Sometimes Love is a Hard Conversation

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-3 ESV

I have witnessed incredible courage in my times – bravery on the battlefield of childhood.

Times when adults stood around muttering that “someone should do something” until a child, full of love, tugged the sword out of their stone hearts and became king of love and reason.

An eight-year-old alone in a room of professionals, speaking up to say, “We’re not safe at home. Please don’t make us go back there.” Then, taking up her mother’s hand, “Mommy, I’m sorry. I love you, but you’re not protecting us.”

A ten-year-old boy who leapt to his feet in a living room crowded with adults and shouted, “Ha! Mom, I knew that was wrong, even though you said it was okay for me to ride in the trunk of the car. It is wrong, isn’t it?”

I nodded my head as I watched his mind make connections like a pinball machine the moment after the quarter drops. “And, I bet it’s not okay for me steal stuff for you! Mom, I think you believe you love me, but you’re doing it way wrong.”

Then, he turned to the relatives sitting in the room. “And you guys! How come you aren’t saying anything to her? I’m a kid. Grown-ups are supposed to watch out for kids.”

Or the thirteen-year-old girl who sat across a kitchen table and looked me square in the eye. “Why should I tell you anything about my hopes and dreams? You’re like the fifteenth old lady to sit in this kitchen and act like you know something that might help us. Why don’t you ask my dad his hopes and dreams? If you start working on that, we might actually get somewhere, but that’s a lot harder than sittin’ with a thirteen-year-old, isn’t it?”

Sometimes love is a hard conversation.

Don’t tell a kid in your ministry you love them in the name of Jesus, unless you’re willing to sit with their parents and talk when you suspect things aren’t right at home.

Don’t tell a young woman you love her, and then suggest she stay quiet when she says that a church leader made her feel uncomfortable with his words or his hands.

Don’t tell a young wife to go home, pray, and be a better wife, when she confides about her husband’s unexpected rages, drinking, pornography, or abusive words.

When your friend gossips in the guise of a prayer request, don’t just walk away and feel self-righteous that “at least you’re not like her.”

To be like Jesus is to love like a child.

A child sees no conflict between loving someone and telling them the truth.

A child sees no dissonance in loving a person and saying hard things to them.

A child knows that if someone doesn’t stand up to people doing wrong things, they’ll keep doing them.

A child knows how to love someone and still tell them they have to stop hurting other people.

Children learn from the people doing wrong to silence themselves, to hide, to cower, and to embrace helplessness. Jesus calls out the child in us to unlearn these ways for these are the ways of the sinful world.

Jesus demonstrated that sometimes love is a hard conversation. Just look at what He said to the Woman at the Well, the hypocritical Pharisees, or to Judas at the Last Supper.

Let love incite us to speak truth into our own lives and to choose love even when it would be easier to stay silent. This is the way of light. Sin, pain, and all manner of evil flourish in the darkness.

Our words can be light, against which, the darkness will not prevail.

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Sometimes Love is a Hard Conversation – encouragement from @LoriSRoeleveld on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

lori Roeleveld Headshot 2015About the author: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

Join the conversation: Can you recall a time when a child fearlessly expressed the truth?

 

 

 

Be the Donkey

by Susan K. Stewart @susan_stewart

Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.   Zechariah 9:9 ESV

Love at first encounter.

My first meeting with a herd of donkeys was at a rescue facility. It didn’t take long after entering an area with about a hundred of them to learn how misunderstood they are.

We’ve had five resident donkeys on our ranch over the years. In that long-time association with these small equines, I learned so much about and from them. They aren’t stubborn, only cautious. Although often seen alone in a pasture, they are relational creatures. Donkeys are loving. While we might think them obstinate and picture them kicking their heels at someone in anger, they, in fact, would rather have their ears scratched while they rub their nose on others.

Donkeys are mentioned nearly 150 times in the Bible. But it’s the donkey Christ rode into Jerusalem most familiar to us all.

The Gospels tell us Jesus sent his disciples into the village of Bethpage to find the animal He was to ride. He knew where this colt would be found. Jesus told the disciples how to respond when questioned: “If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately’” (Mark 11:3 ESV).

The disciples followed Jesus’s instructions and returned with donkey in tow (Mark 11:6). Jesus then rode it into the Holy City, flanked by people laying coats and palm branches down on the pathway to honor Him as the arriving king.

This morning, as we remember this now famous event, we should take the opportunity to consider our own participation in the kingdom of God. On Palm Sunday, we enter our places of worship to rejoice with songs of hosanna and shouts of praise as did the crowd that day. Maybe we should enter more like the donkey.

The donkey trusted Jesus.

The donkey had never carried anyone on its back before. Yet there is no record of it trying to buck the weight of Jesus as He seated Himself on its back.

Donkeys are cautious creatures. They don’t go where they sense danger. This colt showed no sign of fear. It followed. It trusted. It had no hint of stubbornness. The colt followed willingly. We need to trust Jesus when He takes us where we have not gone before, into places where we may not know what to expect.

The donkey was untied so that he could serve.

The donkey needed to be released in order to participate in the event. Far too often we are tied to work, leisure, friends, and other things the world deems important. This extends to burdens, guilt, cares, addictions, and even devices. What is there in our lives that could be getting in the way of service? When we allow the Holy Spirit to untie us, we are free to serve.

The donkey (and all others in the story) remained humble.

Neither the disciples nor those with whom they spoke that day argued with Jesus’s words. Have you ever argued with God? I have. Surely, Lord, you don’t understand. When God speaks, we need to yield to His calling, then humbly follow without question.

Remember, this donkey, the least of the least, was not showy. It didn’t stand out from the crowd and received no glory for its part in the scene. It just went about the assigned task. Ouch. We (hopefully) don’t consciously seek attention or accolades. But, let’s be honest, we do like it when our service is noticed by others.

As we rejoice at the remembrance of the triumphal entry of our king, let’s pray to be as trusting, liberated, and humble as the donkey.

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Be the Donkey – encouragement from @Susan_Steward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Susan K. StewartAbout the author: Susan K. Stewart is the Senior Nonfiction Editor with Elk Lake Publishing Inc. She tends her donkeys, chickens, and various other creatures with her husband Bob on a small ranch in Central Texas. Susan’s passion is to inspire readers with practical, real-world solutions. Her book, Donkey Devos: Listen to Your Donkey When God Speaks, is due out later this year. Learn more at her website www.practicalinspirations.com.

Join the conversation: Is there something else about the triumphal entry of Jesus on Palm Sunday that inspires you?

How Do You See Him?

by Stacy Sanchez

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.    Psalm 103:11-13 NASB

When I was a little girl, I had a favorite Bible storybook that was beautifully illustrated by Francis Hook. I loved to look at the pictures while my grandmother read the stories to me. It is a wonderful memory that I hold dear today.

Each time we read the book, I begged her to read again the story of Jesus beckoning little children to come to Him. The illustration was of four children surrounding Jesus, yearning for His personal attention. Jesus is holding the face of one precious girl gently in His hands, looking lovingly into her eyes. The expression on her face shows her utter adoration.

That particular scene spoke to my heart even at that young age. I so wanted to be that little girl. Years later, I found the picture and put it in my office. It reminds me of those wonderful times, sitting at my beloved grandmother’s side while she taught me about Jesus’ love.

Sadly, in those days, I never pictured myself as the child being held by Jesus. I related more to the girl standing off to the side, desperately hoping He would notice her. But this was probably my fear speaking; imagining such a personal interaction with Him in light of all my faults and failures was downright scary. I was afraid of having Him look directly at me.

The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” Luke 22:61 NIV

Strong, brave, impetuous Peter had zealously sworn to Jesus that he would never betray Him. He even vowed this on his very life. But when accused by a servant girl in the courtyard of the high priest, Peter caved into his fear and vehemently swore that he “never knew the man.”

“The man”? Wasn’t Peter the first disciple to boldly proclaim Jesus as “The Holy One of God, The Christ”? Yet in the pressure of the moment, he sheepishly demeaned “The Holy One of God” to just “the man.”

How often do we do the same? Bold one moment, proclaiming allegiance to our King, then fearfully hoping He doesn’t see us disappoint Him in the next? I sure have. Many times. Just call me Peter.

After Peter’s third betrayal that terrible night, the rooster crowed, and as Jesus, battered, bloodied, and bruised, was being led out of the high priest’s court, He turned and looked straight at him.

Try to put yourself in Peter’s shoes. What if it was you who failed, then saw Jesus turn and look straight at you? What do you think you would have seen in His eyes?

Our answer reveals how we perceive our relationship with our Heavenly Father. When you imagine Him looking at you, what do His eyes portray? Anger? Guilt? Disappointment? Or, do you see love tenderness, forgiveness, and mercy in His eyes?

Spend some time today, honestly talking to Jesus about what you think you would see in His gaze. Believe me, He wants you to only see His love.

It has taken me many years; I have let God down all too often. But my acceptance to God has never been about what I do or have done. It’s Christ’s righteousness I wear. His blood has paid for every one of my sins. There is no shame in my relationship with Him. Jesus bore my shame on the cross.

Because of Jesus’ unfailing love, I now picture myself as the little girl in Jesus’ hands. I can see His eyes of love boring deep into my soul. He knows every thought, word, and deed I have ever had or done, but He loves me anyway and tenderly holds my face in His hands.

Lord Jesus, Help us to see You as the forgiving, merciful Savior and friend that You are. Help us to have a correct estimation of your love for us. Because you surrendered your life on the cross, instead of seeing anger and disappointment in your eyes, we can now only see forgiveness and mercy in your look of love.

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How Do You See Him? – encouragement from Stacy Sanchez on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

stacy sanchezAbout the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog: writetotheheart.org and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: What would be in God’s eyes if you could see Him looking straight at you?

The Ride

by Louise Tucker Jones

I’m a fan of animated movies. It’s one of the perks of raising a “challenged” child, having watched so many during my son’s youth. And even though, Jay, my adult son with Down syndrome, would now rather watch a rousing WWE video than what he considers to be a kid’s movie, I still enjoy them. And though these films may appear to be simple cartoons, many have wonderful story lines.

One of my favorites is about a horse whose spirit could not be broken, even with all the adversity that came his way. He had been captured from the free plains, and though he eventually found his way home, there were trials and adventures along the way. One scene especially stood out to me. The horse was escaping the enemy with a young Native American brave riding his back. They came to a dead-end cliff that dropped hundreds of feet to a river below—sudden death.

The horse stopped. Backed up. Then set his gaze forward. The young brave whispered, “Oh, no!” as he realized the horse planned to jump the canyon. Would he make it to the other side? We in the audience certainly hoped he would, but I was struck by the rider’s demeanor. Once the plan was in motion, the jump made with horse and rider airborne above the deep chasm, the young brave threw his hands into the air and yelled at the top of his voice. He didn’t know if they would make it, but he was determined to enjoy the moment, the exhilaration of flying through the air to a precarious destination.

Of course, in this fairytale movie, horse and rider are safe and live happily ever after. Life isn’t always like that. But I learned a lesson from that young rider. He took pleasure in that intense, magical moment of the unknown. He didn’t have the assurance that he would land safely on the other side of the gorge, but he still enjoyed the “ride.”

I have to admit that I don’t always celebrate my uncertain moments: those times when God calls me out of my comfort zone. Times when God wants me to abandon myself to His care and “soar,” even if I don’t know the outcome. To revel in the unknown because all is known to Him. Like the young man in the movie, my job is to trust the One who carries me, knowing He is trustworthy. To follow the One who leads me because He never leads me astray.

I’m to give the Lord full reign over my life. Not just my talents or good deeds, but also my insecurities and fears. I’m to put full faith and trust in His word which says: “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”” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).

When I do this, I will safely reach the destination God plans for me, even if it feels a little scary at times. I will live with an assurance that God is always in control. And best of all, I will take joy in the journey and celebrate every moment of the ride.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.                                         Psalm 28:7 NIV

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The Ride – Finding joy in the journey with Louise Tucker Jones on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Louise Tucker JonesLouise Tucker Jones is an author, speaker and columnist. Her poignant life stories will touch your heart or tickle your funny bone. Having a son with Down syndrome, Louise coauthored the Gold Medallion award-winning book, Extraordinary Kids. Married to Carl 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands.

Extraordinary Kids: Nurturing and Championing Your Child with Special Needs, provides parents with vital information to help celebrate, nurture, and prayerfully champion their special-needs children.

Join the conversation: What “uncertain moment” have you experienced that tested your resolve to always trust the Lord? How did it turn out?

Diffusing Road Rage

by Cynthia L. Simmons @CynthiaLSimmons

The wisdom from above is first pure then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. James 3:17 NASB

I’d never seen road rage before, but when I did, it horrified me. After a quick stop at the grocery store, I pulled back onto the highway, making a right turn on the way to the far-left lane. However, a truck in the left lane was moving fast, so I edged into the right lane to let him pass. I never came close to him.

Once he sped by, I eased behind him, but then he weaved around and stopped at a green light. What on earth?  Rather than sit, I went around him, but the moment I came up beside him, he gunned his motor. My heart sped up. Did he think we were drag racing?  I passed him and another car and moved left into the left turn lane at the next traffic light.

My heart froze when I saw the truck move into the left turn lane, too. Could he be following me? Terrifying. Night had fallen, and I had no desire to confront a strange man. I wasn’t far from home. My mind whirred, trying to think what I should do. The light turned green, and I turned left. I watched in the rear view mirror as the truck gunned his motor while turning left behind me.

If I went home, he would know where I live, but my husband, Ray, was there. I called and asked him to meet me outside. I had one more turn until I reached my street, and I shuddered as the truck made the next turn behind me. What a relief to see Ray at the mailbox! I drove right into the garage and closed the door. The truck hovered at the end of our driveway. My husband went over to reason with the driver, while I scurried inside.

Still shaking, I sat down to study for my Sunday school lesson, and a particular verse popped off the page: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17 NASB). What a contrast to what I just experienced! This verse was worth considering.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote these words, emphasizing the word pure. The Greek word means blameless, without intent to harm, innocent. I must admit, my reaction was to scream inside my head for revenge, because I was so shaken, but Ray did the opposite. He demonstrated no desire to harm even when he discovered the truck driver was on the phone with the police, clearly overreacting.

Notice the next words in that verse: peaceable and gentle. These two adjectives are important in any dispute. Imagine what could have happened if Ray had yelled at the man or accused him of being foolish or hot tempered. Anger tends to breed more anger, so the situation could have ended in a fist fight. Instead, Ray gently allowed the man to vent and reasoned with him that his truck sustained no damage. As he did that, the driver admitted I only came within six feet of him, not very close at all. Ray also demonstrated mercy by not demanding an apology from the man for his poor choices.

Finally, look at the last words in the verse: full of good fruits means demonstrating a response to the Holy Spirit. Unwavering is standing firm and without hypocrisy is simply being honest.

Ray’s choice to approach a tense situation with kindness, firmness, and honesty diffused the situation. The truck driver finally left quietly.

The wisdom from above requires that we look deep into our hearts and respond to difficulties as God would. It works!

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Diffusing Road Rage – insight and encouragement from @CynthiaLSimmons on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to tweet)

Cynthia-Simmons-5About the author: Former home school mother of five, Cynthia has a special spot in her heart for young moms and loves to encourage all women to pursue God. She hosts Heart of the Matter Radio, and writes inspirational fiction and non-fiction.  Find her at www.clsimmons.com.

Join the conversation: Have the words James advises ever impacted your handling of a tense situation?

Helicopter Hubby

by Michele McCarthy @MicheleRMcC

Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.                                                                                                                                         Psalm 50:15 NASB

“Are you asking me to be a helicopter husband?” my other half inquired. It was my first day attending Lifestyle Christianity University, on a hot, 100-degree Texas day. I didn’t want chit chat, I wanted out of my embarrassment and the blazing heat.

I hadn’t realized I’d locked my keys in the car until after the school day ended. I needed my husband, feeling helicopter-ish or not, to bring me a spare set of keys. You know, swoop in and save the day, save my bacon. The bacon currently frying on the parking lot. SOS! Please rescue wilting princess from the cruel heat.

Of course, he remembered right at that moment what we’d often recited while raising our boys. A book called Parenting with Love and Logic by (Foster Cline and Jim Fay) we’d read had stressed teaching responsibility to our children by giving them choices and expecting them to follow through. Part of that involved refusing to bail our children out when they ran into difficulty.

We did not believe in being hovering helicopters ready to fetch and deliver our child’s forgotten ________ (fill in the blank).

Forgot your lunch for the tenth time? Sure, not a problem. I was in an important business meeting, but now on my way.

Forgot your homework for the fifth time? No problem. Here I come, straight out of the dentist chair.

Next thing you know, that kind of thinking could turn into any number of situations…

Forgot your college term paper? Your portfolio? Your business papers?

Which would undoubtedly lead to…

Forgot your bail money? Be right there, sweetie pie. Let me grab my helicopter keys.

Now, as I stood soliciting my own bail out, I knew my husband would kindly and gladly bring my keys. He is that kind of man. He would also definitely have fun teasing me about it. He is that kind of man, too. Even as we spoke, I could hear him beating his chest to simulate a hovering helicopter noise.

I also knew I’d be double checking I had my keys in hand before slamming my car door shut—for quite some time to come.

The incident did make me wonder if God ever feels like we treat Him as a helicopter Father. Do we call on Him only when we need a bail out? Is He our go-to only after we’ve exhausted our own efforts?

It’s not that He doesn’t want us to shout out for help, but is that the only time we call on Him? Do we ever enjoy His presence, just to enjoy His presence?

I have definitely had a few shout outs in my time on this earth. And I’m pretty sure I haven’t had my last. God never teased me, nor did I ever feel the vibrations of a helicopter hovering when He “rescued” me with a word, direction or correction. He is that kind of God.

May I never take for granted the relationship I have with the Father because of the price Jesus paid for me on the cross. May I make calling on Him part of my daily routine. Because I believe the Scripture: “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Psalm 145:18 NASB).

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Helicopter Hubby – insight on #GodsLove from @MicheleRMcC on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

michele mccarthyAbout the author: Michele McCarthy is married and a mom to two sons and Gigi to five adorable grandchildren. She is a Texas Christian University graduate with a degree in Education. She attended Lifestyle Christianity University in Watauga, Texas. Michele is a co-founder of LWT (Living Write Texas), a Christian writing group for women. She loves reading, painting, all things witty, and hot fudge sundaes.

Michele’s book Daddy and Me, is the story of the unconditional love of the Father. Every child is free to picture their own daddy and most importantly their heavenly Father; the Father who loves them perfectly, without reserve, no matter what, while gently holding each child in His hand.

Join the conversation: How do you practice an appreciation for the presence of God?

Walking in the Dark

by Karen Wingate @kwingate715

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”
 Isaiah 42:16 NIV

My family loves to tour caves. Don’t misunderstand: we’re not those brave souls in stained jeans and flashlight-fitted headgear that go spelunking through untamed tunnels. We like the safe, low-light, rough-hewn paths taken with a tour guide who knows how to get from entrance to exit in 90 minutes.

A routine aspect of a cave tour is to get to the lowest point of the cave and turn out the lights so the tourists can experience total darkness. The docent warns his group this is going to happen. “Hold on to something and don’t move,” he instructs. Everyone does, because we’re tourists, not spelunkers. We don’t want to be left in the dark. Especially alone.

Every time, as I hear the gasps around me, I laugh. It’s such a simulation. For one thing, the tourists have fair warning that darkness will occur. Try getting caught off guard by pitch black; now that’s real panic.

I know what life in the dark is like. Born totally blind, I experienced eight childhood surgeries that brought my visual acuity to a less extreme status of legal blindness. My weird pupils have extra difficulty adjusting to a sudden light change. When lights turn off, my body freezes in panic. It takes a whirl of brain rearrangement to call into mind my coping mechanisms and move forward once again.

I’m pretty sure all of us have had that feeling of getting caught in the dark. We have our life map in hand. We head resolutely toward our destination. And then suddenly, the lights go out. A parent dies. A divorce happens. We hear the C word from the doctor. A problem beyond our expertise drops a boulder in our path, stopping us in our tracks. Even the next moment of life looks uncertain. In panic, we realize we can no longer see the exit sign pointing us to the security of light. We feel alone because the problem obscures the presence of anyone who cares or could help.

But we’re not alone. And there is a way out. There is always a way out.

God knows our situation. We may not be able to see in the dark, but He sees us and promises to stay with us. Better yet, He has provided a destination and architected the path that leads to that destination. Faith is grabbing on to hope and moving forward in confident trust that our Sighted Guide will not abandon us.

Imagine life without hope. The antonym of hope is despair, resignation that there is no way through or around the conflict we face. Without hope, we would have no reason to take even one step. Faith combines with hope when we willingly move forward, trusting that even though we cannot see the future, a loving benevolent, all-powerful God can. He’s committed to making sure we come out on the other side.

Trust God. Unfreeze your feet and take the next step. Let go of the panic and grab on to Him. It may be still pitch black where you stand, but God will see you through to the end.

Lord, thank you for staying with me through the difficulties I face. I rely on You to bring me through to my final destination and to give me enough light for the next step.

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Walking in the Dark – encouragement from @KWingate715 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Karen WingateAbout the author: Karen Wingate is the author of over 250 magazine articles, 150 devotions, and multiple units of Christian education curriculum with four different publishing companies. Mid-life, Karen underwent surgery for a routine repair on a retinal tear and came out of surgery with better vision than she had ever had before. Karen writes and speaks about her vision gain and is currently under contract with a publishing company for a book about seeing God in the moment. She lives with her “Preacher-Creature” husband in Western Illinois and is awaiting the birth of her first grandchild. Visit Karen’s blog at www.karenwingate.com

 Join the conversation: How has God shown you that He is with walking with you in your darker moments?

 

The Race

by Sheri Schofield

Dogsled racers from all over the United States have headed to the snowy, ice-packed mountain slopes here in Montana. When they all come together, the dogs go wild with excitement. They know it’s time to race! Many dogs jump straight up into the air, barking, eager to race. One by one, the teams approach the starting point. Only the voice of their own master counts to the dogs, for each team begins separately down the icy trail. Finally, their master shouts, “Hike!” They’re off on the 350-mile Race to the Sky, a pre-qualifying race for the famous Iditarod in Alaska. The crowd cheers and waves.

Temperatures hovering around zero degrees – or lower . . .camps set up in the snow . . . running until they are exhausted . . . Yes. But the dogs are full of excitement! They have been training for this race for months. They have learned endurance.

The Apostle Paul compares the Christian life to a race.Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV).

What is the “everything that hinders” that we are supposed to throw off? It’s a very personal thing. I recently identified something that needed to go for me: my local newspaper! The political gossip was pulling me down and distracting me way too much, pulling my thoughts in a direction that was not profitable for my ministry. Though I would miss the cartoons, I cancelled my subscription, so that I could focus on my writing and teaching, for I am training a group of young leaders at church who need my attention.

I haven’t seen a newspaper in weeks now, and guess what? My focus has improved! My writing and teaching are better. My stride in the Christian race upward is stronger. For I have thrown off the weight that was holding me back.

That was an easy fix. But not all solutions are so easy. What happens when the weight is a relationship? A person? More thought must go into that, for we have to ask, “Has God put this person into my life as part of my training or my endurance development? Did God assign this person to my team? Am I supposed to make adjustments in order to work better with him? Or is this person simply draining the life out of me and holding me back from serving God?”

It is not easy to know that answer! Relationships are complicated. Only God can tell us what to do, and our own bias can influence our spiritual hearing.  Somehow, we need to find both truth and love in our answer. Even when we do, others might not agree with our decision. That’s why it is so important to keep our eyes on Jesus, our ears tuned to his voice, our own will surrendered to His will . . . no matter what the cost. When the Master calls “Hike”, we must throw off the weight and hit the trail. There’s a race to win!

 But this one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13,14, NIV

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The Race – thoughts on #FollowingGod from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.

Join the Conversation: What is God prompting you to throw off?

 

As Far as Accountability Is Concerned

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I was scrubbing furiously, trying to get the hot fudge stain out of my fave workout shirt. And then…the revelation. It was like, “Oh hello, irony. For a minute I didn’t see you there.”

Not that the new diet isn’t going well or anything. Because I don’t think it actually counts as eating badly if you only ate your husband’s dessert because you forgot you already ate yours. Doesn’t count. Because, “forgot.”

It’s not that I haven’t tapped into all the diet helps presently out there. But I considered I might not be doing it right when I started typing “healthy recipes” into my phone and auto-correct filled in with “pudding cake and cheese dip and lies.” Also, auto-correct can be very judgey.

In the meantime, I’ve found there are stages a person must go through before accepting a new diet: 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Donut…and then I’m not exactly sure what comes after number four. Very probably another number four.

The other day, after too many fours, I knew I needed some human accountability. I may, however, have overdone it there. This afternoon I was reaching for an oatmeal cream pie when a sniper fired a warning shot.

Still, maybe I shouldn’t concern myself as much with sniper fire as I do with taking accountability seriously. Would you believe I’m actually scripturally compelled to “be concerned”?

“And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, HCSB).

The Greek word translated “be concerned” means to so focus the mind—to consider this thing so carefully—that the result will be the right response. And this “be concerned” is in the present tense, so it’s not simply referring to a one-time consideration. We’re called to seriously and perpetually think of ways we can promote love and good works, encouraging everyone in our sphere of influence to love Jesus by the way they love and serve each other.

And isn’t it almost another irony that we promote those things as we ourselves live in that love? That means our accountability is loving—no bullets. It’s not even “judgey.” It’s more “stir-uppy”—stirring up others to love and good works.

This kind of accountability looks best when no one is aiming for condemnation or judgment. Not for wounding or shaming or angering, either. It can happen when we lovingly confront. But it should never be our aim. Loving, not sniping. It’s good to let humility be the order of the day when someone else is concerned enough to “stir” us as well—even if we don’t necessarily agree. The truth is, we don’t exactly have an auto-correct, either.

O Lord, may we love You better as each of us buoys the other. May we inspire and encourage—and be inspired and encouraged—to love you, love each other, and to love serving.

Even though it’s not a new message, we can decide to be okay with reminders that we’re accountable to one another. Because, never mind the desserts and the four stages of donuts or whatever, sometimes…“forgot.”

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As Far as Accountability Is Concerned – encouragement from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: How do you build up the believers around you?

Waves of Mercy

by Melissa Heiland

Life can be overwhelming between family, ministry, health, and finances. The to-do list grows and free time seems non-existent. The pressure I sometimes feel is akin to being buried beneath a heavy weight–of unmet needs and expectations. Under that load, it’s easy to lose perspective.

That is when I like to head to the beach. It is a place of rest and relaxation for me, a place where I can once again gain perspective. At the beach, my mind clears as I breathe the ocean air and observe some of God’s greatest gifts revealed through His glorious creation.

He alone has spread out the heavens and marches on the waves of the sea. Job 9:8 NLT

Standing at the shore, I am reminded of the faithfulness and power of God. The ocean has a rhythm, much like my life. The tides come in, bringing times of loss and cleansing. Then they retreat, leaving in their wake times of peace and rest. Sometimes, I feel as if the waves will overpower me, and yet, I know the One who calms the sea. He promises to keep me safe when my eyes are fixed on Him.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! Psalm 139:17,18 NLT

The copious sand at the shore is a beautiful reminder of God’s abundant love. In the Psalms, the Lord tells us that His thoughts about us outnumber the grains of sand. Too many to count! When I am tempted to feel unloved and unseen, I need only fill my fist with sand and watch it sift through my fingers to remember how loved I am.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

And how I love the birds! As I watch them easily soar over the ocean, I am reminded, that with God, I too can soar above the stormy seas of my life. There is freedom in Jesus.

God has revealed Himself to us in His Word and in His creation. I’m so thankful for that. Sometimes, when the pace of life is fast and furious, we need to step away and be still, to let God speak to us and refresh our souls, giving us strength and peace to continue in the work He has called us to do.

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Waves of Mercy – insight and encouragement from Melissa Heiland on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Melissa heilandAbout the author: Melissa Heiland is the Founder and President of Beautiful Feet International, a mission organization that plants pregnancy ministries around the world. She is an international speaker and author who is passionate about mommies, babies and sharing the Gospel. She has written devotionals for pregnant moms, new mothers and short-term mission teams, as well as a children’s book based on Psalm 139. She and her husband Ken have 6 children and 5 grandchildren.

Join the conversation: Where do you go to find perspective?