Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Garlands of Grace ~ A Guest Post from Dorothy Johnson

…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  Psalm 103:12

I often walk in the cool of the morning when we vacation at the beach. Although the places we go aren’t noted for large shells, I invariably return with a handful of small ones. I love the diversity of designs and find pleasure in even the tiniest specimen.

One morning, I noticed that many of the shells swept in by the tide still held a bit of water that sparkled in the sun. My thoughts turned to God’s promise that when we trust in Jesus, we become vessels of His living water, offering refreshment to others.

However, as I continued on my way, I also saw lots of empty shells. On close examination, I found most had a perfectly round hole that looked as if it had been drilled there. Any water they held when they landed on the beach had quickly drained out. They were lovely, and in some cases, the openings weren’t immediately apparent, but they were still empty.

Just like me sometimes, I thought. Some days I may look pretty good, but it’s as if the enemy of my soul has found my weakest spot and pierced it through ever so precisely. Whatever joy or evidence of God’s presence is there, leaks out before I even leave home.

Next, I noticed a scallop shell with a jagged gap marring its otherwise beautiful exterior. Looks like you’ve had some hard knocks. I know what it’s like to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But you are still lovely. I picked it up and cradled it in my palm.

Before I knew it, I was gathering up all the holey shells in my path because suddenly I was able to see beauty and purpose in each one. I’d string them on a thread or cord to create a garland or necklace.

Isn’t that what our loving Father does with us? He’s just waiting to pick us up, wash us off and restore our souls. He doesn’t disqualify us because of our flaws and failures, past or present. In fact, I believe when we’re most injured by our own foolishness, He treats us with extra-tender care. All He asks is that we admit we need a Savior. When we seek His forgiveness, He makes us perfect in His sight through Jesus Christ.

 I like to think He might add us, one-by-one, to a scarlet cord, creating a beautiful garland to wear over His heart. The strands are never ending.

Bind us together, Lord, with cords of Your love.

Dorothy writes from her home on a ridge overlooking the Arkansas River in Little Rock. She has been involved in women’s ministries for nearly forty years, teaching Bible studies. Her passion is for people, especially women, to understand their value in Jesus.

Connect with Dorothy at her blog:

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bambi and other things that go bump in the night ~ A Guest Post by Jan Dunlap

Perfect love drives out fear …1 John 4:18

Of all the passages from Scripture that I have learned over the years, this piece is perhaps the most troubling for me. It makes me feel inadequate, that somehow I’ve failed in my faith.

The reason for that feeling is the fact that I have an anxiety disorder, and despite all my praying and faith in God, I still experience fear.

Irrational, unreasonable, ridiculous, unexplained, sometimes fleeting, sometimes enduring, fear. If it weren’t so inconvenient (occasionally even paralyzing), it might even be funny.  For example, I won’t drive at night because a deer might dash in front of my car causing me to die in the resulting accident. And while anything is possible, really, what are the odds of that?
Wait a minute. That may not be the best example. I live in Minnesota, after all, and I’ve already had one headlight taken out by an errant Bambi on a dusky road. Odds are slight it will happen again.

The fear that it MIGHT happen again, AND kill me in the process, though, still weighs heavily in favor of my not taking a moonlit drive. Ever.

So, yes, I fear, which according to our letter-writer John, means I am not perfect in love. And that makes me feel guilty.

Double fail. What’s a girl to do?

Here’s my take and I hope it helps you as it has helped me over many a rough wrestle with the Bible: memorizing pieces of Scripture is great for trivia contests, but if you want to really understand what Scripture says, you need to read the whole chapter, if not the whole book.
You don’t read a couple of lines out of the middle of a paragraph in a novel, and decide you’ve got it figured out, do you? Of course not! In the same way, we all need to move beyond the one-liners in Scripture and get the whole story, which in the case of 1 John 4 is about how we know that God loves us. It’s about our relationship with God, NOT about our relationship with jay-walking Bambis, or any other thing that frightens us here on earth. In fact, John’s letter assures us that we don’t have to fear God, because He loves us …perfectly… fears and all. With that bit of information tucked away in our hearts, we know we have nothing to fear from God, and that, in reality, He loves us right through our fears. God is FOR us always…even, and perhaps especially, when we fear.

Now that’s some Good News, wouldn’t you say?

Jan Dunlap has 33 years of experience raising her five children. She is the author of the humorous memoir Saved by Gracie, and the laugh-out-loud Birder Murder Mystery series. Jan lives in Minnesota, where she delights in finding God and laughter in the everyday moments of life to share with her readers and audiences. She welcomes visitors to her website at, her Facebook page at Birder Murder Mama or @BirderMurder on Twitter. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Praying Like a Beggar or a Child? - A Guest Post by Sherri Sand

How often do we shoot spiritual flares of prayer toward heaven the moment our lives take on water like scuttled ships? Too often our prayers lack power because we pray from a place of fear.

Prayer should be a lethal weapon in the hands of a believer; tearing down strongholds, breathing life into dead bones. But too often we plead for our prayers to be answered. That’s the stance of a beggar child rather than a daughter.

What if we truly believed God would never leave us alone and forsaken?

That would be a game changer, wouldn’t it? Instead of shooting prayer toward a distant God in heaven, we turn and have a conversation with the One who adores us. The Friend who is closer than a brother.

Wouldn’t prayer be easier if we knew God’s heart for our challenges? The outcome He wants to achieve? Perhaps instead of going straight to prayer when difficulty arises, we practice declaring His goodness with thanksgiving and praise.

Out loud.

Where the enemy can hear us making a stand. Where we can hear ourselves speaking truth into a difficult circumstance. Where we give our emotions a chance to align themselves with Truth.

Where prayer becomes a relationship instead of a plea.

Where prayer becomes a hunger for more. A hunger for intimacy and connection that leads us to a place of stillness...where we can start listening.

Listening to the One who holds the answers to our every situation.

Or does fear tell us that in the stillness we will hear nothing but our own hearts beating?

Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Perhaps we don’t hear God respond because fear blocks our ears. Fear that we are speaking into a vacuum where our voice echoes back to us.

God waits for us to be still and come to a place of peace. It is in that secret place that He speaks. That understanding comes. Even if it is just: I Am With You.

His voice comes quietly. It may be a word, a thought or a picture that gently floats to mind. Don’t discount what may seem inconsequential. Often he speaks as softly as butterfly wings.

Teaching our hearts to praise him in the midst of difficulty will transform our internal atmosphere into a place of hope and peace, rest and joy. Praise and thankfulness push back the enemy’s lies. It opens up a place for us to listen. To hear God’s voice.

It is from the secret place we pray lethal and effective prayers.

Sherri Sand is an author and speaker. Her unique perspective unlocks truths and biblical mysteries to bring hope to the hurting and peace to the stressed. She desires to lead people into a deeper relationship with God, where living as victorious overcomers becomes the norm rather than an elusive desire. To read her blog and discover more about living in spiritual wholeness and about Sherri’s novel, Leave it to Chance, visit her web site.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Confessions of a Good Girl ~ A Guest Post by Alison Everill

I was a straight arrow. Christian home, Christian school. The works! And I was fairly certain that our car started itself and would’ve driven to church without us had we not piled in it like crazy people every Sunday morning.

Fast forward to last Wednesday night’s home group.  The question was posed:  “When did you first realize that you were totally in love with Jesus?” That was easy for me.  I remember the day He claimed my seven-year old heart. I’ve been crazy about Him ever since.  Even now, the thought of Him makes me want to sing.  It’s just what I do.

My issue has never primarily been about whether or not I loved Him. But I have realized that deep in my heart I struggle with believing that HE really loves ME.  I mean, seriously, why would He?  I might have some “nice church-girl” curb appeal, but deep down I am painfully aware of my wicked heart. (Jeremiah 17:9*)

I grew up being taught at church that God had one plan for you, and if you deviated AT ALL God would say, “Good night, Alison, good work; I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”(C’mon, people. Princess Bride!). Failure = Doomsday. For me, Christianity was this wobbly tight rope that you didn’t dare step a toe off of or you could kiss “God’s Best” for your life goodbye. 

It wasn’t until college that all my perfectionistic dreams of being a super-Christian came crashing down.  Here’s the part where you expect me to say that I sowed some wild oats, or started building a stage-worthy testimony.  I didn’t.  But what I did do was just as sinful. I began to despair and fall into a black place in my heart. I couldn’t keep up.  My sins and failures sneered at me every waking moment, and the more I begged for forgiveness, the deeper in the quagmire of guilt I sank.  I was a Christian. Why couldn’t I live in victory?

One night in my dorm room I was struggling.  I mean, doing the ugly-cry and everything.  I felt like I loved a God that didn’t love me back. I was trying, but I was too sinful for Him to accept me.  Then I heard it.  The voice was gentle, but the words were strong.  “Daughter, you are so ungrateful. When you refuse to accept my forgiveness, wallowing in guilt and despair, you are saying that my death on the cross was not good enough for you.  Would you have me climb up to Calvary again?  I will not do it.  It is finished.”

I was stunned…. broken…. changed.

If you are being bullied by guilt, I lovingly implore you not to take Christ’s sacrifice for you so lightly.  God was “pleased to crush Him” for your sin and mine. (Is. 53:10)  Our forgiveness was so expensive because it purchased peace with God. Live in that victory.  Live holy? Absolutely. Motivated by grateful love, not enslaving guilt.

*Note from Shelley Hendrix: Ezekiel 36:26 
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." As new creations in Christ, made anew, we have been given a new heart in place of the one Jeremiah referenced as being "wicked" and untrustworthy. What a sweet, priceless, matchless gift of God's grace and love! Sister, if you have been made a "new creation," you, too, have a NEW heart!! 

Alison Everill is a pastor’s wife and the joyful mom of 3 boys.  She is also a worship leader, songwriter, vocalist, and speaker who loves to serve the body of Christ by ministering in churches and at ladies events.  Her heart’s desire is to encourage women to embrace lives of worship.

Connect with Alison at:

And meet her at this year's AWAKEN 1-Day Conference on November 8 when she leads our times of worship! has all the info, so make sure to get your tickets TODAY!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

“Life with purpose and grace” ~ A Guest Post by Tammy Trayer

What is a life with purpose and grace?. Well to me, life with purpose and grace is a life filled with focus, faith and a deep love for our heavenly father!
Let's talk first about grace.  Grace is how people see us and sometimes want to have what we have.  NOT in the expensive clothing or material things that you have and not in a perfect body, but a quality of person.  A person so filled with God that they are emanating something that people will desire.  It is hard to fit in and especially today.  My focus as a child was to fit in, as it is for most, but as an adult it is to be happy with myself from the inside out!  If I could share something with my younger self today, that is what I would share.  That it is most important to be true to ourselves and happy with ourselves. I Strive daily to emit and share what I am feeling inside; happiness, comfort, love, hope, extreme faith, respect for myself and a deep admiration for God.
I don't want to be like the Jones's and I don't ever want to feel like I need to fit in with people.  I want to put God first, myself, my family, my job, my friends and in that order I am walking closely with God, taking care of myself spiritually and in health so that I can be a better person and shine to others because of my grace before anything else.
If I am not well I can not be there for my family or others and if I am not spiritually I can not help other and I can not see my purpose which leads us to the next topic of discussion.
Sometimes our hardest struggle is determining our purpose.  The lightbulb will go on for you when you learn to focus, really focus on God and what he is telling you, showing you and opening up to you.  I think what happens is a lot of people are so worried about their purpose that they are not seeing those wonderful and amazing doors opening in front of them.
THEN when you see those doors opening and you take that 1st step when you can't see the rest of the staircase...  This will demonstrate your faith and trust in God.
Combine this deep faith and the grace we discussed above and in my opinion your are like a walking display of God's glory and reflect this energy, beauty and power onto your passers by.  They will want that amazing power that you have, that power from God and God alone!. So shine sister, shine that Grace, Faith, Happiness and purpose in your life and even if at this time you are still searching and looking for your purpose shine and hold tight to God's right hand so he can lead you to and show you your purpose.
I am a God fearing wife, mom, web designer, writer, soon to be author, a butcher, a baker, a soap and candle maker, a huntress, a homesteader, a pioneer, an avid outdoorswoman, a wilderness survivalist, an autism advocate, a gardener, a canner, an apprentice apiary, a forever optimist, a survivor, an embracer of dreams, a lover of traditional and primitive skills and an off-grid simple living girl that requires an IV to the outdoors.....