebook, and visit her Amazon page to learn more about her writing.

Website: https://kristenhogrefe.com/

Her latest release is titled The Revisionary:

A Revisionary rewrites the rules. A Rogue breaks them. Which one is she?

Nineteen-year-old Portia Abernathy accepts her Revisionary draft to the Crystal Globe with one goal: earn a Dome seat so she can amend the satellite rules and rescue her brother. Her plan derails when Head Gage Eliab brands her as a suspect in a campus Rogue attack, and in her quest to clear her name, she questions if the vigilante Brotherhood responsible might not be the real villain.

Her shifting loyalties pit her against Luther Danforth, her Court Citizen ally who believes in reform, not revolution. Joining the Brotherhood makes a future with him impossible—and Portia must decide if it’s better to rewrite the rules or to break them.

An Open Invitation (Without an Add-on Clause)

Do you ever wonder if God's tired of you or has grown annoyed with your prayers? Like you've exhausted His patience and should've reached a certain level of spiritual maturity by now? Today our guest Julie Arduini shares her thoughts and experiences on what she's termed "add on faith."

God's Open Invitation (Without an Add-on Clause)

by Julie Arduini

It was a circular, red birdfeeder and the answer to my search. I wanted something near my office to watch as visiting birds often entertain and inspire. I placed the item in my virtual shopping cart and clicked the box that announced my purchase was complete. A message popped up on my screen.

This is an Add-On item.

If you shop Amazon, chances are you’ve come across an item listed as an add-on. It means they won’t place it in the shopping cart until you’ve spent a certain amount of money. Once you hit that mark, then they will take action.

I saw the phrase add-on this week apart from Amazon, and I thought of God’s approach with us. I’ve recently battled fear and anxiety for the future. I doubt this is a coincidence given the theme of my book is surrendering one’s dreams for God’s plans.

This year we’ve faced transition with our kids, and although I know God’s promises for them, I want to handle the job losses, relationship bumps, school miscommunications and bullying. To see a glimpse of what’s next for them. I’ve fought prayerfully for their futures, and for peace.

Experiencing peace has been a battle. And a choice. I’ve been like a toddler trying to share a toy with a friend. I hand it over, then take it back. And repeat. I beg for answers and justice. Cry when I see loved ones hurting. Then, I hear a sermon or a song, or I read a devotional that talks about fear versus faith, and then my peace returns.

I ask for forgiveness for the times I want to take justice into my hands, and when issues aren’t resolved in my time and way.

What if God shook His head and told me I needed to reach a bigger level of believing Him before He’d respond? What if He said He couldn’t complete my prayer transaction because I didn’t do enough for His heavenly cart?

My heart hurts to even think about it.

I rejoice, because Christ didn’t die for add-on faith. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, we can come to Him completely broken. Desperate. Completely hanging by a thread of faith that He might hear and answer. And God’s there.

Add-on might be a strategy for Amazon, but it’s a lie from the pit of hell when it comes to prayer and accessing God’s power through Christ. (Eph. 1:19-20) I resisted accepting Christ into my life for years because I thought God was mad at me. That I didn’t bring enough to the proverbial table. I was right about the latter, but the image in my head was wrong. God’s arms weren’t closed, and He wasn’t shaking His head at me. His arms are wide open, ready to receive. Every time. Even if it’s the same request, 1000 days in a row.

I definitely want victory over fear and to choose peace in this turbulent season. What a blessing that, no matter what our struggle, we have His love and attention. Even when I take a step back in my journey, God’s still there, waiting for me to call on Him.

He’s waiting for you, too.

Is there a struggle you’ve had where you approached it like add-on faith?

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Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and ---maybe one day---the chocolate. She’s the author of ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. The last book in the series, ENGAGED: Surrendering the Future, is coming soon. She also shares her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities.

Connect with Julie on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and visit her Author Page on Amazon to learn about her books.  

EntangledSurrendering the Past, is her latest release. It's book #2, Surrendering Time Series.

Back Cover Copy:

“You need to leave me alone. It’s the least you can do.”

Carla Rowling has been given her dream of attending cosmetology school. The gift is so generous she feels unworthy because of choices she made as a teen. The pressure mounts as Carla juggles school, is a single mom, helps her best friend Jenna plan her wedding, spends time with boyfriend Will Marshall, and deals with the fact that her son's father is back in their lives.

Will Marshall is the one Speculator Falls resident everyone can count on. His truck deliveries are reliable. He's the first to help friends like Ben Regan with boat work or be a card partner with Bart Davis. Will's ready to settle down with Carla, loving her is natural. He's bonded with her son, Noah. But when Carla starts cosmetology school, she puts emotional distance between her and Will.

Can Carla release her past and create a future full of highlights, or, will she burn her options worse than a bad perm?

Although Entangled can standalone, if you’d like to read Entrusted: Surrendering the Present first, click here: https://www.amazon.com/Entrusted-Surrendering-Present-Time/dp/0692709177/

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Let's talk about this! It brings me such comfort to know God is always with me, always listening, and always welcoming me into His presence with open arms. This begs the question: How often do I accept the invitation? Or, do I shy away, because I feel inadequate or like I've prayed for help in a certain area more than it seems I should?

What about you? Have you approached a problem or struggle as if God expected you to have an "add on faith?" What thoughts or feelings arose as you read Julie's post? How do you feel knowing God "bends His ear" to listen? Do you take advantage of that? Join the discussion on our Facebook page because we can all learn from and encourage one another!