Modeling Forgiveness

“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

Proverbs 28:13 NIV

Taking

I’ve had an inexplicable lifelong love for paper. In fourth grade when I visited the class box of construction paper, it drew me in. Among the random pieces in the box were a series of strips. My teacher, Miss De Bour, had taken the paper cutter to one end of a package of assorted paper. I wanted them so I took them. I tucked them under my sweater and returned to my desk.

Miss De Bour stood near my desk as the bell rang for recess and placed her hand on my shoulder, pinning me to my seat—the silent signal to remain behind. My heart beat fast as I hoped that this was not about the paper strips. I knew stealing was wrong.

Miss De Bour gently asked what I had underneath my sweater. For a moment, I thought about claiming that my shirt was bunched up. But my conscience prompted me to come clean, and I did.

She didn’t ask why; she didn’t lecture. She smiled with forgiveness and said, “Put the paper back in the box and run out to recess.” Furthermore, she never notified my parents, and my report card did not reflect poor conduct (yes, that used to be measured and reported). She forgave me completely and wiped my slate clean.

Giving

As I sit here years later, I know that Miss De Bour modeled God’s grace to me that day. Our conscience, or if we are a Christ-follower, the Holy Spirit, nudges. When we confess, we find mercy—normally without drama.

God simply forgives and sends us on. Oh, sometimes there are consequences, but God does not lecture us, mark us as a “bad girl” or shout our transgressions to the world. He forgives. He covers our sin with His son’s blood and gives us a fresh slate each time we sin.

This appeared first in the Facebook group Balanced and Beautiful in Christ where I am a regular contributor. Thanks to Jessie Courson for the lovely artwork and to Nicole Williams for her editorial assistance.


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Accountability in Relationship

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

James 5:16 NIV

There was a time when I worked in an abusive workplace environment. Two of my coworkers had personal issues that they made public by targeting other employees in the office. I don’t know why. Maybe they were jealous that other lives were not in melt-down. Or, perhaps the abusers’ personal and work lives were filled with turmoil because of their own attitudes and actions.


At one point, I received an apology from one of these coworkers, but nothing changed. An apology without change is about as powerful as a puff of air. But I get it. I hate admitting I’m wrong. Change is even more difficult.


I’ve given my attitude toward owning my failures a great deal of thought and prayer. Do I fear the consequences, am I resistant to change or do I simply hate appearing flawed?


Despite these facts, I find accountability essential in my life. I need trusted friends who are also Christ-followers in my life. I know that they will love me no matter what and that they are a safe place. We can speak the hard truths to each other without condemnation.

I find accountability essential in my life. I need trusted friends who are also Christ-followers in my life. I know that they will love me no matter what and that they are a safe place. We can speak the hard truths to each other… Click To Tweet


Do you have one or more of those friends? If you don’t, I’d have to ask why not? Starting these relationships is well worth the risk.

And James Says…

In this verse, James is talking about two things, confessing our sins to others and the prayers of the righteous. How are they related?

This verse is talking about confession to fellow believers. Sometimes, the person we need to confess to may have been the very person who wronged us, and we need to forgive. Prayer is essential in these cases. We don’t want to miss out on their “powerful and effective prayers” because we are unwilling to confess our own sin or point out when we believe we have been sinned against.

Why Confess?

Confessing our sins to each other serves several purposes:
• It works humility in us. We have to humble ourselves and admit our sins before others.

• It causes us to practice honesty. Authenticity is one mark of a Christ-follower.

• It helps us practice forgiveness, especially if the sin involves actions toward another. If we need to seek reconciliation, we must live out real change, and not just say we’re sorry.

• It holds us accountable for how we live and treat others.

In our walk through life, we need companions who will pray for us when we can’t pray. We will all have seasons or days when life is just too hard to spend the needed time petitioning for God’s blessing. Perhaps we are very ill or maybe overwhelmed by work. At times, we are too distraught to voice our prayers. We need faithful warriors who will fall to their knees for us.

James tells us prayer is a powerful part of the Christian walk and that prayer for others is an essential part of Christian community. Holding onto sin is not worth the cost of leaving powerful prayer out of our lives.


This post appeared first on the Balanced and Beautiful in Christ Facebook page. Thanks to Jessie Courson for the graphic and to Nicole Williams for her editing assistance. Nicole, you always improve what I write.

Every Tough Season Has A Purpose

“So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.”

Deuteronomy 11:13-15 NIV

I love spring, it’s colors of green and watching for flowers to pop out of the ground. I know for many it’s the season of fresh starts. But it’s not my favorite season. Fall is my favorite.

I have always enjoyed autumn, it’s color and crisp days invigorate me. They remind me of the joy I experienced as I stepped onto the college campus I attended and had the opportunity to soak up new knowledge. That is something that really fills my cup! And for me at that time, it felt like a fresh start. I still experience the thrill of a fresh start each fall. I am currently in the autumn season of my life. To be honest, this season feels like a fresh start for me too.

God blessed me in the spring and summer. He set my feet on solid ground and despite some challenges I thrived. Sometimes the rains were brutal too. I’m so glad that during those days I had a firm foundation under me. I am so grateful that even as a child I had learned the value and the joy of memorizing his word. I walked those paths in the days before Google and a computer in your pocket. Memorized words were of great value to survive the storms that life threw my way. They provided row markers when I was feeling overwhelmed. Pointing me in the right direction.

I loved the summer days too. Days when I had a career that challenged me and served others. I loved my work. However, I worked with some difficult people. And by the time I reached my 60’s I was a bit worn, like your petunias at the end of a long, hot summer.

So, it’s fall. I’m reaping the harvest of all God has sown into my life. He has planted his word. He’s watered my heart and soul with joy and trials, and he’s provided skills I never dreamed that I would need as I embark on a new phase as a writer. If you don’t know, writers must be entrepreneurs too so they can sell their books. But somehow God saw to it that I learned many needed skills.

I love this season! I feel like I’m living on the bounty God has planted deep in my life. I am walking down all sorts of new paths but the truth is I see familiar landmarks all over the place. Like those worn and faded seed packets, I put on stakes at the end of my garden rows to mark them. It may have been so long ago that the skill was developed. It may be many years since the experience that taught me empathy or provided wisdom, but if I look closely I see that many things I thought were rainstorms were really watering the seeds that God laid down long ago. It is a satisfying time of life. That comes a bit unexpected. I didn’t imagine I’d be enjoying it so much. I didn’t dream that God was preparing me for this path, but I am certain that he did. God has kept his promises to me.

Faithful in Joy or Sorrow

“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”

Psalms 126:5-6 NIV

I’ve been battling stick-tight weeds in a flowerbed I neglected through two summers when I was dealing with life’s hard things. But this year, with renewed energy, I attacked the beds.Those sticky little seeds clung to my clothing as I pulled at the weeds. I had to pick them off one-by-one because they could hold on through both the washer and dryer! Why are these things so sticky? It’s all about survival. 

Our Battle

We too must learn to cling tightly in the tough seasons. We must be as tenacious as sticky weeds to make it through the trying days with our faith intact.

I have endured times in my life that were all hard; I don’t remember any redeeming moments. Thankfully, God does not keep us in seasons of despair like a bully who holds your head underwater until you either give in to demands or drown. No, he holds our head above water until we can get our feet under us again. He carries us through lessons and consequences from our own poor decisions. And he carries us through attacks instigated by the enemy. My friend, it’s all about faithfulness—his and ours. 

Although God always displays his faithfulness first, there is still a part of us that wants to rail at our Father during tough days. Perhaps, after we bargain for a reprieve and it doesn’t come, we decide that there is no good place in faith. So, we walk away from the only one who can sustain us through tears and trials. But know this, even as you walk away, he sticks to you out of ferocious love.

But know this, even as you walk away, God sticks to you out of ferocious love. #steepedintheword Click To Tweet

But God

In one particularly hard season for my family, I finally emerged from the pain that had turned to numbness. I lifted my head and looked around. During this and every trial of my faith, God proved faithful. I can see that my heart emerged in a better place than my sisters’ hearts. They had walked a similar path without faith to guide. Now, I look back and I am overcome with gratitude for my Father’s faithfulness. I am glad I serve a stick-tight God.

I am thankful for those sticky seeds planted in my heart. I am thankful for the mentors and teachers who helped plant them. I experienced the value of faith in the fire, which strengthens me for the next hard season. 

We know hard seasons will come. Remember this: if your faith is firm, and the Spirit of God lives in you, there is nothing stickier than our God. And even though you are in over your head, he won’t let you drown.

My relationship with God is tried and true. I do not just hear about his sustaining power; I experience it. These experiences of faithfulness make the next wave easier. 

If you’re enduring a hard season now, look back. Recognize the provision of a stick-tight, never-failing God.


This post appeared first on the Balanced and Beautiful in Christ Facebook page. Thanks to Jessie Courson for the graphic and to Nicole Williams for her editing prowess.

Investing our Time

“‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’”- Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV

I am in a different season of life than many of you, but here’s something life experience has taught me: there are lessons to be learned in every season. I’d like to share with you what I’m learning.

I don’t need all the ‘things’ I thought I did. This has shown up in so many ways. I’m doing daily Facebook lives for another group, some of the same people show up every day. One friend sent a note, “I love seeing what you are wearing every day!” You know what, I counted, and in 19 days I’ve worn a handful of different tops. I never gave a thought to wearing a different top every day. I gravitate towards a few things that I enjoy wearing. I have a washing machine. I need to give away a lot of clothing. I cook with the same small set of my pans and it’s been no hardship at all to donate fabric and thread from my sewing supplies to the mask-making efforts in our community.

I enjoy simple pleasures. I love reading, writing and dabbling in watercolor paints. I like sitting on my deck in the sunshine and studying God’s word. I even like social distancing visits at my daughter’s, where no touching is allowed. We stand on the drive and my teenage grandsons, who are home for a change, join us. I do miss hugs.

God provided a mission for me during this time. I’m retired, no children in our home, and God knew that watching and reading the news was not in my best interest. So…he provided a thought, a push: Share that devotional you loved with others. It’s an older devotional. Out of copyright, so I can. And each day at noon I pour into the lives of others. I’m laying up real treasure there. God is harvesting right before my eyes!

I have no idea what God has asked you to invest your time in during this season. Maybe it’s homemade meals, or family games, or teaching your children. But God has a path of blessing for you, he always does. If you are feeling harried, or bored, or even afraid, ask God, “what is the path for me right now?” It doesn’t have to look big for God to create treasure from your effort. I show up for 15 minutes a day. God shows off with my investment. Plant those tiny seeds. Don’t worry about what you or your children are missing. Look for God in simple things. Invest where he guides. There are lessons and blessings hidden in this season and God longs to reveal them.


This post appeared first on the Balanced and a Beautiful in Christ Facebook group where I write regularly. Thanks to Jessie Courson for the lovely graphic.

Welcome to Isaiah’s Legacy Blog Hop – Stop #2

Blog Tour and Scavenger Hunt
Join the fun February 19-25th!
mesu andrews.com/bff-blog-tour-and-scavenger-hunt

1 Week ~ 24 Blogs ~ 3 Incredible Prizes!

Learn a little about Isaiah’s Legacy and enter multiple giveaways while picking up CLUES at each stop. Compile all the clues, submit the final PHRASE at the last stop, and you’ll be entered to win one of 3 Grand Prizes

Learn a little about Isaiah’s Legacy and enter multiple giveaways while picking up CLUES at each stop. Compile all the clues, submit the final PHRASE at the last stop, and you’ll be entered to win one of 3 Grand… Click To Tweet

What are the prizes? They’re completely unique to the winners! 

Mesu will contact each winner personally to chat about what they would most like to see in Israel, and then she’ll SHOP for just the right gift while touring Israel, March 6-19! She’ll then purchase a personal and memorable gift specifically chosen for each of those three winners and ship them to each one when she returns. How fun is that?!

How does the Scavenger Hunt & Blog Tour Work?

  • Begin at Stop #1. At the end, you’ll find a CLUE and a link to the next stop. Progress to each stop IN ORDER.
  • Collect all the clues—in order—and submit the full phrase at the last blog stop in the Rafflecopter form. Every stop has a clue, so be sure not to skip any along the way!
  • You may enter the final giveaway only once and win only one grand prize. 
  • The Hunt begins 2/19/20 at noon EDT. Deadline for entries is Tuesday, 02/25 at midnight Eastern.
  • For best results, hunt through our list using Chrome or Firefox as your browser (not Explorer).

There is NO RUSH to complete the hunt—you have a whole week! As you visit each blog, it’s our hope that you get to know Mesu’s BFF team and discover the heart behind Isaiah’s Legacy.

So Glad You’ve Joined Me!

Image of book cover for Isaiah's Legacy

My name is Loretta. This is the fourth book I’ve helped promote on Mesu’s BFF team. I love the way Mesu’s writing compliments my Bible study with her in-depth research and Biblical accuracy. As a Bible Study writer, this is important to me!

Want to dig deeper into God’s Word about the king in Isaiah’s Legacy? CLICK HERE to check out the FREE downloadable Bible study on Mesu’s website. 

Thanks for stopping by! Remember to write down your CLUE before clicking to the next stop.

Here’s the Stop #2 Stuff!

Clue to write down: was to me

Link to Stop #3

Bookmark STOP #1 so you can check the tour schedule and get back on track if at any point you get lost or find a broken link. 

Enjoy the hunt!

Wait! Before you go…

I’m going to offer a chance to win a $10 Amazon Card to one individual. If you enter, you will be signed up for my mailing list (but don’t worry, if you are already signed up you won’t get a duplicate.) Just jump over to this page, sign up for my newsletter and you will be linked to the rafflecopter I’m using to choose! I will send you an email if you win!

The raffle has ended. The winner was Connie S. Connie, I’ve sent you an email! Congratulations!

And if you don’t have a copy of the book yet, grab one now!

Spending My Time Well: How to set priorities

“’I have the right to do anything,’” you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.” – 1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV

I am a champion time waster. I dawdle over social media. I perform low priority tasks to procrastinate over completing more important matters, fearing my efforts won’t measure up. Then, I decide I’m too busy to engage with friends because I would rather crawl into my introverted shell than engage.

In the 1960s, a best-selling business book Tyranny of the Urgent was written by Charles Hummel. This book discusses the tension between urgent and important. Do I give into the pressures others place on me to complete a task or create pressure of my own without weighing importance before I choose where to spend my time? What things scream “now” that rush me to react before I stop to weigh importance? How many unimportant “urgent” requests have I let hijack my life?

In the above passage, Paul details why Christians should not participate in sexual immorality. The same verse is repeated almost word for word in 1 Corinthians 10:23 where he talks about eating meat sacrificed to idols. Paul offers a principal to live by. We should not live to please ourselves but to remember that our life choices testify who we are. As Christ-followers, we should live to point others to Christ.

So the question is, what masters us? What gets us off track, or out of balance, as we try to live in Christ? Do emotions master us? Does entitlement? Are we self-centered when we should focus on others? Maybe, like me, you do not use your time as well as you could. Maybe your nemesis is something else.
To find God-given balance, we must look to God. If I were to lay open my planner before you, it would reveal how I spend my time. But more than that, it will reveal my priorities.

Making Wiser Decisions

Two weeks ago, I adopted a new practice (writing this post convicted me). In my morning time with God, I now lay my day before him. I ask, what should stay? What must go? I seek His guidance for making decisions throughout the day about how I spend time.

God has yet to reach down and mark through an entry or to add one. But, I am more aware through the day that the phone call from a friend who needs to vent may be an assignment I need to take even if I dread picking up the phone and am tempted to let it roll to voicemail. I recognize that a detour in my route to the gym may be an invitation to open my eyes to something I had not noticed before–perhaps an opportunity for service.

I want my time wasters gone! I want to rest in God rather than mindless activities. I want to be alert for opportunities to serve others, stretch myself and say yes. I want to write regularly, because I feel that is the main work God has called me to in this season. Following His plans helps me find balance and rest for my soul.

I also take a sabbath because I believe God can use me to accomplish what I’m assigned to do in six days. I prioritize a day of rest and worship without feeling the pressure of my schedule.
I’m older than most of you. In this season of life, I am compelled to finish well and point as many to Christ as I am able in the time I have left on earth. I regret I have not always recognized the importance of this attitude. I excused myself, thinking I’d get to certain important tasks when work was not pressing or when resources were more abundant.

I will leave you with this quote from Elizabeth Elliot: “If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to him and ask him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.”

Making Sense Of Hard Things

Often, we find ourselves in a trying situation and our knee jerk reaction is “No! Lord, take this away!” We are accustomed to easy lives that offer minimal pain. Or, if we struggle with on-going pain, we know that pain, and on some level, we make peace with it.

When I read the Christmas story, I see men and women God called to step out of comfort zones—to step onto unknown paths and offer not just a momentary yes, but a lifelong trail of one yes after the next. Willingly stepping into the discomfort and persevering in a difficult place is an act of worship if God calls us to step there. But sometimes, it’s difficult to know if it’s God’s call. How could something be trying and heaven sent?

The Christmas story teaches us a bit about confusion in the calling (like Mary’s unusual pregnancy). His call comes out of the blue, and it’s nothing we would have dreamed on our own. He calls for sacrifice that benefits many, not just us or our family. In fact, our family may make sacrifices. It may seem upside down. Yet, the topsy-turvy should not surprise us. We serve a God who makes the weak strong and the foolish wise.

The Advent season, a time of Christmas celebration, is also a time to renew our worship by committing to follow God when it’s hard, when it’s confusing, and when we are forced to lean into Him just to make it through. Emmanuel is God with us, not just in this season but also daily as we tread the path that is too steep to navigate without a holy “hand up.”

I know that we only have a few days until Christmas, but don’t miss this opportunity to download the free devotional to help renew your worship even when it’s hard! Use the link in the sidebar. I will be removing the devotional at the end of December. If you want a paper copy for next year, that will happen some time in 2020.

My Latest Project

I’d like to tell you about a project I’ve been working on. It’s a new kind of writing for me, but it was so much fun! I’d love to hear from you.

I used a Biblical Fiction format. Why did I do this? Because studying the lives of those who experienced the first Christmas made me realize that they were real people with real and somewhat messy lives. It made me realize that often our most sacred act of worship is when God says, “I’ve got a plan, will you join me?” We say yes. No matter how uncomfortable, no matter how messy, we simply say “Yes” and do the best we can.

How would you feel about an entire book written using this Biblical Fiction format? Do you think it’s a good way to learn?

Would you like your own copy? Just use the form to the right.

Don’t Focus On the Overwhelm

Life has been a bit overwhelming for me these last few weeks. It seems that in every area of my life, pressure is building. I feel like the State of California waiting for the big one. Eventually, it’s all going to fall apart. But as I sat in silence this morning, thinking about the recent events and wondering how I was going to manage it all, a verse I memorized so long ago that it was the King James Version, came to mind. 

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee. 

Isaiah 26:3 KJV

I wasn’t casting about looking for a Bible verse to calm me. I was just sitting quietly before God doing my best to focus on something other than the overwhelm. Handing my concerns to Him rather than give in to the rising panic. And there it was. I said it out loud just because I really did need to hear it! I felt strengthened, so I said it again.

Then I paraphrased it to hold it close all day…“I will keep you in perfect peace when your mind is stayed on Me.” My personal message this morning from God. That seed planted in my heart long ago was springing to life. It was bridging the gap in my composure, which threatened to grow wider.

Slowly, I began to feel solid, less likely to slide out of control and into self-pity or panic. I renewed my point of focus.

I’ve been playing around with a podcast idea and feel compelled to encourage with God’s Word. Today was just one more reminder for me of why knowing the Word is such a critical component of living life well.

Read more reasons for committing God’s Word to memory here.

When you find yourself in hot water, and let’s face it, we all do, what we have put into our lives is what will pour out. To finish well, I need to live lives Steeped in the Word of God.