It Happened When I Was 3-Years Old. What About You?

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 It Happend When I Was 3 Years Old

 When I was 3 years old, I lay in my bed in the dark and suddenly, I knew that I was a sinner and the world was a wrecked place. I also knew that Jesus was coming and that if He came that night, my parents would go to Heaven and I would go to Hell. I since have come to understand that God takes little ones to Heaven, no matter what, and this is not a debate on that issue, but the point for me here is that I understood with child-like faith, that I was lost.

I threw the covers back, trundled down the hall in my frilly nightgown, and approached my parents who sat up reading by lamplight in the living room, and I told them that I had asked Jesus to wash away my sins.  I was filled with a peace that would follow me into today.

I remember it vividly.

I had moved from a knowledge and understanding of religion into a relationship with God. I was presented with many opportunities to walk away as I grew. I faced all the many things that your average “church kid” faces that can cause them to go down a different path than the narrow one they started out on, but one thing remained. God was with me and I felt His presence in every trial, through every loss, at every decision point, and at every doubt.

I’m not stupid. I’ve studied religion more than your average person and I’ve had enough hardship to become a bitter jaded woman, but none of it is enough to remove from me the Truth that God is Who He says He is and that there is nowhere else for me to turn. My knowledge, my trails have only served as confirmation.

He is my Savior. My Friend. My Hope. My Trust. He has never failed me, and He never will.

Jesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so.

And so does my life. Every mountain, every valley speaks to me of His love for me. God and I are in it together, for always. Through a tumultuous childhood, through betrayals from friends, through chronic illnesses, trials that I will never speak of publicly, hard times in marriage, and through the death of my babies, God has been with me and He is for me.

My faith is not my crutch. It’s my everything.

My relationship with God is no fair-weather faith, but it remains child-like in its maturity. I know as surely now as I did as a 3-year-old, the meaning of life. May I honor Him for all He has done, for me.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

YOUR TURN! When did you come to saving faith in Jesus? I would love to hear YOUR testimony and it will encourage others too!

 

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If You’re Having A Hard Time Today…

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Hard Time Mommy

He was 2 years old at the time, and delightful. Quinn always knew exactly what he wanted, and when he wanted it-like most 2-year-olds do.

That morning, he stood at the pantry door and said, “Chocolate.”  In my opinion, 9:30 AM was a little early for chocolate and so I told him he could have a piece for dessert after lunch-not what he wanted to hear. The tailspin of tears, shouting, and banging of fists began.

Longing to reach out and hold him, I instead had to coax him over to me where I sat on the couch feeding his little baby brother. After a couple of minutes of agonizing crying, he wandered over reluctantly and climbed next to me, burying his head under my arm. It was almost as challenging to come to me, the one who was denying him the object of his desire, as it was to accept my “no.”

And then he began to sputter through his heaving tears…”Hard…time…Mommy….hard time.” I didn’t understand him at first but when I figured it out, my own heart broke. For Quinn, the denial of what he was asking for was a very real and very heart-rending trial. It was a hard time. At age 2. And boy, can I relate.

Can you?

As an optimist, I tend to see the good in circumstances naturally, but I made a promise to God long ago that I would be a radical Christ-follower. One thing I know for sure, if you want to be like Jesus, then you will share in His sufferings:

And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 1 Peter 4:12-19

As believers, we need to rewire our thinking and our motivation in this life. The Lord understands our sadness and our grief. He sympathizes with us whole-heartedly when we go through hard times, but He will also use those moments to refine us and make us more like Christ. But He doesn’t leave us there. He is a God of hope:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Night acquiesces to day and the seasons of our lives change and shift just as they do in nature. There have been hard times that I never thought would end, but when we yield to God’s purpose in our pain, and praise Him through our lack of understanding and remain faithful, we discover the promise is real: we can have joy in every circumstance.

That painful moment was only the beginning of hard times for Quinn. I realized that even in that juvenile moment, at such a young age, he needed to learn that life will always have bumps-and sometimes mountains to overcome, but that the purpose of life is not to try to escape, erase, forget, or side-step pain. It’s to trust God whose ways are higher than our own and to cling to the truth that He is love, even when He allows…hard….times.

And just as I had to convince Quinn to take steps towards me and my loving arms there on the couch that day, God also beckons us to come with our pain, our tears, and our honest confession of what we feel. His embrace is never occupied with another, and as a Heavenly Father, He provides a comfort even more secure than that of an earthly mother.

 

YOUR TURN! How do you help your kids through hard times? What’s the most significant way that you can comfort your children when they struggle? Are you going through a “hard time?” How can I pray for you?

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The Day God Paid Off My Credit Card

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The Day God Paid My Credit Card Debt

I was barely making it through my days. It was a time of grief and loss that I wasn’t sure I could recover from anytime soon. I was holding onto God by my fingernails and fiercely praising Him through daily tears and from a bleeding heart.  Each day, I rose early to meet God, do the job He gave me to do at work that day, and then go through the motions of my evening routine before falling asleep each night.

My faith was sure but shaken. I knew in my heart and mind that there was none for me but Jesus, but it seemed that Jesus was bent on taking my desires from me by force and the resulting hole in my heart pumped just enough sustenance through my body to make it through one more day.

I forced myself to praise Him through my pain, and the healing began with a sudden and unexpected series of events after one long day of teaching.

Entering the lobby of my building, I turned the key in my mailbox and pulled out the wad of miscellaneous mail before heading up to my 3rd floor apartment. Standing at the kitchen table, I sorted through the names of my roommates and carried my own envelopes down the long hallway to my bedroom.

At the time, I was single and in debt. The night before, I had gone to a new Bible study that was meeting informally at a girlfriend’s house to read and discuss Rick Warren’s New York Times Best Seller, The Purpose Driven Life. When it came time for prayer requests, one of the girls shared that she decided to pray that God would take away her debt. My ears perked up.

I made a bit of a financial mess of myself as a single young teacher without much understanding of budgeting or saving, but I was on my way to paying off my debt and becoming educated and responsible with my money. Little by little, I was working towards financial freedom.

Month by month, I was hacking away at my debt and but I never stopped to pray and ask God to help me, much less remove the debt entirely. So that’s exactly what I did.

The next day, as I glanced at my stack of bills and letters, I quickly opened my credit card statement. The balance said……$0.00. I did a double take.

“That can’t be right” I thought. I decided to give the company a quick call.

The operator confirmed that I had a zero dollar balance and that I actually had a credit of 300 dollars which she would send to me in the form of a check. I feebly thanked her and hung up the phone. Bewildered, I decided to go to the gym and sort out the mess later.

After my workout, I made my way back home and as I was driving I remembered that I had prayed the night before that God would take away my debt.

I raced up the stairs and looked at the date of the statement. It was for the month prior. God had erased my debt, and He had answered my prayer a month before I prayed it.  I was reminded of Isaiah 65:24, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” That’s exactly what God had done on my behalf.

I dropped to my knees. Frantically, I called my dad who was on a business trip. He answered the phone. I excitedly poured out that I had prayed about my debt, and suddenly, my debt was gone. I was certain it was a mistake and I feared a huge hassle and mess.

“Amber, Amber” my father delightedly spoke my name, interrupting me. “I paid your debt” he said.

I froze in disbelief. “What?” I stammered. My parents were not in a position to do such a thing, and yet they had managed to do so.  God had used my earthly father to remind me that He as my Heavenly Father is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all we can ask or imagine!

God is not a magic genie who bestows on us whatever we wish, but at that particular time in my life, I was going through a season of brokenness and sorrow. I needed hope in a tangible way. God, in His wisdom and mercy, allowed me to experience a radical and swift answer to this particular prayer as a loving reminder that He sees me and is aware of every detail of my life. At a time when I was going through a major loss and committing to praise Him though my eyes could not see the goodness of His plans, the Lord dealt with me gently through this supernatural provision.  Just as He could give me what I asked for, He reassured me that what He had taken was also part of His good plan for my future.

Maybe today, you find yourself wondering what God is up to in your own life. Perhaps you also are going through a time of loss or maybe you simply aren’t sure if God sees you and your needs. Like any two people in a relationship, God longs to meet with you and hear your heart. Tell Him all about it. Pray expectantly and whether He gives or takes away, know that He is able and He is good.

The longer and harder fought for prayers during that same season were no less of a blessing than the answer that came overnight. Healing eventually came and beauty did emerge from ashes over time. But I’ll never forget that God saw me in my brokenness, and though that credit card is long gone, God deposited His grace into the treasury of my heart, and it remains.

YOUR TURN: Do you need prayer? Leave your request in the comments-I would be honored to pray for you! If  post blessed you, please share it with others!

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Why I Redshirt My Boys, Despite The Controversy

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Why I Redshirt My Boys, Despite The Controversy

He was hard to miss. His blonde head rose above that of his peers and his impish grin, contagious. As a 6th grade teacher, I was well acquainted with the idiosyncrasies of my students’ sizes as hormones waxed and waned during the pre-teen years. But this young man stood out. I would later learn that there was good reason he seemed so.much.bigger. than his classmates. He was a full year older than most of them. He had been held back intentionally by his parents, not because of academics, but because they had every intent of making him into a football star.

And it worked.

This class-clown of a kid would go on to play winningly as quarterback for Notre Dame before being drafted into the NFL. I was a new teacher and it was the first time I had ever heard of “redshirting” kids in elementary school, but it wasn’t just this incredible student that would shape my own views of redshirting.

The term “Redshirt” is traditionally associated with college football:

Student athletes become redshirts for many reasons. One reason is that the athlete may not be ready to balance the demands of academic requirements with athletic requirements. Redshirting provides the opportunity, with tutoring, to take some classes and get accustomed to the academic demands. They also may redshirt to gain a year of practice with the team prior to participating in competition. In college football a student athlete may redshirt to increase size and strength toward the completion of overall physical maturity, desirable assets for many positions. As the college years coincide with the final phases of physical maturity, using a year of eligibility in the last college year is generally more beneficial to the team and to the student athlete’s potential professional prospects than it is to use the same year of eligibility in the first college year. Players, especially in football, may redshirt to learn the team’s play book, since college teams typically run a greater number of, and more complex, plays than most high school teams. (Wikepedia)

When it comes to academics, the idea of redshirting kids can be controversial-you can find many a debate or book about the extensive research on the topic, but it boils down to this: many parents believe that redshirting their kids often gives them an advantage and increases their success rates in socialization, academics, and athletics.

It wasn’t just my football-player-in-training’s example that caused me pause for thought about one day redshirting my own children. After nearly 10 years in the classroom, most of which were in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades as a high school English teacher, it was undeniable that the kids who were the oldest in their grade level were academically the strongest, most mature, and responsible.

There are studies that both refute and support the idea that redshirting gives kids an edge over the long haul, so I simply based my views on my personal experience of teaching for a decade. The evidence in my own experience as a teacher was overwhelming. I knew that when I became a parent, I would absolutely wait to put my kids into school until they were  6 years of age-and preferably  only attend 1 half day of preschool the year prior to kindergarten at age 5.

I didn’t need to convince my husband. He had been the oldest kid in his class and so was I. We both knew the pleasure of being leaders in our grade levels. It was an easy decision for us.

My oldest son, Oliver, was R.E.A.D.Y. for kindergarten at age 5 if you compared him to his friends. He is a typical firstborn and extremely bright. He talked in sentences before he was 1 year of age and has incredible athletic prowess. I got a ton of pressure from friends and family about holding him back but I looked forward to letting him be a kid and spend time with me, one more year. Ollie is strong academically and a mature sweet boy but he is also sensitive and emotional at times-the extra year at home with me gave him time to develop in that area so he could cope more easily with being in a classroom setting.  I didn’t need to worry about him crying at the drop off in the kindergarten line.  It’s one of the best decisions I ever made. Last year, his veteran kindergarten teacher pulled me aside and affirmed that same notion. He pleaded with me to keep up the trend, acknowledging Oliver’s maturity, leadership, and strong academics.

I have a large group of friends who home school for similar reasons-they can gauge the timeframe of when they want their kids to begin school and make adjustments easily so that the pressure to begin early is removed.

Over and over and over again, teaching colleagues nod their heads when I bring this topic up in discussion. I asked the question about redshirting on my personal facebook page recently and the comments from teachers and students who had been redshirted poured in. Not a negative one in the bunch.  I have heard many parents regret putting their kids in too early but I have yet to meet someone that regretted redshirting their son or daughter.

I know that the topic can be controversial because parents feel that redshirting gives kids an advantage, except they have the same choice. It’s not unfair if it’s available to everyone. If I, as a parent, can give my boys any advantage that is for their good, why in the world would I not do so? For me, it’s not about them rising above their peers so much (although that is a bonus) as it is my belief that starting school at a bit older age is simply in their best interest. Studies show that early childhood development doesn’t necessarily give any lead over the long haul, but redshirting your kids often does.

I don’t plan on making football stars out of my boys but I absolutely want them to be as physically, mentally, spiritually, and academically prepared for life as possible and I believe that when I redshirt them in school, I’m being a good steward of my child’s abilities.

The classroom isn’t the only place for learning. Those first 6 years of life with me, exploring the world, are a wonderful starting point for the formal education that is to come for the rest of their childhood. I will never get back those hours with my boys before they begin school and I want to ring every minute out of these days to spend time with them as a mom. It’s not an easy road because it meant living in a tiny apartment for a long time, owning only 1 car, and not taking fancy family vacations so that I could be home with my sons. Finances never played a role in our decision, even when we spent years unemployed and struggling. We prioritized what we wanted for our family and built our lives around what would support our family’s main goals.

Truthfully, I know that not all of my boys are going to necessarily be at the top of their class or run for president of the student body. I want them to naturally develop their own interests and become whoever God made them to be, but taking the risk of starting them off in life sooner than later holds little appeal when I weigh the pros and cons.  It’s simply not a chance I am willing to take.

You can find counter-arguments all over the internet and we all know that there will be exceptions and naysayers, but the sum of my own experience as a student, as a teacher for a decade, and now as a parent of boys who thrive and excel in school as redshirts are confirmation enough for me that redshirting my kids is one of the most positive and influential things I have done as a parent. I’m not afraid that they will get bored or feel left behind by their friends who are in a grade level ahead of them and attend other schools. I certainly won’t regret stealing back that extra year to influence them in my own home.

Ultimately, each parent needs to make the best decision for their own particular child. There is no static formula when it comes to kids and their unique needs. I had younger students in my classroom that excelled and sometimes the small kid on the team is the best player.

In a fast paced world where we hurry up but often get nowhere fast, I’m choosing to slow things down for my sons in the area of schooling and I’m thankful for the choice. I simply hope that others will be respectful of my decision. For the mom or dad who has been on the fence about whether or not to redshirt their own child, do your research and get good advice from people in the know, but don’t dismiss your own instincts.

When we make the best decisions we can as parents whether our kids begin school at age 5 or age 6, we show that we are parents who want the best for our kids because we care.

And that is the best advantage of all.

YOUR TURN! Did you redshirt your kids?

 

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Is There Room In Your Marriage For One More? How My Intimacy Idol Almost Ruined Us

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 Is There Room In Your Marriage For One More How My Intimacy Idol Almost Ruined Us

“So this is what marriage is.” I thought to myself as I sat on the couch in our new apartment. There I was, home since 3:30 and eating my dinner alone while I waited for my workaholic new husband to come home. But it would be hours before I saw him. It was our first year of marriage and it wasn’t going so well.

As a teacher, I had to be at work by 7:00 AM which meant we only saw each other for a brief few minutes at the start of the day. The fact that he often didn’t get home from work until 8:00 PM  meant we had maybe, 2 hours a day together-if I could keep my eyes open that long.

“Why did I get married in the first place if I am never going to actually be with my husband?”  I wondered.

And then our first baby was born just two months after our one-year wedding anniversary. A baby who had extreme colic and reflux. I was dealing with the most beautiful mess of a child I could imagine, and suddenly I felt lonelier than I had ever felt when I was single.

I had always dreamed about a shared life with my husband. One in which he met my needs and I met his. Except life actually happened. He felt the pressure of providing and that meant long hours in his particular industry. He was doing his best, but that wasn’t good enough for me. Romance dwindled and if we went on a date, it was always because I took the initiative. It made me feel hopeless. In my mind, we were almost like strangers.

The bitterness and discontent began to take root. Instead of counting my blessings, all I could see were my barriers. Barriers to the happy life that I expected. My loneliness permeated my life.

I wasn’t lonely because my husband worked a lot. Nor was I lonely because I was often physically alone.

I was lonely because of my own sin.

I often became aloof and withdrawn.  I wanted my husband to pay for what I considered his lack of commitment to our marriage and attentiveness to me as his wife.  I longed for true companionship and I felt the void on a routine basis.

So I became an idolater.

And I bet I’m not the only one. Maybe you are too. I just didn’t fully realize it at the time.

Martha Peace, in her book, The Excellent Wife, A Biblical Perspective, puts it like this:

“It is not wrong for a wife to desire intimacy with her husband unless she desires it so intensely that she sins if she cannot have it. Then her desire becomes idolatrous. In those cases, even if her husband attempts to be more open with her, she is likely to be disappointed no matter how hard he tries. He may give up trying and then her idolatrous desire for intimacy becomes even more intense.”

The Bible speaks strongly about idolatry in both the New and Old Testaments, but this passage from Colossians 3:5 is especially convicting:  “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” I coveted the ideal marriage. God wants our whole hearts to be devoted to Him, and when we put any thing or person before Him, we make it into an idol. That’s exactly what I was doing. My need and desire to change my husband became the thing that dictated my emotions and my joy.

My loneliness grew the more I felt sorry for myself. My self-pity multiplied my discontent. My discontent depressed my spirit and my poor husband couldn’t please me if he wanted to, because his efforts always fell short of my imagined standard.

My intimacy idol almost ruined us.

But through those dark days, the Holy Spirit began to convict me. It was clear that we were unwitting hostages on a train that was hurling towards a bridgeless ravine.  If I didn’t put the brakes on my wayward emotions, then we were going to plummet into the depths of brokenness and take our son with us. We vowed we would never divorce but the prospect of living like enemies under one roof seemed more than I could bear. I was willing to sacrifice my own happiness for the sake of my kids, but as a Christ-follower, I knew our fractured relationship wasn’t pleasing God.

But what was the answer? How could I get my husband to be the provider, leader, spiritual giant, romantic, and friend that I thought I was getting when I married him?

I tried, but I couldn’t change him.

I had to change me.

It started with gratitude. Removing my idolatry of intimacy and desire to have my needs met by a human being, my husband, required that I take my eyes off my selfish desires and place them on the only one who can truly meet my needs-the Lord.

I needed to cultivate an attitude of gratitude towards God-it meant thanking Him for everything in my life, even if I didn’t “feel” very grateful at first. It meant going against my feelings, using self-control, and speaking only words that edified my husband. Instead of wallowing in my self-pity, I needed to meditate on the goodness of God in my life. I had lost sight of it.

I had mistaken God for a magic genie whose goal was to serve me instead of the other way around. I had made my Lord too small and placed Him in the confines of a white picket fence. My view of God was tainted by my circumstances when I should have had a high view of God to lift me above my circumstances. I lost sight of the fact that my role in life is to serve God, not the other way around.

My happiness was at the forefront of my goals instead of my holiness. And it wrecked havoc.

I was called to love my husband, no matter what. Just as Christ loved me, while I was yet a sinner. Even if he never changed. Even if things got worse. My ability to fulfill my role as an excellent wife had nothing to do with my husband’s performance. Yes, he could make it easier or harder on me to do so, but ultimately, my goal was to honor God with my thoughts and actions. That is where the true and lasting joy would come from, not from any earthly relationship.

And you know what? The more I changed, the more he did too. He began to take his spiritual walk more seriously and we became more like-minded.

Today, people look at us and think we have a blissful marriage but the truth is, we worked hard and we went through deep valleys to get here. God refined us both and we are still a work in progress. But my husband is the very best man I have ever known. He is my best friend, and my cherished lover. I wouldn’t have believed we could get to this point, and we still have areas of struggle because we are both sinners saved by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. But we have learned how to communicate and put each other’s needs before our own. Truth be told, my husband is far better at that than I am.

Our marriage is stronger than ever and I’m deeply blessed, but that’s only because our mutual satisfaction rests in our individual relationships with God, and not in each other.

Wives, if you find yourself today in a pit of turmoil over your marriage I want to lovingly remind you of something: You are only there by your own hand.

It’s not your husband’s fault.

He may not be meeting your God-given needs or desires. He may be downright rude and self-centered. He may never “get” you in the way you dreamed.  That is between him and God. But your happiness and joy will never be satisfied by any earthly possession, position, or person. It will only well up from the heart-spring of a woman whose hope is in Christ alone, and who drinks continually from Living Water, despite her circumstances.

If you have made your need for intimacy with your husband an idol, tear it down today.Sacrifice your self-pity on the altar of gratitude. Pray this Psalm from the depths of your heart to God:

Psalm 73:25-28
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

Simplify your troubled marriage by giving it back to God. Your idol may not be for intimacy, but if your marriage or happiness is an idol in any way, and you are sinning as a result, then it’s time to take a look at your heart.

What if your situation NEVER changed? You have two choices:

You can yield to misery and fight against your situation which will lead to misery and depression rendering you useless as a light on a hill and will ultimately waste this one life you have been blessed with.

Or,

You can put your unwavering trust and faith in a good God who loves you unconditionally, sees you in your need, and promises to give you both peace and joy in any circumstance which will lift your soul and spirit far above the ocean waves that seem at this moment to sweep you away, and ultimately, you will rise above the fray and shine so brightly that the world will take notice of your great God who will then also reward you for all of eternity.

Which will it be, friend?

The idol of intimacy is a cold substitute for a husband of any kind. And it can’t compare to the One True God. Humble yourself and put on a robe of gratitude today. Rely on the Holy Spirit to help you, and be the wife God created you to be.

The beautiful byproduct can also be a healed marriage. At the very least it will lead to a healed wife. I know from personal experience that idols make three a crowd but there is always room for Christ at the center of your marriage. Make the trade today and the intimacy from your relationship with the true Husbandmen, Jesus Christ, will bless you in supernatural ways and bring you lasting joy.

Read MORE about marriage in my posts, I Married Mr. Wrong But It’s Alright and How To Find The Perfect Husband Even Though You Are Already Married!

YOUR TURN! Can you relate to this post? I would love to pray for you. Please, share with me in the comments how I can pray for you.

This post contains an affiliate link for a book. When you make a purchase through my link, a few cents goes to my ministry but it doesn’t cost you anything extra! Thank you!

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When Forgiviness Seems Too Hard

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When Forgiveness Seems Too Hard

He shifted from one Converse clad foot to the other and waited patiently for the other students to clear out from the classroom. I stood at my desk shuffling papers when I noticed that he remained.

“Hi James. What’s up?” I asked.

“Mrs. Lia, I just wanted to tell you that the testimony you read about Josh McDowell’s life made a big impact on me.” He spoke, softly.

I sat down in my swivel chair to listen.

“My dad left home a long time ago and he struggles with addictions too. But I want you to know that Mr. McDowell’s example of forgiving his father showed me that I needed to forgive my dad too. I reached out to him and we have started over again.” He explained.

My heart swelled.

As a high school English literature teacher, my goal reached far beyond explaining the motives of classic authors or the rigors of rhetorical strategy. I read Josh McDowell’s mind-bowing testimony to my students with the hope that his incredible ability to demonstrate love and forgiveness to the unlovely and unforgiving would inspire my students.

And apparently it had. Rightly so. I thanked James for confiding in me and I praised God for His relentless capacity for reconciling fragmented people.

And James? Well, his father would die suddenly and unexpectedly not long after they had repaired their relationship.

It wasn’t too late for them to find hope when all seemed lost.

Forgiveness doesn’t merely heal the people directly involved in a conflict. It is a salve for those who stand in the wings waiting for the courage to do the same.

I want to share Josh McDowell’s story of how he turned from passionate atheism and a goal to murder his own father and abuser, to becoming a radical Christ-follower. You can hear it from his own mouth:

If you need healing, this is for you.

If you are doubting, this is for you.

If you have someone to forgive, this is for you.

If you need courage, this is for you.

If you grew up with an alcoholic, or are one yourself, this is for you.

If you have been abused, this is for you.

If you are angry with God, this is for you.

If you are in a season of peace and gratitude, this is for you.

If you are overflowing with joy in the Lord, this is for you.

It’s a timeless message that I hope you will set aside the time to watch.

And may you, like James, take it to heart.

YOUR TURN! Isn’t Josh McDowell’s testimony AMAZING? What about his story impacted you the most?

Follow me on Facebook for more inspiration and discussion! Find me on Twitter: Amber Lia and Instagram: MotherOfKnights. Start pinning on Pinterest as well!

Why This Christian Won’t Protest 50 Shades of Gray (And You Shouldn’t Either)

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Why This Christian Won't Protest 50 Shades Of Gray And You Shouldn't Either

Hey Christian! I want you to consider a different kind of approach to the very loud protesting against the upcoming movie, 50 Shades of Gray this Valentine’s Day weekend.

I see it everywhere I turn in Christian circles lately-women and men posting scathing protests against any believer or even the secular public who might support a film that contains graphic sex and blurred lines between love and abuse.

But I won’t.

And I don’t say that with pride and a puffed up chest either. I say it with sadness, honestly.

Here’s why:

  1. If my main objective as a Christ-follower is to be a light and to be known for how I love others, then publicly protesting a film on a moral level will only pit me against my target audience for sharing the message of Jesus Christ and His love.

How open is an unbeliever going to be if I spend my time coming across as judgmental and close-minded, even if I am being neither of those things? Because that will be the perception.

And perceptions matter.

I firmly believe that living a quiet, yet stalwart life for Christ is the testimony we need to portray to the world:

 …and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders… I Thessalonians 4:11-12b

Offending others intentionally is foolish, friends. Gain their respect so that when the time comes that they hunger for something beyond the emptiness of the bedroom or the pursuit of the boardroom, or the burdens of life, you are the first person they want to approach, instead of avoid.

But if those around us only see believers standing with a fist and building brick walls with our words, then they will never consider us respectable people that they would want to have a conversation with about our differing views.

Conisder Chik-fil-A’s Dan Cathy’s friendship with gay activist Shane L. Windmeyer. I lOVE these guys!

How can we publicly condemn others for having a sinful belief system and then think that they will come to our homes for dinner or accept Living Water from our hands when we run off at the mouth?

  1. As a passionate Christ-follower, I want to be known by what I stand FOR not what I stand AGAINST.

You won’t find a more passionate advocate for all things good and praise-worthy when it comes to what I choose to dwell on and promote. You can bet that I will stand for life, for integrity, for Biblical love and if you knew me personally, you would know that I am no pushover when it comes to Truth.

But conversations about deep heart issues are best held between people who have mutual respect for one another-something that is void in a public protest.  I’m happy to talk through my beliefs with anyone who comes to me and asks. And in that conversation I hope I will do as much listening as talking.

There is enough negativity in social media already. As a believer, the last thing I want to do is add to it. My prayer is that I will be known as someone who believes the best about others, gives them the benefit of the doubt, seeks good in the world around me, and pursues it.

  1. Controversial topics rarely edify those who “listen” in the public forum.

Words can bring healing or cut like a dagger. They have the power to bring freedom or implement bondage.

Invite or alienate.

 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Christ-follower, your “neighbors” are listening. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and ask yourself how you come across to them. Would you approach, YOU, if you were someone who largely disagreed with your views? Are you being kind and gentle while still being a man or woman of integrity?

I’ll tell you what. I know a lot of beautiful brothers and sisters in Christ who are being staunch and vocal about the debate of 50 Shades of Gray. They are signing petitions and doling out heaping measures of guilt. I love these people. But every time I see them rail on this film and those “Hollywood” people that my husband and I have given up EVERYTHING to reach and to love in practical ways, our job as faith-friendly producers and missionaries in a very secular environment gets that much harder. We get lumped into that pool of “Christians” who are judgmental and hateful. And all those people who we care about so deeply retreat a little further from our message of the Gospel.

I could just weep over it. And I have.

I don’t feel grace or benefited when I see Christ-followers waving banners of protest and shaming the world for being the world. I feel sick. Disgusted. Saddened.

Anything but edified.

Listen, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have convictions about issues, but I think we need to reconsider the forum and the decorum with which we discuss these matters.

Live your life quietly. Love God. Love others unconditionally-even those who will see 50 Shades of Gray this weekend.

Radiate joy in good times and bad.

Make choices that are counter-culture and raise your kids to do the same.

Be satisfied in Christ and the world will take notice.

And because you are known for your kindness and convictions that you live out in everyday life, you will be given opportunities to share Christ in a personal way.

The light of your life is more effective than a thousand petitions. And far more reflective of Christ who pulled up a chair to eat with “sinners” whom he preferred over the self-righteous of His day.

Be a light on a hill that welcomes the lost and the weary and when the many gray areas of this world dim and begin to reveal themselves for the darkness and void that they are. The light you radiate in word and deed will be a welcome change in the world around you.

YOUR TURN! What do you think are the best ways to stand for your beliefs while also loving others?

(NOTE: This post is not meant to be a discussion about whether or not you or anyone should or should not see this particular film. It’s a discussion of the “forum and decorum” of how we engage culture regarding issues of morality as Christ-followers. If your comments don’t fit the nature of the discussion, they will most likely be removed.)

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