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exemplify magazine JuLY/August 2010








“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” Psalm 119:45

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Welcome to Exemplify Magazine.

Well, Summer is in full swing. This past weekend I managed to eat ice pops, make lemonade, laugh until I cried with {part of} my family, declare a bathing suit my new favorite and watch a massive fireworks display. Celebrating freedom here in America always leaves me thinking about forgiveness. I’ve found true freedom and forgiveness are a package deal. What good is freedom with strings attached? And what good is a forgiveness that isn’t true? This issue is all about these two things: finding true freedom in real forgiveness. I pray the Exemplify team encourages you to get into God’s word this month on this very topic. Psalm 119: 45 is a favorite verse of mine: “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” Let’s seek today the precepts of the One who forgives us for freedom’s sake. In King Jesus,

Kristen Schiffman

Cover image: microsoft

Meet the Magazine Team Kristen Schiffman Founder & Ministry Director A New Yorker living in Texas, Kristen is just trying to make sense of sweet tea and A/C units. Together with her best friend & husband, Eric, she enjoys sketching out new ideas over Starbuck’s. Kristen’s passion is equipping those in leadership to serve with excellence, encouraging women to get to know God through His Word and challenging women to live out their Godgiven purpose. Andrea Mitchell Family Columnist Andrea Mitchell is a coffee drinking, Jesus-loving wife and stay-at-home mom of three in constant search of just the right mug for her brew. You can find her at her blog, where she shares the love she has found in Jesus, along with the caffeine-laden randomness that makes up the majority of her day. Grab your cup and come on over!

Christy McGraw Director of Social Networking/Single Channel Editor/Columnist Christy is on a journey to becoming a woman after God’s own heart. She delights in books, photography, her family and her friends. Christy has a heart for young women and single women. She also loves emails!

Christine Johnston Director of Communications/Titus 2 Columnist Christine is a self professed “knitster” who loves watching a scarf come to life. She is the mother of four children, three of whom are full grown and one still making her way through high school. She is married to her high school sweetheart and loves going on lunch dates with him during the week. Christine’s steady and sure faith in Christ, her value of justice and her compassion for that which Christ has compassion on daily shape her Titus 2 calling.

Tara Guy Director of Ministry Support/ Fiction & Apologetics Column/ Web Editor Tara Guy is a born-and-bred Southern girl who loves sweet tea, Jesus, and football and not necessarily in that order. Visit her at Musings of a Future Pastor’s Wife, where she blogs about her day-to-day life as the wife of a seminary student/youth pastor and mom to a precious toddler girl, and the daily truths the Lord teaches her.

the team

Joanne Sher Magazine Editor Joanne Sher is a mother of two, wife of one, and, most importantly, daughter of the King. She was raised in the Jewish faith, coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus in her early 30’s. Her passion is for writing and encouraging, and editing actually helps her relax. She is in various stages of progress on two novel-length manuscripts: one about God’s provision during her husband’s serious health issues, and another Biblical fiction set during the time of 1 and 2 Samuel. She also loves to share her insights at her blog,, where she shares the “Open Book” of her life following Christ. Karen Lowe Feature Editor A native of Kentucky, Karen is a country girl at heart. She currently resides in northwestern Illinois where she divides her time between being a wife, homemaker, homeschooler, mother, writer, and Bible study teacher. She loves a good cup of coffee and very rarely turns down chocolate. Karen has a passion to write Bible studies and teach women God’s Word. She began Truth and Grace Ministries to encourage women to grow in God’s truth and grace. You can find her writing at her blog, Living Life, where she shares God’s Word, devotionals, and various other posts about life as she strives to live in God’s truth and grace.

day life.

Judith Roberts Interview Columnist Judith Roberts has been married to her college sweetheart for four years, and both she and her husband are active in their church. She is a college instructor pursuing her doctorate and hopes to mirror Jesus in her every-

Kara Cox Devotional Columnist Kara is a single, thirtysomething follower of Christ who loves to laugh and makes others laugh in the process. She is devoted to all things Autumn and thinks that pumpkins, fallen leaves and fall TV premieres are a highlight of life. She would also like you to know she is the most extroverted introvert you will ever meet.

Wendy Miller How-To Columnist Wendy Miller is a butcher (of words as she edits her novels), a baker (of birthday cakes and treats for her beloved family members and friends), and a candlestick maker (not quite, but she enjoys crafts of all kinds). She appreciates the outdoors, writing and laughing with loved ones. Wendy’s mission statement is to a live a passionate life filled with compassion, grateful to be called daughter of the Most High God. Visit Wendy at http://thoughtsthatmove. or

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the team

Christa Allan Writer’s Help Columnist Christa Allan lives in Abita Springs, Louisiana and teaches high school English. Walking on Broken Glass, Christa’s debut novel, released in February by Abingdon Press. She’s written for Chicken Soup for the Coffee Lover’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Divorced Soul, The Ultimate Teacher, and Cup of Comfort for Parents of Children with Special Needs. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Christa is also a contributor to Afictionado, their online magazine. She is the mother of five and the proud Grammy of three. Christa and her husband Ken spend time with their three neurotic cats, play golf, and dodge hurricanes. She blogs at

Alison Hunt Columnist Alison is a twenty-something single woman living in the now and hoping for the future. Based in North Florida, she an administrative assistant by day, and dreamer by night (literally). She can also be found reading under trees, Zumbaing, spending time with family, and catching up with friends over coffee. Visit her blog at

Brooke McGlothlin Columnist Lover of God and the man I’ve dreamed of since the 3rd grade...mommy of two little boys born just 23 months apart...CEO of the McGlothlin Home for Boys (my house)...passionate about life issues and finding Jesus in the everyday. Director of Clinical Services for a local Crisis Pregnancy Center with a BS in Psychology and MA in Counseling.

Deborah Boutwell Book Reviews Married for 23 years, 2 children (21 & 15 years of age), working outside the home in a Christian publishing house, serving in a small Southern Baptist church in various keys roles, hobbies include reading, writing, needle & thread handwork.

Iris Nelson Photographer Born and raised in Germany, Iris now resides with her husband Mark and Chihuahua Corky, in Arizona. Their grown son Daniel works as a software consultant in Arizona, living close by. Although the move from Germany to the US was not easy, God’s hand was evident. In Arizona, God called Iris back into His flock. Iris enjoys encouraging women by sharing His Word through the devotional team-blog ‘Laced with Grace’ (, which she ‘birthed’ with a friend from California in 2006. Iris has always had a love for photography, but after her son Daniel moved out photography became more than just a hobby. Iris’ dreams are to self-publish a photography book with Bible passages; and becoming a full-time photographer—leaving corporate America behind. You can find more of Iris’ photography at

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Lori MacMath Moving Toward Holiness Columnist Having grown up in the church, Lori knows that her ‘true spiritual journey’ began with an experience with infertility and surrendering to the Lord, allowing HIM to break her and remake her. The smile she wears tells that she is so happy to be on the journey that she is on now. A journey that includes homeschooling 3 wonderful children! Lori is the co~owner of Internet Cafe Devotions, an online daily devotional site for women. Praising HIM every step of the way, she encourages you to enjoy the journey with her at her personal website, All You Have to Give, where she can be found daily, enjoying each and every season to its fullest!

Holly Smith In The Kitchen Columnist My name is Holly Smith from Monument, CO. I am the wife of Chris and mother of Noah, Kylie, Tabor and Sydney. I am a stay at home mom, who very much loves her job as a mom. On the side, I design web pages and marketing pieces. It is a great way to pour out creativity! God has gifted me with a love of all things creative--from painting and wall-papering to scrapbooking and design-work. Also I write a couple of blogs, which you can read online if you want. One is a cooking blog called What Would Martha Cook? It’s about Martha in the Bible not the other Martha. The other is a devotional writing blog called Crown Laid Down. I began blogging in February 2007.

Chrystie Cole Closet Issues Columnist Chrystie lives with her husband and stepson in the beautiful upstate of South Carolina. She is a woman who was once lost, broken, desperate and hopeless. Yet because of a gracious and loving God, she was given a brand new life. She has personally experienced the power of His transforming and redeeming love. As a result, she is passionate about sharing His love with others and ministering to broken and hurting people.

Tracy Knowlton Women in the Word Columnist Tracy Knowlton is a Texan by birth, curious by nature and crazy about her husband of three years. She reads scripture and loves on her dogs, simultaneously. Tracy looks for Jesus in the ordinary, adds in scripture and waits to see what happens. Loving the Lord is her privilege and writing about Him on her blog,, is her joy. Consider yourself invited.

Jenifer Jernigan Faith Applied Columnist Jenifer makes her home in North Carolina with her husband of ten years, three children, and English black lab, Bella. On a typical day, if there is such a thing, you will find her sipping a cup of coffee, home schooling her children, and digging into the Word. A former pit-dweller who has been saved by God’s amazing grace, Jenifer has a burning passion to share with women of all ages His unconditional love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

Moving Toward Forgiveness in Marriage

Written by Chrystie Cole

I learned long ago that our secrets grow in the dark, but they die in the light. God’s word specifically tells us that the darkness hates the light and that anyone who lives by truth comes into the light. (John 3:21 NIV) But sometimes it’s hard to talk about those secrets, isn’t it? You know, those things we just don’t want to talk about whether out of pride or fear or shame. Yet, those are the very things that over time will grow, fester, and enslave us if we don’t shed light on them. I hope you’ve discovered by now that the Closet Issues Column is a place where we can come and talk about the ugly in our lives. A place where we can be real and vulnerable, and maybe even discover we aren’t alone in our struggles. Hopefully, it is a place where we also find hope, encouragement, and victory over strongholds. With all that said, I have a confession to make. I struggle with forgiveness. But, I don’t struggle forgiving everyone. I consider myself fairly tolerant, patient, and forgiving with most people; shockingly, even those who blatantly or even willfully harm me. I don’t typically harbor bitterness against the driver who cut me off in traffic, or the person who jumped in front of me in the grocery store line, or even the woman who always finds a way to make a belittling comment to me every time I’m around her. No, the ugly truth is that the one I struggle most to forgive is my own husband. But, it’s not due to mistreatment, abuse, or any other harmful behavior. Honestly, he has probably never intentionally harmed a flea (unless, of course you count those pesky little squirrels in our backyard that keep getting into his birdfeeders and birdhouses, killing the little baby birds.)

But, I digress. No, the ugly truth is I struggle to forgive him for petty little things…things like the audacity of being human. I’m sure we’ve all been there. Minor nuisances like not putting dishes in the dishwasher, or forgetting to call if they’re going to be late, or even the insensitive comment made in the heat of the moment, if left unresolved, fester and grow, eventually becoming a full-fledged dividing wall of bitterness and resentment, built brick by brick over time. So, if you find yourself in the same predicament…here are a few things God has been whispering to me lately in regard to forgiving my husband: We Are On The Same Team G.K. Chesterton once said that marriage is an adventure, like going to war. It’s rather absurd to compare marriage to going to war, don’t you think? Yet, all too often, spouses act as if they are on opposing teams. We keep unwritten records of wrongs, injustices and offenses. But the truth is our husbands are not the enemy; they are our teammate. We are working together for the same end goal: the health and well being of our marriage. Plain and simple, the scorecard must go. There Is No Can’t One day, I heard myself tell a friend, “I just can’t seem to let it go.” Immediately upon saying it, I knew it was a lie. The truth is, I was unwilling to forgive him. Sometimes, for whatever reason, we would rather hold onto perceived injustices. So we convince ourselves that we can’t forgive. But can’t is just a cover up for won’t.

Second Peter 1:3 NIV tells us that through God’s divine power, we have everything we need for life and godliness. So when it comes to forgiveness, there is no can’t: there is only won’t or will. The choice is ours and to choose not to forgive from the heart is making a choice against God. There Are Two Sinners In A Marriage One of the problems with being married to a sinner is that we always have someone to blame. By pointing the finger of blame at my husband, I attempt to shift the focus off of my own sinful behavior. What I choose to overlook in those moments is that when I point the finger of blame at him, there are three fingers pointing back at me. Miroslav Volf said, “forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans and exclude myself from the community of sinners.” One of the most divisive things the enemy can do in my marriage is convince me that my husband is the sinner and I am the saint. By convincing me I am always the one who tries the hardest or makes all the sacrifices or who always apologizes first, then he successfully creates division in our marriage. We must continually remind ourselves there are no saints in a marriage, only two sinners in need of a lot of grace. Eventually Someone Has To Make The First Move “He who forgives ends the quarrel.” (Unknown author) Eventually, someone has to make a move toward the other person. Regardless of whether or not I feel justified in my anger or hurt, I want to be the one to end the quarrel.

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I want to be the one to move toward my husband with compassion, grace, forgiveness, and love, knowing that doing so not only restores unity to my marriage, but also pleases God. A Gospel-Centered Marriage Here is our charge: “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” Colossians 3:12-15 NLT We love because God first loved us. We show mercy because God was merciful with us. We make allowance for each other’s faults because God was patient with us. We forgive because God forgave us. I wrestled with God over these things initially because I wanted the gratification of my husband coming to me. But God persisted gently, as He so often does, and eventually I approached my husband, humbly asking his forgiveness. As a result, I experienced sweet reconciliation with my husband and true joy knowing God was well pleased.

Expectations Are Premeditated Resentments What we don’t often realize is that we frequently place unspoken and sometimes unrealistic expectations on our husbands. We expect them to never say anything insensitive, to always be sweet and doting, or to never let us down. But, our expectations often set them up for certain failure. Expectations are just premeditated resentments waiting to happen. A friend of mine once said, “Expect nothing. Appreciate everything.” Before you say anything, I know…it’s a tall order. But here’s what I’ve come to learn: whatever I focus on tends to be magnified. If I focus on what my husband does wrong, then all I see is the negative, but if I choose instead to focus on what he does right, then the positive is magnified. When I regard him with a grateful heart, then forgiving seems to be a natural outflow of that.

Here are a few questions to consider if you are struggling with forgiveness in your marriage: • •

• • • •

Do I consider my husband my enemy or my teammate? Am I choosing to harbor bitterness and resentment rather than moving toward my husband in a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation? Do I see my husband as the sinner and me as the saint? Are my actions toward my husband honoring and glorifying God? Do I want my marriage to be bitter or better? If I want it to be better, what am I willing to do about it? How is my belief in the gospel being fleshed out in my marriage?

Always Begin With The End In Mind Here is what I know: One day, I am going to die and when I do, I am going to come face to face with God. In that moment, He will hold me accountable for the life I lived and will reward me according to my deeds (Jeremiah 17:10 NIV). Do I honestly want to be face to face with God and have to account for my willful disobedience and selfish, unforgiving heart? Or would I rather face Him knowing I loved my husband well and honored Him with my marriage?

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In the quiet of this Saturday morning God whispered, “It’s time.” I find God’s timing to be well interesting. I am discovering it is quite that and even more so, I am finding it beautiful. You see I have been arguing with God for over a week about this column. He has asked me to share something with you that honestly is still a very raw spot of my heart. In am an intensely private person. In fact I have never told anyone the whole story and rarely share the information. I have told a handful of people in six years and even then no one knows the whole story until now. I emailed a friend earlier this week to ask for prayer because I was less than happy about the idea of sharing this. I made the following statement, Yes I live on the river Denial. It’s been a nice place…a little interesting at times but nice. At the time I just thought it to be funny and it was….as I sit here writing this I find the truth of that statement hitting me…. I will tell you this column is stained with my tears. At the same time a column I thought I would be writing in trepidation is written in peace. Yes, peace. He did that. In a most unusual way that I will share about later.

This journey started in 2000. I had some female issues that finally landed me at the OB-GYN. I was not thrilled. I hated my yearly visits and at 21 years old was terrified. It was quickly discovered I had cysts on my ovaries that were causing a lot of pain. One in particular was very large. For two months they kept an eye on me and finally it was decided I would have surgery to remove the cysts. After the surgery I was put on some medications and felt much better. The doctor was thrilled with the outcome and life continued normally. The next four years of my life were fabulous. I kid you not, now that I look back on it. I started college for the second time, found two people who would become the best friends of my heart, went on my first missions trip to my dream place, England, of all places. Life was nothing short of wonderful. In 2004 I had just finished up my junior year of college. I was so excited about the summer because I had lined up a great internship and was looking forward to not only spending the summer learning more about counseling but was so excited for my senior year of college. One day in mid-May I woke up with some strange pains in my lower abdomen. On the 1-10 pain scale it was a 9. I was scared and called my Mum at work. She told me to just stay in bed and relax and she would call and check on me. I happened to live with my Memaw at the time and told her I was really not feeling good. As the morning wore on I knew something was wrong. I called my Mum back and told her I though I needed to go to a doctor immediately. I picked up the phone book found the OB-GYN section and called the first doctor’s office listed. I told the lady that answered the phone what was going on and she got me an appointment immediately. My Mum got off work and we went to the doctor’s office. As I look back I am amazed at God’s hand in this because the doctor I was scheduled with was a strong Christian and over the next few months that would become invaluable.

Written by Christy McGraw

Journeying the Road of an Infertility Diagnosis as a Single Woman


He knew immediately what was wrong and I had the most unpleasant ultrasound of my life but there they were. Cysts. Covering both of my ovaries. It was bad. We told him of my past experience and he told us that he thought I had something called PCOS. In the next month we would walk the road to that final diagnosis. More than likely there is a history of the disease in my family and I had had it for many years and it went undiagnosed: even when I had my first surgery in 2000. Meanwhile I spent a lot of my time in bed in extreme pain. I did work at my internship but it was definitely the hardest summer of my life. As the summer progressed things did not improve. My left ovary in particular was a mess. We talked of options and because of my last year of college he decided surgery was the only option. I put it off. Finally he told me if I wanted to go back to school I would have to have the surgery. Two weeks before I was due back at college I had the surgery. He warned me for the worst but I just thought it would be like the first surgery. The worst was what happened. My left ovary was so filled with cysts it took them a while to clean it and once they did it was so scarred it was useless. So the decision was made to take the ovary. My right ovary was not as bad but still extremely scarred. He left the right ovary intact for health purposes. After the surgery I remember him telling me he did have to take my left ovary but I still had my right. To be honest all I remember of that day was that before the surgery the doctor had taken time to say a prayer over me. I went back for my post op appointment and he told me the news and I heard it this time. He had taken my left ovary and my right ovary was severely scarred. And then he said it. Christy, the likelihood is you will never be able to have children. He understood I was young. 24. He understood I was single. He had to tell me the truth. I would likely not be able to have children.

I heard him. Truthfully. It did not register. The river of denial was my new home. Life was so busy that I was able to completely focus on other things and never thought of that prognosis. I told one person that year: the counselor at my college. It was said in passing but because of other life issues it was soon forgotten. I wanted it that way. For 6 years I have lived on that river. I told a few people but never gave details. To give details made it real. I shared with people but never really believed it. Last year it started hitting home. Within weeks I found out my best friend was pregnant. Then my sister in law was pregnant. It came flooding back. The truth. For months I tried to deny it. Earlier this year I started seeing a new counselor. For other things of course. One day the truth came out. Once it did I had to start dealing with it. With that came all sorts of emotions and feelings. The biggest one being that this is why I was not married. One of the purposes of marriage is to have children. I could not do that. So why would God send me my prince? I felt I did not deserve a husband. I was useless. Who would want to marry someone who could not have children? Those thoughts have been the primary ones in the last few months. My heart has been broken in so many ways. I wonder now if dreams I have had will come true. Should I just hang them up or hang on to them? Two verses have become the ones I repeat to myself and try to remember on a daily basis.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (NIV) He heals the heartbroken and bandages their wounds. Psalm 147:3 (MSG) My heart is in a strange place. It is so fragile right now I feel it could shatter at times. At the same time many wonderful things are happening. Amazing things. Joyful things. While my heart is in that strange place He has been so near. So constant. He has allowed me to experience amazing things. I know He is healing my heart. His timing for this is no mistake. He has used amazing things to start the healing process. One in particular that has me up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning writing this. Earlier this year I started seeing a new counselor. For other things of course. One day the truth came out. You see the day before I spent the day at the hospital with my best friend. It was time for her sweet boy to make his entrance in to this world. As I sat with her and her husband all day I worried I would be overcome with the pain of my heart. It was but a fleeting thought. Not once did I think of me or my circumstance. I focused on the two of them and the pending arrival of their son. Circumstances lead to a c-section and as they prepped her I sat in the waiting room after calling family and friends and prayed. For this precious boy to be healthy. For my friend and her husband. As I prayed a sweet peace surrounded me and I felt His warmth. A still small voice spoke to my heart. You are good.

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Don’t let this define you, Christy. You are who I made you to be. You will walk this journey and you will be okay. Several hours later I was holding a precious little boy and looking into a gorgeous face and that peace surrounded me again and I knew, even though this journey is not over, I am going to be okay. I AM going to be okay. He will make it so. As I rocked that sweet boy back and forth my friend looked at me and said, “Isn’t he so peaceful?” And she tells me that’s what his name means. Noah. Peace. Rest. He gives us gifts, my sisters. For me, it was a moment holding a sweet baby named Noah - whose name means peace and experiencing a peace that only He can give. That He would speak to me in the middle of what could have been a painful day with my heart was no coincidence. His timing? Interesting. And beautiful. I am still in a very vulnerable place, but this chapter of my life He is writing will be one of healing and trust. Ultimately it will be a chapter of His Goodness. If you are single and struggling with an infertility diagnosis please know that you are not alone. Know that it is not a punishment and that God does not love you any less. He still has the most amazing plans for you. It is a journey we wish we did not have to take; yet for some of us it is a journey we will take. Know that someone understands the pain and is praying for you. My single sisters that are facing this journey… I may not know you..but I love you. More importantly, so does He.

The Challenge to Lavish Forgiveness on Others Written by Kara Cox

I love rules. I love when there is a right answer and a wrong one. I feel safe when there are rewards for good behavior and penalties for bad behavior. When I see injustices being committed, I feel a righteous anger well up in me like lava rushing up through a volcano. When justice prevails, my soul cheers and whoops and hollers like the most avid sports fan when their team wins the Superbowl. I am black and white, and my rules-loving heart struggles with the gray. Like so many things in our natural selves, I can take my love of right and wrong a little too far. In my fervency for justice, I often sorely lack in mercy. If I’m being honest with myself I know that my own human thought process sometimes finds these two God given ideals to be mutually exclusive. Let the person who has committed wrong off the hook? Are you crazy? My heart’s teeter totter of merciful forgiveness and just ruling often sits a bit heavy on the side of law and order. So if you have done me (or anyone else) wrong, you need to pay: it’s only fair. I’ve only recently realized how much I struggle with issues of forgiveness. It’s only been since I took a long, hard look at some of my closest relationships that I realized how hard it is for me to let someone off the hook when they hurt or insult me. I’ve had loved ones beg me for forgiveness, and though I knew what the word of God had to say about forgiveness, there was a stronger pulling in my heart demanding for penance to be made. It was as if my heart was saying, “But you haven’t paid me back in full for the wrongs you’ve done me. I can’t forgive you yet. You’re not getting off that easy.” Anybody else struggle with those thoughts? After all, it seems almost unfair to so quickly disregard the offense in order to dole out instant forgiveness for every injurious action. That’s what my (man-made) sense of justice has taught me.

What I was also confronted with, however, was how my unwillingness to forgive affected my relationship with God. In Mark 11:25, Jesus tells his disciples, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your father in heaven may forgive your sins.” I think my mind somehow had added a clause to Jesus’ command, a clause allowing me to delay said forgiveness depending on the degree of severity of the insult or injury. Funny how I haven’t found the footnote with that clause in any versions of the Bible yet. I guess I hadn’t considered what it’s like when the tables are turned. How quick am I to forget that every single offense I have committed has been completely stricken from my record because of Jesus. Every lie I’ve told; every mean thing I’ve ever said, every prideful or lustful thought. Every single sin that has so grieved the heart of God has been completely and freely forgiven me because of Jesus. And here’s the wildest, most scandalous part of the deal; Jesus offered this forgiveness to me before I committed one act of sin. My heavenly father substituted his perfect, righteous, unblemished lamb for me on a cross to pay for these sins. He, not I, has every right to ask for penance. He, not I, could stand in the place of demanding justice and repayment before offering forgiveness. Instead, “God made him who had no sin, to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). This sacred truth humbles me and challenges me to be different in my dealings with others. In light of the sweet, extravagant forgiveness of my heavenly father, how can I not freely, lavishly extol forgiveness towards people who wrong me? Their offensive blows cannot even touch the weight of the offenses I have hurled on a merciful savior who so quickly forgave me of them all. So it is Jesus inside of me that causes justice and mercy find a smooth balance in my heart, and it’s my heart’s cry to be more like him, especially in forgiving others as He has forgiven me.

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I like clothes. I play sports. I have fun with my friends. I totally text. I rock out with my iPod. I flip my camera. I type faster than my Mom. More than anything, I love my Jesus. I Exemplify. I am Team 2:21.

How Can I Ever Forgive Them ? Feature Article

I grew up with an emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive father. Forgiveness was hard for me to extend. My lack of forgiveness not only affected me personally, but it also affected some of my relationships with others. For a number of years I brought fear, bitterness, unforgiveness, and shame into my marriage and my relationship with others. I resented God for allowing the abuse to continue; I resented my mother for not leaving my father sooner; I resented my siblings and other family members for not protecting me. I even thought I deserved what I received, because maybe what my father had told me over the years (that I was worthless) just might be true. I needed healing and that healing would require me to forgive. A Need For Personal Healing

My personal healing required relinquishing several things: my desire for revenge, any hatred in my heart, bitterness, and the inability to forgive others and myself. This was hard. Allowing God to help us rid ourselves of these things is not an easy task, but we still need to come to a place of reconciling ourselves to the fact that such painful losses cannot be undone. If we are to grow through this unbearable grief, we need to forgive, by God’s tender loving grace, placing the offender in the hands of our just and fair God. Scripture tells us, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19 NKJV) Though justice may not always be done here on earth, ultimately those who have committed wrongs against us will be accountable to God. In time, believing this truth can actually be a comfort and relief to those who are so angry they feel they cannot forgive their offender. Our Savior said in Matthew 6:14, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (NKJV) Even though it is difficult to forgive, God tells us we must do so in order to be forgiven ourselves. When we hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness we are holding onto sin which, in turn, comes between our relationship with God. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (I John 1:6-8 NKJV)

Free to Be Who God Created Me to Be

Lewis B. Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.” 1 When I was refusing to forgive my father, I found it hard to trust others which hindered the ability to establish genuine relationships. For the longest time, whenever I was around people, I felt like an outsider looking inside. I kept people at arm’s length and wouldn’t let them know the real me. This became an obstacle in my relationship with my husband. I was unable to share my deepest thoughts and heart’s desire with him. Our emotional intimacy was hindered which, in turn, hurt our marriage. I literally felt like a prisoner in my own skin. Something inside of me was screaming trying to come out, but I kept suppressing it. Then, one day, I felt like my world around me was crashing down on me. I wanted to quit my marriage and even being a mother. I told my husband I didn’t want to live any longer. I began Christian counseling which was the beginning of my healing process. As the counselor helped me through the process of forgiveness, the bitterness and resentment that were gnawing inside my heart turned into love and compassion for my father as well as others who have hurt me in some way or another. I started trusting people and established friendships. I also began sharing my heart with my husband. As a result, our emotional intimacy keeps getting better and better even after 36 years of marriage. For the first time in my life, I was finally free to be the person God created me to be. Once in a while someone might hurt me, but instead of holding on to an unforgiving heart I choose to go through the process of forgiveness – not just for the other person, but also for me.

How Do You Forgive?

1. Decide to forgive. If you wait until you feel like forgiving, then you never will forgive. Choose to obey God’s Word in Matthew 6:12, 14 which says, “And forgive us our debts… As we forgive our debtors. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (NKJV). Resist the devil when he puts doubts and bitter thoughts in your head. Make a conscious decision to forgive and God will heal your heart in time. 2. Depend on the Holy Spirit to help you forgive. We cannot live in our own power. We need to allow God to enable us to forgive. 3. Obey God’s Word. God’s Word tells us we need to do several things when we forgive our enemies: • Pray for those who have abused and hurt us. (See Luke 6:27,28) • Bless and do not curse them. (See Romans 12:14 NKJV) Believe In His Promise

We need to believe that the God who has promised we will be set free from sin and sorrow in heaven will fully heal us of all pain suffered from the hands of others. We have this blessed hope to look forward to: No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise…..Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. Isaiah 60:18,20 (NIV) Endnotes 1 (1999-2010). Lewis B. Smedes quotes. Retrieved from

Michele lives in a farming community in Pennsylvania with her husband of 36 years who is a principal of a Christian school. They have a grown daughter, son-in-law and teenage grandson. Through the years the Lord has called them to various ministries living in Pennsylvania, Texas, New York and Arizona. In addition, Michele has been involved in all aspects of the church ministry: Pastor’s Wife, Child Evangelism, Regional Women’s Ministry, Wellness Ministry, Speaker, Counselor and Writer. Michele has experienced various life challenges. Since 1985 Michele has been living with multiple chronic illnesses. Michele has an encouraging and informative blog, http:// where she claims Psalm 18:29: “In Your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall”.

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Written by Lori Macmath

Freedom in Forgiveness

Every single month I have a date with my online bank account. The numbers and I have a sit down for as long as it takes. It’s clearly not my favorite time of the month, but it’s one of the “necessaries” in my life. I reconcile with the bank. Reconcile, as in the 14th century transitive verb meaning to restore harmony; settle or resolve. (Merriam Webster Dictionary) I spend a significant amount of time with my “invisible online banker,” balancing my accounts: for an unbalanced account, as we all know, yields disastrous results. Trust me.

Clearly they are concerned about how this now powerful Joseph will react, and rightly so. Joseph is in a position of power and could wreak havoc on their lives. How does Joseph respond? “So they sent Joseph a message, “Before his death, your father gave this command: Tell Joseph; “Forgive your brothers’ sin – all that wrongdoing. They did treat you very badly.’ Will you do it? Will you forgive the sins of the servants of your father’s God?” When Joseph received their message, he wept. Then the brothers went in person to him, threw themselves on the ground before him and said, “We’ll be your slaves.”

There is nothing quite like the feeling when those last numbers are entered in and the grand totals match! It’s freedom! That is until next month, when I do it all over again.

Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid. Do I act for God? Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now – life for many people. Easy now, you have nothing to fear; I’ll take care of you and your children.” Genesis 50: 16 – 21 (The Message, emphasis added)

Reconciliation achieved, but not without action. If only forgiveness and reconciliation in our human existence could be so cut and dry. Reconciling numbers with the bank is one thing; reconciling with those who have hurt us requires even more prayerful attention than an unbalanced account.

Forgiveness in our lives moves us toward reconciliation with others, while at the same time it helps us to understand the grace that we have been forgiven in. Forgiveness is never a passive activity. That should not surprise us as nothing in our “Moving Toward Holiness” journey has been or will be passive.

Forgiveness, (to give up resentment of or claim to requital) and reconciliation can dance a beautiful dance together, but it is never easy. It’s often a journey that is painful and difficult, but the reward of extending grace to others is where the dance of forgiveness becomes beautiful.

Forgiveness is one of the cornerstones in this journey. Forgiveness requires that we engage and feel the ways in which we have wounded those around us; it’s in our understanding and acknowledging the pain we have inflicted that we come to a place where we can truly ask to be forgiven, and in turn forgive others. Joseph could have never forgiven his brothers unless he understood how he’d been forgiven by the Father.

Joseph knew that all too well. We read in Genesis how Joseph has been wronged by his brothers. So much so that his brothers are a bit concerned about how he is going to react. “What if Joseph is carrying a grudge and decides to pay us back for all the wrong we did to him?” Genesis 50:15 (The Message)

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“To accept forgiveness is to embrace the scar of the injury. If we do not feel the hurt, we cannot measure the forgiveness. When we are forgiven, we must engage the pain we have caused in order to understand the magnitude of the grace we have been given. Yeshua recognized this weight in the woman who washed His feet with her tears. As excruciating as it might be, we cannot truly receive forgiveness until we have embraced the depth of the injury we caused. To ask for forgiveness is to ask to be included in the injury, sorrow and trauma.” Skip Moen, Scar Tissue, February 17, 2010

Asking to be included in the “injury, sorrow and trauma” is a painful venture, but it’s necessary for a life reconciled with others and God. Many of us would rather embrace the road to forgiveness the way my children used to. When one would wrong the other one and was told to seek forgiveness they would offer up a casual, “I’m sorry” and hope to be on their way. Not so fast. While it’s a much more comfortable alternative, it’s simply not going to lead us to a place of forgiveness or freedom, let alone move us along our walk toward holiness. The freedom will elude us until reconciliation, honest reconciliation, takes root. In order to forgive others, even those who have wounded us deeply, we must understand the “depth of the injury” that we cause God each time we sin. That is where Joseph stood. Joseph came to a place where he understood that he did not and could not act for God. He chose to forgive, and in confidence let God handle the rest. Can we say the same? Do we have the same faith? Joseph moved to a place of holiness where he understood the depth of the injury that he caused toward God when he sinned. His example shows us that the only way we’ll ever move to a place where we can truly forgive those who have sinned against us is to extend the same grace to others that God has faithfully extended to us. The road to holiness is littered with potholes that hinder us. Those potholes of an unforgiving heart will swallow us. Literally. With work, we can come to an honest place where we recognize how we have grieved God and understand the grace bestowed upon us. This knowledge will open the door to forgiveness in our own lives with those around us. Understanding His grace is the beginning of forgiving others in our own lives.

The invitation is extended, an invitation to explore forgiveness in your life this month. We’ll walk the path of reconciliation and forgiveness. It’s likely going to be a challenging hike, but the view from forgiveness is where peace lies. The “Moving Toward Holiness Forgiveness Journal” can be found here.

That is the place where reconciliation and forgiveness can dance beautifully together. They dance the beautiful dance of grace extended. There is quite possibly nothing as challenging on this road to holiness as forgiveness. Much like obedience, faithfulness and humility, it’s going to require that we engage. Forgiveness begins in the heart, but is played out in our attitudes and actions. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (English Standard Version)

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How White is Your Dress?

Written by Brooke McGlothlin

I’m not a murderer. I’ve never had an affair. I’ve never stolen anything…much. I’ve never had an abortion. I’m not homosexual. I even waited for sex until I was married. I wore a white dress…and meant it.

I was raised in the church. A “good-girl.” Never partied hard, never sowed my oats, never smoked much, cussed much or drank much. I don’t have a lot of stories from the “good old days.” So what does a person like me have to ask forgiveness for? Consider with me the description of Godlessness in the last days we find in 2 Timothy 3:2 (ESV). “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” You know, it’s funny. I don’t see the word murderer mentioned in these verses. Wait a minute. I don’t see adultery mentioned either. Come to think of it, I don’t see stealing, abortion or sexual sin of any kind mentioned in this passage. But I do see lovers of self. Ouch. I do see lovers of money and pleasure. Ouch. I do see proud, arrogant and ungrateful. Ouch I do see without self-control, swollen with conceit and disobedient to parents. Ouch. Ok, what about Romans? Surely with all the fire and brimstone there in the first few chapters we can find something good? Image credit:© Dmitri Oleinik |

Let’s look at Paul’s description of the people God turned over to a debased mind. “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:29-31, ESV) Well this is even worse! It looks to me like Paul is saying that envy is as bad as murder in God’s eyes. Could this be true? Is my white dress really just filthy rags? Ripped, torn, bloodied, in shambles. Stained, wrinkled, blemished is my white dress. And so was my Savior. “For our sake He made Him to be sin, who knew no sin…” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV) Loving myself over others. A sin for which my Savior died. Loving money and pleasure. Sins for which my Savior died. Pride, arrogance, ungratefulness. Lack of self-control, conceit, disobedience. Lust, envy, strife, deceit. Gossiping, slandering, hating. Abuse, arrogance. Sins for which my Savior died. “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10, NIV). When you look back on your life and see little that needs forgiveness, you’re in danger of missing the depth of forgiveness that exists in Jesus’ great sacrifice. None of us has been forgiven little. “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47, ESV) Do you love much, or little?

How white is your dress?

Written by Jenifer Jernigan

Forgiving Waters

So you want be like Jesus? Want the power to love like He loves and the power to serve as He served? Want the power to have the compassionate heart towards all men like He has? Want the power to walk in the path that He’s laid out before you? Want the power to speak with boldness and confidence the words God has given you? All of this, and so very much more, is absolutely available to the child of God and is granted to Him at the moment of salvation. The “more” included here, and something we often times fail to discover or REFUSE to discover is that with God’s power, the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, comes the power to forgive. The power to forgive others the wrong they have committed against us and the power to forgive ourselves. Webster’s Dictionary defines forgive in the following way, “1 a: to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgive an insult>, b: to grant relief from payment of <forgive a debt>; 2: to cease to feel resentment against (an offender): PARDON <forgive one’s enemies>.” The word forgive is a verb, meaning it is an action word; a word that requires someone to DO something. “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” John 13:1-5, NKJV

As their Teacher knelt to wash their feet, the disciples balked at His act of servitude towards them. The washing of another’s feet was normally done by the lowliest of servants and in their eyes Jesus was NOT the lowliest of servants. They probably would have jumped at the opportunity to wash the feet of Jesus had they thought of it first, but never in their wildest dreams did they imagine their Lord to be washing their feet. With a towel girded around His waist and a basin filled with water, Jesus, one by one, washed the feet of the men who had followed Him. What I find so fascinating about this particular act of service is that Christ knew where these feet had been and where they would lead His disciples in the days to come. All of them had been called out of the world to follow Him. All of them had walked where He walked over the past few years. All of them had seen Him perform miracle after miracle. All of them had questions. All of them had fears. All of them had doubts. And all of them would fail Him. One of them would even hand Him over to the chief priests and Pharisees to be crucified (John 18:1-9). This act of washing each of their feet displayed to them Jesus’ humility, His servant’s heart, and His willingness to forgive them for all they had done and would do. He forgave them of past sins and He forgave them for the sins they would commit against Him in the days to come. He forgave them…all of them. Even Judas, the one who would betray Him with a kiss, He forgave. In spite of who they were Jesus forgave them. Because of God’s power in Him, Christ was able to forgive. If you and I want to be like Jesus, truly be like Him…If our hearts desire is to flesh out our faith loving as He loves, serving as He served, caring as He cares, being like Jesus in our day to day lives…if this is the person we desire to become, then we are going to have to forgive as He forgives.

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He says, “Forgive.”

Jesus said in Matthew 6:14 that “if you forgive men when they sin against you,” then our “heavenly Father will also forgive you (us).” Forgiveness doesn’t come with stipulations and it’s not conditional. Jesus doesn’t say if you forgive two out of the three people who wrong you or those whom you love then that’s good enough. He says, “if you forgive men.” Men comes from the Greek word anthrōpos meaning “a human being whether male or female; all human individuals” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions). He says that we are to forgive EVERYONE.

Jesus doesn’t put a limit on the number of people we are to forgive nor does He put a limit on how many sins, wrongs, faults, or offenses we are to forgive. He says “forgive men when they sin against you.” “Then Peter came to him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’” Matthew 18:21-22, NLT After calculating the math, I’m sure Peter was shocked to discover Jesus responded with, “forgive him not 7 times, but 490 times.” Four hundred and ninety times! Are you kidding me? Who is going to keep a running tally of having forgiven someone 490 times!?!?! This was exactly Jesus’ point. No one is going to keep that kind of tally but instead having exercised forgiveness that many times one would be in the habit of doing it and wouldn’t think twice about forgiving every wrong done to them. Forgiveness isn’t conditional. It doesn’t come with stipulations. And, there are no strings attached. In washing His disciple’s feet Jesus demonstrated this very truth to His followers.

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An important fact for us to note about forgiveness is this: Forgives does require something of the giver…it requires a denial of self and humility of spirit. In washing the disciples’ feet Jesus was the perfect example of denying self and humility. He denied His own desires, putting on the robe of servant leader and with meekness served. But you have no idea the wrongs committed against me. You have no idea how deep my pain goes. There’s no way I can forgive that person. You are exactly right. I have no idea the wrongs committed against you. And, there is no way you can forgive that person. Whatever the wrong done against, it can only be forgiven through the power of Christ living in you. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3, NIV Everything we need, including the power to forgive others, has been given to us by the One who called us into a new life with Him. Because Christ Jesus first granted forgiveness to us, kneeling down washing away the grime and dirt of our pasts, present, and future, we can forgive others. But, it is going to require that we deny those feelings of revenge, anger, hatred, and bitterness from creeping into our souls. It’s going to require that we gird ourselves with the towel of forgiveness, fill our basins with the living water of God’s mercy and grace, and humble ourselves before our offenders and wash their feet with the water that will heal our souls and theirs. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32, NIV

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Love & Forgiveness Turn To God

She was welcomed into our home with a loving embrace on the day we first met her. The result was betrayal and lies; a hurt so deep grief overcame me. My family left bruised and scarred. I wanted to take away a pain I had no ability to ease. And when the hurt she caused broke the spirit of each of my loved ones, the wound that was left on my heart turned into a hardened shell.

There is only One who truly understands our pain and knows our heart in the deepest of ways. There is only One who surely has the answer. That One is Jesus. His counsel provides security and peace. He offers words of advice that lead us to a place of tranquility.

Whenever we are mistreated it can hurt deeply. There can be a rawness and openness of pain that digs deep into our hearts. It becomes easy for our minds to replay the incident over and over again until the bitterness and anger wells up and overflows. The hurt can overtake our attitudes and affect each person who crosses our path. The hurt doesn’t mind lashing out at those closest to us, causing them to bear the brunt of our misfortune. I know these feelings all too well for I experienced them one too many times. I allowed them to take over my joy; that is, until I had enough!

There is hope for our weariness when we hurt from the pain that betrayal causes. Turning to God is the only way we can begin to heal our scars enough to allow forgiveness and love to grow.

As with any pain that hurt and misfortune can cause, weariness eventually takes over. When this happens, our only solution is what we should have done to begin with. Turn to God. Allow Him to open our hearts to forgiveness. Allow some form of the love we once had for our oppressor to pour back into our hearts; because in the end, love and forgiveness are essential for our healing.

Matthew 11:28-29


“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (NIV)

An Open Heart to Forgive God convicted my heart when the betrayal I experienced superseded all betrayals before. When I realized that my pain was not aiding my freedom, I searched for God’s will. In that search, I was led to Luke 6:37 which says the following: …Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (NIV) We are called to forgive because our reception of forgiveness depends on it.

Forgiveness is one of the most difficult choices we can make. It is so hard because it has to come from a heart that has been bruised and torn. God knows how painful forgiveness is. In Matthew 18:22, Jesus told Peter to forgive his persecutor “…seventy times seven!” (NLT) showing that it is not easy and revealing that it is not instantaneous. Forgiveness is not an emotion we feel, it is a choice we make based on faith. It can be as simple as speaking out loud “I forgive” even though the hurt is still fresh. Once we begin to take even the smallest of steps in the direction of forgiveness, God acknowledges our devotion to His Word and takes over the pain.

Love That Overflows One of the most important reasons to forgive is so that we may love. During the time when resentment invaded me and God began working on my heart, my pastor, Rev. Earl Dunmon, said something in church that I will never forget. He said, “When we love God, loving others, even those who persecute us, becomes easier.” This revelation hit me so deeply because my need for God’s direction had just led me to a verse I struggled with days before. Matthew 5:44 says the following: But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (ESV) It was easier for me to see my need to forgive than it was to see that I must love my offender too. However, when my pastor spoke those words from the pulpit, I realized that because of my love for God, my love for my enemy becomes less of a burden and more of a gift. This gift is love wrapped in a box with a ribbon of forgiveness. Once we begin to untangle the ribbon of forgiveness, no matter how slowly, love for our enemy is the gift that releases hurt, tears, pain, bitterness and anger. It is also through love that forgiveness begins an outpouring of peace that will replace the bitterness and pain.

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Finding Freedom Through Forgiveness God’s Word offers us advice that is meant to benefit us when we choose to forgive. • Accept the hurt and turn to God for healing. Isaiah 53:5 says, “…by His wounds we are healed.” (NIV) • Believe that God loves you. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (ESV) • Love God first so you may love others. 1 John 4:20 reminds us, “…For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (NIV) • Pray for the person who wronged you. Matthew 5:44 says, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (ESV) • Make the choice to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 instructs us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other…” (NIV) Forgiveness is hard and doesn’t mean that what happened to us will ever be forgotten. It won’t justify the pain our offender caused us. Even if we never receive a well deserved apology, holding on to the anger will cause a bitterness that can take root in our hearts and grow. However, there is freedom in forgiveness from hurts we cause ourselves when we grasp resentment.

Love and Forgiveness There is love in forgiveness. There is a tie that binds the two together. Finding love through forgiveness opens the door to healing and peace. When chains from the bondage of bitterness are broken, our hearts receive a freedom the world cannot offer. I now can honestly say that even though there is pain when I think of the hurt that person caused me, there is love present when I pray for her; a love that I know only God could give. Love is a beautiful result of forgiveness; it’s the greatest outcome of all. …the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:13 NIV) Rachel W. Clark lives in Georgia with her husband, two dogs, her cat and bird. She enjoys reading and blogging. Her passion is cooking. While she enjoys to cook, she prefers mealtime with her family when her mom’s food is on the table. Most importantly, she loves sharing Christ’s love with others and the power of His mercies.

10 Questions with Author Christa Allan

Interview by Judith Roberts

She’s a wife, a mother, a teacher, and a woman saved by God’s grace. But Christa Allan is also an author, whose debut novel, Walking on Broken Glass, is available for purchase. Christa writes the story of Leah, a woman drowning in alcohol and lost in a seemingly loveless marriage. Leah is witty and easy to relate to, but her tale did not come without reflection from the author herself. Christa also has two other books planned, a prequel and a sequel to Walking on Broken Glass which bring Leah’s story full circle. The prequel, A Matter of Trust, deals with Leah’s parents and how one stolen kiss led to a world of deception – and forgiveness. In the sequel to Walking on Broken Glass, which is Picking up the Pieces, Carl, Leah’s husband, deals with his own emotional turmoil with his parents, his children and even Leah herself.

[JR: How did you get the idea for this series? CA: People are often surprised when I share that, through the grace of God, I’ve been a recovering alcoholic for over 20 years. I didn’t drag myself out of gutters or lounge in bars or abandon my children. I attended Garden Club meetings, ate dinner at the country club and helped my kids with their homework. And drank. And ignored God. Recovery changed my life and brought me back to God. If I hadn’t felt so alone, if I had known other seemingly “normal” families struggle with some kind of addiction, I might have sought help sooner. So, the story I wanted to tell was one of hope and healing, of God finding a way to reach people in unexpected ways, and of realizing that, while our lives may not follow the script we prepared, God’s grace can still bless us.

[JR: You wrote such a connected tale for Leah – dealing with her parents, her husband, and her brother. What made you decide to write her as such a “real” character with such an intricate design? CA: I wanted Leah to be real, and real people don’t live in isolation. They have families, and those families usually are not perfect either. Real people have to live in the world, and the world is messy business! When we have challenges in our lives, there’s always a ripple effect. I think to write a novel where the protagonist is the center of everyone’s universe and all the other characters neatly/nicely become what the protagonist needs them to be is not only unrealistic, but insulting to readers. One of my reviews on Amazon from a reader named Kim said this, and it truly captures Leah: “Leah Thornton’s story is painful. It is tragic. In a way, it is everyone’s story though, because we all come to Christ wounded, broken, battered and torn.”

JR: How did you mold and shape Leah’s character? CA: I knew where she’d start, and I had an idea of what I hoped she’d become. So, the promise of who she could be is what drove her characterization. But people don’t journey to wholeness without dealing with the fragments in their lives, and those events and how she ultimately viewed them began to shape the woman she’d become.

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JR: Tell me a little about your family. CA: My parents are both deceased. My mother died at the age of 57; my father when he was 68. I have a brother who is four years younger than I. Ken, my husband, is a veterinarian. We’ll be married 19 years in June. I have five children (yes, this marvelous man married a single mom of five), two sons and three daughters who range in age from 32 to 25. I have two precious grandgirls who are 5 and 3.

JR: How long have you been teaching? CA: This is my 22nd year of teaching high school English. This year I taught freshmen, but I’ll go back to teaching juniors next year. Juniors are my favorite age group, plus the 11th grade curriculum is American Literature, which I love to teach.

JR: How do you hope your family and your students remember you? CA: As a woman who tried to be a good and faithful servant of God, who lived grateful for all the family and friends who surrounded her, and who thought that every day she woke up breathing was a marvelous day!

JR: How hard was it to write that first book? CA: Walking on Broken Glass was written over a period of three years. Hurricane Katrina accounted for a lapse of two years between starting and finishing it. Our family, though truly blessed with no home damage, was displaced because of my husband losing his job. The business he had worked for ended up mostly in the Gulf of Mexico! For two years we lived in a city about three hours away from our home, and looking back, I realized God placed us exactly where we needed to be. It was during those two years that I connected with Jessica Ferguson, an ACFW member and now president of The Bayou Writers’ Group in Lake Charles. She and I had actually “met” online through ACFW before I even moved. She encouraged (challenged?) me when she told me that if I was serious about writing, I needed to attend a conference.

Never doubt that God places people in our paths for a reason! Between the decision to attend the conference and the actual conference date, everything that could go awry did. My husband’s job opened up again, so I returned to my former job, but he had to work for two more months before leaving. I came back and lived with a friend for two weeks. I didn’t have an Internet connection, so all of my work had to be finished at school. And since funds were tight, I attempted to print my own business cards. The school web blocker wouldn’t allow me on the site, and then when I finally found a site it wouldn’t block my printer died! I left school late and, what should have been a five hour drive to meet my daughter who would eventually drive me to meet Jess, ended up being almost seven hours because of an accident. My cell phone died in the process, so I had to make the last few miles on a prayer because I’d never been to my daughter’s new apartment. Again, looking back, I believe that the one who doesn’t want us to succeed is always on the sidelines waiting for us to give in to despair.

JR: What keeps you writing now? CA: The excitement of what unfolds when my fingers hit the keyboard. I believe that, for now, writing is how I can best serve God. Most of what I write about are topics that I believe are the big elephants in the room we as Christians don’t discuss. Alcoholism was one of those topics, and I’m so blessed that Abingdon Press allowed this novel to reach women and their families. I’ve received so much feedback from readers who are relieved and thankful for Leah’s journey.

JR: Who is your favorite author and why? CA: Just one? I’m all over the place in books I read, from Stephenie Meyer to William Faulkner. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, John Irving, Anne Lamott, Lisa Samson. . .

JR: What is your favorite Scripture? CA: [One of] my favorite scriptures: “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed. . .” Romans 4:18

In Stores Now!

Written by Andrea Mitchell

Simple Ways to Serve OurFamilies

In the June issue of Exemplify, we took at look at how setting our priorities can make us humble, by helping us to see where we need to set ourselves aside (Philippians 2:3, MSG) in order to make room for the things God truly wants us to focus on. I have to confess that I really struggle with putting myself aside. I rather like making everything all about me – I get a lot more attention that way. But as I have been working on my priorities, God has been working on my heart. And He’s helping me to see that when I make everything all about me, my family suffers in the process. It’s almost impossible to focus all your attention on yourself and your family. Someone is going to lose out. I’m not saying that we should never pay attention to the things we need as women; that would be unhealthy.

But the thing I am learning lately is that it really all comes down to who I serve. Am I serving me? Or am I serving God?

When I serve me, I have no time for anyone else. I have no time to listen to my kids tell me about a game they played at school in all its glorious detail. I have no time to calm their fears, kiss their hurts, or just sit and cuddle. When I am serving me I don’t want anyone to disturb or interrupt me, or ask me the same question ten times in five minutes because they didn’t hear me the first time. But when I am serving God, suddenly those things I am fixated on don’t seem so important. Suddenly I have time to listen and enjoy the great detail in my children’s stories. I have patience to deal with meltdowns. I can’t wait to sit and read a book with all three kids (and the dog!) piled on the couch beside me.

Philippians 2:4 (NIV) admonishes us to “…look not only to (or focus on) our own interests, but also to the interests of others .” The Message says “Forget yourself long enough to lend a helping hand.” Last month we took some time to write down the things we place the most importance on in our lives, and then prioritized them in order to make our homes and our relationships better reflect God’s desires for our lives. For me personally, the areas of most importance were my marriage, my family, and my ministry. Remember, your priorities may look different, and that is okay! Also remember that no matter where we place our priorities, God should be over every single one of them. I hope you were able to do this exercise – if not, check out the June issue of Exemplify for details. Did you notice the same thing I did when setting your priorities? I noticed that the things that I need to place the most importance on in my life are the things that require a great deal of sacrifice from me. They require me to put myself aside, to forget myself long enough to focus on the people around me. The times I find this the most difficult are when I am busy. And ladies, it’s easy to be busy nowadays, isn’t it? Being busy is almost a status symbol in our society – it allows us to feel importance. The problem with being busy is it can easily take up my whole day. I can be busy doing housework (although to be honest, that is rarely a problem for me!), busy writing, busy working from home, busy with friends, busy busy busy. By the end of the day I may have accomplished quite a bit, and yet accomplished nothing in terms of my family. If we are going to truly look towards the interests of others, namely our children and husbands, we are going to have to be intentional about it.

• SET ASIDE TIME EACH DAY TO SPEND WITH FAMILY. It doesn’t have to be six hours, but family time is imperative if we are going to raise children who love one another and strive to live lives that glorify God. Conversations don’t happen while each of us have our faces in front of a screen. They happen when we have our faces turned toward each other. • EAT TOGETHER AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE. I have to admit, I need to work on this one more! Having supper together most nights of the week opens the doors to communication, allowing you to see what is really going on in your family’s lives and how you can help them in areas they are in need. • ASK QUESTIONS. As our children get older, they are less forthcoming with information. Ask questions and ask them often! Even if you get a grunt in response, your efforts show your child that you are indeed interested in what is happening in their lives. (This applies to our husbands, too!) • LISTEN. It’s not enough to ask questions. We need to truly listen to our children’s and husband’s responses. • DO SOMETHING THE OTHER MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY LIKE TO DO. My husband loves picnics. As soon as the snow melts, he gets the itch to go on the first picnic of the season. I, on the other hand, would much rather go to a restaurant and have someone else cook for and wait on me. But even though picnics mean a lot of work for me, not to mention bugs and other creepy crawly things fighting for my food, I have learned to set aside my preference in favor of my husband’s during the summer months. Not only does he appreciate the effort, but I’ve actually come to look forward to these fun family excursions – bugs and creepy crawlies notwithstanding! This coming month, as we work on setting our priorities, let’s also remember to work on focusing less on ourselves and more on the interests of our families. And maybe even go on a picnic or two. Just don’t forget the bug spray!

| © 2010

Written by Alison Hunt

Finally I Confessed In First Person:

I sure hope you don’t mind getting a little of my history in order explain my present. My story of love and loss is not unique, and all the more reason to tell it to you. When I was 18 there was a man I loved with all of my heart. He was a pastor’s kid and I was the nice girl who used to go to church. We worked together; we played together; we did everything together. The relationship was never really easy. It was a constant push and pull of wanting love and wanting freedom. Somehow we never found the freedom in love. Hurting each other was easy and the love was full, but when it came down to it fear dictated the ultimate decision that tore us apart. We had one perfect spring/summer, and right before I left for college I broke up with him to have complete independence of living on my own for the first time. It didn’t take me long realize the mistake I made. So, I tried to pick up where we left off. It worked…for a while. This time it was his turn to seek the freedom all of his friends were experiencing as unattached bachelors. I finally realized it was him that I wanted but he could only give me friendship. I took it. The break happened right as summer started after my freshman year of college and to say I despaired would be an understatement. I was at the lowest point emotionally I had ever been, but I was determined to be the best friend I knew how to be. We talked. Every day. Every day I was reminded that the person I loved didn’t want me. If there was one thing I regretted it was not actually saying to him, “I love you.”

When I got back to school in the fall I was tired of being sad all the time, and was willing to try anything. Fortunately for me a childhood friend invited me to a campus ministry meeting and God radically changed my heart that night. Joy was restored to my soul as well as a new passion in my relationship with God. I was on a quest to rid my life of everything that was not pleasing to Him. In the process I sought advice from friends about my relationship with my ex and what I should do about it. What I heard was I needed to cut him out of my life, and I did. As a relatively new believer I hadn’t yet grasped the difference between listening to friends and listening to the Holy Spirit. I am not saying that seeking the wisdom of friends is wrong. What I am saying is that it is wrong to seek the wisdom of friends in the place of seeking the Holy Spirit. I called him and told him that my life had changed and he was not to call, email, or write me. We needed to go our separate ways. I’ll never forget what he said to me before we hung up that night, “Isn’t this change in your life something you want your friends, me, to be a part of?” All I could say in response was “I’m sorry, I’m supposed to do this.” The immediate feeling was relief, but it was quickly followed by the feeling I had made a really big mistake that I didn’t know how to take back. Since I didn’t know how to take it back, I went on with my life and figured he wouldn’t want to hear from me. Why would he, right? I pushed forward in my relationship with God but was always just a little mad that I had to give up “him” for Him. For about four years I lived on the faith and revelation of other people. I learned a lot, but it wasn’t my faith. Somewhere in the fifth year of silence I began to find my faith and understand that I needed to make amends for the way in which I ended things. I did what any insecure girl would do; I emailed him an apology. Do you know what he did? He forgave me. FORGAVE me. No questions asked.

image credit: microsoft

| © 2010

It was a heady feeling to know he harbored no grudge and insta-love was in full bloom in my heart. I began to feel deep love and pain, incredible loss, selfishness, and regret. Most of all I was feeling the need to ask for forgiveness, again. I was caught in an emotional whirlwind. He shouldn’t have forgiven me, but he did. And so the cycle began. Every time we talked from that point on…whirlwind. Five years later… “It’s amazing how one thought of an old feeling can turn into an open flame in seconds… some memories are more powerful than present reality.” I recently tweeted and updated my facebook status with that statement. I wrote it in a moment when all of my emotions and thoughts were caught up in the memory of him. The voracity by which the emotions took me was so strong it just about folded me in half. Again, I was feeling deep love and pain, incredible loss, selfishness, and regret. Most of all I was feeling the need to ask for forgiveness, again. I was caught in the emotional whirlwind and finally sick of it. Many thoughts questions poured out of my heart and into God’s that night: “God, why do I still love him? Why do I always feel the need to apologize? Why does his name alone set off a firestorm deep within? Why can I not let this go? Why can I not match my emotions with the way I treat him? Why? Why do I keep inserting myself in his life? I’m just so tired of dragging myself over emotional coals. God, I can’t ever move forward to be with another man while I still feel this way. It wouldn’t be fair. Please show me how to be unburdened.”

| © 2010

God certainly did show me exactly what I had been carrying for the past 10 years…anger towards Him for “making” me give up the guy, anger towards my well meaning friends who gave me the advice so many years ago, anger towards myself for not being able to let him go after all of these years, guilt for deeply hurting him in the process of cutting off, guilt for waiting so long to apologize to him, guilt for at times wanting him more than God, guilt for simply loving him, guilt because I felt like I had given up my chance for marriage, and guilt over my insecurity that caused me to keep sparking with him. On top of it all, if that wasn’t enough, I was feeling guilty that for 10 years I hid my guilt from God. Friends, we all know that God knew just how guilty I was feeling, but He wanted me to tell Him directly. To trust Him enough with this deep tender place of my heart, and I couldn’t. Oh, I prayed about him over the years, but I held back the deep truth of what was really going on in this heart of mine. As I prayed through this, God brought me to just the scripture I needed {as He always does}:

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared from guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” Psalm 32:1-5 NLT

This is a Psalm of David, and if you know his story, then you know he had some serious issues to feel guilty about. If David can walk in the full forgiveness of God, can I not then too? I can. You can. It’s easy to repent for the parts I want to let go, but when it comes to what I want to control because the future is uncertain, that’s where the groaning comes into play. My perspective was seriously shifted when David says “Finally I confess all my sins to you…” It was then that God removed the guilt he was feeling. I highly encourage you to read the rest of Psalm 32. It’s both encouraging and challenging. I’ll let God speak to you on that one though. Some things are better left for you to discover. What I’ve learned is that I need to have zero control of my life if I want to live in the fullness of my relationship with God. It is then that He truly gets the glory. My healing alone will show of His astounding glory. There are a few friends who have walked with me through this from the beginning to now. They would all tell you that my healing in this situation is a complete miracle. Know this, I am healed, but my habits are still being changed. Life is a process. Amen? Friends, my prayer for you is that you would step out of the place where you hide all of your guilt. Bring it out into the open light of our loving God and finally confess it. He will be tender, and trust me, the joy is worth the pain of letting go. For the first time in 10 years, I don’t feel guilty.

Life As an Army Wife Feature Article

If someone had told me a decade ago that I would be the wife of a soldier in the United States Army, I probably would have laughed at them. Even after over nine years of sharing our life with the military, I still have a difficult time picturing myself as a military wife. It was not until we were in the middle of our third overseas deployment that it finally started to sink in a bit. Like it or not, planned for or not, this is our life. I am an Army wife. My husband and I married very young and divorced after two years of marriage. Four years later, and by the grace of God, we remarried just eight short weeks before he was given his first set of war orders; a deployment to Afghanistan. He was not there to hold my hand when our daughter was born. Instead, my husband was on the other side of the world fighting for her future. He was not there when our youngest son reached all his first milestones either. Rather he was in the desert helping rebuild communities so other children had a future to look toward. During our first six years of marriage, my husband spent over three and a half years deployed. He missed birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, Christmases, and first days of school. We have faced injuries and “close calls” and life-altering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, all in the name of duty. There have been times when I nearly cringed as a total stranger thanked us for our service. Quite honestly, I have resented my husband’s time away, no matter how much I supported the war or the troops. One thing, though, has always been abundantly clear. My Heavenly Father was always right there with me through it all, even when my husband was a world away. He continued to remind me of that daily, whether through His Word or through His children. Matthew 10:29-31 was a passage that continually came to mind.

Not even a sparrow, worth only half a penny, can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid: you are more valuable to him than a whole flock of sparrows. (NLT) If my God was powerful enough to know every single sparrow that fell to the ground, or to know the number of hairs on my head, how much more capable was He to care for me and my family?! Furthermore, Who better to entrust my husband to while he was deployed than to God?! Though the Army way of life may not have been the path I ever would have chosen, it is the path the Lord has allowed us to travel. My heart has ached for my husband during our times of separation; so much so that sometimes it just hurt to breathe. Our children have missed their dad. I have listened as my children cried for him at night and felt that impossibly helpless feeling down deep in my soul. There have been days where nearly every waking moment was spent in prayer, begging God for my husband’s safety and protection. Yet through it all, God’s constant presence and miraculous provisions were a source of overwhelming strength and comfort. Best of all, God has brought my husband home to me, safe and sound, every time. There are no words for my gratitude for that miraculous Providence. Two things have become absolutely critical to surviving this role as a military wife: • A close and totally dependent relationship with our Heavenly Father • A strong community of support for me and my family.

| © 2010

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We would not have made it through all three deployments and all the time of separation without either of those things. There is such an absolute dependency on the Lord when your spouse is in a war zone. Let’s face it – we wives literally have no control or say in what happens to our husbands over there. The only thing, the best thing, we can do is to PRAY and rely on God for the rest. In that dependency, God provides an amazing peace and strength beyond measure to get through the tasks at hand. Sometimes the source of that strength is also the network of support we are blessed to be a part of, whether it be other military families or the family we find in our local church. If you are a military family preparing for deployment, cling to a church family for spiritual encouragement, strength, and the community it can provide. Our home church truly embraced our children and me while my husband was in Iraq. My brothers and sisters in Christ were able to fill at least a part of the huge void I felt while going it alone. It was as if God spoke to each one of them and told them of our exact need and they were more than willing to accept the task. The love of the family of God is absolutely priceless. If I have learned anything from my time as an Army wife, it is that we can survive. We can make it through anything, as long as we have the Lord on our side. We are never truly alone. We are never neglected or forgotten. We are never out of His reach. God has taken such amazing care of us and has met every single need we had, sometimes even before we knew it. Be encouraged because with God, all things are possible (see Matthew 19:26) … even living life as a military wife.

| © 2010

Mandy Roberson is married to her hero and best friend after a miraculous reconciliation and is currently learning to embrace the life of an Army wife. She is mother to three unique and precious blessings – currently ages 11, 6, and 3. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Counseling and has many years’ work experience in a variety of fields – all of which contribute greatly to her writing at Counting My Pennies and My Blessings and Brokenness into Beauty. Blogging has allowed her to find her passion again in writing and connecting with others. You can follow Mandy @PennyBlessings, @ BrokenN2Beauty, and on Facebook.


The Book Nook with Deborah Boutwell

Lookin’ Back, Texas Written by: Leanna Ellis When I was thinking about what book I wanted to share with you, I considered this month’s theme of Forgiveness, but I also considered that at the time of my reading, I was personally going through some storms (literally). I was trapped in my home for a couple of days because of rain that was flooding all the roads, I had no electricity or water, and my house was full of kids who didn’t know what to do without some electronic device in their hand. I needed a good laugh and I remembered this book, Lookin’ Back, Texas. I ran to my bookcase and hunted it down. If there was ever a book that would make me laugh out loud… this one was it.

Leanna Ellis has written other books since Lookin’ Back, Texas was released a couple of years ago, but this is still one of my favorites. Her characters are true to life, witty, and lovable. Suzanne, Matt, & Oliver Mullins have the perfect life going for them in California. Matt’s job as a successful attorney has supplied Suzanne with everything she ever wanted: a stable home, a loving husband, a normal marriage. The only hiccups in Suzanne’s life are her son, Oliver…15 years old and learning to drive, and her parents back in Texas, Betty Lynne and Archie Davidson. Suzanne must return home to Luckenbach, Texas (made famous by Waylon Jennings’ and Willie Nelson’s song and “jokingly referred to as Lookin’ Back”) for her father’s funeral. The only problem is her father isn’t dead…except in her mother’s mind. And her mother seems to have completely lost her mind as she is planning the funeral of the decade for her dearly departed husband….who departed to the hotel, not realizing his wife of 40+ years has killed him off.

Suzanne can’t figure out how to help her parents or how to keep her secrets from destroying the perfect marriage she has. Why doesn’t her mother have any of Oliver’s recent pictures out on display in her house? Will anyone else notice the similarities between her son and the local sheriff, Drew (a past love of Suzanne’s): especially her husband? And why is the guy next door always sitting on his porch naked?

Like the casket. Betty Lynne orders a casket for the funeral, which is delivered by a most unusual hearse and driver. The local dance hall (which also serves as the church) becomes the place to be…. but Betty Lynne doesn’t really want anyone looking too closely. As she is arranging for the flowers, there are a few folks in town that just have to have a peek inside that casket. The sheriff becomes even more involved in the Mullins’ life when he gets the call that a body has been found in the casket, which is normal. The only question is: whose body is it?

Can relationships be saved…rebuilt, made better… Betty Lynne would much rather be viewed as a widow with the simple act of forgiveness? than a divorcee. She gets more sympathy as a widow. Mike tries to prepare Suzanne for the possibility that “No relationship is perfect. It’s a dance. Sometimes her father might remain dead in her mother’s heart one partner makes a misstep and crunches the other and a divorce could be in their future. Yet he also reassures Archie that Betty Lynne will forgive him, just partner’s toes. But that doesn’t mean the dance ends. There are dips and turns. As the old song goes, one like Suzanne had forgiven him.

step forward, two steps back.”

“My heart aches at the truth of his words but at the absence of something else. Mike has never forgiven me. Suzanne learns what true forgiveness is from the But only because I never gave him the chance. That is most unexpected place, and it’s a lesson we could all learn. When asked how forgiveness came, one the one thing that stands between us.” simple word is the answer…”God.”

As more and more casseroles and cakes arrive for the grieving family, just when things couldn’t get any worse….it does. Oliver gets into some minor trouble with the law and comes face to face with Suzanne’s biggest secret. She finally realizes that her secrets must be revealed so that forgiveness can be sought.

“Oliver moves forward at his father’s bidding. I realize in that moment I’ve been holding onto his arm too, as if I’m afraid I might lose my grip, my hold on my son, my past, my secrets. It’s hard to let go. But I do.” I love the way Leanna Ellis mixes humor in with the drama of her story. She has created a story that any of us could relate to. Who doesn’t have past sins that you and God have dealt with, but you and the person you sinned against have not? She hits those feelings of quilt and shame right on, and then throws in a twist that makes you laugh.

“That’s how I managed. It’s as simple as that. God got me through it. He brought me back to you when I didn’t have the courage. He helped me to see my mistakes, my failings. He helped me…forgive.” Forgiveness isn’t so much about the person who has injured you seeking your forgiveness; it’s about you forgiving them whether they ask for forgiveness or not. You can only do that if you take your hurt and anger to God. And it’s also about forgiving yourself. Leanna reminded me of that.

“Emotions tighten my throat and all I can do is lean my head against his shoulder. Like Mike said, I can’t do anything about the past. Nor can I foresee problems which might occur. I can only live moment by moment and pray that God will give me the grace to get through each.”

| © 2010

How to

Say Goodbye to the

Mrs. Jones Lifestyle Written by Wendy Miller

| Š 2010

About two months ago, I was sitting at my daughter’s award banquet, surveying the crowd, and all of a sudden thoughts started jabbing at me. Look how put together that mom is. She’s so classy with her expensive blouse. I need to go shopping. Check out that mother. Her makeup is perfectly polished. Maybe I should invest more money in lipstick. Oh, and look how sweet that mom is tucking her daughter’s hair behind her ears with a bouquet of flowers awaiting her after the ceremony. Maybe I should… You get the point. I ran through a mental list of how I could be Mrs. Jones. So as you read the rest of this article, you’ll understand I know exactly what it feels like to struggle with wanting to look and act like Mrs. Jones. After my tirade of deliriously envious and time-wasting thoughts, God smacked me upside the head with this verse: “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV) There are so many ways to get caught up with desiring to live like Mrs. Jones. We can crave her parenting skills, her patience, her success or fame, or even her ability to hold her tongue. Most often though, I’m sure you’d agree, we are seduced by the outer appearance Mrs. Jones portrays. Her stellar green thumb manicured yard, her tidy, wrinkle and stain-free children, her three hundred dollar shoes (I actually met a lady at a party who made a display of showing off her three hundred dollar shoes. I nearly choked on my guacamole.) It’s important to recognize when our mind shifts from a state of admiration or respect for another woman’s lifestyle toward a less innocent jealousy or lust for it.

I’m going to focus on three ways to live like yourself and not dear Mrs. Jones:

Be a Good Steward of Your Money • Did you know money is one of the topics Jesus addressed most often throughout his ministry on earth? God cares how we use what He’s provided us with. We’re called to tithe. Dave Ramsey has written some amazing books about sticking to a budget, financing and decreasing debt. • Have you ever evaluated how much extra paper shuffles through your hands throughout the month? How many magazines do you order, but then carelessly toss aside? Especially when it comes to having to flip through page upon page of gorgeous super models, maybe it’s time to cut down spending on magazines and even newspapers. Cut out the frivolous in your life. • Shop wisely. My mom, sisters and I have a running game we play. We like to check in with each other from time to time to see who has scored the biggest deal. We go for the bargains. We spin it into some sort of fun contest. You can do this with friends. Remember to spend money only on what’s needed. By doing this, you’re not purchasing things because Mrs. Jones has them, you’re buying them because you need them and you’re accomplishing this on a budget. • Enjoy free adventures by heading out to museums and parks. Eat out less. There’s a restaurant in our town certain people frequent just to be seen there. That goes beyond wanting to enjoy a night every so often. If eating out has more to do with the social scene (and by this I’m not talking about laughing and connecting with friends) you know you’ve dipped a little too far into Mrs. Jones’ mentality.

Care Less about Your Looks Mrs. Jones walks around trying to get noticed. God hopes we are walking around trying to get others to notice Him and His glory. This hit me so hard after I got home the night of that awards banquet. What had come over me? By the time the night ended I had a whole new wardrobe picked out in my head, I planned to throw down at least one hundred dollars on cosmetics and I swore I’d do a better job ironing. Like I said, what had come over me? I’m willing to bet whatever delusion I’d slipped into during that banquet, you’ve also experienced. If not at a banquet, how about the grocery store? No? A wedding? Still, no? Hmm. I’ve got it…the swimming pool. I knew it. We all like to look good, right? I recently heard that Americans spend over 20 million dollars per year on cosmetics. That’s mind blowing. I’m not suggesting we go around makeup-less. I might scare you. What I am saying is that maybe we spend too much of our time primping, too much of our finances purchasing yet another lipstick that will end up in our cosmetic graveyard and too much of our energy on how we look. I won’t even mention plastic surgery. Here are some practical ideas how to shut the door on Mrs. Jones’ concept of beauty. • Spend less on beauty products. If your closet is already bunched full, you probably don’t need a bag of new items just for a pick me up. • Next time you want to compliment a friend try to encourage her about something other than her shirt, her shampoo commercial hair or her fabulous eye liner. Though it never hurts to do this, dig a little deeper instead. Tell her how much you loved the appetizer she brought to the picnic. Let her know how meaningful it is that, every time she asks how you’re doing, you can tell she wants to know. Explain how much respect you have for her because she’s sticking with her marriage during a rough patch. • Take less time pampering and primping. What? I know, what I just wrote sounded worse than nails on a chalkboard. I don’t mean to do that, really. I’m by no means suggesting a good pampering every so often is off the table. You need to get on that table and get that massage to rejuvenate. I’m merely saying that you don’t need to keep up with You Know Who in this area. You don’t need a weekly manicure. Really, I promise, you don’t. You don’t need to buy hundreds of dollars to get your eyes to light up just so. They are light enough. Maybe you struggle to feel that way, but God doesn’t. Trust me, every time you pray or act in a loving way, your eyes are beams of His light and love.

“It occurs to me it is not so much the aim of the devil to lure me with evil as it is to preoccupy me with the meaningless.” - Donald Miller

Adopt the Right Kind of Competitive Attitude Some things are worth competing over. You know, like who will get the last piece of chocolate in the house. But who emulates a lifestyle most like Mrs. Jones—not worth competing over. In order to sift the good kind of competitive attitude from the not so good, here are a few things to consider: • Be Honest about Jealousy. Clearly the night of my daughter’s banquet my thoughts had moved from admiration to incompetence. Right when we start to notice the shifting from, “she looks nice” or “what a compassionate way to treat her children” to “I need to fiddle with my hair more” or “what’s wrong with how I parent” we need to be honest. It’s jealousy. It’s becoming about us and it can bear absolutely no fruit. • Pour Energy in Areas of Strength and Service. Why waste time trying to perfect Mrs. Jones’ smile when our smile is much more revealing of who we are—who God has created us to be? • In Colossians we’re told to work at whatever we do as though working for the Lord. It’s commendable to throw ourselves into our work and our passion. If we’re able to do this while keeping in mind where our worth comes from, then I say more power to us. More power to you. And you. And you. • To quote Fleetwood Mac, “Go your own way.” We all have a unique purpose for being here. Competition can be fun when we understand this. We feel a new found freedom to encourage more and compare less. Do your thang, people. Because there’s only one you to do it. You don’t need to be Mrs. Jones. There are already far too many of those out there anyway. I’ll leave you with the same question Francis Chan has asked, “Has your relationship with God changed the way you live your life?”

Are you living like you or are you still trying to live like her?

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Holding His Hand Written by Holly Smith As a mom of four, sometimes I think the only thing I say over and over in my children’s ears is this: “You need to ask forgiveness” or “You need to forgive.” I don’t know if their actions are sincere–it’s between them and the Lord. But one thing I do know is that in our family, we make it a practice to forgive. In my family when I was growing up, I don’t ever remember that being much of a topic. It was more like this: ”I want this. Why can’t I have it? Or why can’t they come over? Or why can’t I go?” The selfish nature of my heart offends me to think about and replay in my head, even now. So when my neighbor, Susan, introduced me to Christ Jesus at the age of 8, I do not think I grasped the concept of forgiveness. I just remember confessing the same sins over and over to Him. I think it was a one-way conversation, because I talked a lot and didn’t listen at all. So I did not really receive or believe His forgiveness. I just hoped that I was forgiven. By the time I was 18 years old, I can still see myself–as if I were watching from above the whole time–on the floor of my dorm room, face down before Jesus. I cried out to Him. I confessed once again. But this time? This time I listened back–I heard His heart for me. He said in my heart, “Child, I forgive you. Now turn from your sin and walk with me. Hold fast to my Hand.” And I guess I have been doing that ever since– holding fast to His hand, believing and receiving His forgiveness and loving Him.

Some might want to cheapen His forgiveness by giving you a list of steps you must take to be forgiven–they are all about the rules of faith. To have faith, you do A, B, and C. Some might want to water down His grace by saying, “Oh well, of course He forgives me.” Though they were never sorry, they wrote a check for an account that didn’t even exist. But the simplicity of His forgiveness is this: Jesus pursues you. Erwin McManus in his book, “Soul Cravings,” tells the story of Jesus in the Middle East. He says, “I once met a girl named Kim, and I fell in love. I pursued her with my love and pursued her with my love until I felt my love had captured her heart. So I asked her to be my wife, and she said no. I was unrelenting and asked her again, pursuing her with my love, and I pursued her with my love until she said yes. I did not send my brother, nor did I send a friend. For in issues of love, you must go yourself.” He continued, “This is the story of God: He pursues you with His love and pursues you with His love, and you have perhaps not said yes. And even if you reject His love, He pursues you ever still. It was not enough to send an angel or prophet or any other, for in issues of love, you must go yourself. And so God has come. This is the story of Jesus, that God has walked among us and He pursues us with His love. He is very familiar with rejection, but is undeterred. And He is here even now, still pursuing you with His love.” You are His beloved. You are His treasure. And beyond anything else in this whole world, He is about setting your feet on the Rock, which is His very own Self! He is about putting a NEW song in your mouth. He is about redeeming the things we long since have pushed down and tried to forget. He is about making all things brand new in your life. And you know what? Picture it. He is looking you straight in the eyes and saying, “Child, I forgive you. Now turn from your sin and walk with me. Hold fast to my Hand.” So for recipes today, I thought about things we have to “walk with and hold their hand” to prepare them. Not for one second can you take a break, but it is so worth it!

Banana Puddin’

Egg Rolls

1 1/3 c. sugar 2 T. flour pinch of salt 2 c. milk 2 eggs 2 t. vanilla 1/2 stick butter 1 box Nilla Wafers 1 large container Cool Whip, thawed 8 ripe bananas, sliced (May want to sprinkle a bit of fruit fresh on top of the slices to keep bananas from turning brown.)

1/2 lb. lean boneless pork 2 T. peanut or sesame oil plus 2 c., divided 1 – 8 oz. pkg. mushrooms, chopped 1 c. chopped bean sprouts 1/2 c. finely chopped water chestnuts 2 green onions, finely chopped 4 c. finely shredded cabbage 2 T. soy sauce 1 T plus 1 t. cornstarch 1 – 16 oz. pkg. egg roll wrappers

Stir together in large sauce pan, 1 1/3 c. sugar, 2 T. flour, pinch of salt, 1 c. milk. Heat on medium-low for 5 minutes. Stir together eggs and 1 c. milk in dish. Slowly stir into pan mixture. Cook on medium low, stirring frequently until mixture coats the spoon. Remove custard from heat and add vanilla and butter. Cool. In a trifle dish, layer wafers, 2 bananas, then 1/3 custard mixture, then 1/3 whipped topping. Then layer wafers, 2 bananas, 1/3 custard mixture, whipped topping. Then layer wafers, 2 bananas, 1/3 custard mixture, whipped topping and last two bananas on top. Chill for at least two hours before serving.

Process food in a food processor until finely chopped. Cook pork in 2 T. peanut (sesame) oil over medium high heat for two minutes, until the meat crumbles. Add mushrooms, sprouts, water chestnuts and green onions, stirring constantly for 4 minutes. Stir in cabbage. Combine soy sauce and cornstarch in a small bowl, stirring well. Add to meat mixture and cook 2-3 minutes until thick and bubbly. Spoon 1/3 c. mixture in center of wrapper. Fold top corner and wrapper over filling, tucking tip of corner under filling. Fold left and right corners over filling. Lightly brush remaining corner with water. Tightly roll end toward remaining corner and gently press to seal. Pour 2 c. oil in wok or dutch oven. Heat to 375 degrees. Fry egg rolls a few at a time for 2 minutes or until golden, turning once. Yields 16 egg rolls. From The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook.

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Wings, Worries & Worms

an empty nest journey

Written by Alene Snodgrass

I felt it. There it was, that all too familiar lump in my throat again. I had figured that after my first two children graduated from high school, the third and last one graduating would be a breeze. No more emotional outbreaks. No more tears. She’d just walk the stage, I’d holler loud, and we’d be done with it. Shouldn’t it all be familiar and ‘old hat’ by now? It was a day just like any other day. Linds, my youngest, came in from school and we were visiting about her days adventures when all of a sudden she says, “I have got to get registered for the SAT.” That’s the moment I knew raising and watching the kids graduate would never become ‘old hat!’ It just seems – seriously – that as a mom I’d get use to this. I have raised all three of my children with the intent of them growing their own wings. I never thought of it as “wanting them out of the house,” I just wanted them to have the lessons and tools they would need to grow up and succeed. But who ever thought watching them leave the nest would be so emotional? It was just weeks after that encounter with the lump in my throat that Exemplify signed me on as a columnist for Empty-Nesters. Part of me thinks this is funny. Part of me thinks this is scary. And the other part of me (I guess I have many parts, more to share later) thinks this will be therapeutic (or so I hope) as I journal the journey to becoming an empty-nester. Wings, Worries, and Worms is my journey, but it will be a familiar journey to those of us who are nearing the empty-nester season of life. You are probably wondering if what I have to say will mean anything to you. Good thinking and pondering on your part. image credit: Alexy1 |

So here’s a little bit about me and my family. We are retired from the US Coast Guard, which basically means we moved around a lot for 23 years. Our children always adjusted well. Our last duty station was to Corpus Christi, Texas and that was about the time our oldest children began high school. Once we retired we stayed in Corpus, mainly because our children were so rooted. They had great friends and an awesome youth group, a mother’s dream-come-true! I just need to say something – after reading back over these paragraphs – I apologize that this comes across all white-picket-fence. Mercy, our family is far from perfect. We have had our number of struggles and then some, many of which will probably make it into this column. To read more about my ordinary life you can find me at Ordinary is Amazing, my ministry blog. As your ordinary, everyday mother, I’ve raised my precious ones by the quote, “Good parents give their children roots and wings. Roots to know where home is, wings to fly away and exercise what’s been taught them.” (Joseph Joubert) I trained them to exercise discipline just as Timothy writes in 1 Timothy 4:12 MSG, “And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity.” But I never dreamed how hard it would be to actually watch them fly and exercise all that had been taught to them. (I wonder if it is this heart-wrenching for a momma bird as she pushes her young from the nest!) My oldest daughter graduated four years ago and left for college. I cried my eyes out. The house seemed empty. The family personality changed. Her chair was empty at supper. Then as soon as I got adjusted to her moving out, my son graduated. More tears. More worries. Less noise.

Thinking I had this under control, I was shocked when the emotion welled up in me when my youngest talked about the testing required for college. As I’ve tried to prepare myself for yet another senior year, which will culminate in another emotional graduation, I’ve been thankful for the ‘worms’ around the house. All right, not literal worms! But I am thankful that the kids do return for food, a washing machine, and unconditional love. Leaving the nest is hard for the kids as well. It’s nice to know that they feel loved at home, despite what has happened in the cruel world. It’s a blessing that they are comfortable coming home for any reason at all! However, I’ve watched moms go before me. Some seem to make it through this season and some just seem to have a come-apart! Knowing I did not want to come apart at the seams, I remember asking a dear friend one day, “How will I know if I can handle being an empty-nester?” Her answer was filled with simple wisdom and has stuck with me over the years, “Alene, if your whole life is wrapped up in your children you will come apart at the seams. However, if you are well grounded and have interests outside of your children you’ll make it just fine.” I have hung on to those words. While I have been very involved in each of my children’s lives I’ve remembered to save time for hubby, as well as make time for other interests. As I enter my last year with a high-schooler, I’m banking on the wisdom in those words. Not only do I want my children to fly, but I want to soar in this new season of life.

Wings, Worries, and Worms will journal my journey of learning to thrive in this new season. If you have been an empty nester for a while, I hope you’ll tune in and help encourage those of us who are struggling trying to adjust to a much quieter nest. However, if you are like me, fixing to embark upon something you thought you were ready for but you find doubts creeping in daily let’s keep in contact online and encourage each other as we adjust. And for those of you who think this season of life will NEVER get here, hopefully you’ll learn through my adventures. If it weren’t for wise women speaking into my life early on, I’d probably really be falling apart. Seriously, I look forward to the year ahead where I’ll cherish the special moments of high school and adjust to the thought of my last one using her wings to fly from the nest. I am thankful for wings, worries, and worms. Wings are the truths of God that my children will use to soar beyond my wildest imaginations with God’s help. Yes, I will worry along the way! (I am a mother.) But knowing that those very same worries will drive me ever closer to the foot of the cross brings me comfort and a sense of anticipation. And there is no better comfort to this mommy than when my three chick-a-dee’s return home for unconditional nourishment, love, and worms. What an amazing adventure this will surely be in the months ahead. I hope you’ll join me, as I know you will be encouragement for my journey, but I sincerely pray I will be encouragement, inspiration, and refreshment to you as we make this journey together.

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Will write for cupcakes. Fun @ the Exemplify Editorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Blog.

Written by Tara Guy

New & Improvedâ&#x20AC;Ś or is it? Has the Bible been changed?

image credit: iris nelson

Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar. Proverbs 30:6 We have come to one of my favorite sections of Apologetics regarding the Bible. Today we’re going to explore whether or not the Bible has been changed. This is one of the most often-played arguments against Scripture. And every critic seems to know it and use it. Critics of other faiths, critics of no faith (i.e. atheists) – both eventually come around to laying this argument on the table. But does this argument have any validity? Can we, as believers, trust that our Bible hasn’t been changed to fit someone’s agenda? There are two main areas where critics argue the Bible has been changed. Some argue that the New Testament has been changed to “make” Jesus God. Others argue that the Old Testament has been changed so that everything in the New Testament fulfills what was prophesied and proclaimed. Let’s examine these two critiques.

Has the New Testament been changed? The theory that the New Testament has been changed is argued mostly by atheists and biblical critics. However, there are some faiths that also argue the New Testament is a fabrication in order “contrive” a religion. We know from our previous sections the dates of the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament. Critics, regardless of what they believe, can hardly argue with historic discoveries, so they claim it was an event, rather than a historical find, that “changed” the New Testament. They claim the New Testament was changed at the Council of Nicaea.

The Council of Nicaea was, essentially, the first Church council meeting. It was established by the Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D., and the main point of the Council was to discuss the divinity of Jesus. The Council of Nicaea was not where the divinity of Christ was first suggested; rather the Church elders came together to firmly establish exactly what stance the Church would take on His divinity. As mentioned in previous articles, pagan and Gnostic theories about Christ spread as Christianity spread through the Roman Empire, and the doctrine of Christ’s divinity needed to be settled within the Church in order to combat these other theories. Part of what prompted the Council was teachings by Arias, a pastor who claimed that because God “begat” Jesus, Jesus had to have a beginning and was therefore a lesser being than God the Father and salvation through Him was insufficient. Arias was brought before the Council to argue his points. It was soon discovered that Arias had twisted Scripture in order to prove his theories (a technique man has continued to use to this very day). The Council put it to a vote, and out of the 300 plus elders present, all but two voted against Arias and his theories. Arias was then excommunicated from the Church for his heretical teachings, but was pardoned by the Emperor close to the end of his life (1). While the Council of Nicaea was a critical turning point in this history of the Church, and the divinity of Jesus was debated, this was not where His divinity originated. It was also not where the Scriptures were changed; rather, a strictest interpretation of the Scriptures were taken in order to accurately debate Arias and his claims.

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But the logic of the critics is brilliant. Christ’s divinity was debated at the Council, and critics can twist this into “proving” their point by simply omitting the premise on which His divinity was debated, and then adding their own premise (that the Church changed the Scriptures to prove Christ is God and purport their own agenda). By combining a little truth with agenda-laced untruths, critics make a very convincing argument, and those who don’t know or don’t care to know actual history can be susceptible to believing this critique. The idea that New Testament Scripture has been changed is being promoted more and more in media and popular culture. The most recent example of this is the popular book (and subsequent movie) The Da Vinci Code, where the author claims some Gospels were included and others excluded to suit the Church’s purpose. According to the author, this occurred at the Council of Nicaea. However, there is no historical evidence that the canon was discussed at the Council – even among secular historians – and that’s one fact the critics cannot argue with.

But what about the claim that the Gospel authors purposefully wrote their gospels to promote an agenda and make Christ who they wanted Him to be? One must examine the Gospel authors and use deductive reasoning to see if this is a plausible argument. 1, is the author influential enough to need a reason to lie; and 2, would the author have anything to gain by lying? Matthew (a.k.a. Levi) was a tax-collector, a man detested within society. Mark (a.k.a. John Mark) was a close friend of Peter, and only a teenager during the time of Jesus’ ministry. Luke was Paul’s physician, and as a physician, possibly the only one with any clout in society. John was a fisherman. These men were not scribes, religious leaders, or politicians. They were, for lack of a better word, common. However, the fact that they were common could be a potential reason for them to lie. So one must also look at what they gained from their beliefs and subsequent writings.

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Both Matthew and Mark were eventually martyred. John died of natural causes but was exiled to Patmos at the end of his life. Of the four Gospel authors, Luke is the only one that escaped any sort of punishment during his lifetime (2). This same reasoning can be applied to Peter, Paul, and James – influential because of their role within the early church and also their writings. Peter, like John, was a fisherman. Paul, by his own claims (see Philippians 3:3-7), was a Pharisee, a Hebrew of Hebrews. Paul gave up his status to follow Christ. James is historically reported to be the brother of Jesus. All three men were executed for their faith. Peter and James were martyred – Peter by crucifixion, and possibly (according to early Church father Origen) upside down. Paul was beheaded, a lesser punishment than the other men courtesy of his Roman citizenship. So why all these details about the lives of the New Testament authors? Because an examination of their lives shows that they had very little to gain and everything to lose if they were purporting a lie. Sure, perhaps they could have fabricated some accounts of Jesus to bolster their own popularity, but once the Church began enduring persecution and they faced execution, doesn’t reasoning tell us they should have recanted? No, these men lived and died for their beliefs because their beliefs were the truth. What did the Gospel writers have to gain by lying? Would James, a family member of Jesus and one who would have grown up with Him and known Him well, have died if the accounts of Jesus were not true? Would Peter and Paul endured prison sentences and execution for a lie? They would not, and their lives are a testament to the commitment and conviction of their beliefs, which, through their writings, would ultimately become our beliefs, too.

Then what about the Old Testament? Because if the Bible has been changed, and it wasn’t the New Testament that was changed, then it had to be the Old, right?

Jews, as you probably know, are the original fathers of our faith. They walked with Moses in the desert. They lived under Saul, David, and Solomon. They were persecuted, exiled, and reconciled to God as a nation. They faced a huge decision about 2000 years ago: is this man from Galilee really our intended Savior? Those that said yes to the question were the founders of our faith. Those who said no continued the race of God’s people still searching for a Savior. The nation of Israel is eagerly awaiting their Savior. Each day they spend time in synagogues and prayer in homes to study Scripture and await God’s promised Messiah. Unfortunately, they do not see Jesus as anything more than a great prophet, certainly not the Messiah. Here is how they are the biggest defender of our Old Testament. The Jewish Bible, called the Tanakh, is the exact same work as our Old Testament. We use the same ancient manuscripts to get our Old Testament as they use for the Tanakh. Therefore we can deduce that there is no way our Old Testament has been changed, because the Jews would not allow their Tanakh to be changed to prove that Jesus is the Messiah. They are still waiting on their Messiah, and they are claiming the same prophecies we claim for Jesus. for lack of a better word, common. Some argue that since the Masoretic Text was compiled over 1,000 years after the life of Christ, it’s entirely possible it was changed over those years to point to Jesus. However, this argument falls flat with a simple observation of the fact that the Tanakh is also derived from the Masoretic Text, and, again, the Jews would not allow their holy Scriptures to be changed to make Jesus the Messiah. All of our books in the Old Testament are in the Tanakh, including those brimming over with Jesus prophecies, such as Isaiah. Plain and simple, the Bible has not been changed. Too many religions are at stake. God’s Word is the same today as it was yesterday and 2,000-3,000 years ago. Footnotes: 1. Some information taken from Christian Apologetics Resource Ministry ( 2. Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. Pg. 22-23.

Coming up next month, we begin our own “Council of Nicaea” as we study the divinity of Jesus. Who did Jesus claim to be? Rather than study what others have said about Him, we’re going straight to our Lord’s words and see exactly what Jesus believed about Himself. It’s an exciting study of our Savior, and I hope and pray it will draw you closer to Him as you revel in the beauty of His character and nature. for lack of a better word, common.

I’d like to leave you with a few questions to ponder: 1. Which translation of the Bible do you read? Do you agree or disagree with reading more than one translation and why? 2. Has this study affected your faith in any way? Do you feel stronger knowing the facts of the Bible, or do you feel the same? 3. What is the biggest challenge you find to sharing your faith with another person? What are you most and least comfortable with? 4. Do you feel God leading you to minister to a particular person or people group? How are you going/will you go about pursuing this? 5. Has the knowledge you have gained from this study made you more or less comfortable with sharing your faith with others? 6. Is there anything you feel is holding you back from boldly proclaiming your faith to others? 7. What other areas of Christian beliefs and doctrine do you feel is important to study in order to be more prepared to share your faith? Lord God, we thank you for providing such incredible resources to allow us a glimpse into the past. You certainly do not owe us anything and we accept Your Word with no questions, but we are deeply grateful for the remnants You have left us to prove Your glory to an unbelieving world. Please continue to strengthen our hearts and minds and our walks so that we may constantly be prepared to share our amazing hope in You with anyone who will listen. Thank you for giving us the awesome calling of serving as a light for You. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Written by Tara Guy

Second Chance

My life is over. Ending.

I’ve been caught. The chill of the morning air seeps through my thin linen shift, and I find myself longing for a warm robe, left carelessly behind in a swift exodus of discovery. Remembering the robe brings his face to mind. How he just watched as they took me away. How moments before I was ensconced in his arms, not feeling, knowing, or breathing anything but him – only to have him sit there and watch, cold and unfeeling, as they dragged me away in my shame.

Cursed me for my fruitless womb. Berated me and stripped any pride of femininity from me. I was worthless. A waste of a wife. A waste of a life. He took to staying away from the house. I know he visited other women. I know the pressure he was under. I know he needed a child, if for nothing more than to boost his own image among his fellow man. I couldn’t fathom why Amon had given up on me. Sure, we’d spent five years waiting for a child. But I was nowhere near being out of my fruitful years.

Our shame. It takes two. It always takes two.

At first I cried and screamed and beat my fists against the walls and his chest, till a well-aimed slap silenced my wailing and stilled my arms.

And yet I sit here, shivering in the chill – hands bound, rags stuffed in my mouth, feet chained – and I am alone.

I discovered I couldn’t allow myself to care anymore. To care, to hope – that only brought more pain.

My captor lounges in a chair, whittling a gnarled stick with a small knife drawn from his belt. He looks up at me and smiles. “A pity. You are a beautiful thing.”

So I closed Amon off. closed myself off.

I try to retort but the gag silences my voice, so I am left to only glare at him.

Adonikam. Beautiful, kind, strong Adonikam.

He chuckles and looks out across the hills in the direction of the Mount of Olives. “Don’t worry,” he said, returning to his knife and wood. “It will all be over soon.” As the sun creeps into the sky, temple workers bring up stark-white stones and stack them in the outer courtyard. *** It was foolish of me. I knew it from the beginning. I was lonely. Hurt. My husband Amon, for all his promises in the beginning, had all but abandoned me.

And in doing so, I

Until he came into the picture.

I first met him at the market. He stood under the shaded stall, selling the fruits of his labor in the soil. Unlike the other vendors, he didn’t screech and accost. He sat back, surveying the crowds with his dark eyes, and treating each customer as though they were his only care in the world. I picked up some grapes, inhaling their heady scent. The fruit was firm beneath my fingers. He reached across the wooden crates and plucked a plump orb from the stem. “Try one,” he said softly. “They are the best grapes you’ve ever tried.”

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I took the fruit from him and slipped it into my mouth. My cheeks stung as the sweet juice burst forth from the soft pulp and taut skin. I caught myself wanting more. “That is the best grape I’ve ever tasted.” I spent all my market money on grapes that day. I worried what my husband would say, wanting to know why I had been wasteful. But he never came home that evening.

Pressing too deep, perhaps, but I was in no state of mind to fight his questions off. For the first time since my betrothal, I was enjoying the positive attention of a young, virile man. Our talks grew longer, our laughter louder and deeper. I would help him pack away his wares at the end of the day. Sometimes our shoulders would brush during the work, and I would find myself surprised by the bumps rising on my arms.

I sat on our steps, a pile of sweet grapes in my lap, watching the sunset and trying to fight off the image of the gentle vendor that popped into my mind with each bite.

I spent every penny to my name at his market stand. Amon was rarely ever home, and I had no trouble sustaining on fruits, vegetables, and dreams.

*** Heavy footsteps fall on the tiled floor, their racket rousing me from my memories, causing anxiety to flush into my heart.

One day, after a particularly unpleasant evening with my husband, I found myself seated beside Adonikam behind his cart. As he worked with the trickle of customers, I poured out my sorrows. I gave him every sordid detail of my life, and it felt good. I knew deep in my soul it was wrong, but the effect of confession was like the lancing of a boil – I had to get the poison out of me.

The guard drops his stick, now shorter than his thumb and thin as a sewing needle, and stands at attention. A temple leader strides into the room, wiping his hands on his long tunic. “It’s time. He’s here.” His eyes fall on me, and a malicious grin sweeps over his lips. “Bring the condemned.” The guard nods curtly and comes to me, grasping my shoulder painfully and pulling me to my feet. He steers me out into the courtyard. The sun has risen now, and the stacked white stones shine brighter than ever in its rays. *** I would go back to the market every day after that first encounter. Adonikam always had choice fruit and vegetables, and he gave me delicious samples of all his wares. He would talk as a friend to me, telling me about the toil of working the soil, and ask questions about my own life.

| © 2010

His head jerked toward me, and his hand reached up to touch the tender red spot on my cheek as I told him about the most recent assault. His hand was warm, and he sent ripples of shock through my body with a single touch. “He’s a beast to do this to you,” he said softly. He let his hand fall, his thumb brushing gently against my lip. “You deserve better. You deserve real love.” His thumb rested for the tiniest second on my lip, then his hand dropped slowly to his side. His eyes searched mine, hungry and questioning. My stomach quivered, my heart lurched in hope. I knew at that moment I would do whatever it took to be with Adonikam. Even if it meant breaking the Law. ***

My mouth aches from the rags they have jammed into my throat and between my teeth. My tongue feels like the thick fleece shorn from a sheep’s back. My eyes dart nervously around, surveying the courtyard, trying to look anywhere but at the pile of stones stacked so neatly at the edge of the gate. A small crowd has gathered in a corner by the seating benches – stragglers, no doubt, leftover from the feasts. Some sit, others squat, some stand, and some even kneel. All seem to be listening to one man seated on one of the stone benches. “This way,” the temple leader snaps, and the guard jerks me in the direction of the crowd. They march me over to the crowd. I catch snippets of the teaching – something on the proper way to pray. I feel a stab of guilt for interrupting such a serene party. Especially under such sordid circumstances. A handful of other temple leaders join our group – priests, Pharisees, and teachers of the Law. So this is what a trial is like. “Master.” The temple leader who called me from the chamber steps forward. There is no respect in the name; rather, it drips of sarcasm and disdain. This haughty man recognizes no master, and he mocks the teacher openly. The teacher stops preaching and looks up, a sheen of irritation in His eyes. Heads swivel around to us as His listeners turn to discover the interruption. The temple leader grabs a handful of my hair and yanks me forward until I stand right before the seated teacher. Tears of pain and humiliation sting my eyes. I close them tightly, unable to stand the many pairs of curious eyes surveying me.

“This woman,” the temple leader announces loudly, loud enough for all the people in the temple court to hear, “was caught in act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone her. Now what do You say?” At his words, my heart freezes within my chest. All around me I hear gasps and whispered chatter, and my cheeks burn with shame. This is it. My death approaches, and I am powerless to do anything to stop it. *** The door swung open and Adonikam’s face lit up. “You came!” He stepped aside. “Come in, come in. I have so much to show you!” I stepped over the threshold, my niggling conscience protesting softly in the back of my mind. Adonikam had long since stopped charging me for fruits and vegetables. Every day I would go to the market, help him set up his cart, and help customers all day. Each evening I went home with a sack full of produce and a heart heavy with infatuation. He grasped my hand, so familiar and comfortable now, and led me out behind his one-room home. He gestured proudly to the ebony soil with the vibrant green shoots sprouting up from the earth. “This just might be my best harvest yet.” He beamed. I smiled and winced, feeling my cheek sting. He turned my face to see a purple bruise blossoming under my eye. “Amon decided to come home last night, and I didn’t have dinner ready.” I shrugged my shoulders, defeated.

Adonikam cupped my face. “He is a devil.” He leaned in and gently pressed his lips to my bruised cheek. He stood so close, and I inhaled his beautiful scent of earth and sweat. My arms involuntarily went around his waist. His fingers slipped from my face into my hair, and the back of my neck tickled as he loosened the pins and drew his fingers through my curls. His eyes met mine, and I saw my ache and longing echoed in his own. He lowered his mouth and kissed me. Hungrily, passionately, like a starving man set before a sumptuous feast. My last shred of conscience cried out, violated, even as I melted into him. “No,” I rasped, pushing myself away even though I wanted nothing more than to be possessed by him again. “We can’t. I’m married. We’ll get caught.” I swallowed, trying to erase the memory of his eyes, the taste of his kiss. “They’ll kill us.” He grinned, the same fabulous, lopsided grin that always swept me away from reality and morality. “Look around you. We are miles from the nearest person. Who is going to catch us?” He came to me, kissing me again as his fingers raked through my hair. “Besides, I don’t care,” he said huskily. “I love you, and I don’t care. But you needn’t worry. I’m good at keeping secrets.” He kissed me again, as though to drive his point home. “No one is ever going to know.” Seduced by his logic and his love, I relented and turned myself over into his arms, not even stopping to think that, as providence would have it, someone knew already. ***

The teacher gets to His feet, and I realize who He is. He is well-known, for He is a healer and a miracle worker. Some even declare Him as God.

His name is Jesus, and His eyes search me as though he knows my innermost thoughts. Fury rises within me at the temple leaders. Why did they have to bring me here? Why make me stand in front of this pious, consecrated man? Just to further humiliate me? Why not take me out and execute me and be done with it? Bitterness grows out of my anger, and I find myself thinking about Adonikam, hating him. Where is he? Why is he not standing here beside me, bound and gagged, enduring the scorn and shame? Why is it only me? My eyes shift back to the stones, and a chill breaks out down my arms. They are so perfectly round and smooth. So clean, only to be stained with blood and flesh. And then it hits me. Now I am no scholar, but words of the Law come back to me as I stare at the towering pile of stones. The Law only requires virgins to be stoned, not married women. Married women only had to be put to death – and their lover with them. So why the pretension with the stones? And why not drag Adonikam with me? In their effort to so piously uphold the Law, the leaders seem to be disregarding quite a few points of it.

I struggle against my gag, wanting to ask about the exact wording of the Law, but no noise escapes my lips. I look back to Jesus, my eyes pleading and begging for His intervention. Surely a man of His position knows the Law and will help me. Jesus studies the temple leader carefully for a minute. The man smirks back, one eyebrow cocked in confident arrogance. It is clear from his tone the temple leader did not ask to gain further knowledge. He asked with the smugness of one defiantly needing to prove they are correct. At this, Jesus breaks his gaze and stoops to crouch on the ground. He begins to write in the dust. My captor holds tightly to me, so I cannot lean over to read His words. I feel relief flooding my bones. He must be writing out the Law, so they realize what they are doing. The Pharisees all lean around Him, reading the tracings of His finger. I wish I could see the words, but as if reading my mind, my captor jerks me back slightly. But somehow… I know. I know He’s going to do what’s right. Funny how much relief I find, even though I know I will still be condemned to death. It is just nice to have someone on my side. Jesus stops writing and stands quickly. A large crowd has gathered around us, every person coming into the Temple courts wanting to know what is going on. Then He begins to speak. *** I laid beside him in the dark, spent from passion and satiated with love. He stroked my hair softly and whispered to me, words my heart ached for. Like some sort of drug, I took my fill and was left always wanting more.

This was not our first time, though it was the most passionate, as we have grown more and more comfortable with each other and less and less concerned about discovery. We lay together on his floor under a thick woven blanket, the stars twinkling outside his open window. I had stopped coming home in the evenings too. I could not remember the last time I’d seen my husband. I would steal away to Adonikam’s every chance I got. “What are you thinking about?” he asked, kissing my bare shoulder. I rolled over to face him. “How perfect this is. How much I love you.” I tweaked his nose with my fingers. “How I’ve never been happier.” Outside a twig snapped nearby, the sound carrying in through the open window. Adonikam sat up, brow furrowed. “Did you hear that?” I laughed. “It was probably an animal. Lie back down!” I grasped at his bare back and pulled him down, to me. Hungry, I covered his face with my kisses. We gave in again to our passion. So consumed were we with each other neither one of us heard the rustling out the window. But we heard when the front door was broken down. I cried out as five men burst into the room, swords drawn and lamps swinging. “You!” the shorter one in the front snapped, pointing a finger directly at me. One of the men came forward, grabbed Adonikam by the shoulders and tossed him to the floor, leaving me exposed and mortified. I grasped for a blanket to cover myself, my pulse racing. “You harlot!” the short man spat. “Get her something to wear!” he barked.

| © 2010

I grabbed blindly for the linen underdress that had been cast aside. Yanking it over my head, I cried out in pain as I was dragged roughly to my feet. The short man stepped over and looked me in the eyes. “You’re coming with us. Say goodbye to your lover.” He spun on his heel. “NO!” I cried out, turning for Adonikam. I reached out, trying to grab some part of him, wanting him to stop them as they moved towards the door. “Please! Don’t let them take me!” But when I looked in his eyes, I saw nothing. No fire, no love, no longing, no fear. He sat and watched as they carried me away, a blanket puddled around his lap – the last fleeting reminder of a fool’s infatuation. *** A hush settles over the crowd. They all wait eagerly to hear what He is going to say. The Pharisees stand clumped together, watching Him with beady, suspicious eyes. “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” He looks around for a moment, then crouches again, and continues writing in the dirt. What?!?!? My brain races. What in the world is He doing? He’s giving them permission to stone me? But what about the Law?!? The crowd begins to mutter again. The tight-knit group of Pharisees and Law teachers turn into themselves, whispering violently. The crowd, which moments ago had seemed to swell with judgment, now ebbs like the vanishing tide.

| © 2010

I watch as a few elderly men nod to each other and separate from the crowd, heading out of the Temple courtyard. More follow, most of them aged, though a handful of young men go out as well. Slowly more and more people trickle away, until the only people left are a man with his face covered by a head wrap and the group of Pharisees. I stare at the man in the head wrap, sensing something familiar about him. His fists make balls at his sides, his knuckles as white as the abandoned stone pile. He stares back at me for a very long time, and I suddenly feel conscious again of my thin wrap. He shakes his head sadly, shoulders shaking, and departs from the Temple court. The Pharisees alone remain. One studies Jesus critically, his brow furrowed in thought. Sighing heavily, he turns and walks out of the Temple courts. One other grabs his sleeve to stop him, but he shakes the man off and keeps walking. Slowly, resigned, they one by one leave the courts. The silence is deafening. I cannot look Jesus in the eyes. I have no idea what exactly just happened, and I am almost scared to move forward. Gently, He reaches over and pulls the strips of rags from my mouth. Saliva flushes over my tongue and I work my cheeks, trying to restore moisture to my mouth. “Woman,” He says, gently but firmly, “where are they? Has no one condemned you?” I look around at the empty courtyard. Shaking my head in awe, I rasp, “No one, sir.” “Then neither do I condemn you,” He declares, His voice radiating with authority. “Go now, and leave your life of sin.” I nod, and, clutching my thin wrap closer around my body, hurry out of the courtyard and down the steps.

*** I still can’t believe I’m walking, thinking, breathing. I cannot believe I am more than just a pile of bones beneath the crushing weight of stones. As I make my way through the streets, heading to a familiar place, thankful I know the steps and don’t have to focus on them. My mind whirs in a blur as I try to piece together what has just happened to me. By all accounts, I should be dead. And yet, He stepped in and saved me. I should be elated. I should be overjoyed. But something still isn’t setting right in the back of my mind. At first I had wanted Him to quote the Law. To set the hypocritical leaders in their place. Even if it still meant death for me, I wanted them humiliated. But He didn’t. And in His odd discourse, I wanted justification. I wanted Him to explain that what I had done wasn’t really that awful, that the Law had loopholes for women emotionally and physically abused by their unfaithful husbands. But He didn’t do that either. He didn’t stone me. But He didn’t justify my actions either.

I’ve been given a second chance. Because of Him. He who came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. He orchestrated my pardon. My second chance. I remember His words clearly – they will be etched in my brain forever. “Then neither do I condemn you either. Go now and leave your life of sin.” I stagger to my feet, tears pouring down my face. I know what I have to do. *** The door to my home is open, and I enter cautiously. I wonder, has Amon completely abandoned our home, our life? No less than I have done. I hear noises in the corner and turn. Amon sits slumped against the wall, his hair mussed, a clay cup of wine in his hand and several empty wineskins on the floor. A cloth lies discarded near his feet. I study the cloth, feeling a strange sense of recognition. Then my eyes move to Amon.I stand before him, ashamed I am still wearing the very robe I wore as I left my lover. Amon’s swollen red eyes study me. I cannot tell if they are red from drink or from tears.

The punishment still stands. He just pardoned me.

A heaviness settles over me, and I realize that in his brutality Amon could finish what Jesus prevented the Pharisees from starting. My voice catches in my throat.

The magnitude of the morning’s events hits me like a tidal wave, and I sink to my knees in the street.

A voice speaks to me, sweetly, to my very spirit. “From those who have been given much, much will be required.”

I have received the pardon. Now I must ask for the forgiveness. “Amon,” I whisper, my voice cracking with emotion. “Amon, I have something I need to confess to you.” I lowered my eyes in shame and held out my palms. “I have sinned greatly against you and against God. I have been unfaithful to you, Amon, both in heart and in body. I have resented you, held grudges against you, and gave to another man what should have only been yours. I did all this because I believed the horrible lie that I deserved something better than you. I have no excuse for my despicable behavior.” I swallowed thickly, my throat throbbing in pain. “I can only ask that you forgive me.” I kept my eyes down, waiting for his explosion. Waiting for his retribution. Waiting for… anything. Instead, I hear a soft sobbing. I raise my eyes to see Amon cupping his face, fat tears seeping between his thick fingers. And suddenly I know why I recognize the cloth on the floor. Because it was tied around his head in the Temple courtyard. “Amon?” I venture, dropping to my knees in front of him. He lunges forward, not to strike, but to embrace, and sobs against my shoulder. “I forgive you,” he chokes, his nose dribbling against my shoulder. “Oh, God, I forgive you. Now I must ask you to forgive me.” He sits back against the wall and spills his secrets. How he hated me because I didn’t produce a child, how the men who worked with him in the stone quarry harassed him mercilessly.

His own unfaithfulness with other women, trying to make a child to restore him to masculine dignity. How long he knew of my affair with Adonikam. How he knew I sat with him day by day at the market. How he writhed in jealousy over my defection. How he alerted the authorities and religious leaders to my sin, to have me and lover put to death and so end his misery. “And today–” His voice breaks as a a violent sob overtakes him. “Today, I went to the Temple. I helped carry in the stones. I picked out which one I was going to throw. I wanted you punished for what you did. My rage against you consumed me. And then I heard Him speak.” He shakes some tears off his face and slicks back his sweatdampened hair. “And I realized as I stood there, ready to kill you, I deserved the same thing. I stood for a long time, trying to reason why I deserved to stand and you deserved to be punished. No reason came. So I left. And I realized I’m just as condemned as you are.” He lifts his hands to His face again as the sobs renew. I grasp his wrists, hope blossoming in my chest. “No, Amon, no, you’re not!” Words begin to spill out of me. I tell him of my final conversation with Jesus, how He pardoned me. Gave me a second chance. “Amon, do we deserve death for the sins we’ve committed? Yes, a million times over!” He raises his eyes to mine, and I see the flickering flame of hope in their depths. “But Jesus, for whatever reason, chose today to show us there’s something greater than punishment.” I clutch my hand to my heart, thumping wildly beneath my breast. “He’s shown us grace.”

Amon smiles for the first time, and I see glimpses of the young man I fell in love with and married. “Grace,” he repeats. He shifts to his knees, facing me and clutching my hands. “I’ve sinned greatly against you, too – and God. Do you forgive me?” His eyes seek reassurance. Love spills into my heart for this man, and it’s as though the last several years have never happened. “I forgive you.” I entwine my fingers with his. “Second chance?” He smiles and draws me into a hug. I know our recovery is going to be a long, arduous process. But the seeds of redemption have been planted. “Second chance,” he whispers, kissing the top of my head.

| © 2010

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