Wednesday, April 27, 2016

When Perceptions Bond or Fracture Marriage

Join me in welcoming Jennifer Slattery today as she shares some important insights on perceptions in relationships.

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, Christian living articles for, and devotions for Internet CafĂ© Devotions, the group blog, Faith-filled Friends, and her personal blog. She also does content editing for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas’ Firefly imprint, and loves working with authors who are serious about pursuing their calling. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.
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Bond or Fracture

It’s the one relationship designed to bring about the most fulfillment, the one the Bible says will complete us—bring out our best and help us serve Christ most effectively. It’s also the one relationship that can hurt us most, but what if those things that are causing us the most pain exist largely in our minds?

We’re all wounded and we all harbor skewed perceptions. Most often, when faced with questions, uncertainties, and unknowns, we leap toward worst-case scenarios. We’ve all had people completely misread our intentions, assigning selfishness to loving acts or malice when we meant well.

That hurts, and creates fractures of distrust that, if left unchecked, can completely destroy our relationship.

In my twenty years of marriage I’ve found every wayward thought matters and paves the way for the next one. When we begin to assume the worst in others, soon that is all we can see. Worse, with every negative thought, our heart grows a little harder and more distant and pretty soon we’re caught up in a war that only exists in our mind.

But the converse is also true—when we begin to assume, and look for, the best in others, our spouse especially, not only do their admirable qualities become more noticeable, but our heart grows softer toward them as well.

The choice is ours, and it begins and is sustained by prayer, because on our own, we’re powerless to see beyond our past hurts. We all have inner lies—things we’ve come to believe about ourselves that are absolutely false but impact absolutely everything else, our perceptions most of all.

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Let me give an example. I’ve struggled with the overall belief that I was unlovable and for years, this core belief affected the way I interpreted my husband’s behavior. If he came home from work tired and headed straight for the couch and remote, rather than thinking, “Wow, he must have had a hard day,” my mind jumped to, “He doesn’t want to be with you.” If he had a crabby afternoon, rather than wondering if he was dealing with work difficulties, heartburn, or lack of sleep, my mind jumped to, “You’re annoying him. He doesn’t want to spend time with you.”

See how my inner lie caused me to assume the worst—about myself, him, and our relationship?

With every negative thought, my defenses grew, and the wall separating my heart from his grew a little thicker. Add to this the fact that he had his own inner lies, lies that caused him to perceive my self-protective, defensive nature as proof of his negative assumptions and it’s no wonder we misperceived ourselves into a nasty, love-destroying cycle.

It took God’s gentle Spirit and perfect wisdom to pull us out.

It started with prayer. One day, by God’s grace alone, I quit praying for God to change my husband and started asking Him to change me. By this point, my heart had become hard and filled with gunk and in desperate need of deep cleaning. 

I surrendered it, gunk and all, to God and asked him to heal it. That was all. But that was enough, because a healed heart loves freely and fearlessly.

The more I prayed, the more God allowed me to see my husband—really see him. One evening in particular, my husband arrived home from work late. Sitting in the living room, I heard the garage door rumble open, then a gentle voice whisper, “Get him a glass of soda.”

Miracle of miracles, I obeyed and met my husband in the entry way with an iced cola. He looked at me, clearly taken aback, and in that moment, something flashed in his eyes. Gratitude, hurt, defeat. Complete exhaustion.

My heart wrenched as God unveiled my eyes to see how, in the midst of an incredibly stressful time at work, how tired and beaten down my husband had become. How had I not seen it before?

The answer? I’d allowed my insecurities and emotional baggage to taint my reality rather than seeking Christ’s perfect vision. The Bible tells us we have the mind of Christ. Pause to think on that for a moment. We have the wisdom of the all-knowing, all-seeing Creator residing within. So why do we allow all the gunk of our past to sabotage our view?

I learned something that day: When I look the bad, I’ll find it every time (whether it exists or not). But when I seek out the good, the pure, the lovely, the admirable and beautiful, I’ll find it was there all along.

What about you? Pause to consider your relationships. Do you tend to assume the best or the worst in others? How have emotional wounds from your past skewed your perceptions? How might asking God to change your perspective and soften your heart change things? Share your thoughts, feelings, and stories in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other.

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Sometimes it takes losing everything to grab hold of what really matters. 

Women’s ministry leader and Seattle housewife, Alice Goddard, and her successful graphic-designer husband appear to have it all together. Until their credit and debit cards are denied, launching Alice into an investigation that only leads to the discovery of secrets. Meanwhile, her husband is trapped in a downward spiral of lies, shame, and self-destruction. Can they break free from their deception and turn to the only One who can save them? And will it be in time to save their marriage?

Read an excerpt at New Hope Publishers 
View scene location pictures for Breaking Free on Pinterest

Connect with Jennifer

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

God Nudges

Today, guest Jodie Wolfe joins us to 
share about God opportunities. 

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were 
serving the Lord, not people.
Ephesians 6:7 (NIV)

Have you ever had a small child poke you to get your attention? Perhaps they keep prodding and poking you until they have your full focus. My oldest granddaughter had a habit of repeating herself over and over again until she got me to echo back what she had just said. Once I understood and affirmed her with the same information, she could go on to a new topic of discussion. This was a little difficult on the phone, when it was hard to understand her words when she was first learning to speak.

I think God often tries to get our attention like a small child does. He nudges us throughout the day. Write a note. Send a text. Give a hug. Stop by for a visit. Take a break from your work and spend time with your family. We get the message over and over.

At times it's easy to shove those prompts away until 'later', only to find out that we missed out on an opportunity to bless someone. We can be so busy we miss out on the chance to be God's hands and feet. We fail in the assignment He has given us. Our opportunity to serve Him passes us by.

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When we choose to obey, we'll be surprised at how many more nudges the Holy Spirit sends our way. I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss out on serving God and others because I'm too busy. I want to learn to serve Him wholeheartedly and follow those prods He sends my way. 

How about you? Have you followed a God prompt and been able to bless someone? Or have you ever missed an opportunity you regretted?

Jodie Wolfe loves writing stories about feisty heroines and strong, godly heroes. The power of story to influence lives and change hearts is what motivates her to weave tales that tell of the Savior’s faithfulness. Jodie writes for Home School Enrichment magazine and had devotions featured on Christian Devotions. Her first novella, Hearts Tightly Knit will debut on May 2nd. You can find her at her Website or on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Worthwhile Ain't Necessarily Easy or Quick!

Today, guest Lillian Duncan shares 
encouragement in pursuing things that are 

It took me fifteen years to get my first traditional contract. That’s right! Fifteen years! To say I was frustrated would be a bit of an understatement. Especially since, I was firmly convinced God wanted me to be a writer.

If God wanted me to do it, wouldn’t he make it easy?

Absolutely not! Did he make it easy for Mary and Joseph? For Paul? For Noah? For Moses? Just as parents know (or should know) if you make everything too easy for a child, they won’t mature.

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God is our Heavenly Father and he knows what’s best for us, which means that sometimes he’ll give us the miracle. And other times we have to go through the storm.

Worthwhile ain’t necessarily easy or quick!

Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus. And look at all she went through—shunned; humiliated; chased out of her homeland; and she watched her son die on the cross. 

Worthwhile ain’t necessarily easy or quick!

God spoke to Moses. He gave him the assignment of leading the Israelites out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. It took Moses more than forty years, and in the end he didn’t get to go into the Promised Land even though the Israelites did.

Worthwhile ain’t necessarily easy or quick! Life is like that as well. In 2012, I was diagnosed with bilateral brain tumors. As I write this, it’s been almost four years since I was diagnosed. Believe me, it hasn’t been easy or quick.

I’m not going to go into the whole thing, but it’s been a difficult journey. My life took a dramatic turn with the diagnosis and is still topsy-turvy to this day.

One of the Bible verses I’ve repeated over and over as I’ve taken this journey is Romans 8:28. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I don’t know why I got the brain tumors, but I know I’m a stronger person spiritually because of them. And I also think I’m a nicer person, more compassionate to others because of them. So God is working it out for my good!

Worthwhile ain’t necessarily easy or quick!

What in your life has been "not necessarily quick to be worthwhile?"

Lillian Duncan writes stories of faith mingled with murder & mayhem! The type of story she likes to read--fast-paced suspense with a touch or two of romance that demonstrates God's love for us. 

To learn more about Lilllian and her books visit her website: Tiaras and Tennis Shoes 

God still speaks…but are you listening?

As a retired speech-language pathologist, Lillian knows the importance of listening. God can speak to us in many different ways. There may be weirder examples, but God used the hula hoop to teach the author new insights as well as remind her of long-forgotten gems of wisdom that have helped her face adversity.

In 2012, she was diagnosed with bilateral brain tumors. Fortunately they were benign, but as she likes to say, there are two definitions for benign. One being non-cancerous, the other meaning harmless—which her brain tumors definitely are not!

Her life took a dramatic turn with the diagnosis and is still topsy-turvy to this day. Life isn’t always easy, but there is always hope because God doesn’t leave us alone in our battles.

God still speaks and he can use the oddest things to do so—even a hula hoop!

Get your copy on Amazon 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Gifted Steward

Today, author Ralene Burke shares some 
encouragement on stewarding your God-given gift. 

Many of my novels deal with God using ordinary people in extraordinary ways. I believe that many people sell themselves short–or rather sell God short. In the Bible, over and over again, God uses ordinary people. Moses had a speech impediment and self-esteem issues, David was a shepherd boy, Paul persecuted Christians in the early church–yet God worked miracles in their lives, and they followed His lead. Look what He did with them! Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, David was the first king of Israel, and Paul became one of the greatest apostles.

Each person is given a gift to minister to the whole of God’s people. This is not meant to be a controversial statement about spiritual gifts, but simply a fact. No matter who we are, when we become believers, at the very least we are called to serve as Jesus served. We’re given the capacity to have compassion and to serve those around us.

And each person is a steward of that gift. A steward is a manager or trustee of something. In most cases, it is someone in charge of management and provisions of a large household. These people had access to (some of) their employer’s money, they had their employer’s trust to run the household efficiently. And so we are expected to do the same with the gifts God gives us.

And like in the parable of the faithful servant, when we use our gift(s) to God’s glory, we are rewarded with more of the gift. Using our gift is much like using a muscle. When we use a muscle regularly, it builds itself up, becomes strong. But when we don’t, it becomes flaccid and useless. Our gifts work the same way.

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Be not afraid of the gifts God has given you. He has a plan and purpose for everything. It may not seem safe or comfortable, but hey, we weren’t guaranteed a safe and comfortable life. In fact, Jesus tells us we will NOT be safe or comfortable. We will be persecuted. People will not like us. Still, God calls us. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. Col. 3:23

God has given me the gift of writing, and it is my honor and duty to use that to bring glory to Him. The more I leave up to God, the more I’m excited to see where He takes me on this journey. As much as I hope that readers benefit from my stories in many ways, I find that I am the one that learns so much more.

What about you? Do you find that as you 
steward God's gift to bless others, 
you are blessed as well?

About my guest today: 
Whether she is wielding a fantasy writer’s pen or a freelance editor’s sword, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to make it SHINE! She has worked for a variety of groups/companies, including Realm Makers, The Christian PEN, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, and as an editor for a number of freelance clients. Her first novel, Bellanok, is being published as a 4-part serial on Amazon!

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .

Connect with Ralene:
Facebook    Twitter    Website  

Bellanok: A Reluctant Savior
Bellanok is a haven for myths and legends . . . until evil discovers a way in. Now the fairy queen, Fauna, must journey from the island realm to the modern world to find the man the Creator appointed to save their kingdom. A man she has been dreaming of her whole life. 

Brian is a down-on-his-luck pastor on the verge of giving up on God. He’s tired and frustrated–a failure. No sooner does he make a decision that jeopardizes his career than an unusual blonde woman shows up and tries to convince him he is some kind of savior. 

Fauna must open Brian’s eyes to a different reality, and Brian needs to embrace the haven’s secrets. If neither of them succeeds, Bellanok will succumb to evil and the world will lose all trace of innocence.

Get your copy now: 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Author Spotlight: Jeanie Jacobson

To keep with my theme of eliminating stuff (Join my book club here to learn more.) I invited a friend of mine, Jeanie Jacobson, author of Fast Fixes for the Christian Pack-Rat, to share a few thoughts on the matter.

Sometimes navigating our homes resembles a journey through the Mountains of Messiness. We detour around the Laundry Foothills, dodge paper-pile avalanches, and sidestep mountain-goat-sized jumble heaps.

Traversing these trails can reveal a spiritual truth: External clutter often reflects internal clutter. Parents of small children, please don’t launch those Cheerios catapults at me. A quiver full of tots is a blessing that entitles you to a “Don’t Judge My Mess” card. But for many of us, a chaotic home reflects an overstuffed life. 

There’s always one more item on our to-do lists. One more email to answer, meal to cook, bill to pay, child to tend, and meeting to attend. We attack our tasks with the speed of a pouncing puma, but never catch up. So how do we find time and energy to declutter our homes—and lives? Outward changes begin with inward ones.

In my book, Fast Fixes for the Christian Pack-Rat, I suggest a One Item Method for overwhelmed people. Pick up one thing. Throw it away, give it away, or put it away. The same principle applies to demolishing “spiritual clutter.”

What to throw away:
“Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm.” Psalm 37:8
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” 
Ephesians 4:32
“Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” Hebrews 12:15

What to give away:
“God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7
“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” Matthew 5:44
“You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” Luke 6:36

What to put away . . . in our hearts:
“. . . The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16 
“I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.” Psalm 63:4
Time in God’s Word 
“I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.” Psalm 119:15-16

Spending intimate time with God annihilates spiritual clutter.
When I spend “God time” first thing in the morning, He sets my day in a miracle Rubber Band Time Stretcher. My other tasks fall into place, flowing like a smooth mountain stream. When I neglect meeting God, my day crashes like a waterfall-heaved boulder. Forget about ascending the Peaks of Perfection, that mythical land of pristine carpets, sparkling windows, and surgically sanitized bathrooms. Put God first and watch internal clutter disappear. Your household clutter just might follow. 

I'd love to hear from you. Are you ready to grab God’s hand and traverse the path to a simplified life? 

Do you have any questions? I’m happy to share tips to clear out both spiritual and household clutter.

Jeanie Jacobson is on the leadership team of the Wordsowers Christian Writers Group. She's involved in various ministries at her church, Bible Truth Ministries, including the praise dance team. She married the only perfect man in the universe, and loves spending time with family and friends, reading, hiking, and gardening.

Connect with Jeanie
     Website    Facebook   

Jeanie’s book, Fast Fixes for the Christian Pack-Rat, offers realistic clutter-conquering solutions sprinkled with generous doses of humor and scriptural encouragement. Find a method to fit your schedule, personality, and energy level.

Get your copy on Amazon 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Author News and Notes

It's not too late to join the Growing Faith Book Club Facebook Group. Our March selection is: Clutter Free by Kathi Lipp. If you want a little help simplifying you're life, you're bound to get a lot our of this book! If you would like to join us, get your copy of the book, then come on over and join us. 

Have a blessed, beautiful week in the Lord! And I appreciate your continued prayers. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Live to Bring Glory to God

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse 
you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify 
God on the day he visits us. I Peter 2:12 (NIV)

How do we live in such a way so as to glorify God?

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. (emphasis mine) Titus 2:3-5 (NIV)

You can read this verse in context on Bible Study Tools

The word malign is translated slandered in the HCSB, dishonored in the NASB, and blasphemed in the KJV. According to Strong’s concordance, the Greek word is blasphemeo and means “speak evil against, blaspheme, use abusive or scurrilous language about (God or men)”.

Before anyone gets up in arms about what it means for women to be submissive or the idea of women being homemakers, let’s focus on this point: the author is encouraging Christians to live in a way that would not dishonor the gospel.

If the above matters raise our hackles, go to God and pray about it. But for the purpose of this blog post, I hope we can agree on one thing: the way we live will either honor God, or dishonor Him.

The way we live will either honor God, 
or dishonor Him. Click to Tweet 

Consider Christians suffering persecution from Bible times to our current day. They lived in such a way that others chose to follow Jesus EVEN IF it meant they would also suffer persecution.

What was it about their living that had such an impact? I am going out on a limb and say that if those Christians’ lives were no different than the pagans, the pagans would have had no interest in dying for Jesus.

If following Jesus doesn’t give a person hope in the face of suffering, if following Jesus doesn’t make a difference in how we respond to authority, if following Jesus doesn’t bring freedom from bondage, if following Jesus doesn’t, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, change lives, then what would draw them to follow someone they had never met themselves?

Scripture is full of instructions for living such a life. Now keep in mind, that our salvation is by grace. By our faith in Jesus Christ. However, the Bible is also clear, that if we are saved, we will live a life that is different. To many, that looks too much like works. But it is clearly in scripture. The problem arises when we start trusting in those works to get us into heaven. Think of living life differently as a response of gratitude for all that God has done for us! A way to bring God honor and glory!

I leave you with two questions and ask myself the same.

Would those watching you be willing to die for the same thing you believe in? If not, what do you need to do differently? 
By the power of the Holy Spirit we can!

Today, I'm linking up at:
A Little R & R
Click the image to check out some other great blog posts.