Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Tuesday 8th April 2014

#Preapproved Writer of the Week: Shelly Miller

#Preapproved Sisterhood Series


Welcome to a new series, hosted here on the blog. Every Tuesday night, one of our preapproved sisters will share her story on letting go of a love idol.

Together, we’re giving up our love idols, and we’re not taking them back.

We are already approved; we have nothing to prove. In Christ, we are #preapproved.

Why Love Idols Are Sneaky and Convincing
By Shelly Miller

On Saturday night, after the dinner dishes are loaded in the dishwasher, I spread out on the couch underneath a blanket and watch 12 Years a Slave. Thirty minutes into the story, I mumble sheepishly to my husband, “This isn’t a feel good movie, is it?”

My daughter walks through the living room, retrieving something she needs for an English project and overhears my admission. “Well, what were you thinking when you decided to watch it?” she chides me.

“I knew it would be hard to watch but I’m waiting for the redemption.”

“Are you sure there will be redemption,” asks my son watching from the opposite couch.

Further into the storyline, I shield my eyes with cupped palms. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to watching the unjust violence of pious entitlement strip innocent flesh wide open. After a particularly difficult scene, slave owner Edwin Epps justifies his abusive behavior by declaring, “No sin! There is no sin! A man does how he pleases with his property.”


The next morning, while waiting for my teenagers to dress for church, I crawl back into bed in slacks and watch a news story on television about the evolution of graffiti art.

Once considered vandalism, graffiti is on exhibit in a prominent New York museum. One of the artists starting out as a teenager wielding spray paint in the dark recently racked up $90,000 on a piece called Buff.

I’m sobered when Lady Pink, one of the graffiti artists in the interview admits, “It’s only graffiti or vandalism if you get arrested, but if you get away with it, then it’s clearly art.”



A few minutes later while driving to church, I turn down a tree covered lane and take in the telescopic view of a pristine white plantation house illuminated at the end of the dark, Live Oak tunnel. And bile begins rising up in my throat.

The expansive property dotted with pink azaleas encapsulates hundreds of years of history I push my high heels into. Our place of worship was once the soil of slavery, of brutality at the hands of the unbroken. And unbroken people mistake being owners instead of stewards.

Even though I’ve been aware of this since moving to the area six years ago, hot tears threaten to fall down my face before walking past the blooming camellias in pots flanking the front door with the brass handle.

Sitting on a plastic folding chair among churchgoers, I sing Amazing Grace and think about how my Love Idols are sneaky and convincing. They hide behind entitlement like that slave owner and graffiti artist.

Because when “I deserve” comes before the word “approval,” the message we believe is — life owes me something. And the outcome is a life filled with contention and disappointment.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me bounces off the brick walls holding a lifetime of memories for Southerners. And the words to the song become my heart cry.

Grace allows a glimpse into our fallen nature in order to experience the paradox: incomprehensible love, forgiveness and approval is always available from the one who chooses us when we don’t deserve it.

I surrender; lay down the Love Idols, not because life owes me something but because I believe in the redemption that resides in each of our stories. I stand with the community of the broken who know we are called and not driven, stewards and not owners, free and no longer slaves to sin.

I am Shelly Miller and I’m preapproved. It’s why I can sing the song of life with abandon.

Shelly Miller Shelly Miller is a writer, photographer, clergy wife, mother of two teens, and a leadership coach. She enjoys writing stories that make people think differently about life, helping women discover their calling and the luxury of being inspired by other cultures. You can read more of her stories on her blog, Redemptions Beauty. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


book 133a

Click here to find out more about the Love Idol movement.

Click here to purchase the book that inspired the movement.

Click here to join us on Facebook as we lay down our Love Idols and declare our #preapproved status in Christ.



Click here to print the preapproved cutouts. Place these where ever your Love Idols have lurked!  LoveIdolPrintable_pink

Preapproved printable: to frame, to put on your refrigerator, to give to a friend. Click here to print. My gift to you, brave soul!

  • Elizabeth Stewart

    Wow! How you packed such powerful truth in this one post is beautiful. “Because when “I deserve” comes before the word “approval,” the message we believe is — life owes me something. And the outcome is a life filled with contention and disappointment.” These words, if we believe and embrace and live them, are life changing.

    • Thank you for your kind words Elizabeth. Lent is always a hard season for me, hard to see the ugliness that resides in my heart that I sometimes overlook. But redemption is sure, isn’t it?

  • Pingback: Why Love Idols Are Sneaky and Convincing - Redemptions Beauty()

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Shelly when you told me you were writing this post I knew it would be thought provoking and maybe leave me feeling uncomfortable. It has done both. Thank God (and you) for this line, (we are) “the broken who know we are called and not driven, stewards and not owners, free and no longer slaves to sin.”
    Oh Jesus, yes. We are no longer slaves to sin. May God keep our eyes and hearts open to its sneaky ways. Well done!

    • Nodding my head with you Jody, yes and amen to keeping our eyes and heart open!

  • I just thought it again as I read this – truly, you are a gifted writer Shelly! And you are right, the idols are indeed sneaky. That part you mentioned about entitlement – ouch, that is true. As I read “Love Idol” myself, I was honestly horrified at some of the things that rose up that I didn’t realize I’d allowed to become so big that I “deserve”. I’m so thankful for that amazing grace of our Jesus.

    I love your transparency and your heart for Him. Can’t even tell you how grateful I am that our paths have crossed. <3

    • Feel the same way Ashlie, regarding Jennifer’s book and meeting you in person. Grateful.

  • What a gorgeous post, Shelly!!

  • Kelly Greer

    Laying it down with you Shelly. You know I saw that movie too and I too could not watch, and was so ashamed that we ever think we own anything or deserve anything at all. But Jesus, he wants us to live the abundant life, to walk in freedom from expectations and entitlement. We are #preapproved. I haven’t spent time with “Love Idol” yet to really delve into my tendency to want approval and acceptance by others, but I think it has something to do with my family. I’ll let you know what God reveals. There might even be something sneaking in on me.

    • Kelly, I realized as I was reading Love Idol that my idols weren’t apparent, I had to pray and ponder, not for introspection but surrender. I asked God to point out the places in my life that I am in denial about. It’s been a good exercise and a message that all of us can relate to, no matter where we are on the journey.

  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly, this is a beautiful, heartrending post, and I think that entitlement (at others’ horrific expense) is perhaps one of the greatest idols of all. It wreaks of pride, as it did with slavery–a hideous pride that says some can lord it over others because they are somehow superior. But when we all realize we are wretches, then pride evaporates at the foot of the Cross. It’s here that we lay our idols down. I’ve not been reading blogs during Lent, except if it pertains to a book launch of a friend, and you are such a generous friend to devote your blog today to Jennifer, and she, in turn, to you! I love you both. I’ll post a review on her book shortly, but what is striking me while reading it, is that I, MYSELF, am my worst idol. That, my sweet Shelly, has been a hideous truth to behold. I’m laying ME down.
    I love you.

    • Love seeing your here, peeking around the corner of your Lent discipline. Thank you for taking the time to respond, it matters to me. I think you know that.

      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        I do. ANd I’m utterly grateful and humbled!!

  • Beautiful!! Thank you for this gritty, raw, and real look at the ways Love Idols can sneak into our lives.

  • Kathy Schwanke

    This is the first I’ve heard of the movie.
    It was interesting to get outside of our northern bubble when my husband worked in Florida in 2012. We honestly had no idea of some of the ongoing effects of that part of our history in the southern culture until then. Such sorrowful, tragic results of deception in the minds of men…

    It’s wonderful that God put the Love Idol book out for us during the season leading up to celebrating the resurrection where the cross makes it possible to turn the ugliest into something glorious as we come into agreement with the truth-we cannot do anything to earn love.

    Oh Jesus! Our great Emancipator who saves us from bondage and slavery to sin by fulfilling the requirements of the law which we cannot uphold. …took my shame, bore the wrath, I stand forgiven at the cross…. #gloriousgrace!

    • I agree Kathy, Love Idol came out at the perfect time — during the season of Lent. It’s been a great companion to my thoughts and prayers over the last few weeks.

  • Beautiful. I love the connections you put together, and the eyes God gave you to see Redemption! And how we are all alike at one time – slaves to sin, but he who the Son sets free is free indeed. We are already free, we just have to walk in it. Step-by-step.

    • I’m glad you got the connection Paula, sometimes I just pray that my swirling thoughts in so many directions will make sense to someone. ha! Thanks for being here.

  • Sarah

    called, not driven. stewards, not owners. free, no longer slaves to sin.

    Yes and amen.

    And now I’m pondering what love idol is lurking behind entitlement in my own life…so blessed by your words today, Shelly.

    • It seems to be a recurring (ugly) theme God is showing me — how entitlement sneaks into our lives without our noticing. May we always have eyes and ears toward His voice of conviction and the courage to respond faithfully. Yes?

  • Entitlement — ouch! It’s all around us and in our own hearts. So worried about me, me, me. Trying to earn love and acceptance from being and doing and from people. I’m done with it all! I want to live free with my hands open. Thankful for you, Shelly, and the truth you’ve shared here!

    Christy Willard

    • Yes to living free with open palms Christy. What a gift it was to meet you in real life at Refine and share our hearts last weekend. You are a treasure.

  • Your beautifully written words make me stop and think. Thank you for that.

    • Loved seeing you last week in Ohio Mary, what a gift you are. Not sure I will ever forget that song you sang for us.

  • Gorgeous writing; such a tough subject. Thanks for delving into this, Shelly. Your words always inspire and challenge me. Love you, sister!

    • Love you too Dena, and your encouragement is a gift, thank you.

  • Shelly. Oh my. So beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this difficult topic, and for reminding me, that all of my various idols are not in plain view. I appreciate the nudge to dig a little deeper, to clean out whatever may be hiding beneath the surface…. Love you, friend. You inspire me, and push me towards Jesus.

    • You are good at that digging deeper Kris. Love your heart for Jesus, you inspire me.

  • pastordt

    Beautiful, Shelly. Thank you.

  • Jillie

    Dear Shelly–Just catching up on my favourite blogs, and had to respond to your piece here today. The way you have expressed yourself is, well, another ‘keeper’ for my file. This stinking pride we are born with appears to be the bane of our existence–always struggling against it. But then, we ought not to be surprised–it all began with the most beautiful of angels, satan, desiring to be above God Himself, and continued on into the Garden with Eve, wanting to be “like God, knowing good from evil.” And so, pride has come down to us through the ages.
    I ordered my own copy of ’12 Years A Slave’, and watched it in much the same way you did. I wept at what ‘Massa Epps’ did to that poor, beautiful young girl. (Black History has always been a passion of mine.) I grieved that Solomon Northup was unable to get her out of there when he finally was able to leave, himself. Man’s inhumanity to man is a grievous tale. But I, too, always look for the Redemption story within.

    • I love your heart Jillie, smiling from my side of the world as I read your comment. I’m touched that you watched the movie and felt the same emotions. Redemption is our song, let’s sing harmony, yes?

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