All posts by awriteheart

every detail

As of right now, there are twelve people in the world who have been inducted into the Master Penman Society – twelve. And Jake Weidmann is one of those – the youngest by thirty years. You might not think it’s a big deal, and I didn’t either until I realized what that means…and how beautiful hand-written word can be. I’ve been following Jake on social media since I first saw his story – you can watch it here:

What I love the most about Jake is his patience for perfect detail. A piece of art or writing cannot be what it should be without patience for detail. His wife in the video says that he will scrap whole pieces and start again – because it wasn’t right the first time. And what you see in his finished work is perfect. It is clean, flawless, and symmetrical – always. God made his hand to write and paint and draw – perfectly.

I am a details person, although not in the way that Jake Weidmann is. I like spreadsheets and dashboards…I like totals and averages and comparisons. The things I do daily almost always involve one or more of those – and by them I can measure improvement or decline. I can see trends. I can see completion. Even at home I calculate…I measure my performance, remaining tasks, and time allocation. I size up what has and hasn’t been done…who needs to have more mom time…what is going well and what needs attention.

On the wall in my office is this verse:

Psalm 37:23-24 The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.

Up till about a week ago I had read it a handful of times but never really thought much about it, but now I think about it often…He delights in EVERY DETAIL. That’s a lot of details. All of those things that I measure and calculate and produce – those are steps that God orders for me. All of my relationships, all of my victories, and all of my deficiencies – He sees those too. He sees them and knows them – better than I do. In this season of my life, He put me here not to write or to draw, but to manage details and to nurture a home…and through those details of my life He will direct me, and even hold me up when I’m not strong enough.

I cannot produce a perfect work of art, and I cannot pen perfect letters to make perfect words – you probably can’t either. But I’m pretty excited and overwhelmed to know that when we are walking with the Lord, the details of our lives can bring Him – the God of heaven – joy and glory. I’m also comforted to know that He will never – yes never – let us fall.

letting go of what isn’t mine

Olivia_1As a lover of all things creative and a pursuer of a life towards spontaneity, I have always preferred a loose realm of routine. When you look at me you might see a quiet and reserved person; one who enjoys behind the scenes rather than the spotlight. I have learned many life-lessons in my short 24 years, but some of the most significant are the ones I’ve learned in the most recent chapters of my life.

Through each chapter, at some point I fooled myself into thinking I was stronger than I really was. I allowed myself to be deceived and directed, by my perception of how things “ought to be.”

From my family moving across the world, to three family weddings within six months, to my own move cross-country, I’ve had a roller coaster of emotions constantly flooding through me. I’ve always thought I was strong. Convinced I could handle anything…well, at least that’s what I thought. I’m not exactly sure when, but I know there were several points in my life when that lack of reality hit me square in the face.

Maybe it was that final hug from my dad when I thought my heart might just shatter waiting at the airport security border. Or maybe it was when the speed of my life ran at 100 mph…I was a full-time college student and working three jobs as three car accidents crossed my path. Maybe it was the moment when I realized my mom was a million miles away (maybe not a million, but Africa…well, it might as well of been) and she wouldn’t be there to help me pick out my wedding dress and rhapsodize over wedding plans.

Through each of these events in my life, I could feel my emotions suffocating me. I slowly began to see that I wore a veil of deception. I deceived myself into believing I could go through each of these life-changing events unmarked. I was a fraud. I put on my strong face to show everyone that I was okay. I told people that I was strong and that my family moving across the world didn’t affect me that much. I would never let my emotions cloud my rational judgment. But I was keeping a little secret; I was broken and crumbling inside.

I’ve always said, “It’s easier to leave than be left.” Not in the romantic break-up term, but in life in general. The one who is doing the leaving has a new journey ahead of them. They have new people and new sights to look forward to. But the one who is being left has the same surroundings as before, and there is now a huge void gazing back at them. That was me. I felt disoriented and drifting like a lost ship.

Me? The one who could handle anything? I realized that I was broken. I was crumbling. It was through each of these events where I realized my relationship with Christ was failing and I was drifting farther away each day. I began to search the heart of Christ and separate time solely intended for Him. I began to see that on my own it wasn’t going to work.  So, daily I put my life in his hands.

This is not to say I don’t struggle still. I do. Each day brings a new set of obstacles for me to overcome. But my eyes have been opened to the beauty of living in the center of God’s hands.

[blockquote cite=”Isaiah 55:8-9″ type=”center”]“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” [/blockquote]

Looking back I tell myself that I should have known and trusted that God had my best interest in mind. Looking back I think I should have foreseen all of the amazing blessings and surprises that God had in store for me. Hindsight is always 20/20. In the midst of things, we tend to get lost and think short-termed.  We forget that God can see the whole picture. God brings us through these difficulties in life to challenge us, change us, and show us his grace.

[blockquote cite=”Ephesians 3:20″ type=”center”]“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us…” [/blockquote]

Life continues to change.  I have recently moved to Virginia with my new husband, Anthony. It’s been wonderful watching how God provides all of our needs and many of our wants. After a short visit, my parents and youngest sister returned to Zambia. The goodbyes don’t get any easier. My heart still aches and some days I’m okay with being a puddle. But the understanding and the grace to handle the goodbyes come with each passing day.

I have sacrificed my parents for the cause of Christ. My parents have sacrificed their children for the cause of Christ. No—not in the Abraham and Isaac way. But in the terms of time. Holidays and life’s mile markers are spent apart. Christmas looks a little different each year. The first few holidays the lights didn’t sparkle as much and the snow didn’t glisten…until I am reminded of that thing I am so often forgetting. It is all worth it. Why? Because of the cause of Christ. I’m learning to let go of what isn’t mine.  Because we, and all that we have, is his.

[blockquote cite=”Jeremiah 33:3″ type=”center”]“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” [/blockquote]

What challenge you are facing today? What storm do you feel like you are in? Do you think there is a light at the end of the tunnel or do you feel that you are drowning without a life boat? Remember—Christ can see the end. He does have a plan and he can bring you through it. Your faith will be strengthened even more when you learn to trust during the struggle. Your story is hand crafted by the Creator. Don’t grip too tightly onto things and people and plans. You are His masterpiece. Let Him hold your life.

[blockquote cite=”Martin Luther” type=”center”]I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess. [/blockquote]

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]It will be worth it all, Olivia[/custom_headline]

Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by Sebastian Appelt http://flickr.com/photos/125697765@N07/19670294261 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/7974659789_debca388a4_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]A giveaway from our guest blogger, Olivia![/custom_headline]

Subscribe to our email newsletter between now and Valentine’s Day and be entered to win wall art (see the photo below!) from our guest blogger, Olivia! On mobile scroll to the end of any post to subscribe…On a desktop, subscribe on the right sidebar or in the footer below. OR just click HERE and we’ll do the work for you!

If you’ve already subscribed, enter by tagging a friend under any post on our Facebook wall and encourage them to subscribe – the more the merrier!

Sign up today, and be sure to visit Olivia’s Etsy store – find it HERE!

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An Indescribable Gift

CMA little less than a week ago, on Christmas day, out of all of our gifts we were most thankful for the gift of Jesus. None of us will realize the full impact of this gift until our faith becomes sight. Even so, the impact of Jesus in this present time has changed us now and for eternity. The Bible speaks of several gifts from God. But only one, in 2 Corinthians 9:15, is described as UNSPEAKABLE. Which means, indescribable. There are not enough words to tell of all that He is. There are over 200 names for Jesus: Beloved Son, Almighty, Advocate, Messiah, Alpha, Omega, Bread of Life, Cornerstone, Creator, Dayspring…to name a few. And each of his names give us a portion of understanding about Him. But again, there are not enough words to describe the gift that He is to mankind. The gift that He brings is eternal life, forgiveness of sin, undeserved favor and so much more. An indescribable gift of grace.

As 2015 comes to an end and a new year begins, we can rest in the knowledge that Emmanuel, God with us, IS with us  – not just on Christmas but every day. As the holiday season comes to an end, let’s be reminded of Jesus our Savior and praise Him EVERY day of our new year…He is the greatest, most precious and indescribable gift of all. He is Emmanuel. Every day.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Colette & Melissa[/custom_headline]

Can I Raise My Child to Choose Jesus?

Colette Fabry, Co-Author of awriteheart.com[blockquote cite=”Proverbs 22:6″ type=”center”]”Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” [/blockquote]

This verse is one that Christian parents hang on to with everything they have while raising children.  I know I did.  All three times, from the moment I knew that I was going to be a mom, I began to pray that my child would grow to be all that God would have him to be…that God would bring him to a complete understanding and acceptance of Jesus and that he would follow the principles of God every day of his life. If there was a way to ensure my child’s salvation I was determined to find it and do it no matter what. Who wouldn’t.  Is there a way to make sure our kids choose Jesus?

I know many people who were raised in Christian homes and yet DIDN’T choose Jesus.  I watched it happen too many times to count. Recently a mother of a rebellious teen asked me, “Doesn’t the Bible say that if we train our children in the ways of God then they won’t turn away?  Isn’t there a promise that says when they are old that they will come back to the Lord?”  After examining Scripture I am certain that this verse does NOT mean what many people think it means.  It can’t.  Even Solomon, who wrote Proverbs 22:6  had a son named Rehoboam who turned from the LORD.  Rehoboams last 17 years is explained like this “..he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD” 2 Chronicles 12:14.

Godly training is extremely important. I believe that what Proverbs 22:6 means is that all the training a parent puts into their child will never leave him.  And, he will never leave the training; It will always be a part of him. Parents can’t accept Jesus FOR their children or make Godly decisions FOR them.  But they do have the privilege of showing Jesus to them in hopes that they will follow Him. Brooklyn Tabernacle’s Pastor, Jim Cymbala, has a daughter who walked away from her faith and her family.  After several years of living in sin, she laid in her bed unable to sleep, listening to NYC traffic in the middle of the night.  The Holy Spirit brought to mind what she had been taught.  She wept as she remembered the Godly songs and Scripture that had been poured into her.She gave her life to Jesus that night and reconciled with her parents that very day.  Thank God she couldn’t depart from the training of her parents!

I recently asked several people who never left their faith WHY they chose to be faithful to what they were taught in their Christian homes. I really enjoyed reading their answers.  Their words are filled with wisdom, especially for those who are raising children.  It is clear that Godly training led them to genuine faith in Jesus. This is what they wrote.

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I am a 4th generation Christian. I was raised by parents who taught me right from wrong, how to pray, how to love God, how to be obedient, and so many good things. They showed me what real Christianity looks like…what a real Christian is.  I was saved and baptized at an early age.  I never had a desire to leave my faith. I really believe that what I was taught was truth.  I didn’t stray because I love God.”  Janel, age 21

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I am a 2nd generation Christian. I was raised in a home where my parents taught me a lot of good things.  We worked and played hard but Jesus always came first.  I have been around church and Christians my whole life and I’ve never heard of one single person that has regretted living for God.  Quite the opposite.  Many people who look back on their lives have an overwhelming regret that they wasted time and didn’t spend time on things that affect eternity.  I am thankful that I learned the Bible and grew up with Believers.  I’ve had to face some very tough times and without God and my church family I couldn’t have gotten through. I see things differently when I think about the truth of eternity.”  Brett, age 31

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I am a 3rd generation Christian although I can trace Christianity in my family a lot farther back than that.  Why didn’t I leave my faith when I was old enough?  I saw an amazing, positive, genuine Christianity lived out in my parents lives.  They were not perfect, but they were real Christians.  They never spoke bad of others in our church, they loved being at church and they lived the same way at home as out of the home.  They told me how happy they were that Jesus saved them and lived that way….grateful for Jesus.  When I was old enough to make the choice: is my parents God going to be my God?  Well, it wasn’t a choice at all.  I wanted God and all that came with that.  I’ve never, ever regretted my decision.  Sue, age 51

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I am a 2nd generation Christian. Honestly, what kept me choosing Jesus is that my parents practiced what they preached.  How they acted at church was how they acted at home.  I watched them filter everything through the Bible and do their best to please God.  They were happy and fun and didn’t make following Jesus look like a chore or a list of  “don’ts”  They thanked and praised God for everything.   I wanted God for myself and to live for God the way that they did.”  Brie, age 34

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“I am a 3rd generation Christian. From as young as I can remember I was taught about Jesus. I learned who He is and about relationship with Him. If I chose one reason that I stayed faithful to God and Christianity I would have to link it back to the way Jesus was introduced to me.  It wasn’t about attending church… it was because I was taught and then understood about having a relationship with Jesus. About what He did for us so He could be with us.”  Matt, age 31

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“I am a 3rd generation Christian.  The reason I stayed faithful to God and how I was raised was because I was shown true Christianity.  Although I made some mistakes and poor choices I learned from them.  I learned that what I was taught is truth.  I was taught to hate sin and love grace; that all sin will eventually lead to destruction and that Gods grace is a gift to me.   I had to experience it as a young adult to really believe it for myself.  I am thankful that I was raised in a Christian home.  I am even more thankful for my salvation.”  Jake, age 29

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“I am a 4th generation Christian. Why didn’t I walk away from Christianity like some people do? My parents stressed the importance of having a relationship with Jesus and they lived it out in their own lives.  They didn’t have extreme rules or man made standards for my brothers and I.  They, along with so many Christians, modeled the love of Christ to me.  Because of that I want to go to church and  grow in my relationship with God.”  Kyle, age 26

“I am a 3rd generation Christian.  My parents taught me to put Christ first in everything, how every decision I make should reflect what God wants and to love others like Christ does.  They modeled this for me.  They encouraged me to learn from the positive and negative examples of others. I didn’t walk away from my faith because I realized that Gods commands are there for my protection and because He loves me.  My faith in God became my own. I want to please the Lord with my life because of all that He has done for me.”  Kaitlin, age 26

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“I am a 3rd generation Christian.  Why didn’t I walk away from my faith? My parents taught me true Christianity.  To love God and to compassionately love people.  My parents had good balance with rules in my life and they lived by the same rules. I desired the Jesus that my parents pointed me to.  He was real to them and I wanted that in my life.”  Sarah, age 22

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“I’m a 3rd generation Christian.  Why did I choose to stay faithful to what I was taught? My parents did their best to practice what they preached.  They backed everything they taught me with real love. I’m thankful that my parents actually “parented” me. They taught, instructed, disciplined and loved me. They glorified God in our home. I knew God was real because I saw Him in my mom and dads life.  It was during a difficult time in my life that my grandfather, a preacher, pointed me to Jesus. That was when Jesus became real to me and  I chose Him for myself.”    Jared, age 29

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“I am a 4th generation Christian.  My parents demonstrated how to love God and how to faithfully serve Him. They showed generosity and hospitality to others, had a hunger for Gods Word and showed me the power of prayer.  I grew up in a church where people encouraged and invested in me.  All of these factors surely influenced who I am today.  I am thankful for my heritage but this didn’t make me a Christ follower.  I repented of my sin and asked Jesus to be my Savior at a young age.  After 38 years, even though I have not always been faithful Jesus has always been faithful to me.  Why didn’t I walk away from Christianity?  Because I love Jesus.  If my faith was based on the behavior of others, the circumstances of life or my own ability to measure up to Gods glory, I too might depart.  But I am compelled to look at Jesus.  Is it the prayers and godly example of  the generations before or saturation of the scriptures that give me power to stand fast? Here lies the mystery and power of the Spirit of God.  We can do the very best we know how to do, but its the Spirit of God that draws people to Himself.”  Michele, 43

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Can we raise our children to choose Jesus? No. That is a choice that is theirs alone. But we can do our best to model our love for Jesus to them.  I never asked the people above to tell me what their parents did right or to give credit to them.  The question was simply, “why didn’t you walk away from your faith like so many do?”  I think it’s interesting that all of them pointed out that their parents genuinely modeled Jesus. If I could live motherhood again, I would pour even more of Jesus into my children than I did. More of Jesus and less of everything else. Because in reality it is He thats makes life stable, wise, successful, and purposeful!  In Deuteronomy 6, God gives the Israelites clear instruction before they entered a new land, where there would be unbelievers who would influence their children to turn away from thier faith. He told them to teach their children the laws. Teach them to love the Lord with all their heart, soul and might. He told them to remind their children of all the things that God had done, like how he rescued them from bondage and all the miracles in the desert. All so that their faith might be strong and continue from one generation to the next. Don’t get weary in training….It may be the very avenue that is used so that your child chooses Jesus!

“When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in they grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that it is in thee also” 2 Timothy 1:5

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Colette[/custom_headline]

Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by Philippe Put http://flickr.com/photos/34547181@N00/15589452139 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

two words that have strengthened my faith

Colette Fabry, Co-Author of awriteheart.comThis morning I was thinking over  the many Bible passages that have changed my life and my thinking.  The words “But God” are mentioned 42 times and as I was reading the verses, one after the other, it brought me to tears. I realized how much these two words, written together, have strengthened my faith.

But God.

After Jacobs father in law deceived him over and over I read, “BUT GOD suffered him not to hurt me”. Genesis 31:7

Joseph’s brothers had deeply wronged him.  As he faced them years later he told them not to be grieved or angry. He said “It wasn’t you who sent me here, BUT GOD…he has sent me to be a ruler.”  Gen. 45:8 Joseph said it again “ye thought evil against me BUT GOD meant it for good.” Gen. 50:20 A passage in the New Testament says “And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph in Egypt…BUT GOD was with him”. Acts 7:9

Saul was intent on killing David and the Bible says “Saul sought him every day, BUT GOD delivered him not into his hands”. I Sam. 23:14

David, speaking of death, writes “BUT GOD shall redeem my soul from the power of the grave”.  Ps. 64:7 And, “My flesh and my heart faileth, BUT GOD is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”Ps. 73:26 David says, “BUT GOD is the judge”. Ps. 75:7  No matter what the circumstances.  He is The Fair and Righteous Judge.

Mark writes “Who can forgive sins BUT GOD alone.” Mark 2:7 And Luke writes “BUT GOD knoweth your heart.” Luke 16:15

My favorite “BUT GOD” verses speak of Christ. And of us. “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him from the tree, and laid him in a sepluchre. BUT GOD raised him from the dead.” Acts 13:29.     BUT GOD commendeth his love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Rom 5:8

There is so much more that is written…BUT GOD chooses the foolish things to teach the wise.  BUT GOD alone gives and takes away.  BUT GOD who is rich in mercy shows his love. BUT GOD is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted above which you are able but will always, always, always make a way of escape.

[blockquote type=”center”]BUT GOD.[/blockquote]

IT IS MORE THAN I CAN UNDERSTAND.  Creator God, the Most High, who looks upon the earth to see if there is any that seek Him.  He steps into our circumstances and although we deserve eternal separation from him he doesn’t offer us what we deserve. He offers us these words. Wait a minute! Hold on! Time out! BUT GOD….Meaning, instead of what is deserved He offers us grace and protection and redemption and eternal life. If those words never entered human stories where would men be? Each time they were written the entire direction of the story changed. Preceding those words was despair and after those words we see the goodness of God. Jacob, Joseph, David, Mark and all mankind…which includes you and I…are given God-breathed hope and meaning to every situatuation we ever walk through. BUT GOD….He showed his love for us and while we were yet sinners He died for us. Eternal hope. The good news of Jesus. No matter what happens in our life, God has a purpose, He is the judge, He accomplishes His will always for a greater purpose.

Two of the greatest words ever written, BUT GOD.  This is what I am meditating on today.  My prayer is that these words bless you as much as they have me.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]To God Be the Glory, Colette[/custom_headline]

Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by Infomastern http://flickr.com/photos/infomastern/12737852125 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Do you believe in God?

Colette Fabry, Co-Author of awriteheart.comI walked down the streets of NYC in awe.  In awe of the variety of people, of sin, of poverty & materialism, of smells…some good and some horrendous. I saw homeless teens taking shelter in cardboard boxes and people digging through garbage for scraps to eat.  No one else seemed to be alarmed by these sights. I was taking it all in for what seemed like hours as a heaviness eventually settled on my spirit.

Then I heard someone preaching from what I thought was the Bible. There were groups of men monopolizing corner after corner on street after street. They were dressed in robes and stood on ascending, throne-like platforms. As I got closer I heard clearly their confusing message.  They screamed into microphones… words of racial hatred and Bible mixed with blasphemy. They shouted loudly in Hebrew, and made hissing sounds, at several Jewish men who ran past me.

The man on the top of the platform yelled into his hand held mic “YOU, lady with blonde hair, DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?” Out of hundreds of people walking by, he was looking and speaking directly at me. I yelled back to him “Yes, I do believe in God.”

Later I thought about this experience and wondered how I would have felt if an evil man had held a gun to my head while asking me the question, “Do you believe in God?” The same question that the young college students in Oregon were asked this past week. They stood up and and declared their faith in God. And then were shot and killed.

[blockquote cite=”Hilary Mantel, author” type=”center”]I cannot unbelieve what I believe.  [/blockquote]

Where does such faith, such belief, come from?  A convicting, amazing faith that sees beyond this life and chooses Jesus over all else?  Unless a person knows Jesus, God incarnate, they cannot possibly understand.

Those who lack faith will not understand how Christians can stand in the face of death with sadness, yet boldness; those with faith know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the LORD. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

Those who lack faith will not understand a belief in something you cannot see; those with faith see Almighty God and His glory in everything. We see with spiritual eyes the purpose and meaning of this temporal life. Temporal… short, fleeting and passing quickly like a vapor. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

[pullquote cite=”Isaiah 26:3″ type=”right”]Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.[/pullquote]Those who lack faith may not understand why, in the face of death one would not save himself, if even out of fear alone; those with faith understand grace and peace. How it pours over one who needs it every single day and in perfect timing. We also know that Christ gave His life for us so that we can have life eternal.  I’m not sure every person who says they are a Christian would stand strong for Jesus in the presence of their murderer.  But I do know that genuine Christians would; there is no other choice.

Those who lack faith will not understand why God would allow such things like the tragic death of innocent students; those with faith understand that God is Sovereign. That nothing passes through His hand without his permission and that even the most horrible things are exchanged for a greater purpose. No heartache is wasted.  (Psalm 139)

[pullquote cite=”Revelation 21:4″ type=”left”]And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.[/pullquote]Those who lack faith may not understand why parents and families and a nation must suffer at the hands of such awful tragedy; those with faith feel deep sorrow and weep for the hurting.  We know that God miraculously heals broken hearts and comforts those who are suffering.  We know that one day all things we despise… sickness, sorrow, heartache, physical death and evil will come to an end. We know that we must walk through life so that we can understand good and evil. So that we learn to hate unrighteousness with all that is in us. We are living among the consequences of sin in a fallen world. One day there will be no more tears. It is then that we will understand the meaning of love and righteousness in all its fullness.

Those without faith can’t understand how Christians can believe in eternity; those with faith know that the dash between our birth and physical death is a tiny dot on a long line of never ending life. “For God so loved the World that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

It is open to everyone….this invitation to receive faith in Jesus; this hope beyond understanding and peace that is not explainable.  This faith that gives one the ability to grasp the incredible love story of God-incarnate humbling himself to walk with us and become the payment for our salvation.  So that mankind might be saved from eternal separation from Himself.  So much is not fair in this upside down world.  Like homeless teens living in cardboard boxes. Or people eating out of garbage cans.  And, students being murdered for their faith.  But Jesus promises to make all wrong, right.  To settle every score and bring peace and righteous judgment.  He will do away with evil and we will forever praise Him.  He is the ONLY HOPE for all men.  It is for these reasons that we can never deny Jesus or that we belong to Him.  Not ever. As Hilary Mantel stated so simply, “I cannot unbelieve what I believe.”

My heart aches for the families of the murdered students in Oregon. Their loved ones proclaimed their faith in God through Jesus with their very lives.  Then their faith was made sight and they heard ‘Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the JOY OF THE LORD.” (Matthew 25)

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Singing hallelujah, Colette[/custom_headline]

Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by Fey Ilyas http://flickr.com/photos/renneville/3161518829 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

unity matters

Melissa Yeager, Co-Author of awriteheart.comMy parents always loved music, so when I was young we went to plays and musicals and orchestra events and music festivals. There was always music playing in the car and in our house. They exposed me to all sorts of genres, and I naturally settled into those that I liked best – some that they weren’t so fond of, and some that they loved themselves. As a kid I had a leaning toward concerts that were loud and crazy…I liked the lights and the feel of the bass vibrating through the ground. But now I love certain concerts for a different reason – and I just recently figured out why.

unity mattersLast week I went to see Rend Collective, which is a Christian band from Ireland whose music really inspires me to worship. My husband and I sat down in our seats at Roberts Wesleyan College’s performing arts center, and I people-watched a little bit as we waited for the show to start. There were people from my church, people we knew from other churches, people from the Christian school I graduated from, and many people we didn’t know at all. All of these people, all together, waiting for the same band, waiting to worship together. All of us were excited to be there, and we all had something in common so even those who didn’t know each other felt free to talk and ask about each other.

The lights went down and the crowd went silent, and finally the music started – and everyone sang along. And what I realized at that moment was that none of us knew or cared about the details of each others’ Christianity, other than that we were in agreement about the most important thing – that Jesus saved us from our sin, and that He is the One we should worship. We had no idea what version of the Bible the person in front of us read, or whether the person behind us was Baptist or Pentecostal. We didn’t know whether the woman across the aisle had a Calvinist or Armenian leaning, or which denomination the band was. The details seemed less important at that moment because we were gathered for a common reason – to worship the one true God together.

unity matters

I looked around at the rows upon rows of people and wondered whether that would be what heaven will be like in some respects – all different Christians, from all different backgrounds, worshipping God together. Different in the details, but unified at their core – in their belief of who saved their souls from the sin they could never pay for themselves.

In our minds I think we know that there will be many different kinds of Christians in heaven. We say amongst ourselves that we will be surprised who will be there and who will be absent (Matthew 7:21-23). We think we have a good grip on the fact that God alone sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). But so many times in practice we look at other Christians and the biggest thing we see are the differences – and we dwell on them. We allow our feathers to be ruffled because other Christians listen to and worship using different music, read different versions of the Bible, and attend churches with different labels. We are called to unity as a body of believers but we look skeptically at each other, and even question each others’ salvation at times, because of details that we don’t agree with. We so often don’t consider that perhaps others truly ARE seeking God, and that He has for them a different freedom or a different restriction than He has for us.

This is dangerous ground, I know, because our convictions and preferences are part of who we are, and they determine how we live out our faith. There is theology that we strongly believe, and we can back it up. There are practices and traditions that we strongly adhere to for reasons that we may never loosen our grip on. We have a defense for what we do and why we do it…we have seen results, and fruit, and blessing. We have a defense for why we disagree so adamantly with certain others. Our views and interpretations and ways of life are important to us – and they should be. Practices and traditions and theologies ARE important, and some of them are worth fighting for, and fighting over. But not all of them. Not all of them are worth sacrificing the unity of the Church – and by the Church I mean the whole body of Christ.

When Colette and I started this blog, we came upon an issue that we didn’t agree on…It really doesn’t matter which issue so I won’t go into that, but we had to face a conflict. So we came together, talked about what we believed about that issue, came to an understanding about its importance, and came up with a solution that we believed that God would be pleased with. What we did not do was allow an important but non-essential issue (meaning an issue that isn’t truly central to salvation and Christianity) to divide us completely, and we were able to work together in unity regardless. You’d never know we disagreed at all! Extend this situation to the Church – the body of Christ…If we can grab hold of unity, if we make it a priority, we can accomplish things together that would never have been possible otherwise.

[blockquote cite=”Richard Baxter” type=”center”]In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.
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Christ said in John 13:34-35, ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And in 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul said to the church at Corinth, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” We are commanded to love other Christians as Christ loved us (laying down our lives for each other), and the we be perfectly unified as followers of Jesus. We are, of course, bound to disagree on some things – but that doesn’t mean that our love and our unity in Christ should be compromised.

I know, beyond a doubt, that when we get to heaven our eyes will be on Christ alone, and not on each other. If we can practice that here, before heaven, we can accomplish so much more together. The world IS watching to see how we love each other, so when we are tempted to dwell on the details instead of on Christ Jesus who unifies us, let’s remember the amazing place heaven will be when we will worship together in spirit and in truth – one Church, one body, one focus.

The song I’ve included below (or if the music isn’t your preference, I included the lyrics there below as well) has become my favorite for so many reasons – it reminds me of those who have gone to heaven before me, of how unworthy I am of the salvation I have been given, of the power of the blood of Jesus, and now of the unity we have in Him, despite our differences. I looked around me at that concert as tears rolled down my face, and saw others doing just the same…Overcome with emotion because they know what I know – that we will approach Him one day, and that we have everything to celebrate. Fix your eyes today on Jesus – and not so much on the details.

[blockquote cite=”Rend Collective, Boldly I Approach (The Art of Celebration)” type=”center”]
By grace alone somehow I stand
Where even angels fear to tread
Invited by redeeming love
Before the throne of God above
He pulls me close with nail-scarred hands
Into His everlasting arms

When condemnation grips my heart
And Satan tempts me to despair
I hear the voice that scatters fear
The Great I Am the Lord is here
Oh praise the One who fights for me
And shields my soul eternally

Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty

Behold the bright and risen Son
More beauty than this world has known
I’m face to face with Love Himself
His perfect spotless righteousness
A thousand years, a thousand tongues
Are not enough to sing His praise

Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty

This is the art of celebration
Knowing we’re free from condemnation
Oh praise the One, praise the One
Who made an end to all my sin[/blockquote]

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Celebrating who God made us , Melissa[/custom_headline]

bragging rights

Melissa Yeager, Co-Author of awriteheart.comFour years ago a group of seven other people and myself decided we should try to do the Tough Mudder, which for those of you who aren’t familiar is a 12 mile long military-style obstacle course. It entails what you might think of as “normal” obstacles – like scaling 12-foot walls, army crawling under barbed wire, and jumping from three stories into water…But there were also what I consider to be the “extreme” obstacles, like jumping into ice water and running through hundreds of dangling live wires that electrocuted us as we ran through them. We trained for ten months (we didn’t practice the electrocution part!), and in September of 2012 our team traveled to Maryland and completed our race.
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Our particular race had two electrocution obstacles – one that I described above, and another which I think was way worse. I started through the obstacle and thought that it wasn’t too bad, but then I heard the sound of a grown man screaming…and I knew I was in trouble. I got through, after being thrown around by the travelling current of electricity, and that man that I had heard was still standing there waiting for the rest of his team. I looked at him and shook my head and said, “We PAID for this!” and we laughed at the irony.

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Why DO people pay for those races? Why do they subject themselves to the torture? I’ll give you two words: bragging rights. Sure, our team wanted to accomplish the feat of finishing, and it was fun to do it was a team. It was great to be in the best shape of our lives. But an equal component of us wanting to do that race was bragging rights. When I wear my Tough Mudder finisher shirt outside my house I can be sure that most of the time I will get a few glances, if not a full blown conversation. People are intrigued by a person who would do that to themselves on purpose, and so it gets attention. The race is far gone now and I’m kind of over it…but at first it was really fun to talk about it with random people.

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This gets me thinking about all of the things we do in front of other people in terms of serving and obeying God, and about our motives. We serve and take selfies of ourselves doing it…We post quotes and verses on Facebook that we read…We share stories about what our kids say about God or church or heaven. We make our walk with God public, which in many ways is a very good thing, but we need to be careful that we are directing others to who GOD is instead of to who WE are. I like to underline what I think are great passages in books and then take a picture and post it – but I wonder if that’s more for God or for me and my image? Am I bragging on Him because of something great that He showed me, or am I bragging on myself for reading it? I need to be careful.

At some point in all of our walks with Jesus, there must be the realization that we cannot do anything good without Him. The truth is that we can’t do ANYTHING without Him, because it is He whose will holds us together. The sin of others should pale in comparison to what we know is in our own hearts, and because we CANNOT save ourselves in any capacity, we should be humbled and broken before our Holy God. And the bragging rights fade.

As we live our lives for Christ “out loud” as a reader so aptly put it recently, we need always to consider who we are bragging upon.
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We are lost, and our Lord Jesus finds us.
We are blind, and He gives us sight.
We are sinners, but He is good.
We are in need, and He is our provider.
We are guilty, and He is our defense.
We deserve punishment, but He is merciful.
We are hungry, and He is the Bread of Life.
We are weak, and He is our strength.
We walk in darkness, and He is our light.
We are wavering, and He is our Rock.
We feel alone, but we can be assured that He is with us.
We strive for more, but He is enough.
He is EVERYTHING.

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Brag on Jesus, because all of the good in you is HIM in you.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]For HIS glory, Melissa[/custom_headline]

race cars, risk, and walking with Jesus

Melissa Yeager, Co-Author of awriteheart.comA few years ago I was presented with the opportunity to ride in a race-ready Porsche with a professional driver on the Watkins Glenn racetrack…It was set up privately by a guy who was a member of the Porsche Club of America (which I didn’t know existed till then), and my husband and I literally got the rides of a lifetime. But let’s just back up for a sec…and then I’ll tell you about my ride.

I get motion sick. In a big way. I can’t ride in the back seat of a car, or backwards on a roller coaster. If something rocks or spins or circles over and over, I’m toast. I went on a cruise, and was sea sick for three WEEKS after it was over. Enter the Porsche.

If someone says, “Hey, do you want to ride in a Porsche on a NASCAR track?”, I cannot even fathom saying no. It became an instant bucket-list item, and I whole-heartedly accepted the invitation. In the back of my mind I knew that it might not end well, but honestly I didn’t care – I probably would never have the chance to do it again, and so I did it.

IMG_0193We got to the track and I met my driver. He gave me a helmet, and showed me how to use the restraint and release it in case I needed to get out emergently. He called attention to the fire extinguisher that would be between my feet, just in case. I got into the car and he strapped me in. The driver looked at me and said, “Don’t puke in my car.”, and off we went.

Did I puke in his car, you ask? No, thankfully I didn’t. But by the time I was done with three laps at 170mph, I couldn’t feel my arms or legs and I literally had to be lifted out of the car because I couldn’t stand up. There’s some science behind that, but I’ll just say that my body didn’t like what had just been inflicted upon it. I did throw up eventually…just not inside the Porsche. Mission accomplished! It was an amazing experience, and despite the negatives I am really glad I did it.

So why on earth am I telling you my motion-sick Porsche ride story? Because I had to take advantage of the opportunity despite what I knew what might come afterward – and the risk was worth it. Sometimes risk is necessary – big risk – to get big return, big stories, big outcomes. God puts us in these positions in our lives and so often we let opportunities pass because we know there might be pain or humiliation or discomfort involved, but then we don’t get the win for Him. And while I know that He can use someone or something else to accomplish what He would have through us, we forfeit being used by Him at all.

God asks us to risk our whole selves…To have an outward faith and to spread the Gospel (Mark 16:15), to live fearless (Matthew 10:24-33), to love like crazy (John 13:35) – so that more people will come to Him with their own faith. And the risk seems great. He asks us to be a light – a beacon to those in darkness. And to do that we’ve gotta be willing to bull through the fear of risk and DO what He’s asking. It’s scary to tell people about Jesus in a personal, life-on-life way. It’s not easy to live like Christ when those around you do not. It’s not easy to love the unlovely when others might lean toward condemnation and raise an eyebrow. It’s not easy to give time and resources when we’ve planned so meticulously for the future and don’t want to risk our own discomfort. But that is what our God expects. Christianity isn’t safe – it’s a constant trying of our trust, and the willingness to do what seems backwards to us to see what God had in mind the whole time.

If you want God to use you in the LIFE CHANGE of others, risk is inevitable. But the return is beyond what any of us could imagine on our own. Take those opportunities, and pray for more of them…Listen to that still small voice and DO what He asks. I promise you won’t regret it.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Trusting and taking the leap, Melissa[/custom_headline]

So, you want to raise amazing, stable and successful kids?

Colette Fabry, Co-Author of awriteheart.com[blockquote cite=”Lisa Wingate, Author” type=”center”]Your children are the greatest gift God will give you, and their souls the heaviest responsibility He will place in your hands.  Take time with them, teach them to have faith in God.  Be a person in whom they can have faith.  When you are old, nothing else you’ve done will have mattered as much.  [/blockquote]

Over the course of my life, specifically the past 16 years as a counselor, I’ve met some really terrific parents. And, sadly, I’ve worked with parents who shouldn’t be parents. One forced her daughter, as discipline, to eat next to the dog and his bowl on her hands and knees with no utensils. Another thought good training was to lock her child in the cold basement in the dark so she could think about what she had done wrong. The parent was sure to remind the young girl to watch out for spiders. When I asked, no one in the room could remember the offense. No surprise there. And not that it even mattered what the child had done. No child deserves that. Obviously some people don’t understand the privilege and responsibility it is to raise kids. We need a license and training for many things… to drive a jet ski, to cut someones hair or polish toenails professionally. But to raise kids nothing is required. I look at the effort and money that parents put into their children’s sports or dance lessons. Or how much is put into making them dress cute or creating their elaborate birthday celebration. My point being that the real important things are often let go. Many of the things below….things that make up a responsible and stable adult….are often never addressed. It’s disheartening.

[pullquote cite=”Charles Portis, Author” type=”right”]If I had received good instruction as a child I would be with my family today and at peace with my neighbors.  I hope and pray that all you parents in the sound of my voice will train up your child in the way they should go.  [/pullquote]After meeting with a struggling, rebellious teen boy and his parents recently, I compiled the following list. I sat alone and wondered if this teen would have turned out differently had these things been poured into him. I do, however, understand the concept of free will and wrong choices that have nothing or little to do with parents. Teens sometimes just choose to do wrong things even with good parenting. I remind those parents that they did their best and that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. That even God’s children, in the garden of Eden, chose to do wrong. I also remind them to continue to pray for their child because their story isn’t over yet. It is not my intent to cast blame on hurting parents. I would never do that. It is my intent to encourage parents to deliberately and intentionally pour good and excellent training into their children.

It takes an awful lot of intention and dedication to be a great parent.  The following list is for the many parents who desire to do a great job training their kids. I commend and pray for you as you diligently work at such an important task… raising amazing, stable and successful adults.

Teach kids how to problem solve.

Teaching your kids to problem solve starts early. When they don’t know what to do because their toys are being taken or how to get along with their siblings….these are teachable moments to help your kids problem solve. Parents can grow impatient and just say things like “stop fighting” instead of actually helping children to solve problems. Parents may say “go to your room” because they don’t want to be bothered. Kids need help problem solving. They need to learn how to resolve conflict in their life and if they don’t get help they will grow continually frustrated and angry.

Teach kids to manage emotions.

It is proven that people who have high emotional intelligence are the most successful people on the planet. Someone can have an extremely high IQ but not know how to deal appropriately with emotions, the emotions of others or their own.  That person will struggle through life. It is also true that before most sins were committed in the Bible, there was an out of control emotion that preceded the sin. One of the first examples of this is Cain, who was angry and jealous. He then murdered his brother. Teaching your kids to handle emotions is one of the most important things a parent can do. I see many parents who yell and scream out of anger and then are baffled when they see the same behavior in their children.

Teach kids what to do when they are tempted to do wrong.

Many parents want to avoid this one altogether. They think, maybe if their kids are protected from the temptation it won’t be a temptation at all? Or maybe if issues aren’t talked about, then it won’t ever be an issue? Truth is, kids of all ages need to learn what to do when, not if, temptation comes into their lives. A wise parent discusses hard topics. How I wish I could relive this one with my grown sons when they were young. Unintentionally I think I left them on their own to fight some temptation that came their way. Now as a counselor and in hindsight, I see the huge importance of this training.

Teach kids to show respect.

Respect is essential to being a stable, successful and respected adult. The most amazing people I know have respect for God, others, authority, themselves, and life.

Teach kids how to give.

Kids are natural takers. It takes training to show them the blessing of being givers.

Teach kids to love others.

This is one of the greatest commands in the Bible. I believe that too many kids are modeling the behavior of critical parents and listening in on conversations that are unloving to each other and about others. Loving others is key to understanding God the Fathers heart.

Teach kids what being a real Christian is.

A real Christian is one who loves and abides in Jesus and His good news, the gospel. A real christian loves God and loves others in practical ways. Without this training they won’t understand their purpose on this earth. All throughout scripture we are told to “Love the Lord with all of our hearts”.  The truth is that once God has our hearts, their hearts, then all of the other things fall into place.

Teach kids how to manage technology.

Otherwise, just like emotions, technology will manage them.

Teach kids how to communicate effectively.

The skill of communication is so vitally important to having success in relationships and in this life. Much of my counseling with adults is helping them to communicate appropriately. It amazes me when I ask the question “What is negative communication?” and people struggle with the answer. It’s as if they have never been taught what is appropriate to say and what isn’t. Actually, maybe they haven’t? Effective communication is a great gift and teaching your kids to master this art will do them well.

Teach kids to stand up for what is right.

There was an elderly bus monitor being horribly abused on a Greece NY school bus by a group of Junior high boys. Someone video taped the incident, it went viral and then made national news. I spoke with several kids who attended school with those boys. When asked what they would have done if they were on the bus they all answered “nothing”. Digging deeper, I found that they all knew that an elderly person being abused was wrong, but they didn’t know what to do about it. So they decided that they would do nothing had they been in the presence of the abuse. What if one of those kids on the bus had simply texted a parent for help? Kids need to be taught how to stand up for what it right. Or they won’t.

Teach kids how to set goals and how to work hard at reaching them.

Successful people are goal setters and hard workers. It’s not a natural thing for most people to accomplish this important life skill. Ask any hard working person and they will tell you of someone who modeled that for them.

Teach your child what to do when they have messed up.

Teach them how to be restored to others and to God. Many kids that I work with have guilty and shame-based consciences. This always produces anger and acting out. They are relieved when they are given a plan of restoration. Kids have a hard time separating who they are from their wrong doing. I’m so thankful for the gospel of Jesus that separates me, and who I am in Christ, from my sin.

There is more that could be added to the list above….how to handle money, to be disciplined, to eat healthy. But I encourage parents to at least think on this list and ask for Gods wisdom as you intentionally train your kids. You will never regret that you taught these things.

God the Father, as always, is our greatest example of a good and loving parent. He came to the earth incarnate to walk out a living example for us to follow. He doesn’t over correct, over control, or over discipline his children. Nor is He slack in His instruction. He is a balanced and good father who trains us continually.

The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

[blockquote cite=”Colette Fabry” type=”center”]The goal in parenting is not to create perfect kids or to be perfect parents. There is no such thing. The goal is for flawed parents to consistently model the beautiful message of the gospel. In real life.  In real time. Every moment of every day. And thats only possible through abiding in Christ and He in us.  [/blockquote]

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Give me Jesus, Colette[/custom_headline]

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