That Which Cannot Be Earned

Years ago, I sat across from my counselor to hear her say, “Nothing you do can make God love you more or make God love you less.” My thinking was forever changed.

Freedom Sarah ClewsTo some, this might sound like a no brainer. But even though I was raised as an evangelical Christian, it was news to me. I knew my good deeds wouldn’t save me. Yet this felt like a new and remarkable truth because I did think my deeds could change God’s love. I found myself laboring under this idea that God was perpetually disappointed in me, that my sins and failures were making Him love me less. I lived my life in a cycle of shame and striving.

I had been so burdened by a yoke of slavery where I was constantly living in self-reproach, agonizing over my ungracious response to a family member the previous week or my unkind action to a friend a month ago. I was desperate for spiritual and emotional freedom. Jesus offers just that, freedom that says, “Not only do I forgive you, but I also free you from your shame.”

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

God is so clear in the Bible that He has FREED us from our striving. Living by a religion of works is so exhausting because it’s clearly never enough and obviously imperfect.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 

Sarah Clews freedomWhat freedom this scripture brings! I was recently thinking back to the story of when Adam and Eve first sinned. For the longest time, I thought they were ashamed for God to see them because they were naked. But they weren’t naked! They had tried to cover themselves with fig leaves. They tried to remove their own shame by their own efforts, by their own works. Yet it wasn’t enough. They couldn’t truly be covered until God covered them by His work.

It was God’s work that freed them from their shame, not their works.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Because I know my own weakness and inability to follow every rule, what a relief it has been to know that God’s love doesn’t depend on me at all! It is a gift that sets those held captive free. There’s no better hope than that.


sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.

One Another Friendship

Last week a beautiful thing happeneda friend dropped by. No planning, no consulting our schedules to pencil in a playdate in six weeks pending the weather, possible illness, and the unforeseen mishaps that are bound to happen. Just a knock at the door.

As we sat amidst my laundry, watching little ones play we chatted about what was going on in life. As we took breaks to feed children or put a grumpy baby to bed, we coached the littles on friendship 101. Don’t pinch. Give her space. You can play with it when she is done. Gentle. Be slow to anger,she didn’t realize that hurt you. Yelling isn’t how we talk to our friends.

Friendship Holly HawesIt is good advice for us all.

Later, they will learn to keep confidences, cheer one another on, and be includers. To care for one another’s broken hearts, and forgive one another.

One another is really what friendship is about. As Christians, friendship is not simply based on common interests or places in life, but on the fact that as followers of Jesus we are family. Beyond stage of life, race, or ambition we are called to relationship. Because of this the one another includes the other.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with {Sisterly} affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

While the Bible doesn’t have a top 10 list of friendship do’s and don’ts, when I think about the way a family should treat one another, I continue to gain more insight into how redeemed sister-friendship works.

Come as you are

…But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

There is no need to clean yourself up to join the family, and we shouldn’t permit the facade of perfection to remain within our friendships. Family gets to see all sides of you. Morning bedhead. Messy room. Struggling and succeeding. There is vulnerability in sharing your real life, and this is exactly where we begin to connect deeply with one another as sister-friends. Past the Pinterest projects and small talk is the part of your soul made for real inter-dependence.

Confess

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

I vividly remember the first time I sat across from a friend and confessed an area I’d been struggling that I hoped to never say outloud. Years later, I don’t remember even what I actually confessed, but I remember the deep relief and healing I felt as she said outloud that God had already forgiven me and she forgave me as well. We need people in our lives who can tell us the truth, hear us out, and pray for us.

Holly Hawes FriendshipMartin Luther famously said, ‘All a Christian’s life is of repentance.” Indeed, we are people who not only say we are in need of the change God can bring in our life on day one of following Jesus, but  also on every day after that. In our relationships this means  we are to be sisters and friends who are real about the places we are struggling and are pointing one another back to the good news of the gospel.

Forgiveness

…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Friendship has a certain quality of commitment that is never stated in vows, signed on a legal document, or even agreed upon in a conversation. Instead, day in and day out we begin to do the things that make relationships last and slowly a foundation is built. Part of that foundation must be forgiveness or the relationship will not stand the test of time. People do fail, and no one but Jesus is perfect. We are able to forgive one another because we know that God has forgiven us.

I’m With You

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

As sisters we hold front row seats to each other’s life. We must cheer each other on both in times of joy and pain. I find that most people are great at half of this verse. We have the encouraging cheerleader party thrower types who celebrate well when a friend gets a promotion, begins a romantic relationship, has a baby, or is just excited for the new hobby she started. On the other hand there are the mercy-filled empathetic type who sit and weep with those struggling with illness, infertility, loss of a job, disappointment, or marriage trouble. We default to one side, but miss out if we don’t learn to give both rejoicing and weeping.

You Have a Gift

For as in one body we have many members,and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them Romans 12 :4-6a

For some reason, it is difficult to see in ourselves the ways that God has made us and gifted us. We need our sisters to point out how they see God at work through us, and how our gifts are needed. So next time you see a friend excelling at something, let them know. Because we are not alone in this journey. We were designed to encourage, help, and serve those whom God loves, those He created in His image.


Holly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time holly-squareas a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Loving Obedience

“Wow. I could never do what you’re doing. I would get so attached, and never be able to let them go home.”

I have heard this, or variations of this, thought throughout the years from kind well-meaning people. This statement, that strokes my pride but forgets the work God has done in me, is the most common reaction I get as a foster parent. It comes in different tones. Astonishment. Admiration. Confusion. Perhaps a touch of guilt. I never know quite how to respond. Whether it comes up at the grocery store, through a message on Facebook, or while standing in the lobby of a church, we all agree on one thing It isn’t natural to love when there is nothing in it for us.

Attachment foster careI hear you. It’s true, it is hard to continue connecting. Pursuing the best for a child I won’t get to see grow up takes a whole lot of grace, and I can only describe this grace as not from me. My husband and I are not the heroes of this story, we love because God loved us.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. -1 John 4:7-11

Jesus loved sacrificially. We have grace, forgiveness, mercy, freedom, and abundant life not because of anything we’ve done, but because God loved us and wants to be known by us. But his love was poured out through great suffering. Why are we surprised then, that when we follow Jesus and obey his call to love the world, it comes at a cost, as Philippians 2:8 says, Jesus “…humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

I have resolved within my soul that I will love like my Savior, and if that means I must set myself in the path of heartache so that I may obey, so that  I may love, so be it.

As C.S. Lewis said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” So I wake for midnight feedings that may never shift to midnight chats. I celebrate “first” experiences and offer wisdom when little ears are listening, praying it will stick. These children that enter into my home have experienced loss, and I cannot seek to comfort while remaining robotic and unconnected.

Yes, it hurts when they go, but love is worth the risk. It is the gift we can give to combat the suffering that presses into children just looking for a way.  At the beginning of our foster care  journey my husband and I talked about seeking to love every child like they would never leave. Simultaneously, we fight to remain open handed since we do not determine how long we have them. The ethos of love for our family is no longer as simple as an emotion.  It is a choice, deliberately made, to mirror the gospel.

HeroesTruthfully, I’ve said my own version of, “I couldn’t do what you’re doing,” when I see people love in wild, outlandish, and unconventional ways. Families who invite refugees to live with them while they acclimate to a new culture. Women who give friendship to the lonely and offer their presence in the midst of hard times.Single ladies who leave everyone they know and move across the country, or the world, to pursue a vocation where she will be able serve a hurting population. Mom’s who fill their van’s with neighborhood kids, building community amongst the noise.

All these pursuits may seem different, but they are the same at their core. Obedience. They are all a response to the call to love the person in front of you, so that the God who loved us first can be made known.

I wish that instead of “I could never” our narrative could turn to a celebration of obedience as our sisters participate in the different ways God asks us all to join Him in His work. It doesn’t have to be life altering. Perhaps it is as simple as asking God for the strength to view the person in front of us as he does. Reaching out to the other with the resolution that,  “I will love you, even if you don’t agree with me. Even if I don’t get anything out of it. Even if it hurts.”


Readers, How has God called you to obey him? 

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Free Anchored Printable: Loved

Dear Readers,

We want you to know that you are loved! As our galentine gift to you, Sarah Dohman has created this beautiful printable to awaken your heart to the fact that you are loved by the God of the universe. No love can match His, and He chose to lavish this great love on you through His son Jesus. May these words on your wall, desk, or wherever you like to put your printables remind you that we love Him because He first loved us.

Click here to download your Loved Printable
1-john-419

The Cry of Awareness

As I drove down the interstate a crying woman sped past me in the left lane, and a man talking animatedly on his blue-tooth zoomed by in the right. Wheeled bubbles of steel and glass rolled by the drama that clearly showed something was broken. Real people, with real lives, whizzing down the highway heading to destinations unknown. It is sobering to think how so many lives intersect but are still separated. That woman, with the tears, was weighed down by deep feelings. That man was attempting to talk his way out of his early morning problem. They both pushed forward alone into the crisp autumn morning on the highway right of the carpool lane.

There are too many burdens to carry on our own, but that doesn’t keep us from trying. We cover over the detail of real life with Instagram filters, and  “I’m fine,” or “we’re busy,” are the expected reply to the affable, “How are you?” Real answers are scary both to share and listen to. I fear we erect our own walls of steel and glass to keep inquirers from reaching our hearts.

How are you, really?

We don’t talk about domestic violence—too much shame.

We don’t talk about miscarriage and infant losstoo sad.

We don’t talk about racial divisions (unless we’re with people who agree with our own opinion)too polarizing.

We don’t talk about the percentage of foster children who age out of the system and become homelesstoo complex.

We don’t talk about human trafficking, today’s slaverytoo dark.

We don’t talk about mental health or people we love who struggletoo messy.

We put the pretty, shiny moments on the internet to be celebrated, but remain isolated in the parts of the heart that needs the most healing. At best people band together in whatever they are dealing with and lament at how everyone else just doesn’t understand. We just don’t want to be alone.

The good news is that we weren’t meant to be. Both the joy and the pain are not meant to be experienced alone. Romans 12:15 says, we are to “ Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Despite the many masks and images we cultivate online, it appears not everyone wants to stay isolated. We raise awareness through walks, runs, ribbons and t-shirts.  Every cause send out the invitation: This is my life. I don’t want to be lonely anymore. Can you help? Will you listen?  

The cry of connected but lonely people: Rejoice with me!  Mourn with me!  Be with me!

We must be aware of the deep places, and not afraid to share our own hurts in order to be the family God meant us to be for one another. You don’t have to live out a set of circumstances to be impacted by them.  But you do have to be willing to listen as well as willing to share.

Perhaps the cry for awareness is simply a cry for love.

A love that is aware of the real substance in each other’s lives despite the disorder. A love inspired by the  life of Jesus, who entered into some awfully messy situations and empowers us to do the same. He is still the one who is aware of it all. All the pain, all the disease, all the horror that haunt the shadows of people passing us. He crossed lines to love people where there was racism, incurable illness, and social injustice. Bereaved parents, social outcasts, and hurting people flocked to Jesus then, and He reaches out to us now.

“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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30)


Readers, Do you have a burden that you need Jesus to carry, but aren’t sure how to start a relationship with him? Find our more about this Jesus here.

b0de0-holly2bsquareHolly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.

 

Running From Love

“Worst case, if she runs, just call the police.”

Did I hear that right? I had taken this phone call in the safety of my living room, and I was glad. For the cell connection hid the shock painted upon my face. Those words gave me a quick and hard reality check, and I was choking on it. Now, three years removed from the eve of our first experience with foster parenting, I’ve only had to follow this advice once.

Nine children have gone in and out of our home, and one came in to become our own. Through these experiences, I’ve learned much of how we as humans try to protect ourselves. Many times, in trying to do so, we run from exactly what we need most. I had no idea how difficult it can be for some to receive love, or how much I run from being loved myself.

We all do it. Fear causes us to run from love. As we attempt to get through the walls we ourselves and others put up we must realize that it may take extraordinary measures of persistence and sacrifice.

In children who have experienced trauma, it can come out in running, screaming, or slammed doors. They push people away before they get close enough to hurt, because that is what they have experienced. After enduring profound emotional and physical pain at the hands of those who are closest, the very people who should keep them safe, they learn to protect themselves from vulnerability. Which can cause a domino effect to those reaching out. Our natural response to being given the cold shoulder or being lashed out in episodes of explosive anger—Get away. What the child actually is asking for as they try to make you turn is closeness, connection, and safety. Their overtop reaction is a pleading for love.

I haven’t always translated this chaotic disconnect very well. As Dr. Russel Barkley said, “The children who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways.”

Sometimes they have the words to ask aloud, “Why should I trust you? Do you really care?” Other times the same question comes out in their actions, “Will you still be nice to me if I break your stuff? If I throw a fit, will you still tuck me in and read a bedtime story?”

Love gives both grace and truth in the midst of failure. This love takes perseverance that is completely beyond humanity’s grasp. When love freely given is not returned, or the recipient looks you in the face and spews vinegar for your honey, you are reminded real love is hard.

Real love is worth it.

I see this worth it in the child who packed a bag in anger. It’s contents: a teddy bear, warm clothes and the Jesus Storybook Bible we read at night . One moment raging and running, the next asking for reassurance. A hug. A sandwich. Completely against me one moment, but wanting me to stay close by later. My presence allowing sleep to come quickly.

I see myself in the runners. How I want my own way. How I avoid being near to God when I’m upset instead of collapsing into his open arms. I throw the same fits on a different plane. Moments of unbelief cause me to question if God really loves me, even though I know he has shown his love over and over again. I see now, I am running just to see if he chases me.

He does chase me. Like the Storybook Bible that is once again on the bedside table says, his “Never ending, never giving up, unstopping, always and forever love,” continues to persevere no matter what I throw his way.

His love is relentless, and somehow by God’s great plan there are people in my life who need to be chased down with the same kind of love. A love that does not depend on whether or not it is received or reciprocated. We go to extraordinary lengths to persevere in love because, “We love because He first loved us.” 1John 4:19

So today, I remember the persistence of God’s love for me, and from it I can persevere in loving the people in front of me. Even those who aren’t always easy to catch.

 


Readers, Are you running from the love of God? What keeps you from seeking him?

ff717-holly2bsquareHolly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.

When Kindness Teaches

Author: The Transformed Teacher

As a teacher, June always brings mixed emotions. Sadness creeps in as students start to hug me tight and express words of sorrow over leaving me as the end of the school year arrives. A great joy overtakes me as I ponder and reflect on all the ways students grew, especially in how they grew to love each other.

I thought this June would be unlike the others, since from the very start of September I was already yearning for summer’s respite. One boy’s strong defiance, cursing at me under his breath, and frequent distraction inducing ways, made the year ahead seem bleak.  Day after day one conflict after another peppered the classroom with chaos. His noncompliant behaviors invariably propelled me into a constant pattern of asserting myself as the authority.  Round and round in circles we would go.

Then prayer.

Prayer changed me.  Not all at once, but over time. My heart softened  towards the boy.   Originally, my prayers were for the removal of my classroom’s thorn.  But as I went to the Lord in prayer, I started to see my own depravity.  I had let pride govern my actions more than I wanted to admit.  I had been so intent on making the boy properly esteem me and my position as his instructor that I had failed to see what he really needed.  He needed kindness.  Sincere kindness. Kindness not dependent on him…or me.

My fair weather attempts had been meaningless, when anger, disappointment, and annoyance were most frequently communicated. Fortunately, we don’t go it alone as believers in Christ, for the Holy Spirit dwells within us, to lead, guide and empower us.  A surrendered heart, and ears attuned to the Holy Spirit, can bring light to the darkest of situations.

The Holy Spirit convicted me of not reflecting Jesus in how I interacted with the unruly student.  Kindness permeated Jesus’ life here on Earth, and as His follower kindness should permeate mine.

Evidence of Jesus’ kindness is lavishly spread throughout scripture. He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry. And as if that wasn’t enough, He died on the cross. He took the punishment we deserve and offered us His righteousness. His every word and action is humbling, it eradicates the temptation for arrogance, and produces a desire to pour out the limitless love He has for us onto others.

Kindness can’t be manufactured, for it is a fruit of the Spirit.  True kindness is more than an outward act; it’s an inward heart change. It  transforms our character. It is a transformation of who we are.  Kindness uproots selfishness.  As a byproduct of our kindness, we experience great joy and deep freedom.

Joy is what I experienced this June. God had made something beautiful out of something ugly, for the tightest hugs and the one instigating the “I’m going to miss you!” chorus with the loudest voice, was the very boy that in September I wished to be rid of.

The Holy Spirit cultivates kindness. He grows it and gently leads us to use it, even when it is undeserved. Through His kindness to us, we have the privilege of becoming imitators of Christ.  In seeking Him, we can be empowered to follow the directives of Ephesians 4:31 – 5:2, to live a life that is holy and pleasing to the Lord. It is my prayer that the body of Christ know more and more what it means to:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 4:31-5:2

 

What could be taught to those who are hurting if we would pray wholeheartedly that the Lord make us kind?

~~~

Readers, Where can you demonstrate the kindness of Christ today?

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Love for the Hurt Person

Author: Sarah Clews

I’ve been tempted to believe I am one of those people who will be betrayed. I feel it has tried to be the theme for my last year or so. People I thought were my friends really weren’t, and those I thought I could trust proved me wrong. I shouldn’t be surprised. We live in a fallen world with a fallen nature. But after you’ve given so much to something or someone, often at no cost, and then those you have come along side burn you, it’s hard to not feel hurt. I’m sure I am not alone. Many have felt the pain of turning in trust and then being stabbed in the back.

It’s  easy for me to take on the identity of a hurt person, but I find that only leads to more turmoil. When hurting, my shoulders slump as I physically try to protect myself from these emotional wounds. I withdraw, shying away from social events and finding myself unable to trust even those I rationally know I can trust. I find myself overwhelmed by paranoia and anxiety.

Recently, while driving around town, I was thinking over the last year and touching on some of the hurts I had experienced. I don’t want to be this bitter, walled off person, but it’s hard when you feel like you’re being burned over and over.

I thought of Jesus and the ways in which He was betrayed. His disciples, his 12 closest friends, wouldn’t even admit they knew him when stuff went down. One of his disciples, a friend of several years (Judas), sold him out to the Pharisees for money.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last couple years, it’s that some people will cross lines they never thought they would for money. I doubt Judas started following Jesus knowing he would betray him. But when Jesus became an obstacle to potential riches, Judas did just that.

Judas, the great betrayer, wasn’t just an acquaintance. He was a disciple of Jesus who sat at his feet and KNEW Jesus was the Messiah. He sold out Jesus for about $600 (the modern day equivalent of 30 pieces of silver).

It’s important to remember that even if Judas didn’t know he would be the betrayer, Jesus did. He KNEW, and He loved him anyway.

When it comes down to it, this is what separates Christ followers from everyone else. It’s loving anyway, over and over again. Love is the first quality listed in Galatians when Paul talks about the fruit that should overflow out of believers.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love…” Galatians 5:22

I have been hurt. And I have felt betrayed.  Those feelings don’t magically go away. I don’t have to live the rest of my life hurt. Instead, I can choose love. I will love anyway, in spite of it all, because loving with the kind of love Jesus is all about is what brings freedom to the betrayed, change to a broken world, and hope to those who have been hurt.

~~~

Readers, Where can you choose love today?

Sarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, writer and prolific reader. You can find more of her writing at Just Little Things. Interested in submitting your work? Check out our submissions page.

Donuts and Leaky Ceilings

Let’s be real: In the kingdom of God there are no second class citizens, but is that actually the mindset you and I live from week in and week out?

One way God taught me about the equality of His kingdom was through a series of events I couldn’t have orchestrated. Picture this,  a group of teenagers in matching puke orange shirts pull up in a 15 passenger van. We’ve traveled 4 hours and slept on floors for days. Our mission:  Help out at the homeless shelter by serving lunch and talking to the chronically homeless men. As a 16 year old who honestly wouldn’t know where to find drugs if I tried, I sat down and started an awkward conversation.  I don’t remember much, if we prayed for anyone, gave out Bibles, or felt we were “Effective” that day.  I do remember the giant man who was a participant in their recovery program at the time.  We washed dishes and chatted together.  When he found out that the country hicks in the pumpkin t-shirts hadn’t ever tried Krispy Kreme Donuts he showed us how to microwave the donated day-old delicacies until they were perfectly melted.  He didn’t care that we really had nothing in common, or that we would have never crossed paths, except for Jesus.  Our Savior was all we had in common.

Fast forward ten plus years.  I’m a Bible school graduate, who has mostly worked at churches, and took a job working at a local homeless shelter helping women get their GED.  A few weeks in the ceiling in my work space was leaking ; when the towering maintenance worker walked in I realized it was the same man I had met years earlier.  While our lives had been incredibly different, we were now on the same team with the same purpose.  All of our differences paled in comparison to the common goal.

Diversity is one of the things I’ve come to prize among followers of Christ.  Every  Tribe. Every Nation. Every Tongue.  And may I add, Every Background.  There is no place, choice, or story that is too far for God to make new.  I know Christians who have lived through horrible things and made destructive choices.  Jesus saved them and changed them.  It’s usually pretty dramatic.  I know Christians who lived a boring, but self-righteous life.  Jesus saved them, too.  This is what God’s people look like. Unity doesn’t mean we’re the same, it usually means the different together working for the same purpose.

But, on the first day, it’s awkward.  You may meet someone at church who is incredibly different from you.  Perhaps the  group that  always gets together struggles to be inclusive. Maybe, inviting in opinions different than your own pops your comfort bubble. But what if instead of fear we sought out those God has sought already.  I wonder what it would be like if we looked at our communities as made for diversity.  Why don’t we look for who is being left on the sidelines?  Will we seek out who needs to be welcomed? Let’s ask in our churches, neighborhoods, and communities, “Is there an age range, race, or stage of life that has been excluded?” Then let’s draw them in, and see how beautifully God enriches the lives of us all. God didn’t leave me out, I’m not about to pretend I have the right to decide who is “in”.

~~~
Readers, What do you think are the biggest challenges to being welcoming and hospitable to those different than you, and how do you overcome them?


ff717-holly2bsquareYou can find more from Holly at her blog Called to Restore, and see all her posts on Anchored Voices under the tag Holly.

When the Good Opinion is Lost

This one is for the Jane Austen fans out there, you may recall Mr. Darcy saying in Pride and Prejudice, “My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever.” This arrogant statement is laced with finality. *Spoiler Alert*  Mr. Darcy does change his mind in the end about a certain young lady (Lizzy Bennett) and actually marries her! They get a new beginning.

One of my favorite things about God is His willingness to give us new beginnings. What a hopeless world it would be without forgiveness, particularly God’s forgiveness! Recently, I found myself feeling heartsick as I looked at my 3 year old daughter as she sobbed. I had gotten upset with her and made a judgment error in my parenting. She felt I had been harsh with her and I was cut to the heart. I apologized, she forgave, and I knew we would begin again. Young children, like God, are relentlessly forgiving. But I didn’t want to forgive myself. I didn’t want to let myself have a new beginning.

Maybe this is why I am particularly addicted to “firsts.” The first day of the month. The first day of the year. They represent a new start to me. It’s a time when I feel I can give myself permission to let go, move on, and start over. This is silly of course and more symbolic than anything. With God, when I repent and confess my sins, I will always be made clean. My God is not a God of guilt. I love Psalm 103:11-12:

“For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”

God gives us the ultimate chance at a new beginning . God isn’t saving our sins up to use them as a weapon later.  He removes them completely. They are no longer held against us. I think it’s human nature to wallow in guilt and self-pity. As if by punishing ourselves, we can make up for our own wrongs.

Remember: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

Jesus already paid the ultimate price, and He commands us to leave the shackles of the past behind. We get a new beginning. We are new creations. Let’s embrace that.

Readers, What do you need to leave behind so you can step into your new beginning?

 

Sarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, writer and prolific reader. You can find more of her writing at Just Little Things.

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