Creating a Culture of Grace

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 1 John 4:18 NASB

Our response to other people’s failures and mistakes matter. A lot.

Our daughter has always been the type who longs to please. She hungers to know her father and I are proud of her, and at times, this heightens into an unhealthy fear of displeasing us. When she was younger, I often told her, “I almost want you to fail in this, so that you can see failure isn’t the end of the world.”

Mostly, I wanted her to experience grace and learn to live in it.

Grace isn’t overlooking sin or acting as if it’s acceptable, nor is it diminishing its effects. Grace says: I know you messed up here, and that stinks. But your actions won’t push me away. Instead, they motivate me to draw closer. Because I know you can do better. I believe you will do better, and I’ll be walking beside you each step of the way.”

Fear paralyzes, but Scripture says perfect love casts out fear.

Let me play on those words a bit. We all fear that we’ll be cast out. That others will reject us when we fail. But love draws near. If I instill nothing else into our daughter’s heart, I want it to be this: my love will always remain. No matter what.

Imagine our relationships, our churches and Bible study groups, if we learned to communicate grace-based love, not just with our words, but more importantly, with our actions and reactions. How can we create a culture of grace in our churches?

Understand failure will occur. We’re all in a process of growing. We know this intellectually, but it’s easy to forget when someone behaves badly.

Often, when I disciplined our daughter when she was growing up, I’d say, “You’re supposed to mess up. You’re a kid. That’s why God gave you parents.” That didn’t mean I condoned or ignored her behavior. It meant I saw it through a grace-and-growth-based lens. Paul put it this way to the relatively new believers in Philippi: “[I am] confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).

Prioritize relationships above behavior, mistakes, and incidents. We need to keep the end goal in mind: working toward the kind of relationships that go beyond the superficial. One bad incident does not a relationship make. The challenges that inevitably come can actually be relationship builders, if we work through them together with an attitude of grace.

Jesus offered Himself. Completely. When He met a tax collector who’d swindled money from others, He didn’t list all the man’s sins. Instead, He drew the man close, saying, “Come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5, NIV).

We forgive because of what Jesus has forgiven in us. When healthy and filled with grace, relationships give others a safe place to land, an opportunity to come clean with themselves and others, and grow from the experience.

Deal with things as they come then move on. When our daughter was a teenager, she and I went through a “passive-aggressive” phase where we routinely threw snarky comments at one another. Whenever we took the effort to unpack these interactions, we learned one of us had spoken out of hurt or fear. Watch others, or even better, analyze yourself, and I suspect you’ll discover the same.

Usually, passive-aggressive behavior stems from aversion to conflict, yet that is precisely where it leads—to ongoing, unresolved conflict. We discovered how important, how healing and powerful it can be to simply state our feelings and concerns. This allowed us to get to the real issue, which so often wasn’t what originally presented. It gave us the ability to move on, grudge and hostility-free.

I’ll never love others as Christ loves me. But I want to grow in this area. I want to create a culture of grace, where relationships are prioritized over mistakes and poor behavior and growth is valued above perfection.

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Creating a Culture of Grace – insight from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer Slattery

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Restoring Her Faith and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.

Hometown HealingShe’s home again, but not for long…
unless this cowboy recaptures her heart…

Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good?

Join the conversation: When has someone extended grace to you? How did it affect the outcome of your failure?

 

When You Feel Alone and Afraid

by Erica Wiggenhorn @EricaWiggenhorn

And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.   Luke 1:36-37 ESV 

When our daughter’s birth mother tenderly placed Eliana in my arms and said, “I want to be the first one to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day,” I sobbed with joy. After ten years of waiting to be called “Mama,” I was completely undone. As I carried our beautiful gift out of that hospital room, suddenly fear swept over me. Would I be a good enough mother? Who was I to deserve such a gift? This precious baby girl entrusted to me?

While I had no doubt the gift of motherhood had been given to me by God Himself, I also knew I was going to need help and support to fulfill this incredible call of motherhood upon my life. I couldn’t do this alone.

Can you imagine how Mary felt with the mighty archangel Gabriel standing before her delivering strange and miraculous news? Mary, you will give birth to the Son of God! As quickly as the joy of such an incredible announcement swept over her, fear certainly followed with equal force.  Mary, a young teen from a tiny village in Galilee, somehow had found favor with God to raise the most important child in human history.

Who could she talk to about this? God knew Mary needed help and support to fulfill the call He had upon her life, so He made certain Gabriel informed her about her cousin Elizabeth’s own miraculous pregnancy.

As she traveled down from Galilee to Elizabeth’s home, the reality of her situation surely began to sink in. What would Joseph say? Would he divorce her? Would her parents believe her? Pregnant, by God? Who on earth would believe such a tale? Nazareth was a small village, estimated to be anywhere from 500 to 1500 people- her story would be the talk of the town. Her family would be shamed.

Mary desperately needed affirmation and encouragement from the older, wiser Elizabeth. Suffering through years of barrenness, a condition in those days thought to be a punishment from God, Elizabeth also knew full well what it meant to live in shame and reproach among the women in her village. She understood first-hand the judgment and rejection Mary would face.

Mary needed to know she wasn’t alone in this, humanly speaking. She had Elizabeth, who believed in her, accepted her and rejoiced with her at the work of God in her life. Oh, how greatly we all need an Elizabeth, don’t we?

A mentor.

A confidante.

A co-laborer in ministry: whether it is in our home or elsewhere.

Someone who believes in us when we stop believing in ourselves.

Someone who can remind us what God promised in our darkest hours.

What is a circumstance in your life in which you feel alone or afraid? Who do you know who is going through a difficult circumstance who could use some encouragement? It takes courage to ask for help as well as offer it to others. In God’s beautiful design, He sends others into our lives to come alongside of us to help navigate whatever situation, season or circumstance we are facing.

He also calls us to come alongside of others. Ask God to open your eyes to those around you with whom He is encouraging you to connect. When you feel alone and afraid, ask God to send you an Elizabeth and while on your way, look for a Mary. We are all in this together, and God is for us.

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When You Feel Alone and Afraid – insight from @EricaWiggenhorn on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

erica wiggenhornAbout the author: Erica Wiggenhorn is the founder of Every Life Ministries, bringing you the truth of Scripture to transform your life. She is the author of the Unexplainable Bible Study series from Moody Publishers, including live teaching sessions available via DVD sets or digital downloads. Erica regularly speaks on a variety of biblically based topics and hosts a YouTube series entitled Unexplainable Stories of Hope and Healing. You can connect with Erica and learn more about her studies and ministry at www.EricaWiggenhorn.com.

Erica’s Bible study, The Unexplainable Church, explores the explosive beginnings of God’s Church. The early church didn’t grow because Peter and Paul were so amazing, but because average people were transformed by God and brought together in His work. This 10-week inductive study of Acts 13–28 will sweep readers into the great drama of the Kingdom, inspiring them to live together in the power of the Spirit and accomplish what could never be done alone.

Join the conversation: Are you in a mentoring relationship? What benefits have you experienced as a result?

A New House Is Like the Body of Christ

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.                                                                              Ephesians 5:25-27 NASB

Every time I walk into the master closet of our new home, I’m reminded of the significance of our individual actions within the Body of Christ and in ministry. On the carpet of that closet is a deep stain the carpet cleaners have attempted to eliminate three times—at the builder’s expense. We know how it got there: when the tile around the toilet had to be replaced, the workers removed the toilet and dragged it onto the closet carpet.

At the final inspection of our new home, the customer service man added to his list, “Clean closet carpet,” so we assumed the stain would soon be gone. But it’s still there and the carpet will most likely have to be replaced—at the builder’s expense.

Many other things have needed to be fixed—many of them needed repairs because the original worker was sloppy or didn’t care about the work he left behind. That reminds me how our negative actions within the Body of Christ can have the same effect.

The Church is full of people who can be sloppy in their interactions with each other. When we make unwise choices, we can be tempted to think, “Well, this won’t matter. Who will care?” Some leave the kind of destruction their wake that will eventually require someone else to deal with the mess. Maybe that’s what the tile worker thought as he dragged the toilet along the carpet: “Someone will just clean it up. No big deal.”

The reality is, every member of the body of Christ is imperfect. We tend to promote our own self-interests rather than look to the interests of others. We are insensitive and cause hurt with careless or thoughtless words. We nurture the offenses we have experienced, allowing bitterness to creep into our hearts rather than extend forgiveness and grace. Perhaps worst of all, we are tempted to judge others when they fail to act in ways that we feel are wise or spiritual.

And so, with so many flawed people meeting in one group, church life can get messy at times. And those mistakes, purposeful or unintended, leave stains behind, all-too-evident reminders written on the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Even when we may manage to avoid the fruit of our mistakes—like the man who put the toilet on the closet carpet—others will suffer the consequences.

How can we turn our fellowship around to reflect Jesus? How can we stop the hurt and the strife?

It all comes down to one important truth: Jesus sacrificed His life to pay for those very sins. Paul tells us that “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27 NASB, my emphasis added).

As our builder will have to pay the price for his thoughtless workman, God has already paid an extravagant price for our “repair.” The messy stains on our hearts, created by our sin, have already been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. We wear the righteousness of Christ, not because of anything we have done, but because of the grace of God. Every one of us is a sinner saved by grace.

Knowing that truth can go a long way to transforming our relationships with each other.

We will allow the abundant love and grace so abundantly given to us to spill over into the lives of others. Knowing how patiently God works with us will inspire us to do the same for them. In response to His love, we will value others because He values them. Out of deep gratitude, we will be motivated to honor and represent Him in our choices.

And those godly actions will transform fellowship within the body as God is glorified.

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A New House Is Like the Body of Christ – insight from @KathyCMiller on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy C MillerAbout the author: Kathy Collard Miller loves to encourage women to know who they are in Christ and about the incredible attributes of God. Kathy loves to travel, so she is grateful to have spoken in eight foreign countries as well as traveled to many others. She has spoken at women’s retreats in 35 states. She is the author of 55 books.

Her latest latest release is , Heart Wisdom, a part of her women’s Daughters of the King Bible study series. Heart Wisdom includes ten lessons about the different topics included in The Proverbs, and is perfect for individual or group study. Reach Kathy at www.KathyCollardMiller.com

Battling the Ache of Loneliness

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them … But for Adam no suitable helper was found.  Genesis 2:19-20 NIV

I was painfully lonely my first year of marriage. Though my husband and I interacted often, I also spent a good deal of time alone. My husband was my only source of companionship. For me, it was not enough.

I was a relatively recent Nebraskan transplant surrounded by cornfields and neighbors I didn’t know. My heart cried out for deep and authentic community. Unfortunately, I sought it out in unhealthy ways. I began going to bars, where shallow friendships formed quickly and easily over beer and cocktails. Relationships that dulled my ache in the moment but failed to provide authentic connection.

I didn’t understand my need was God-given, and as such, would be met by Him. As a result, I attempted fill my longing apart from Him.

Genesis tells us about the beginning of creation. God formed the first human, Adam, from the dust of the ground, placed him in paradise, and surrounded him with everything he could need. Everything that is, except for what his heart ached for most—relationship.

One by one, God brought the animals to Adam to name. The birds amused and entertained but couldn’t participate in intellectually stimulating conversations. The horse endeared but couldn’t converse. The dog was loyal but couldn’t share dreams for tomorrow.

Through a seemingly methodical assignment, God revealed then heightened Adam’s need. So that He alone could fill it, which He did when He created Adam’s “helpmate” Eve.

He wants to do the same for us. When loneliness hits, it can be tempting to fill that void through unhealthy and perhaps even morally compromising relationships. But God invites us to surrender our emotional needs to Him, trusting He’ll fill them in His way and His timing.  Our role is to come to God and follow His lead. His role is to provide.

In my situation, that meant analyzing myself first in light of God’s truth. Scripture encourages us to love others well, to practice forgiveness, to make allowances for other’s faults, and to diligently pursue reconciliation. As I began to seek God’s will for my marriage, I came to realize that all my sinful attitudes and behaviors were creating barriers between my husband and me. More than that, I realized I needed God’s help—His power working in me—to change.

I shifted my efforts from trying to change my husband to praying for his heart, mine, and that our two broken and sinful hearts would heal and blend.

God was faithful. It’s been over two decades since I first surrendered my heart, my needs, and my marriage to Christ, and I’m in awe of all God’s done. He melded two fighting, distrustful, wounded adults into a united, intimate example of love.

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God has the answer for that ache of loneliness we sometimes battle – @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, speaker, and the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries. She writes for Crosswalk, is the author of eight contemporary novels, and helped write Wholly Loved’s Bible study based on the life of Sarai (Gen. 12-23) titled Becoming His Princess, releasing in the spring/summer of 2019. When not writing, Dancing in the Rain by [Rife, Eileen, Slattery, Jennifer]reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall outings with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband. Visit her online at jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com.

Join the conversation: Can you remember a time when God provided a needed relationship for you?

When Crickets Chirp & God Still Shows Up

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

For everything you can name, I’m pretty sure there’s an official phobia listed for it. If you’re afraid of phobias, would you be considered a phob-a-phobe? I’m not sure how true it is, but it’s noted in several places that there are surveys showing the fear of public speaking (glossophobia) and the fear of dying (necrophobia) at the top of people’s lists of most dreaded fears. In that order even.

As a public speaker—and one who is often billed as a humorist—I think tops on my list would be “necro-glosso-phobia.” Fear of death while speaking. Okay yes, I made that one up. But I’ve experienced it on a figurative level once or twice. Frightening.

One of those events particularly sticks in my mind. I was delivering what I considered some of my most rip-roaring material when…it happened:  nothing. A whole big lot of nothing. Hardly a snicker. I think I heard crickets chirping. Kind of a slow death, speaker-wise. The Bible says that laughter is like medicine. I’m telling you, this had to be the control group. Placebos for everyone!

After I spoke, a lady came up to me with a completely lifeless face. Truly lifeless. Without an ounce of expression, she monotoned, “I have never laughed so hard in all my life.” She didn’t crack a smile even then. It was so hilariously strange.

Here’s hoping we always look “alive” to the world. Know what “alive” looks like? It looks like love. 1 John 3:14 (NIV) says, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.”

We have passed from death into life—heavy on the life! We need to pass it on. Others can’t see our redemption unless we live it out. And love it out.

It’s not a new message, but it’s one we need to hear often. We read in the same passage, “This is the message you heard from the beginning:  We should love one another,” (1 John 3:11 NIV). So how do we know exactly what that kind of love looks like? The same chapter gives us that, too:  “This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (verse 16).

Real love sacrifices. The Jesus kind of love is a love that surrenders in humility. It’s a love that endures beyond the very worst offenses. When Jesus was asked which commandment in the law was greatest, He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV). A right-to-the-heart-and-soul kind of love. Being a follower of Christ means we love Him with everything we’ve got, and we love others in His name with the same enthusiasm. It’s our focus. Because it’s God’s focus.

Here’s hoping that if I’m asked to lay aside my rights, my fears, my possessions, my pride, even my very life for another, I’ll give the right response. No silence. No crickets chirping. Just love. Giving sacrificial love to a heartsick world that doesn’t know the love and joy of Jesus is the best medicine we can offer. And that, my friends, is no placebo.

… walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.  Ephesians 5:2 NASB

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When Crickets Chirp & God Still Shows Up – @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown, mostly-coffee-drinking children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: In what ways have you been able to love like Jesus loves?

Romancing the Empty Nest

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Everyone said I’d hate this phase. That I’d grow listless, depressed. Perhaps even lose my sense of identity.

That, after eighteen years of parenting, when our daughter moved out, my world would shift so dramatically, I’d flounder and fidget and mope. And maybe buy an obscene number of cats. Or chocolate.

The latter part might be true, but I no longer have to hide in the pantry to enjoy it. In fact, I can have ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, if I choose. We can eat reclined on the couch, or go out, or do whatever else dating folks do, because in a way, it feels as if that’s what we’ve become—the dating couple. Or maybe the newlyweds, only better, because we have twenty plus years of pushing through the hard.

That kind of love doesn’t come easy, and it doesn’t come over night, but once it comes, man is it sweet. And I’ve determined to enjoy every silly, giggly, slightly-cheesy drop in this new life stage.

A couple months ago, my husband and I cleared our schedule, left all the boring aspects of our marriage, like laundry and cooking, behind for a weekend, and took off for the windy city. We chose not to rent a car and would instead travel wherever we wanted to go, whenever we wanted to get there, by foot.

It’d be so romantic. We’d stroll hand in hand through the art museum, watch the Cubbies land a win from our rooftop seats across the street, and we’d end our weekend with the best, gluten free dessert imaginable!

It rained. And not just a little. I’m talking near-Noah caliber. The Cubs game was canceled, and that rooftop experience we’d paid so much money for was filled with loud, beer-sloshing drunks.

We didn’t get to do anything we planned. Except eat. We did a lot of that. And I suppose, sitting in a busy coffee shop watching the sky quite literally “rain on our parade,” I could’ve been upset. Could’ve made us both miserable in fact.

Instead, we chose to enjoy our time together, to focus on every blessing, and celebrate all the ways God has transformed and strengthened our marriage over the years. We chose, as best as we could, to express the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends” (ESV).

Love is patient, longsuffering. It bears all things, including disappointments, a change of plans, and the occasional downpour. It’s not irritable. Instead, it rejoices and celebrates everything good and pure.

But most importantly, love never ends.

I learned something early on in our marriage, something that’s carried me through countless moves, disrupted plans, and canceled events—life, and romance, are what I make them. As fun as the Cubbies and museum would’ve been, those things have nothing on my man. And when it was all said and done, I got to spend two full days and nights with my hero, God’s gift to me.

Perhaps this applies to empty nesting as well. Life is always changing, and our roles will constantly shift, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. To the contrary—our next role or mishap or season could be the most romantic yet!

TWEETABLE
Romancing the #emptynest – #encouragement from author @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet) 

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the authorJennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE to stay up to date with her future appearances, projects, and releases. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Join the conversation: What blessings have you received in your stage of a relationship?

When Comparison Causes Me to Doubt My Worth

by Kristine Brown

I shouldn’t have come, I thought. I scanned the crowded room, searching for a familiar face. I took an awkward side-step out of the way as a group of giggling girlfriends came toward me. A quick glance at the door told me I might be able to exit without anyone noticing. But before I could make a getaway, the host intercepted and led me to an empty table.

Enthusiasm filled the air, but to me it felt as distant as the ladies laughing and joking with each other. In the midst of all the hugs, selfies, and squeals of new friendships forming, I couldn’t help but feel something missing. Like they all had something I didn’t – companionship, belonging. And with every pang of longing, I felt the voice of comparison growing louder and louder. Before I realized it, my compulsion to compare had me questioning my worth.

A woman in Scripture named Leah knew a thing or two about comparison. From the first moment we meet her, we get a glimpse of her countenance through the look in her eyes.

“There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes, but Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face,” (Genesis 29:17 NLT).

Leah led a sparkle-free life. Her special qualities were concealed inside. She was just an ordinary girl who didn’t see anything super special about herself.

From where she stood, her sister Rachel seemed to have it all – beauty, her father’s affection, her husband Jacob’s love. When the two sisters were together, heads always turned toward Rachel. Leah had grown used to that, so it didn’t surprise her when Jacob favored her younger sister. And focusing on Rachel only magnified her emptiness.

When we compare, we turn our focus away from God. We let negative self-talk determine our worth. By seeing all she was missing, Leah allowed comparison to steal her shine. But God saw something more. He saw her as the woman He created – real, wonderful, magnificent.

“How magnificent are Your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts” (Psalm 92:5 HCSB).

Leah may have gotten caught up in competition with Rachel, but when she turned her eyes toward God, she discovered her true worth. From Leah’s story, we can learn an important truth.

When we look at ourselves and see mediocre, God looks at us and sees magnificent.

Leah’s story brings hope today. It shows us we’re not alone in the comparison battle. If we will let Him, God will fill the missing pieces in our hearts in the most beautiful ways, just like he did for me that night.

God used a new friend at a simple gathering of women to reach out to this lonely girl. Just as I’d resolved to go hide in the bathroom, a brave young lady joined me at the table. We chatted, we connected, and best of all we found comfort in encouraging one another instead of comparing.

Just like Leah, we too can focus our gaze on God and discover our worth in our Heavenly Father. So let’s silence the voice of comparison today and see ourselves as God sees us. We are valuable. We are loved. We are His magnificent creation.

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!” (Psalm 139:17 NLT).

kristine brownAbout the author: Kristine Brown is a communicator at heart who teaches about God’s powerful, relatable Word. She is the author of Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan and founder of the non-profit organization, More Than Yourself, Inc. You’ll find Kristine’s weekly devotions and Bible study resources at kristinebrown.net. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Join the conversation: What determines how you see yourself? Does it match up with how God sees you?

Photo by Alice Moore on Unsplash

Making New Friends in New Places

by Kathy Howard

Determined to meet my new neighbors, one Sunday afternoon I made a big batch of banana-chocolate chip muffins. Warm muffins would be my offering of friendship, my reason to knock on their door. While the muffins baked, I wrote our name and contact information on little note cards and attached them to the top of the plastic containers.

That afternoon I walked six long driveways. I stood in front of six doors waiting for a neighbor to respond to my knock. But no one answered. Feeling lonely and defeated, I went home, made a cup of coffee, ate two muffins, then stored the rest in the freezer.

A few weeks before that Sunday afternoon, we had moved to a new town. This makes new start number eight. Throughout my husband’s career, his job moved us seven times. Then my husband retired and we moved again. This move may actually be our last.

Moving and starting over can offer wonderful opportunities, but there are also challenges. Making and building new friendships is one of them. Thankfully, some of my other efforts to meet new people and make new friends have turned out better than the muffin fiasco.

Throughout our moves, God has taught me to take the initiative. It’s not that the people around me don’t want my friendship or care that I’m new. Most are simply settled in with a full life and a circle of friends.

I am naturally shy, so reaching out and taking the initiative in new friendships always feels risky – like standing in front of a stranger’s door, smiling at a security camera, warm muffins in hand. Will they open the door? Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.

Yet I continue to take the risk because I’ve experienced the value of friendship. In each place we’ve lived, God has graciously given me beautiful, lasting friendships I still enjoy. But no matter how wonderful these relationships are, I need local friends. I need women in my day-to-day life.

God designed us for relationship – with Him and with others. We not only need Him, we also need other women to encourage, comfort, and challenge us in our daily lives and our walk with Jesus. No matter how independent we are, we really aren’t meant to go it alone.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NIV

We all need a friend to help us up when we fall. Do you have a friend or two to call when you’re on the floor? If not, reach out, take the initiative. Be the friend God can use to bless someone else. I’d be happy to share my muffin recipe with you!

Kathy HowardAbout the author:Struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? Kathy Howard’s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents,explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions for reflection. You can order your copy here

Join the conversation: How do you reach out to make new friends?

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I am Going to Out-Love You!

by Pam Farrel

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.                                                                              Mark 10:45 NASB

Jesus was a good son.  Bill and I recognize a good son, because we enjoy having three good sons.  A good son carries out the will of his father. A good son represents his family well and moves the family legacy forward. Good daughters do the same. Good daughters represent their family well.  We meet people each week and many of them are those who value the heritage that have been handed to them and build upon that solid foundation.

Within minutes of meeting John and Barb, we knew they had an unusual love. Barb found it easy to gush about how blessed and fortunate she found it to be married to John. John found it easy to compliment a wife he so obviously cherished. They have been married about the same amount of time as Bill and I, for over three decades! When I asked Barb the secret of their long lasting love, she said, “My husband forgives easily. He is full of grace, mercy and forgiveness.”

When we asked John the same question, his reply was similar, “My wife knows how to keep giving love when people are hard to love. She loves unconditionally and tenaciously.”  Notice it is really just two sides of the same coin: he loves without limits and she is limitless in her love.

They are the owners of Morning Star Dairy. They live in the home where John was raised. John had the privilege of watching his parents live a life of love. Love is a rich heritage on Morning Star Dairy.  John describes his mother as a saint who loved lavishly, never uttered a harsh word, and had a servant’s heart. Her heart of love was often expressed toward her husband as she darted about the kitchen waiting on him with an affectionately, “On the way, Daddy Baby”.

And that legacy of love continues as one will sometimes hear Barb call John, “Daddy” and with a twinkle in his eye and sheepish grin he will tease back, “That’s Daddy BABY to you.”

How does one go about building a legacy of love that passes from generation to generation? Follow John and Barb’s pattern and the example they followed in their parents and simply out-serve each another.

Love is an action verb and it is best expressed with a servant’s attitude.  What is a servant’s attitude?  Phil 2: captures it best when it simply says:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant . . .”  (Phil 2:3-7 NIV).

Loving well is simply a matter of maintaining a “you first” attitude toward others. The plus side of having a servant’s attitude is that your children are watching.  Perhaps you will be laying a foundation of a family that all seek to out love the other!

Lord, help me not seek my own interests as the first priority but help me look out for my mate’s needs. Give me your same heart and attitude Jesus.  Help us lay a legacy of love. Amen   

pam ferrelAbout the author: Pam Farrel is the author of 45 books and the Co-Director of Love-Wise.com. She has been seeking to “out love”  her husband, Bill for 38 years of marriage. Discover resources to help you love well at www.Love-Wise.com

Join the conversation: How do you employ a “you first” attitude in your relationships?

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Deep Roots

 by Pam Farrel

You might live in the part of the world known as Tornado Alley. Winds whip through, and trees that have shallow roots are tossed about like toothpicks. But trees with roots deeply embedded into the ground remain firmly anchored in place. It is the deeply rooted trees that survive storm after storm.

God challenges us to have another kind of deep roots:

They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”  Jeremiah 17:8 NIV

Jesus warns of the danger of shallow roots in the famous parable of the seed:

“Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.”  Mark 4:5-6 NIV

This world needs more people, more marriages, and more families with deep spiritual roots. Strong individuals coupled together build strong marriages. Relationships like this provide stability for families, churches, and communities. But deep roots take a little effort to develop.

We run a ministry called Love-Wise, and couples often tell us, “We want a marriage like yours.” So we explain some of the choices we have made to grow a happy marriage. Good training is available through church attendance, a Sunday School class, or a small group where couples meet together to discuss relationships. Other opportunities for growth are in attending marriage conferences, listening to Christian radio, and other forms of media.

But the really rich work God does is in us as individuals. Spending daily time with Him is crucial to getting His guidance in becoming the best partner, parent, and person possible. Deep roots develop when it is just you and God dealing with your life, your relationship, and your heart. A media-only diet is like a tree with shallow roots. One big wind storm comes and it can topple the tree. Or one hot, scorching summer hits and shallow roots dry up and the plant dies. The best fruit, the sweet fruit, comes when the roots of the tree go deep down into the rich soil.

I join the Apostle Paul and pray for each of your marriages:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Eph 3:17-19 NIV)

 Lord, sink our roots deep into You and Your Word. Give us the sweet fruit that comes with deep roots built on the kind of love you can give. 

pam ferrelAbout the author: Pam Farrel is an international speaker, author of 45 books including best selling Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti and A Couple’s Journey with God. She and her husband, Bill, co-direct Love-Wise ministry.

Join the conversation: How have you built up your marriage?

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