by Patty Morwood
A few days ago I hiked through a forest with friends, bending down often to collect the fiery red and orange leaves strewn on paths and boulders. I remarked to myself, again, that leaves don’t really matter in this annual recollection; it’s the Tree itself that grips me.
It always does at this time of year when they begin to go dormant and release their deadening leaves into the cooling wind.
Just few years ago during this very same season, my husband and I rode an antique train up a mountain in West Virginia. A swath just a few feet wide had been cut through a vast sea of trees to allow the old tracks to still hold that old train as it made its eight-hour trek to the top, where miners who had worked deep in the mountain in the 1800s had built a town for their families.
Periodically a family member would take the long ride down to civilization for necessaries or to find a doctor. The ride down, the ride back up. Two days surrounded by trees.
To this day it’s the only sight to see through the windows. No structures, no light, no sky even. Trees stretched upward so high one doubts their top branches really exist. Trees packed together, marching in lock-step to the summit of their mountain. An endless experience for any passenger rocking to and fro with hours more to go.
But I was riveted. “Patty, what are you thinking?” he queried. “About the Tree,” I answered as thousands of them sped by my window, a silent witness.
The Cross is our reminder today of a saving love so startling that hymnists and poets over centuries have penned the most glorious language to portray it. But the Cross was a terrifying sight, an anathema to even speak of for those on the ground who witnessed its use in ancient times.
The Gospels barely mention it; we know His feet were nailed to the pillar and His arms to the crossbeam.
Instead they wrote of the week leading up to it: palm branches, poignant gatherings at Lazarus’ house, the Last Supper and Gethsemane, the trial and the screaming “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” of the midnight rabble, the brutal trek of a nearly unrecognizable Man through the streets of Jerusalem.
And they wrote of its victory-day afterward: women laden with spices suddenly face-to-face with the Resurrected One, followers on the road out of Jerusalem walking and talking with their Lord unknowingly, the lying collaboration between natural enemies: soldiers, government and religious leaders.
In those days everyone knew the inhumanity and the agonies of the Roman cross. Everyone had seen it. Why go into it when expensive scrolls were needed to explain the new fresh Gospel circulating where Paul and Peter and Barnabas and Luke had traveled with their life-changing story of love?
But you and I must take a long hard look at the Cross. We don’t see this sort of thing ringing our cities that teem with shops and theaters and walking paths and parks.
But the Romans would leave the pillar entrenched in the ground just outside the towns or even at a crossroads, standing mute as a warning to occupied peoples of what would be the fate for the next rebel against their rule. Afterward they’d throw the body into a shallow pit nearby for the carrion to feast on until they reached the stripped-clean skeletons layered underneath.
Their bodies were nailed as one would nail a marker or a sign. Huge nails; powerful blows hammered by soldiers deadened to the cries for mercy.
But that one particular Tree, that monstrous obscene Cross, was stained with a deep red drained from a God-man willing to be there. The most beautiful of men died impaled because of you and me. Because our sin so long ago had incurred the wrath of God and the greatest mercy of God … so long ago.
For us, for you and for me. For the joy of our salvation.
Why would I write this now? Why not save this essay for Easter Week?
Because fall is the season marked by millions of trees undergoing a remarkable change right before our eyes; many families plan excursions into areas of spectacular fall foliage. Because we decorate our dining tables with vibrant leaves collected from trees shutting down for winter. Because rustling is a sound that awakens and reminds.
Because I can’t any more look at trees in this season with a simple enjoyment.
Never again will I be able to hike a forest, wrap my fingers around bark for balance, bend down with the impulse to collect, without experiencing the deep mournful regret for sin and an ever-deepening awe and gratitude for our Lord’s bloody rescue.
What’s the triumph of this past year for you? Even if it seems to be the smallest thing, let its significance wash over you. What’s the pain of this past year for you? Even if it seems to be the smallest thing, let its significance wash over you. Come Christmas and New Year’s, even amidst the celebration and joyful gatherings, it’s easy to feel like we are tumbling to a swift halt as the year closes. Memories we wish wouldn’t have happened, friends we long to see again, and the reminder of broken families can send our minds into a tailspin.
It’s so important to reflect on our past. I recently heard a quote, “Our past doesn’t dictate our future but makes our present profound.” This was spoken by a young man with stage 4 esophageal cancer. The message of his talk and context of the quote was the power of perseverance and finding the joy in the journey. His doctors don’t know why he is still alive, but he is; walking and speaking and sharing God’s strength.
What about your past has made your present profound? In what ways do you believe that your past will dictate your future?
Jeremiah 29:11 “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Proverbs 23:18 “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”
Our pasts influence who we are and where we are headed, but they are not our sole identity. The names Christ gives us completely cancel any name or fate our pasts have given us. Free, beloved, pursued, righteous, blameless, and adopted are just a few in the lengthy list of our new names.
Maybe this Christmas season, the time when we celebrate the Messiah, is the perfect time to renounce what’s happened and to step into the hope we have because of Jesus. He died to rescue you, to be close to your heart, and to give you freedom to be your best self.
Your present is profound, your future full of hope, and your name given by the Christ Himself. Let’s celebrate this renewal together.
By: Taylor Abigail
I recently read Moving Mountains by John Eldredge. He confronts the elephant in the room about prayer: “Some prayers work and some don’t.” As I went through the book, I found myself examining my own prayer life: the disappointments, the joys, the struggles and the victories. I went to Scripture with the question, “What’s the key to successful prayer?”
Of course, the Lord doesn’t always answer prayers in the way or in the timing we would like. But even in those times I want to know that I’m praying the best I can and able to listen to His guidance clearly. I found that it matters much less how I pray than who I am praying to and what I believe about Him. These 5 beliefs once absent from my prayers have begun to revitalized my spiritual life and I’m confident they’ll do the same for you!
Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves in prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
Other translations use the word “vigilant” in place of “watchful.” When we pray, it’s important to be vigilant for how the Lord is moving within our requests! Is He altering our hearts towards the matter? Is He shaping circumstances? Every advance He makes indicates a need for new wisdom in how we pray through the situation. He is always renewing, and so our prayers always need renewal as we strive to stay in step with His work. The truth that our Creator hears and listens to our every cry continually astounds me. My heart overflows with thanks that I am not alone. Our prayers are even sweeter to His ears and our souls when we scatter thanks and praise throughout!
2. Belief that God is for us.
Romans 8:31b, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
This staggering truth straddles both the spiritual realm and the earthly realm. Since we are covered by Jesus’ blood, we are seen as righteous and holy by the Father. We are loved just as Jesus is loved! Our eternal, spiritual destination and standing is set and God has every intention on having us experience that blessing even now! Yet, when the Lord calls us to something, something else almost always seems to block the way. But Romans 8 declares that nothing can be against us! If you are confident in the Lord’s leading, the opposition and obstacles will melt as you walk into His plan in faith.
3. Belief that He is good.
James 1:13b, 16-17, “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone…don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”
I know, it seems elementary. But the devil will do anything to prevent us from believing in the goodness of God. When we believe that God isn’t good (or that He isn’t being good to us) our prayers may cease or become unheartfelt. When we pray, amidst whatever circumstance, we must believe that He is good always and only gives perfect gifts to His children.
4. Belief that He hears us.
Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
The Lord promises to answer us; He promises to hear us. If I feel myself become frantic or desperate as I pray, it is often because I have forgotten the truth that He is listening and at work. I don’t need to labor and frantically hope that He bends His ear to me. I always have His attention and knowing that helps me give Him all of mine and to rest as I pray.
5. Belief that He talks back.
Matthew 7:7 is evidence enough of this. But flip through the Old Testament and you will witness conversations between God and His people happening daily. Maybe little noticed is that that theme is carried over into the New Testament. He sends His prophets to specific people and places, comforts mothers, and sends His angels with messages. Constantly praying without a hope of hearing back is enough to discourage anyone in their prayer life. That is because we aren’t meant to pray that way! The Lord is talkative and intimate with us if we will let Him speak. Have faith to have open ears and you will experience His voice!
What do you think of when fall begins? As a striking season of change, it’s easy to have vivid memories and hopes attached; looking forward to the kids being out of the house for school, sweater weather, or maybe that trip to the mountains you’ve been planning to be right in the heart of the colors. But maybe you feel a little left out in what you think of when fall comes. The end of a relationship, the increase of stress, or the death of a loved one may be your first thoughts as the leaves turn. Whatever the change may be, there is beauty hidden within it.
“See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
Change in life is mysterious, exhilarating, and terrifying all at once. It can seem that just when we get a grip on our current situation, something gets turned upside down all over again. Even with positive changes, there is always a healthy grieving of the past, but, also a brave acceptance of the new. The Lord has promised to walk with us through every season and every change, whether it be a trial or not.
“When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.”
As the fall approaches and new things are beginning and old things ending, let us walk through changes with grace, humility, and bravery.
1. Communicate to God how you feel and think about the change.
If you sense your circumstances becoming unfamiliar or daunting, call out for help! If you feel stretched in character, ask for His guidance! Our relationship with God is sweetened when we unfold entirely before Him. He looks on us with kind eyes and is eager to provide rest and courage.
2. Surrender to and receive the new season.
We can only see the treasures along the path if we are committed to walking it. Since God has called us here, there’s no need to fear!
3. Appropriately grieve or celebrate the end of the previous season.
It was a gift. It shaped who you are. Bid it the farewell it's due. It will help you embrace what’s next with joy and hope.
4. Gain discernment in how best to live within this new time.
Pray and wait. God knows every step and the Spirit can help you be in tune.
5. Be encouraged!
The Lord is dedicated to growing us up. This new season will act as a reward or a time of growth.
By: Taylor Abigail
To the woman who’s ever felt disappointed,
I see you. I’ve been you.
It’s an unhappy connection we have, you and I--one that confirms we aren’t meant to feel this way. We can sit, we can mourn, we can look into each other’s eyes, and whisper “This is just life.” Or, we can listen quietly and intently as to hear Jesus’ gentle voice say, “Let me rescue you, please.”
The first calamity in our lives teaches us something: don’t hope too strongly for good. Our reaction to the first deep pain is the fast shrinking of our soul. The agreement that “to be disappointed is to live” is harshly branded onto our hearts and often goes unnoticed. We continue to live after the tragedy but no longer out of wonder or freedom. We exist out of a new place: disappointment.
Children aren’t born programmed to expect disappointment. They are born with a joyful surety that the world is theirs for the taking. But the enemy’s goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. The first thing he often steals is our playful, childlike, and adventurous spirits. Sadly, recovering this heart is the last thing to be addressed from the pulpit. Instead, Christian culture continues themes of solemnity and caution and we get caught up in issues of skirt length. We find that we are just surviving and trying to get by because we’ve learned that it hurts when our hopes and expectations aren’t met.
There is a journey out of disappointment and into healing that we can choose to embark on. Perhaps regaining our childlike spirit is the place where we need the Gospel the most. We need to believe again, like a child believes, that there is goodness and blessing for us here on earth; we need to believe that our lives can be abundant because God is abundant.
What’s the biggest disappointment in your life? Be honest. The man you married? The way one of your kids turned out? Not being selected for that special honor in college? The fear and sadness that the time is past for dreams to come true are strong. But can I give you hope? Rather, will you let Jesus tell you what He thinks about your disappointment and frantic efforts to never let it happen again?
John 16:33 “I have told you these things so that in me, you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Isaiah 61:7, “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.”
Please silence the voice that says we will only see God’s redemptive power like that in Heaven.
Psalm 27:13 “I remain confident in this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Our good hearts are wired to long for the extravagant, the redemptive, and the extraordinary. These things are what Heaven will be, and these things are even possible on earth. This is not the prosperity Gospel. Abundance in the Lord still looks different than an abundance that the world offers. It’s different in that we can live an abundant life in any place because our souls are fulfilled and satisfied; not because our material wealth exceeds expectation. Because we truly believe He satisfies, out of a brimming and hopeful soul we can come to the Father with confidence that He will work within our mundane realities. Because we’ve felt in our hearts the fullness and peace that comes from true belief in His goodness, intimacy, and care for us, our dreams are free to run wild and grow because we are confident in His love for us.
Luke 12:22-32, “Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom…’”
What did we hear from this? God is abundant. “God is pleased to give you His Kingdom.” What does this mean? He clothes the fields extravagantly and says He will clothe you brighter still. We don’t have to live like we’re “settling” and have that be a disguise for contentment. We can ask the Lord for our wildest dreams and fully expect their fruition. In Christian culture, we don’t talk about dreams; we talk about God’s will. We don’t talk about self-expression; we talk about becoming conformed to Christ’s image. We don’t talk about praying boldly; we talk about self-forgetfulness. Paying attention to God’s will, conforming to Christ’s image, and self-forgetfulness are all blessed and biblical. But let us examine our hearts and see if we are avoiding our dreams and desires because we are afraid of disappointment. If our Lord is saying He plans to be lavish with us, what holds us back from leaning into that and expressing exactly what we want and then listening to what God says about it? Believing God when He asks us to pray about all things and that when we ask we shall receive changes everything. Believing He is lavish and abundant with our specific requests and desires is invaluable to our experience of His presence and our soul’s contentment. In my experience, my expectations of Him have been too small, not too selfish. It delights Him when we are excited for life because we trust that our daddy loves us and is abundant with us.
Let’s let God introduce Himself to us as wild, scandalous, and larger than any obstacle. Is it hard to look this God in the eye because we’ve been disappointed and brokenhearted one too many times? Does He seem too good to be true and even “counter Christian cultural”? What does it require of you to believe that no situation is beyond His repair, that He really meant it when He said He is our shield, and that we really can trust Him? Bravery to believe. That’s all.
We need the bravery to banish the idea of a weak, silent, convoluted God. Many of us would never say that this is the view of God we have, but functionally, it’s easy to live like we are avoiding Him. The beautiful truth is that God is good and intimate with every single area of our lives and He is always communicating with us. He longs for us. He cries out for our hearts. He promises individuals hope for the future and goes so far as to declare every single trial [insert yours here] as redeemable and able to bring forth joy. We want to hear this God. We want to feel Him snuggle up next to us in bed when it’s a lonely night. We want to see His smile when we close our eyes in the sunshine. Let’s believe these things happen.
To the woman who has ever felt disappointed, let’s live abundantly because we believe He is abundant. Let’s take on a new name: to the woman who lives loved, I know you’re in there.
“The most encouraging stories are hearing women, who have never studied the Word before, tell me they connected with God for the first time through my Bible studies.” Mindy Ferguson, author of Bible studies and devotionals for women, is a powerful communicator of God’s truth. “Everything I do is directed towards getting women into the Word.” Mindy’s passion is that women would truly abide in God’s Word and apply it to their lives. She says, “When women’s lives are changed, family’s lives are changed.” Mindy’s calling to rejuvenate women’s hearts through true experiences of God is altering the heartbeat of families everywhere.
Mindy met the Lord when she was 26 and fell in love with studying Scripture. She was an active student of the Bible involved in church, small groups, and her own personal time with the Lord. As Mindy began to experience the Lord more and more fully in her personal times with Him, she began to sense God whispering to her to share the wisdom she had been storing up in her heart. Still considering herself a new believer, this call brought up many anxieties and feelings of inadequacy. Yet, God’s timing is always perfect. Mindy had just concluded studying Moses and had moved into Joshua. The message of Joshua 1:9 began to follow her, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” To Mindy, this message was a clear directive to begin writing Bible studies despite her feelings of inadequacy.
As Mindy began writing the study on Joshua, she knew she must also live what she learned and wrote. In a step of bravery, she shared the few completed lessons with a woman at her home church: Cy-Fair in Houston, Texas. This woman called Mindy soon after and communicated how touched she was by Mindy’s Bible study; this humble beginning sparked what is now Fruitful Word Ministries.
Mindy began sharing her materials with her church’s women’s groups and eventually began speaking at other churches. Fruitful Word Ministries found its wings when other churches and individuals wanted to purchase the studies. Mindy finds that, while others are continually enriched by her writing and speaking, she is consistently fed and challenged as she writes. She says, “This is why I do what I do: God’s Word changed my life. I don’t just learn about the Bible, I connect with the God of the Bible.” God has been faithful to place the perfect book of the Bible in the path of her writing and study right when she needs it. “Peter taught me intimacy with Christ, Moses helped me see God’s glory in trial, and Abraham taught me faith when I needed to be brave,” Mindy shares.
Mindy’s story is truly one of perseverance and surrender. She reflects, “Following God is always an adventure and it always includes challenges.” Mindy has gracefully moved through disappointments with publishers and the ever-changing world of ministry. Her writing reflects her steadfast soul kept safe by Christ’s love. She says, “We really need to carve out space in quiet moments to get to know God in His Word. It’s not a legalistic practice, it’s a wellbeing practice.” Amidst life that can easily become loud and cluttered, it’s tempting to ignore the practice of quiet and introspection. Mindy longs for women to experience God’s love deeply and encourages them to change up what their personal times with Him contain. Practices of journaling, reading, taking a walk, or even clean silence help us hear the heartbeat of our Creator.
Mindy has several video lessons for her studies at fruitfulword.org and is excited about filming the Moses video lecture in the upcoming weeks! When Mindy is not writing, she can be found delighting in her family and making memories with them. Mindy and her husband reside in Houston, Texas and love coming up with creative ways to stay close and connected with a daughter in Austin, TX and a son headed to Colorado. Mindy invites women to follow her on Facebook, fruitfulword.org, and her YouTube channel.
Mindy’s studies, devotionals, and speaking events can be accessed at fruitfulword.org!
It’s never too embarrassing to talk about and it’s never so bad that you’ll be cast aside.
While this is the truth about sexual sin and struggle, too many girls and women have received the opposite message and gone into hiding where shame has had its way with them. Phylicia Delta is a woman who takes a stance against hiding and waves a banner for the redemption of Jesus to enter into every woman’s sex struggles and questions. Phylicia handles this topic with tact and grace and ushers in Christ’s love and healing. While interviewing Phylicia, I quickly found out that her heart also reaches every other corner of the female experience.
Phylicia Delta spends her days putting “feet to our theology in the everyday moments of life.” (phyliciadelta.com) Phylicia lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with her husband, Josh, and daughter, Adeline. The family recently moved from Lynchburg, Virginia. Phylicia is passionate about letting Jesus’ Lordship truly penetrate our entire lives. Phylicia’s writing is aimed to enrich young Christian women (teens and twenty somethings) but is applicable and holds wisdom for every woman in any stage of life.
Phylicia grew up seeking wisdom about how best to conduct Godly relationships with men. “While my own dating relationships (both with my husband and the men before him) have been flawed and had their failures, I hope my writing is transparent about those difficulties and how they can be overcome to achieve a relationship that glorifies God and puts the world to shame.” (phyliciadelta.com) Her writing now exists to share her own journey and to unashamedly put forth Biblical truth. She writes about everything from the mundane to our secret struggles.
Phylicia finds herself passionate about all things women: modesty, feminism, sexual sin, lies about dating, and transparent “day in the life” stories from her own marriage. Her blogs To the Girl with the Boring Testimony, Marry the Man Who Stays, and I Waited Until My Wedding Night to Lose My Virginity and It was the Best Thing I Ever Did give a great picture of her work and mission. Phylicia has a special ability to take into account the many different paths women are on in these areas and her writing reflects that sensitivity. Having come from a pressuring “purity culture” but still struggling sexually when single, she has a God-given compassion which the Spirit uses in her writing and ministry. She hopes to be a safe space for women to confide in and readily invites her readers into contact and conversation. She says wrestling with these topics and communicating them with a Biblical perspective often feels like walking a tight rope. As women we must hold each other to the standards of a holy life but continually pour out grace when there is failure and confusion.
Phylicia says, “I don’t ever want to write something on my blog that I don’t implement in my life.” She serves her readers by staying up to date about cultural trends and happenings and providing the Biblical perspective. Two years ago, she partnered with a fellow blogger and influence, Lisa Hensley, to begin a podcast called Uniquely Woman where the two discuss truth to help Christian women in the upstream swim against the culture. With each of these podcasts and with every post, Phylicia holds a philosophy of “closet before rooftop.” This is a phrase she learned from Beth Guckenberger of Back2Back ministries. It simply means that before we declare a truth or principle from the rooftops, we must take the thought to the Lord in prayer to receive confirmation and blessing. Phylicia’s messages are covered in this kind of prayer and consideration and have continually been a source of healing and redemption in women’s lives.
Phylicia’s favorite part of her blogging work is when she chances to meet readers in person. She says there’s a sweet connection immediately through their mutual love for God and journeys towards Him as women. She treasures those conversations as well as encouraging emails she receives from women who have been uplifted and encouraged by her blog. These stories motivate her and reassure her of the Lord’s work through her ministry.
A few of the most important influences in Phylicia’s life have been Psalm 37:4 and Milton Vincent’s The Gospel Primer. Psalm 37:4 states, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Phylicia says, “We always desire something we don’t have at every stage in life.” She remembers praying over this verse in her single years and finding that once one desire is fulfilled, another surfaces. Our contentment is based on our satisfaction in the Lord and she desires above anything else that her readers would let their faith be strengthened by Jesus’ relentless love pursuit. Vincent’s book, The Gospel Primer, is one that Phylicia says she would give to every reader if she had the ability. It continually centers her on what the Gospel truly means and frees her from what’s become unnecessarily important in her life.
As if we aren’t already incredibly blessed by this woman’s voice, we have more to look forward to! Phylicia is currently working on an eBook about redemptive sexuality and has dreams about publishing a print book. She also would love to have an annual convention to discuss the topic of Christian sexuality for women to find healing and direction.
I asked Phylicia for one take away message for Christian women. She said, “We are as safe from sin and compromise as we are close to Christ.” Her prayer is that her fellow sisters would make time to spend with Jesus because the more our faith grows, the better eyes we have to see His world, way, and goodness. She says, “Writing is my way of learning.” With Phylicia, we have a mentor who is learning right alongside of us and recognizes the value in transparency and companionship.
If this is the first time you’ve heard of Phylicia Delta, visit her website, phyliciadelta.com!
Maybe you really have tried everything. The Biblical counseling, the books, the long phone calls with friends or mom for advice, but your marriage is still falling apart. And, maybe, somewhere inside you hear a voice telling you to quit and another voice beckoning you to pray; to remember that nothing is impossible for God. A voice that reminds you that marriage is holy and dear to the Lord. Jennifer O. White, founder of Prayerfully Speaking ministries and author of Prayers for New Brides, is living proof of the power of prayer. After one failed marriage and her second one beginning to fail, Jennifer discovered the faithfulness of God to answer a simple “Help Me Jesus” prayer. She’s given her days to sharing how God is able to do more in our hearts and marriages than we can ask or imagine. She says, “There is no way that I, a woman who once chose to divorce a minister, am now writing books encouraging wives to pray and rely on the marriage Savior …except by the grace of God.”
Hearing Jennifer's unmatched belief that God can mend any ruin is a gift and a treasure.
Jennifer lives in West Monroe, Louisiana and describes herself as one who loves to share what inspires her. Born and raised in a small farming community in her home state, she’s a natural helper and connector of people to the resources they need. While in college pursuing a degree in Social Work, Jennifer surprised herself one day when she confided in someone her desire to be a writer. The Lord had bigger plans for her abilities to share and connect than she could have dreamed.
Throughout her life, Jennifer had always been drawn to God through church. In her teen years, she cried out to God for wisdom. She feels that God’s answer to that prayer is seen today in her love for His Word and praying its truths. The Lord would make beauty from ashes through this very skill.
Jennifer found herself working for a Christian publishing company, blogging and discovering her gift of writing Scripture-based prayers. Jennifer’s step-son and niece were both engaged and she wanted to bless and nurture their unions. She decided to give them prayers she would write for their marriages. It was then the Lord whispered to her, “You could write a book of prayers for marriages.”
Her book, Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God’s Armor after the Wedding Dress, made it to market February, 2015. Jennifer’s ministry and book remain a testimony of God’s renewal in Jennifer’s life and continually rejuvenate even the most difficult marriages.
Jennifer’s hope is that married couples everywhere would harness of the power of prayer. She says, “As wives, we often fall into a trap thinking that our husbands are the enemy. Ephesians 6:12 opened Jennifer’s eyes to the reality that we as wives are not wrestling with our husbands but actually with the spiritual forces of darkness. A large chapter of Jennifer’s story centers around recognizing the spiritual battle and the importance of being an active participant under God’s authority. Prayers for New Brides is a perfect help in taking up the armor of God to fortify our marriages against the lies and destructive strategies of Satan.
A Biblical counselor, one of the biggest influences in Jennifer’s life, opened Jennifer’s eyes to her identity in Christ for the first time. Her wisdom, prayers from the Power of a Praying Wife and Prayers that Avail Much, and several praying wives in Jennifer’s life helped her engage in this spiritual warfare. She says, “No situation is too big for God. I am living proof that life and marriage get a lot better when we resist the enemy and draw near to God. Prayer is an opening of a door for Him to pour out on us what we need. God already has it ready! We have to remind ourselves that God is for us and nothing is impossible for God.”
Jennifer also emphasizes the importance of having others praying for you and your marriage. Women of all ages have used Prayers for New Brides in small groups as a way to keep one another praying and witnessing God’s redemptive power. She's also created Marriage Armor for the #PrayingBride, a daily email of prayers for your marriage. You can subscribe for free at jenniferowhite.com/marriage-armor. Jennifer encourages even singles to sign up and begin preparation for their future marriage.
Even with protective prayer, warfare isn’t easy; inside and outside of marriage. Jennifer says Satan discourages her by defining her ministry as "white noise" amidst a broadcast of thousands of ministries. But, Jennifer continues in the path that the Lord has lain before her by repeating Ephesians 3:20 and singing praise and worship songs moment by moment. She has also begun collecting encouraging emails and conversations she’s received over the years from individual’s whose lives have been touched and transformed by Prayerfully Speaking as a reminder that the Lord is at work through her testimony.
Jennifer invites you to her website, jenniferowhite.com, where she shares blogs filled with truth for your encouragement and renewal! Prayers for New Brides is available at Amazon, Lifeway, Books a Million, Christianbook.com, and Barnes & Noble.
Jennifer’s story of ruins to redeemed reflects all of our journeys. Nothing, not even a broken marriage, is too lost for the Lord to make beautiful once more. Just ask Jennifer.
It’s breathtaking to think about. To think that in the presence of mountains, of oceans, of wildlife, of sunlight, that women are the crown of creation. In Genesis, the Lord looks down from Heaven and only truly celebrates when woman’s feet walk the earth.
The sense of unrest in creation before its completion is stunning.
“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.” ~ Genesis 2: 19-20
What a scene. The Lord assembles His new creations before Adam and Adam has a task: name them all. God did not give Adam the task of finding a companion. But verse 20 seems to indicate that while Adam was naming the creatures, he was also seeking a friend. Adam was already experiencing how he was different from the rest of creation. He was wanting for a partner. Amazingly, the Lord provided for Adam with us; with a woman. Woman calmed the unrest, caused Adam to sing, and the Lord to laugh for joy at what He had made.
In this scene I cannot help but wonder at the beauty of peace and the woman’s unique ability to usher it into the world. Of course, peace did not originate with woman. Peace resides in the Lord’s hand and heart. But God chose woman to be the channel for peace to enter into this new creation. And this purpose and calling has not changed today.
Think of women in your own life who radiate peace. Isn’t their beauty enhanced? Made more full? I remember after a worship night how strong the presence of peace was in each person. It seemed that the women glowed for days after being infused with the Spirit’s peace. This is the kind of beauty we are made for: the beauty of peace.
“A heart at peace gives life to the body…” ~ Proverbs 14:30a
“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can made them stumble.” ~ Psalm 119:165
“Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace.” ~ Psalm 37:37
A pursuit of beauty is not vain. But all too often we pursue beauty through broken channels. We think of Revlon before joy, White House Black Market before love, and our favorite frizz tamers before peace. What made creation so perfect and beautiful? Eve’s presence; her unique gifting and ability to bring a sense of completion and peace into the world.
Living with heart and soul means we must give attention to these deep parts of ourselves. When we are filled to the brim with the peaceful, living water that Jesus promises, we are beautiful. When we remember that Eve was made to bring completion, rest, and peace, we find new purpose and a God-given path towards true beauty.
As women, we need space to be beautiful and whole as well as fragile and broken. Throughout history, and literature especially, women have been portrayed as either completely angelic or decidedly evil temptresses. This lack of middle ground still resounds in society today and even seeps into the Christian community. We wonder, “What does it mean to be ‘pure’?” “How can I focus on inward beauty over outward beauty?” “Where is the grace for this sin habit I just can’t shake?” And at the root of it all, “How does who I am and how I live affect the way Jesus sees me?”
All of these questions come from an unstable framework of “How can I create my identity to be what a Christian woman should be?” We will never have a complete, gracious, or possible answer for this question. In truth, we must ask a different set of questions entirely which flow from a whole new framework of mind. We must first ask, “Who is the Lord?” Then ask, “Who has He called me?” From there, our previous armory of inquiries is whittled down into one question, “How can I completely trust in and believe in the Lord’s identity and mine?” We’ve all heard that our beliefs shape our character which shapes our destiny. It’s true.
Enter the Purposefully Paradoxical woman and the Lord who chose to create her in His image.
We’ve been encouraged to “stop and smell the roses,” to soak in the beauty of life, to be available to those we love, even to add that extra half hour of exercise into our routines all for the purpose of living life to the fullest, becoming our best selves, and finding satisfaction. But have we been encouraged to stop and consider the paradox of life?
We see that the Lord is both merciful and just, forgiving and righteous, holy and intimate. He is the pairing of words which the human mind cannot comprehend together. This is the image we were created in. We are nothing and everything, sinners and loved, ugly and beautiful, helpless and held.
To think, that the human is a paradox manifest.
To think, that we share the nature of this mystery with our Creator.
To think, that the woman may call her paradoxical self a wondrous reflection of her King.
What happens when we add “Purposeful Paradox” to our already long list of God-given identities?
Heiress to The Kingdom
Ambassador of the Gospel
We experience a new freedom when we accept our purposefully paradoxical selves.
We are free to stumble and accept forgiveness because we are both Stumblers and Forgiven.
We are free to pursue Jesus and repent when we fail because we are both Righteous in Him and in need of continual grace.
We are free to both doubt truth and speak truth because we are Fallible and Renewed.
And we are free to believe that Christ understands our messes and our triumphs. For He knows what it is to be a paradox: 100% man while 100% God. He has gone immeasurable lengths to reveal Himself as trustworthy and empathetic even amidst the paradoxes. We can rest from all the striving to become what the Lord has called us and can begin to step into the belief that we are already named with names that cannot be earned. And we can wonder at our identities so majestic and undeserved: A consistently beautiful paradox.
Founder and leader of Going Beyond ministries, Priscilla Shirer, asked one of the most convicting, thrilling, and influential questions for Christian women today, “When is the last time you let God stun you speechless?”
As women who “live with heart and soul” in all we do, may we begin to be stunned speechless by the Lord as we embrace and walk this paradoxical identity that brings so much freedom. May we choose freedom as we accept the Lord’s love for the paradoxes He chose to create.
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Cornel Warren, Managing Editor of Live with Heart & Soul, shares her heart as she reaches Christian women with timeless, beautiful content to encourage and inspire their walks with God, themselves and those around them.