Category Archives: Guest writers

Guest Post: If looks words could kill

This month’s guest post comes from Christy Pearce, who runs the blog Faith Like Dirty Diapers. Christy and I met a few months ago through the Compel writers group run by Proverbs 31 Ministries. Right away I was struck by how open and honest Christy is in her writing, using her own life experiences so that she may encourage others. She has a real passion for ministering to women, particularly through their marriage and parenting struggles.

Today she shares with us the power of words…

Proverbs 18:21

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a dirty look is worth a thousand sucker punches. I had the art of nasty facial contortions NAILED, and Momma always used to reply to my facial expressions—“If looks could kill, we’d all be dead.”

That was before I found the power of my mouth.

I was always a very timid and shy girl. I had LOTS of opinions, but lacked the boldness to voice them. Until, I got a little older. Then my mouth opened a little wider.

Older Not Necessarily Wiser…

In my late teens and early twenties I began shedding the inhibitions that once left me holding my tongue. I began to explore the power of stating my mind. I realized it felt good to get the truth off my chest. And standing up for myself or my opinions felt even better.

That is…until I was saved by grace.

You can’t shoot your mouth off in anger or be brutally blunt without your conscience gnawing away at you once you understand the grace of God.

But it didn’t stop me completely. I felt a lot like Meg Ryan’s character in “You’ve Got Mail.” Suddenly saying everything I ever wanted to say didn’t feel as good as I thought it should. It felt bad, and usually didn’t even result in winning the other person over to my side.

No matter how emphatically I stated my case, I could NEVER control people with my words. All I could expect in return was anger and hurt. I certainly didn’t want to go around spewing death in my conversations with those around me.

I still don’t want that. Yet, I still struggle with how I sound when I speak. I still struggle with what to say. But if I have learned anything, I have learned this:

Oh, can you ever influence people when words are “fitly” spoken.

Proverbs 18:21

Beautiful Words, Wonderful Words of LIFE!

I am a blogger and I participate in a few weekly linkups with a fabulous community of writers. One of them is #LiveFreeThursday with Suzanne Eller of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Suzie gives a prompt. Then on Thursday we share what God has laid on our hearts by linking up our blog entries on her website.

One week I didn’t get my post linked up until late on Thursday. It had been a busy week. I had bitten off more than I could chew, but I really love this community of women and didn’t want to miss out sharing together with them—not even for one week.

I eventually got the post done. It was later than normal, but I finally made it.

Once I posted my link, Suzie replied with five simple, but beautifully encouraging words: “I was waiting for you.”

It was almost like she knew I was thinking to myself, “No one will notice if I don’t link up this week. It isn’t “required” anyway, I could just skip this week.”

But instead of giving into that thought, I pushed on and got ‘er done.

Those simple words had such power. To know that I would have been missed if I didn’t link up made me feel valued. Those words made me think my writing may matter after all.

But more than that, her words made me want to share life giving words with others. I wanted others to know the feeling of encouragement that I felt.

Word Matters

Our words matter. All of them. The “power of life and death” resides in our words. Sometimes, we don’t realize how very badly our words hurt, and other times we miss how wonderfully amazing they can be to the hearer.

Just like Suzie probably had no idea the impact her simple statement had on me. (Well, now she does!)

Let’s set our mouths to speak life! We reflect Christ when our words are an offering of love and kindness to those around us.

And above all—

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ…

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:2-3, 6 (ESV)

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Christy PearceChristy Pearce is a wife, stay at home Mommy of 3, writer and speaker. Her passion is to proclaim God’s truth and make Jesus known! While Christy admits that she is far from perfect, she desires that Christ would be preeminent in all she says (writes) and does. Her blog, “Faith Like Dirty Diapers,” was born out of God using every day events—even a diaper change—to strengthen her with words of life.

You can connect with Christy on Facebook at www.facebook.com/christylouhoo  or on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/christylouhoo

photo credit: Confunsed via photopin (license)

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Guest post: An Uncluttered Heart

Y’all, I am so excited to introduce you to my friend April Lakata Cao! I first met April nearly 25 years ago in 8th grade chorus class. I was the new girl — socially awkward and going through an unfortunate “Blossom” phase. But I remember April as the beautiful girl, with quiet confidence. Even back in 8th grade she seemed to have a wisdom beyond her years. We shared many classes throughout highschool, but never really got to know each other well. After graduation we lost touch, but thanks to Facebook we reconnected a few years ago.

April shared her writing on Facebook and as I started to read some of her blog posts I was instantly moved. I felt a sisterhood for this fellow wife and mother, and like I’d found a kindred spirit in this woman who wrote her heart, and openly shared her struggles in order to encourage others. April’s passion and love for the Lord comes through in everything she writes. She has a gift for weaving words into a beautiful tapestry of truth, encouragement and conviction. This post is no exception! When I first read it all I could think was “Yes! Me, too!” It’s a message I think so many of us can relate to.

So now, without further ado, some encouragement for living life with an uncluttered heart:

When you crave an uncluttered heart

The closets are being emptied and the hallways filled with bins of stuff we’ll never see again. How is it possible to have accumulated so much? Things we spent money on only to have thrown in a corner to collect dust. I look at it all; piles of clothes spilling over. A tangle of faded colors and worn knees and outgrown elbows pushed aside.

I look at it all and mentally add up the cost. An invisible, growing receipt that could have paid for a future semester of college or the meager beginnings of a down payment for our first home.
Stuff cluttered and taking up space in the house as much as in my heart because I see the things I’ve held on to hoping they would fill me; remain a constant reminder of those early years in love or rocking babies.

There are preemie clothes stuffed into Ziploc bags and his first outfit home folded neatly. The toys we sent across the world and the red dress with cherries for her first birthday that she wore that first time we saw her walk through that door. The white plastic bands that circled identical newborn wrists, our claim to them in that place before going home.

This past Sunday, our Pastor talked about how easy it is for children to move on from the hard things. The bickering and arguments that seem impossible to mend are over and forgotten before they’ve had time to take root.

But as adults we cling to the things that hurt us or remind us of the past. Whether it’s a blanket sewn lovingly with their name or an offense cultivated in quiet moments, we refuse to loosen our grip on the memories. We become owners of dog-eared books and bitter grudges.

In some ways I envy the childlike ability to cast things aside-even the good stuff they beg for yet manage to quickly forget. As adults we’ve learned to hold on tight to everything. We take more ownership of what shouldn’t matter and we proudly stake our claim to trophy homes and family feuds.

We react to a child’s ability to treat their things as disposable with great frustration because we automatically associate it with an utter disregard for what we’ve selflessly provided. And while that is often true of children (they must learn to care for their belongings respectfully) we unwittingly teach them to take greater pride in material possessions before lasting gifts such as integrity and honesty. We often stress the pride and care of possessions before the care and feeding of their soul.

I will be the first to admit that I have been more upset over a messy room than a messy heart. I have fussed and scolded for the way they’ve abandoned expensive Legos before grabbing a Bible and praying with them after a lie told or unkind words exchanged. I realize I have been more proud of how they behave in a group of strangers than a moment of tenderness between them after a scraped knee or that first, unassisted back handspring.

We reprimand for the littering of toys and scribbled walls. We praise for character that spotlights our well-done parenting. Ours is a death grip on the things of this world when the world cares little for us and eventually, this becomes their legacy, too.

I look at these growing piles and stretched thin plastic bags and the desire for them to be gone is overwhelming. Just hauled out to the curb with no care for where they go but just gone. Gone away where they can no longer remind me that I haven’t always been a good steward of the blessings we’ve been given. Gone so I can start over with empty drawers and maybe this time only fill them half way.

The long road paved with good intentions might be smoother but it’s not without steep hills and sharp bends. I wonder why it’s taken so long to feel overwhelmed by the clutter. Why I worry needlessly about their good manners and rigid obedience when clearly the time should be spent nurturing a humble heart longing to be close to Jesus.

When Christ called the Twelve to Him, when He spoke about them going into the world to proclaim the Good News, He told them to go with nothing. No bag filled with a change of clothes or toiletries. No staff to keep their back upright as they walked one dusty, rocky road to another. No leather, designer bag to prove their worth or validate their societal hierarchy. Not even bread to sustain them when they journeyed from one town to another.

They traveled with empty hands but full hearts. They needed nothing outside of what God would graciously provide. And isn’t that the blessing? That nothing carried or accumulated can ever fill the cracks in our hearts? That perfect love doesn’t just cast out fear, but fills the void left empty apart from God?

How much easier the journey must be when we’re not weighed down with stuff, but heavy and spilling over with the love of Jesus.

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April Lakata CaoApril Lakata Cao is the homeschool mom of four beautiful kids and military wife of sixteen years. Wannabe morning person by day and freelance writer by night, April is currently writing her first book while blogging her heart into words at www.aWellDoneLife.com

Guest post: Hope and the Messiness of Spring’s Thaw

Kim Gunderson is one of those people who leaves a lasting imprint on your heart, even if you only just met her. That’s how it was for me after meeting Kim at the She Speaks conference last July. We sat together at one of the meals and talked for a bit, and I just knew from those few moments she was someone who had been anointed by God to encourage moms and dads and love on others who were hurting and needed hope. Her writing is honest and beautiful, and often brings me to tears. I’m so honored to be able to share this guest post from Kim.

 

Have you ever wondered if God has a sense of humor? Last month, Jelise reached out to ask if I’d like to write a guest post for her blog. Id love to! I quickly responded. After chatting, I decided to write about the one thing I believe many need to hear: hope. Hope that there is more to life than what we see. Hope that God is real and he really does mean all that his Word says. Hope that pain and sorrow don’t last forever. Hope that joy really does come in the morning.

As quickly as I settled on the topic, I tumbled headlong into the darkest pit I’ve experienced in years. A pit so deep, I wondered if I’d ever see light again. The feeling of hopelessness stormed my heart with the fierceness of a midwest thunderstorm. Funny how God allows that to happen – a return to hopelessness just as I need to write about hope.

The month of March is pretty significant for my family. Not only is it my birthday month, but nestled right in the beginning is the anniversary of my youngest daughter’s death.

Yes, I’m one of those moms, a mom who lost a child living everyone’s worst nightmare. The kind you’ve heard about, aren’t sure how to react once you meet, and who often surprise people into silence when asked, how many kids do you have?  After all, how do you respond when someone shares, two by choice, two by birth and the youngest of those two is in heaven?

My youngest daughter, Emma, was born into a blended family 15 years ago. She arrived two weeks early and kept me on my toes every moment after. For 5 years, Emma brought pure joy as her giggles filled our home and her squeezes made any day better. She belonged to all five of us and truly completed our family.

Five years, one month, and fifteen days after Emma was born, she breathed her last, right on the second day of March. A normal day became a defining day, forever altering my life. A fire destroyed my home and snatched my sweet girl away. (You can read more about that story here  or here).

To say I fell headlong into a pit that day would be like saying Chicago weather is unpredictable. Obviously.

What wasn’t so obvious was how I was going to survive. Yes, I knew Jesus. Yes, I believed in him, in his Word. I mean, I worked for him (translation: I work at a church). But this? Living life on earth without my sweet girl? Living the tenuous and tender dance of joy and sorrow, love and grief, loss and hope? I didn’t want to simply survive this season of my life. I was determined to not allow it to define me. Or control me. Or keep me trapped in sorrow as my soul yearned to live.

Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you see threads of your own story interwoven among mine. Tears well up, blurring the screen because you know. You know exactly what I’m talking about – that pit of darkness where hope seems absent. You. just. know.

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.” Psalm 62:5 NLT

The years following Emma’s death felt like perpetual winter. C.S. Lewis penned it this way: Always winter, and never Christmas. Waiting through the frigidness of this season became my new normal. Waiting for our house to be rebuilt. Waiting for the waves of grief to subside. Waiting to see God work, to make sense of this tragedy. Waiting to survive, to see beauty even in the sorrow. There was beauty during those years, just as there’s beauty on a winter morning as sun strikes the snow, causing it to sparkle like diamonds. Beauty surrounded us through the gifts of strangers, friends, and family. Gifts of time and resources replaced clothes and furniture, and ultimately built a beautiful new home where devastation had once reigned.

During the waiting, God provided strength to bury my sweet Emma’s body, courage to choose to trust Him, no matter what. He provided peace in the midst of chaos, and filled me with hope that His Word was true, that He knew what He had allowed and would use it for good. He drew me closer, calling others to do the same. He revealed His faithfulness through His constant presence, His whispered words of comfort, His tender declarations of love. His Truth became alive as it showed up real and tangible throughout my everyday life. He met me in the darkness of the pit and shone brightly through the love and hope and patience of his Son, Jesus.

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19 NLT

We long for the beauty of springA couple of years ago the thaw began and I started to see the “something new” that God promised. The trauma and chaos of the previous years subsided, and peace reigned. Christmas finally arrived. The days of sorrow lessened to moments. While memories of Emma still brought tears, they soothed my soul even as I yearned to hold her once more. Healing, deep, full-thickness healing occurred and I longed to embrace the beauty of spring. The dark days were behind me and life felt good again.

Until I fell into that pit a short few weeks ago. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the fire and Emma’s death. Ten years of living without her. Ten years of wondering what she’d look like, what her likes and dislikes would be. Ten years of sorrow, and ten years of experiencing God’s faithfulness each and every day.

One day as the darkness hovered near, I felt the pull to head outside to breathe the fresh air, sweeping away the cobwebs that clouded my mind. As I walked around the little lake near my rented home, I noticed it had begun to thaw. Sure, the ice was still thick towards the middle, but the outer edges had been released from its grip and the water flowed with ease. A perfect visual of the journey of my heart.

The air was warmer, too, and it felt like spring, full of hope. Yes, my soul was weary and weighty as sorrow interrupted my life once more, much like the melting snow and ice I traipsed through on my walk. As I walked, I was reminded of this hope: spring is coming. There is absolutely nothing I can do, nothing that can happen, that will stop it. I can’t wish it away, or wish it to come sooner. I can’t hide away and hibernate until its arrival. I need to walk through its ugly thaw, brown and wet and dirty. I need to take every sloshy step, feet wet, hem of my pants soaked, one step at a time, believing that beneath the ugliness of the thaw, beauty yearns to burst forth.

We don’t want the messiness, though, do we? We long for the beauty of spring’s flowers yet dread traipsing through the messiness of spring’s thaw. But the thaw is necessary for growth, providing nourishment for the months to come. Hope is a bit like that. It looks messy and uncertain, ugly and inconvenient yet so vital for our growth. Hope is like trudging through the frigid waters of melting snow, slipping in its muddy wake, shifting our eyes from the mess and fixing them on the Maker. It takes patience and strength and great courage to allow the spring thaw do its work in our hearts, to trust that work even when we can’t see the beauty just yet.

“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11 (ESV)

Yes, God does have a sense of humor, and he is at work, calling hope forth from our sorrow. He’s creating something beautiful through our circumstances and in our lives, even those messy and painful parts. I suppose the question remains, are you willing to endure spring’s thaw so you can embrace the beauty of its flowers?

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Kim GundersonKim recently admitted she’s a true Midwesterner at heart, having lived in the Chicago area for the majority of her life. She loves watching the seasons change, especially as winter gives way to spring. Kim has raised four kids – two by birth, two by choice, and recently welcomed a son-in-law into her family. She’s the author of Breathing in Ashes, a memoir that shares her story of hope after the death of her youngest daughter. She also blogs over at www.abigumbrella.com and is a contributing writer for Ask God Today Ministries.

You can connect with her on:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/kim.gunderson
Instagram: www.instagram.com/abigumbrella7
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kimabigumbrella
Email: kim@abigumbrella.com

Guest post: Hope for the sidetracked heart

I met Joy Williams last year at the She Speaks conference. It was one of those moments that you just know is divine intervention at play. Joy has a heart for encouraging women and an infectious love of the Lord. Her writing is filled with faith, encouragement and practical advice. I love this message she’s written to share with all of you about losing sight of our goals and the person God has called us to be. But it’s a message filled with reassurance that no matter how far we stray, God actively seeks us and brings us back to Him. I’m just thrilled to be able to share this encouraging reminder with all of you.

As Ryan left out the front door he said, “Mom, I’ll be right back.”  I smiled as my son did his routine chore of taking the trash to the curb.  But my smile turned into a perplexed frown as I watched him become sidetracked.

It began when he saw his basketball resting by a tree in our yard.  A few bounces later, he glanced towards the trash can.  But the voice of a friend two houses away grabbed his attention instead.  After several fakes, dribbles, and drives with the ball, he and his friend talked for a while.   Eventually, the real reason for being outdoors re-registered with Ryan.  Sincerity returned.  He delivered the trash can to the curb as he was delivered from distraction.

It was easy for me to notice Ryan’s zigzag pattern that day.  But to be completely honest, I often miss my own.  As I glance away from a goal or entertain an unproductive thought, the trip from sincere to sidetrack begins.  But looking away from the significant becomes costly.  The consequences of missing opportunities with whom or what I care about can become a high price to pay.  However, Christ’s redemption invites me to learn from my mistakes and not just live with them.

sidetracked circle

What happens when you’re in pursuit of a worthy goal?  Are you sidetracked or sincere?  For those of us who waver, I believe it’s helpful to know the reasons why we fluctuate.  Don’t worry, I’ll go first.  Maybe you’ll see your reasons too.

Challenges.  When the going gets tough this tough girl can get distracted.  At times I take too long in my pause to persevere.   And like my son on his trip to the curb, my diversions delay my deliverance.

Comparisons.  In a world where people are dubbed “best-dressed” or “most liked,” I may struggle to make the best decision – to be who God created me to be.   When I compare myself to others, I distort my God-given value.  As a result, my flaws or my achievements receive far more attention than His grace.

Cravings.   If my deepest desires are not submitted to God, they become a detour from His destiny.  My cravings may vary but God’s purpose for me is always the same — to glorify Him.  When I drift from that desire, my godly focus begins to falter.

“God seeks after the sidetracked heart, but the sincere heart seeks after God.”

My challenges, comparisons and cravings can cause me to stray from God’s plan.  But the same reasons for my becoming sidetracked can also serve as my pivot to becoming sincere.  As I entrust my challenges to the Lord, His peace surpasses my understanding.  And when I compare His grace to earthly grandeur, frankly there is no comparison.  Thankfully, as my soul longs for Him sincerity starts to surface.

If you’re familiar with the sidetracked struggle, here’s some good news. God seeks after the sidetracked heart, but the sincere heart seeks after God.  This critical pivot is only made possible by the strength and grace we find in Jesus Christ.  When we turn away from our distractions and trust Him, the pivot is complete.  Then He becomes the reason for hope in the heart and the source of joy to the soul.

“A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers.” – John 4:23 AMP

Joy A WilliamsJoy A. Williams is a writer and speaker.  For over 15 years, she’s led small group bible studies and spoken at Women’s retreats and conferences. She is the author of Friendship MAPS: A Journey through Maturity, Aspirations, Perspectives, and Struggles.  Whether it is in print or in person, Joy enjoys sharing biblical truths about the grace of God. Through her weekly blog at www.joyawilliams.com, she encourages the sincere or sidetracked truth seeker with hope for the heart and joy to the soul.

Guest post: On our own

Earlier this month I alluded to new and exciting things coming to Neither Height Nor Depth in 2015.  I am super excited to finally reveal one of these to you all! In an effort to offer a wide variety of inspirational content from diverse perspectives, and expand the ministry of NHND I will be inviting a different guest author every month to share some encouragement with my readers. I have some amazingly faithful and talented folks lined up for the next few months and I can’t wait for you to get to know them and their passion for the Lord.

My very first guest author is none other than David “JB” Miller. David is an author and speaker who, among other things, is the founder of  Life Letter Ministries. David served in pastoral ministry in the Christian & Missionary Alliance for 22 years and has been active in numerous non-profit ministries and community outreach programs.  David’s passion for encouraging others through the word of God is evident in all of his writing and I am so honored to be able to welcome him to the NHND community!

I know you will find this post about surrendering to God and standing tall on the cornerstone of His grace as uplifting as I did!

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
– Matthew 5:3 –

We all have a natural bent to live our lives in a way that covers even a sniff of being flawed and fractured.Instead we are tempted to live in a way that gives off the appearance of “being in gear” or “having it together”.

Weakness, after all, is not being able to stand on your own two feet – and with that level of vulnerability comes the almost sure to be realized social realities of ostracism and judgment. Then we are introduced to a King and a kingdom where the table is completely reset. The very thing we dread and seek to avoid at all cost (if only in appearances) is actually the only path to God’s greatest blessings in our lives.

Jesus foretold of His crucifixion and death by the ruling authorities. Peter naturally responded “Never on my watch!” during his futile attempt to rebuke the Son of God. The Son of God responded by rebuking Peter and the Devil who had lulled him into thinking that “might makes everything right”.

In God’s kingdom, greatness is irreversibly tied to meekness, victory is won through surrender, life is purchased through death.

When Jesus taught “Blessed are the poor . . “, He might as well have proclaimed that anyone who is willing to admit they can never stand on their own two feet, they are the ones who will stand tallest for they will be saved from self and prideful self-reliance.

It is indeed God’s grace that allows seasons to come into our lives where we are virtually forced to admit we can’t stand on our own.

It is that same grace that finds Christ and Christ-followers coming close and reminding us that we no longer have to.

David "JB" Miller

To read more inspirational posts by David “JB” Miller, visit the LifeLetter Cafe or LifeNotes: The Cafe Blog.