Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Indivisible: How My Husband's Love Revealed God's Heart

by Rachel Scott McDaniel

When I was young, if I misbehaved my punishment wasn’t a time-out session, it wasn’t a spanking, but three words that knocked me harder than any whoopin’ could.

You disappointed me.

Again and again. Over and over. Those words were pounded into me.

You disappointed me.

The power of this statement gained ascendancy in my reasoning. I know this was only intended to be my punishment—to steer me away from wrong-doing—but the way my personality is, it allowed those words to sink in and root into my core until it became my mantra not to disappoint anyone. Ever.

Can you see how ridiculous that sounds? And impossible?

So in high school, if I was in softball, I had to be the pitcher. If I was in the musical, I had to be the lead. Same with cheerleading, show choir, class officer and the many other activities I’ve involved myself in. Not because I wanted to be “in the spotlight” but because I felt compelled to be the best. Performance. If I worked really hard and made my way to the front, then I’d earn approval. I’d gain love. There is so much wrongness in this. It was a tainted view based on a wrong perception of love.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Indivisible: Am I Saved? How Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

by Jerusha Agen

Spencer’s face crumpled as tears came to his eyes and he ran from the room.

I sat in the tiny space used for our fifth grade class at church, too stunned to say anything to my best friend, the only other kid in the class of three. Guilt, horror, and fear pumped through my body.

My friend had made an unkind remark about Spencer, a boy we thought not quite as “cool” as ourselves, when we thought we were alone.

What we didn’t realize was that our classmate had returned just then, poised outside the doorway in time to hear my friend’s joke at his expense. As Spencer fled, shouting that he was going to tell our teacher, I sat in perfect outward calm, panicking on the inside.

I was what people often term a “good girl.” Well-trained by my parents and a Christian at an early age, I sinned every day, but usually in the so-called small ways that many people don’t even recognize as registering on the sin scale.

Getting in trouble for ridiculing a kid and making him cry was definitely out of my league.

My heart pounded as I waited for Spencer to return with our teacher. Would the teacher be angry? Far worse, would he tell my parents and I would have to face their judgment?

Then the self-justification started. I hadn’t actually done anything wrong. My friend had made the unkind remark. I’d just sat there. I was innocent.

So skilled was I at justifying myself in my own mind that, by the time Spencer returned with the teacher in tow, I’d cleared myself of any wrongdoing and became angry when the teacher aimed his lecture at me along with my guilty friend.

But fear still churned in my belly when the teacher threatened to tell my parents. Why? Because, deep down, I knew I deserved their judgment. I didn’t have enough fear of their judgment to avoid wrongdoing, but once I committed the wrong and was caught, then fear immediately took hold.

Does this remind you of our relationship with God? I don’t often have enough fear of His judgment to avoid sinning, but once I’ve sinned and been “caught” by the Holy Spirit convicting me, I start to get scared. The Israelites in the Old Testament notoriously did the same thing, frequently disobeying God without fear until they received their just punishment.

But there’s a crucial difference between us and the Israelites.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Indivisible: A Valentine’s Gift for the Shamers and Self-Blamers

by Christina Hubbard

I drive by Massage Envy twice a week. Some days I let myself ogle the purple letters and even indulge myself to look at the hours posted in white on the glass. Gosh, how my shoulders ache. That would be so nice.

I’ve ventured in once or twice after getting permission with a birthday gift card. But I’m a power-through, independent woman. I shake my head. Who am I kidding? I don’t need to be touched. I’ll just envy those who can afford such luxuries. I’m fine. I pull away from my parking spot at the chiropractor’s office, two doors down, where I’ve been getting adjusted for four years, almost weekly. Repression at it’s best.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Indivisible: God's Love Is in the Air (plus, announcing the winner of the first journal)

by Emily Conrad
Indivisible series Gods Love Is in the Air

The air glitters this morning.

The micro-snowflakes may be frost detaching from the bare trees and black roofs. Or perhaps they’ve blown in from some far-off cloud to revel in the sunshine here. Whatever their origin, they catch the sun and flash, so light gravity writes them off.

The glittering air is filled with something other than snowflakes, however.

It’s filled with love. Not the love of men or women, but the love of God.

Perhaps it’s the trite ring of statements like that which has allowed me to gloss over and leave largely unexplored this mystery of the ages.

But the more I study it, the less trite the love of God becomes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Indivisible: Learning to Recognize God's Love in My Cancer Journey

by Robyn Hook

The nurse squeezed my arm before rolling me into the MRI machine. I hadn’t missed the pity in her warm brown eyes. She’d read my chart. Stage 2 breast cancer at 39.

But breast cancer wasn’t a death sentence anymore. Unless my tumor hadn’t responded to the Chemotherapy and God chose not to heal me. Sweat broke out on my brow. The machine clanked over the foam headphones I wore. Soon I would know the answer.

I closed my eyes. Please God. Heal me. Allow me to raise my boys. Be David’s wife.

I swallowed and tried not to move. Or will I be meeting you soon?

Death had become real to me and near. I wanted to understand this God I knew in my heart but couldn’t explain. For months, I’d been studying the nature of God, begging Him to reveal Himself.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Indivisible: Charissa Steyn on Saying Yes to Jesus' Romantic Pursuit of Our Souls

by Emily Conrad and Charissa Steyn

In preparation for doing this series on God’s love, I ordered a 40 Days of Love Letters journal from Art of Adventure. The exercise of carefully reading a passage of Scripture and then writing out a love letter from Jesus to me was so powerful, I immediately knew I not only wanted to use the journal as prep for myself for the series, I wanted it to be a part of the happenings on the blog this month.

Charissa Steyn of Art of Adventure, the journal’s creator, graciously accepted the invite to join us for a Q and A today. And yes, we're giving away one of these lovely journals to someone who comments on this post-keep reading for details!

Thanks for taking the time to join us for the Indivisible series today, Charissa! I’m so excited to have you visit the blog!

What inspired the 40 Days of Love Letters journal?
There were a few things that inspired me to create the 40 Days of Love Letters journal. The first bit of inspiration came from my desire to always be attentive to God’s voice and presence in my life, to be on the lookout for His love letters throughout the day- be it through a verse in the Bible, the encouragement of a friend, a colorful sunset, a hug from my kids, a worship song…He is constantly pursuing us!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Introducing Indivisible: seen, known, and forever loved by a wholehearted God

by Emily Conrad

A novel, a journal, a load of Bible verses, and emails from writer friends. Through all of this and more, God has been nudging me.

Emily, there’s more to this.
Emily, you’re glossing over something.
Emily, pay attention to this.
Emily, you don’t really know what you think you know, and you haven’t yet fully experienced this.

Again and again until I finally surrendered my attention to this thing He’s been nudging me toward: His love.

I can no longer simply skim over passages like Ephesians 3:18-19, in which Paul prays that we would understand the dimensions of God’s love—how high and wide and deep it is.

I must now ask, What are the dimensions of the love of God? How can we know something that surpasses knowledge? How does God’s love really make a difference in my life?

I can no longer stop puzzling over references to Jesus as a bridegroom and the Bible as a love letter after just a few moments of furrowing my brow.

I must ask, Why do those make me uncomfortable, and is it fair to talk about God’s love that way?

I can no longer imagine I have an adequate understanding of what Paul means in Romans 3:38-39 when he writes that we can’t be separated from the love of God.

I must now ask, What does God’s unconditional love really look like? What did it mean for Him to accept me as His child, and how should that impact my other relationships?

As my curiosity grew, I reached out to others. They added more questions to the pile: Who is this God who loves us so? How can God love and forgive me when I can’t love and forgive myself? Is God’s love similar to the human love I experience, or is it something completely other?

These are ambitious questions, the answers to which I am sure I will not fully understand until Heaven. But nonetheless, God invites us to explore His love, and so, with each post from now through February 28th, explore we will.

After all, February is when we celebrate Valentine's Day. What greater love can we celebrate and enjoy than the love of God?

I am so excited to invite you along for the journey, and I hope you’ll follow along!

Here’s a glimpse of what’s in store:
  • 40 Days of Love Letters journals giveaways - I teamed up with Charissa Steyn and we're giving away a total of 4 of these lovely journals this month. 
    • 2 will be given away on the blog--watch the posts this month for your chance to win them by commenting. (When these giveaways happen, they'll be open to US residents only. Winners will be picked randomly one week later. I'll make the announcement on the blog, and the winner will need to contact me with their mailing address within a week.)
    • 2 will be given to email subscribers. Subscribe to my newsletter or blog to be entered for these. (US residents only. Winners will be randomly picked on 3/1 from all current subscribers at that time and notified via email.)
  • Q and A with Charissa Steyn of Art of Adventure 
  • Guest posts from 5 talented writers I'm oh-so excited about: Robyn Hook, Rachel Scott McDaniel, Christina Hubbard, Jerusha Agen, and Allie Crume.  
  • Reflections on some of what I've been learning about God’s love
The best way to be sure you don't miss anything is to subscribe to the blog via email--as a bonus, subscribers get a free short story about beauty, scars, and love titled "A Thing of Beauty." There's a sign up box in the upper right of this blog, or you can go here.

To kick things off, I've written a new short story, "Thirty-One and Falling." You don't have to be a subscriber to get this one, so if you like it, feel free to share the link!

More than ten years ago, a disastrous relationship froze Sarah Jordan into a life of shame and consequences. With no interest in another romantic foray, she's looking forward to Valentine's Day as a special date night with her son, Peter. Peter's plans for the night, however, inadvertently force Sarah to question the beliefs she's lived by face the past, romance, and everything she believes about God's love and willingness to forgive.

Refusing to let heartbreak define him, Luke Carter takes a chance on pursuing Sarah Jordan, but to thaw her opinion of romance, he must first find a way to She makes it very clear, however, that a man's attention isn't going to thaw her opinion of romance. God's love just might, if only Luke could figure out how to show it to her.

Download your free copy here.

I can't tell you how much I've been looking forward to this series! As I worked on it a little bit at a time over the last month or so, more and more has fallen into place, and I truly believe God has great things in store for us this month.

At the start of this post, I mentioned I felt God nudging me toward this theme through a variety of channels--a novel, a journal, Bible verses, discussions with friends. What in your life has given you just a glimpse of God's love for you?

Indivisible: seen, known, and forever loved by a wholehearted God + free Valentine's story via @novelwritergirl