Susan Stilwell



                               

Woman whisperingI hear voices inside my head.

Not schizophrenic voices, but the kind of self-talk that makes me feel less than. Voices that tell me I’m not good enough, not spiritual enough, not humble enough… That everyone around me succeeds in pleasing God, but that I don’t measure up because I can’t get my act together.

We all hear those accusing voices from time to time, and we often try to drown them out by trying harder.

We strive, adopting personal disciplines such as quiet times, tithing, fasting and serving in one form or another. We pray and read our Bibles and we do good things.

And then we fail. We snooze through quiet times, fall behind in our giving, grumble as we serve that 20% of us do 80% of the work. Our prayers become rote and our Bible reading mechanical. And we convict ourselves because we’re letting God down.

We understand that our doing doesn’t save us—that we’re saved by grace alone through faith alone. But we can easily fall into the trap of believing that we remain in that grace by our own personal set of rules. A set of rules we can’t keep.

Our accuser convinces us that when we continue to fail, God is aggravated with us. That He shakes His heavenly head and sighs, and with hands on hips wonders why we never can seem to get our acts together.

In our zeal to do better and please God, a lie can form in our minds: that God loves us more when we perform well.

“It is finished,” Jesus gasped and His yielded His spirit (John 19:30).

Finished was His work and mission on earth, but also finished was mankind’s striving to please God.

Through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, God is well pleased and now looks at us through the eyes of a loving Father. His hands aren’t on His hips—He’s clapping and cheering us on! He isn’t shaking His head—He’s nodding and encouraging us to keep going. He isn’t growing impatient—He’s gently guiding our paths.

Happy womanGod knows we’ll never have our acts together and He loves us anyway. The voices in our heads may accuse us, but His word affirms us:

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God — all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God. ~Romans 5:11 (nlt)

It is finished in Christ Jesus. No sin will make Him love us less; no good deed will make Him love us more.

Heavenly Father, as we continue to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, let the truth of “It is finished” ring in our hearts and silence the accusing voices in our heads.

Photo Credits: FreeDigitalDownloads, StockImages



                               

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Interruptions and Good Works (Blog Hop)

I’m finding myself in a season where my time is not my own. It’s a glorious time, really, and I’m loving every minute of it.

But I haven’t always enjoyed it.

Stressed woman thinkingI’m ashamed to admit it, but I used to get quite aggravated. I’m a Type-A personality who keeps a tight calendar. I resented the interruptions to my schedule, wishing someone else could step in when last minute problems arose.

Oh, I could mask my frustration in a churchy way, but deep down I didn’t feel churchy AT ALL.

Can you identify?

I think a lot of women feel that way from time to time, especially moms.

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A surprising benefit of thankfulness

November is a month of thankfulness.

Fall on the parkwayAll over social media, we see people expressing gratitude for things in their lives. In early November the posts read along the lines of,

“I’m thankful for a warm house, clean clothes, and food on the table.”

As the month goes on, I’ve noticed an interesting trend: the focus narrows. A 30-day gratefulness challenge causes participants to look beyond the obvious and find the more obscure gifts in life.

A random kindness.
A good night’s sleep.
A warm cup of tea.

An attitude of gratitude benefits us in many ways. First and foremost, a grateful mindset honors the Lord.

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Facing a change? Encouragement is four words away.

Thumbnail image for Facing a change? Encouragement is four words away.

Fall is beautiful where I live. The velvety Blue Ridge Mountains have spun the color wheel and landed on warm yellows, oranges and reds.

I’m blessed to live in an area that enjoys all four seasons, and I enjoy watching them come and go.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

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3 Tips to Beat the End-of-Summer Blues

I love August. This month usually breezes past us, which is good since those fluttering calendar pages are about the only breeze many of us get. But along with the warm temperatures, August also gives us a glimpse of the fall.

summer grasses and sky

I can hear the marching band practicing at the local high school. The evenings turn cooler. The mountains here in Virginia are lush and green and the weedy undergrowth is fading into fall colors. I enjoy these simple pleasures, and then my mind wanders.

Autumn deadlines, family responsibilities, travel schedules, busy college football weekends, etc.

Like clouds before a summer thunderstorm, these concerns accumulate and darken my mind.

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Have you been called to a season of rest?

I’ve noticed a lot of quiet blogs and websites lately, and a good number of inactive social media profiles.

My website has been uncharacteristically quiet the past several months. Between my mom’s passing and my month in the Holy Land, I haven’t had much time (or inspiration) to be online. I manage to post on a couple of sites occasionally, but I decided to give myself some online breathing room this summer.

Image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A lot of us choose to slow down the pace during certain seasons, especially summers. Our homes are chaotic with kids and family, or our schedules are busy with projects and travel.

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Where Jesus Walked – Reflections from the Holy Land

I’m currently with my dad in Palestine helping lead a youth sports camp for FCA. I’ve visited Israel several times before, but this is my first extended stay in Bethlehem.

Nativity church

Church of the Nativity

Our hosts are some of the most gracious people I’ve ever met. Hospitality is a big deal in Middle Eastern culture, and I’m learning much about loving and caring for guests. It’s a ministry Jesus didn’t take for granted as He walked these hills and valleys.

Israel landscape

Sea of Galilee from the Mount of the Beatitudes

There’s nothing on earth like walking where Jesus walked.

But think about this for a minute: because we have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit – the third Person of the Trinity – Jesus walks everywhere we walk.

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One thing you can do when you don’t have any answers

“I honestly wonder if God gives a rip about me,” the young woman mused as she flopped onto the couch. I listened as she gave voice to her honest feelings, and silently begged God for words that would soother her broken heart and convince her that He most certainly does give a rip.

Sad woman

I’m meeting more and more people like her, people whose lives have turned upside down. They read the latest best seller or listen to self-help podcasts or look to Oprah for answers, searching for anything that might heal their brokenness and give them hope for a brighter future.

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