Persistence vs. Perfection

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

On the way to our Weight Watchers meeting, my daughter and I lamented over all of the slip-ups (O.K., deliberate cheats) we had committed over the past month since last weighing in. But rather than shame us, stepping on the scale brought instant relief; we were shocked to find we had not gained a thing. I even lost a pound and a half!

One thing our lecturer always stressed was that persistence is more important than perfection. I need to hear that over and over again, for I am a legalistic dieter. Once I cheat, I usually count the rest of that day and even sometimes the entire week as a total loss. And spend those lost days eating whatever I want–not especially conducive to weight loss! Instead, I need to put the slip-up behind me immediately and get back on the plan. Persistence wins the battle. Even in the light of a profound lack of perfection.

I wonder if the writer of Hebrews had this principle in mind when he penned, “Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1 NASB)

I am no expert in running. But I do walk. And I can tell you with great authority that if you don’t keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will never get to where you are trying to go.

Does God expect perfection as we move forward?

Well, God called David a man whose “heart was fully devoted to God” (1 Kings 11: 4 NASB). Yet we know that David was far from perfect. He planned a murder and had an adulterous affair. So why would God describe him as fully dedicated? I believe it is because the general direction of David’s life was toward intimacy with the God He loved.

The Connecticut River flows from north to south through the heart of New England. If you were to get into a canoe somewhere between Vermont and New Hampshire, and let the current take you, eventually you would end up in Long Island Sound. Now if you were tracking your progress with a compass, this might not always seem to be the case. At times, as the river curved, you might be moving eastward, westward, or even northward! But the general, persistent flow of the river would eventually carry you into the Sound.

That is a great picture of persistence. Moving in a general direction, despite the twists and turns your life might take.

Jesus compared following Him to traveling the Narrow Road. Perseverance is crucial to the traveler walking in faith. As we walk the Narrow Road, there are potholes and uneven spots along the way. We may even stumble and fall from time to time. Yet our forward progress continues as long as we get back up, brush ourselves off, and begin moving again. And eventually, we will reach where we are aimed.

Don’t get discouraged about your lack of perfection. Just be persistent.

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  James 1:12 NASB

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Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to
understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Join the conversation: How do you keep yourself on track?

I Am the Apple of My Daddy’s Eye

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Thy wings… Psalm 17:8 NASB

I grew up hearing my parents and grandparents use the expression apple of my eye. I was often told I was the apple of my daddy’s eye. There was even a polished, wooden apple, with a small picture of me in it, sitting on my daddy’s desk. It was a constant reminder that I was precious and important to my daddy.

One day, I began to wonder what that phrase actually meant and took time to investigate. Imagine my shock when I discovered the saying originated in the Bible, specifically, the Old Testament. So I went back to Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament and did some more digging.

I discovered that the apple of someone’s eye is the pupil. Even more than that, it’s the reflection of yourself in the pupil of someone’s eye.

Let’s camp out for a moment on that word picture. Imagine standing close enough to God to see yourself reflected in His eye. To be that close, I’d have to have His complete attention. His gaze would be fixed on my face. This is a perfect picture of the close relationship God wants to have with us. He holds us so close and so precious that we can see ourselves reflected in His eye.

After learning what that phrase really meant I had a new understanding of the love my heavenly Father has for me. I can almost close my eyes and imagine looking deep into His eyes and seeing myself reflected there. I can see the love mirrored in those infinite eyes and feel His breath on my cheek. So when I’m worried or feel myself drifting away, I remember that on God’s desk is a small wooden apple with my picture in it, and that He’s always ready for some face-to-face time.

I encourage you, draw close, gaze into your Creator’s eye—revel in the fact that He loves you with a love that defies description. Then feel His joy as you become a living reflection of who your Father is.

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Edie-MelsonAbout the author:  Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, whether she’s addressing parents, military families, readers of fiction, or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker, she’s encouraged and challenged Edie Melson soul careaudiences across the country and around the world. Her latest book, Soul Care When You’re Weary, is available at local retailers and online. Connect with her further at www.EdieMelson.comand on Facebook and Twitter.

Join the conversation: What does being the apple of God’s eye mean to you?

I Must Have Flowers on My Anniversary

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

Our fourth wedding anniversary approached, June 20th, and I was pregnant. I felt undesirable with the added weight and morning sickness. If Larry buys me flowers, then I’ll really know he still loves me. I knew Larry didn’t value buying me flowers but my heart argued, He should know how important this is to me.

Getting flowers wasn’t the only thing I anticipated. We’d decided to build a pool in the backyard and it was exciting to think we could be swimming in a few short weeks.

June 20th finally arrived. Unexpectedly, the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find a delivery boy holding a gorgeous spray of red roses in a vase. “Larry does love me. He actually thought of flowers himself!”

I eagerly opened the card anticipating the romantic words Larry wrote. Instead, I read, “Congratulations on choosing us to build your new pool. We know you’ll love it!”… Signed by the pool company.

Suddenly, I started laughing. I had built up my expectations of receiving love from Larry through flowers. Instead, I’d received roses from a pool company. How like the Lord.

Lord, you orchestrated these flowers to arrive on my anniversary so I wouldn’t be disappointed when Larry arrives home empty-handed. You love me well.

That example of God’s loving provision always reminds me of Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (NIV). It has also has built my faith in God’s ability to meet my true needs. I’m still often selfish, but I’m increasingly able to choose selflessness as I trust God more and more to meet my true needs.

… those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.  Psalm 34:10 ESV

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I must have flowers on my anniversary – @KathyCMiller on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy C MillerAbout the author: Kathy Collard Miller loves to encourage women of God to trust God more through a heart change. She is a speaker who has spoken in over 30 US states and 8 foreign countries. Kathy has over 50 books published including At the Heart of Friendship: Daughters of the King Bible Study Series. She lives in Southern California, with her husband, Larry. They are the parents of two and grandparents of two. Visit her at www.KathyCollardMiller.com and www.facebook.com/KathyCollardMillerAuthor

Join the conversation: What provision of God both surprised you and increased your trust in God?

Untangled

by Beth Duewel @DuewelBeth

“Being ran over by a donkey isn’t as much fun as you think.” I tried to set the record straight with my kids. Three wide grins told me they thought otherwise.

I confess, I have a problem. I expect I can do things I really can’t do or fix things I just can’t fix. I try anyway. Because I can already feel the winds of success blow across my shoulders and finger through my hair. Without tangles even. I imagine everything is great and good and happy. It’s funny though, some things never quite play out how I’ve pictured in my mind.

Like when Virelle Kidder and I both spoke at the same woman’s conference at my home church a few years ago. The leadership team needed a fun video of a donkey smiling—so I volunteered. I can help, I thought. I imagined that I know stuff. Not donkey stuff—but some stuff.

I reported the whole disaster to my family a few days later at dinner: “You remember how I was supposed to go on a donkey excursion today?” I watched my daughter’s spoon drop and her peas bounce to the floor. “Well, it didn’t go as planned—can someone please pass me the bread?”

What happened this time? my husband’s smile said as he handed me a roll.

“Anyway…Maryanne said she knew a donkey-guy. So we took carrots. Jumped a fence.  Walked up to this “tame” donkey. And I talked to him while Maryanne taped. Suddenly, he laid his ears back and smiled. Not a nice smile though, more like a ‘I’m going to eat you, and I’m very glad to do it!’ type-grin. Then it yelled ‘Get out!’ put his head down and chased us across the pasture! We were almost trampled when our feet tangled in the tall grass—but we distracted him with girly screams. Yep. Maryanne got the whole thing on tape. We can all watch it later if you want.”

“COOL, MOM! Do donkeys head-butt like our goats?” My son wanted something National Geographic worthy—but there was nothing worthy, only meatloaf.

“How did the video turn out?” My husband’s question highlighted the one bright spot in the I saw the whole thing going differently loop playing in my head.

“Well—it’s hysterical.” I admitted. “Although it’s nothing like we thought it would be, maybe even better than we expected!”

And that’s what I remember when life seems off track and the opposite of what I’ve dreamed up in my head. On chased-by-a-donkey-type-days, I have to fasten expectation to God’s hope and allow His happiness to happen instead. However. Whatever.

Especially when what I’ve imagined wraps around reality and leaves me in a knot. Or this time of year, when resolve turns to “Not EVER gonna happen!” I tend to get myself in quite a tangle.

But we can trust His truth to untangle us.

“For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11). I guess if I know some stuff—it’s that these two ties: the hope of eternity and the promise of perfect, loosened the jumble of sorrow and famine and captivity for the Babylonians’ reality. We don’t have to be tied to all we’ve imagined, when we can have the freedom of God’s perfect hope. Forever.

So, if you’re having a chased-by-a-donkey-type-day, remember this single strand of truth: God’s plan is infinitely better than you could ever dream up! Ever. Happy New Year, friends! And may your future be great and your donkey…tame!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Psalm 23:6

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Untangled by God’s truth when life gets tricky – thoughts from @DuewelBeth on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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About the author: Beth Duewel is a writer, speaker, and blogger at Fix-Her-Upper.com. She has three almost adulting children, and lives with her husband in Ashland, Ohio. Beth and her coauthor, Rhonda Rhea, are super excited about their first book, Fix Her Upper: Hope and Laughter Through a God Renovated Life!  And now you can catch Beth & Rhonda’s soon to release, Fix Her Upper 90 Day Devotional , (Bold Vision).  Start off the New Year with this Devotional, Journal, and Coloring Book in one! https://www.boldvisionbooks.com/shop/. Use the link to pre-order their new book now!

Join the conversation: Have you had a donkey-type-day lately?

 

The Dog Ate It

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

Anytime it takes me an entire half-hour to write out my to-do list for the day, I know it’s a day I’m likely in for some hullabaloo. That’s what hullaba-happened yesterday. I’m not the most organized cookie on the block. The to-do list helps keep me from wasting my day flitting here and there without accomplishing the things that are most vital. So I built my list and numbered each item in order of importance.

Okay, since organization is not my best thing, the list was on a napkin. But at least I made it. In a few hours I had a couple of items checked off with about a dozen more to go. Still overwhelming, but I was making progress.

I figured I could make faster progress if I had coffee, so I went to whip up a pot. Here’s my to-do list tip for the day:  If you’re going to put your to-do list on a napkin, at least make sure you put something on top of it so it doesn’t float off the desk. By the time I got back with my coffee, the dog had run away with it. She was under the table in the dining room. Shredding.

The next part of the hullabaloo involved an intense chase scene. I fished most of the list out from under the table and a few pieces out from between LuLu’s molars. A half hour spent on a list that was suddenly coleslaw.

LuLu was trying to look innocent. Maybe she was even trying to help me. No to-do list means nothing to do, right? Isn’t a good shredding even better than a few check marks? Still, the list of all the work I was trying to accomplish at home was now dog chow. The dog really did eat my homework.

It was a good reminder, though, that there are times when all those good things on a to-do list need to give way to things that are most vital. It’s always a good test for me when I have deadlines up to my eyebrows, and I get a call from a friend who needs a listening ear. Or even when my kids want to play a game. Am I willing to shred my own agenda when the Lord might have a different one in mind? If there’s something that will bring him glory that’s not on my to-do list, am I willing to trade my list for his?

Colossians 3:2 (CSB) says to, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” Then a few verses later, we’re given this reminder: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17 CSB).

Whether in word or deed, whether on a napkin or over the phone—or even playing tiddlywinks—I want my agenda to ever and always line up with his.

Of course, we’ll have trouble playing tiddlywinks. LuLu ate them. I think she thought they were baked beans—which I’m guessing she thought would go well with the coleslaw.

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The dog ate it:  thoughts on keeping life in line with God from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown, mostly-coffee-drinking children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: How do you keep yourself sensitive to God’s leading?

On Things Above

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth.   Colossians 3:2 CSB

Do you ever have those days when you just want to get out of here? When life seems too disappointing and you long for heaven?

When my cousin, Mark, slipped into a coma and then slipped away from this earth, I realized how much I longed to be “home.” In that place where there will be no more death or crying or pain. Where every tear will be wiped away and every fear removed. Where there will be eternal joy in God’s presence.

My memories, from childhood through adulthood, of life with Mark remain only memories now. I won’t see him again until my life on this earth is over. But the sense of loss leads to a longing for the place where we will never have to experience any kind of loss again.

I’m sure we all have days when we don’t want to be here anymore. And for many reasons: The loss of a loved one. Divorce. Unmanageable debt. Deteriorating health. Unbearable pain. Crushed dreams. The effects of aging. The list goes on.

But there is a hope instilled in those of us who know Jesus, personally. This life is not the end-all. Something far better awaits.

When life gets rough we must remember we are simply passing through. This world is not our home. We are strangers, aliens to this world. Citizens of heaven. Heirs of all eternity.

When I remember that everything I have here on earth is temporary –  my possessions, my positions, my pain – and my permanent address is Paradise, I am able to loosen my grip on the things of this world. I can part with possessions more easily. And I can blow off irritating situations that really don’t matter in the scope of eternity. I guess you could say that when I remember the heavenly deed written in my name, it causes me to walk on this planet differently.

Do you want to walk on this planet differently? Confidently? With hope and expectation? Then take Paul’s advice in Colossians 3:2 and let heaven fill your thoughts.

If I walked around with heaven filling my thoughts, I’d be more careful how I treated others, more intentional in how I loved others, more forgiving of how I was treated by others, and more hopeful of the day I will finally be with Christ.

 Lord, thank You that this life is not all there is and that Your Word tells me I will someday walk on streets of gold in a city more beautiful than my mind can imagine. Fill my mind with thoughts of heaven to keep me focused on what truly matters in this life. And thank You that Your promise to never let me walk alone is already in effect.

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Thinking on things above – insight from @CindiMcMenamin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 16 books including Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs, God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart, and Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her God's Whispers to a Woman's Heart by [McMenamin, Cindi]books and resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, or for more information on her coaching services to help you write the book on your heart, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Join the conversation: What helps you to focus your thoughts on heavenly things?

A Diamond in the Rough

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

I stared in horror at the empty setting on my engagement ring. My diamond was gone.

This called for immediate action. I turned to my classroom full of second graders. “I will give five dollars to the person who finds my diamond,” I promised. Twenty-five children scrambled across the carpeted floor, determined to locate the prize. It wasn’t three minutes before one of the boys shouted, “I found it!”

I handed the reward over gratefully. Getting my stone back was well worth the incentive price. Of course, its value to me was sentimental, but replacing it would have been beyond what we could have afforded at the time. Diamonds are not cheap.

There’s a reason that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. They are the hardest natural substance found on the earth. They can only be scratched by other diamonds and hold a polish indefinitely. Their ability to reflect light has always made them highly desirable gemstones.

Diamonds were originally carbon-bearing material which was chemically changed by heat and pressure one hundred miles beneath the surface of the earth. This means the atoms which formed the original substance formed new chemical bonds within each molecule. The change is permanent. Many diamonds have imperfections, which are actually pieces of carbon which remain unaltered from their original state.

Scripture tells us that at the moment of our salvation, a tremendous change takes place in us as well. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV). We have been permanently altered from our old state. We used to walk according to the flesh, but now we walk according to the Spirit, because He dwells within us. We went from slaves to sin to adopted sons of the Living God (Romans 8).

But God is not yet finished with us. The point at which we became a new creation was only the beginning. Just like with a diamond, there are imperfections, left-over parts of us that He is transforming into the image of Jesus Christ. Paul told the Philippians, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV).  Like a skilled diamond cutter, God is continually chipping off our rough edges, cutting facets in His precious “stones” to allow His glory to be reflected in ever-increasing volume.

Sometimes those cuts can be painful. We don’t like the process. But eventually we can look back to the circumstances which contributed to our sanctification and marvel at how God worked to change us. “He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:10-11 NASB).

And the beauty of what He is creating far surpasses even the most brilliant of diamonds, because the result will be the ability to perfectly reflect the brilliance of His glory.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.                                                                                                    2 Corinthians 3:18 NASB

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A Diamond in the Rough – @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to
understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Join the conversation: What changes have you seen in yourself that are a result of God at work in you?

Battling the Ache of Loneliness

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

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 … But for Adam no suitable helper was found.  Genesis 2:19-20 NIV

I was painfully lonely my first year of marriage. Though my husband and I interacted often, I also spent a good deal of time alone. My husband was my only source of companionship. For me, it was not enough.

I was a relatively recent Nebraskan transplant surrounded by cornfields and neighbors I didn’t know. My heart cried out for deep and authentic community. Unfortunately, I sought it out in unhealthy ways. I began going to bars, where shallow friendships formed quickly and easily over beer and cocktails. Relationships that dulled my ache in the moment but failed to provide authentic connection.

I didn’t understand my need was God-given, and as such, would be met by Him. As a result, I attempted fill my longing apart from Him.

Genesis tells us about the beginning of creation. God formed the first human, Adam, from the dust of the ground, placed him in paradise, and surrounded him with everything he could need. Everything that is, except for what his heart ached for most—relationship.

One by one, God brought the animals to Adam to name. The birds amused and entertained but couldn’t participate in intellectually stimulating conversations. The horse endeared but couldn’t converse. The dog was loyal but couldn’t share dreams for tomorrow.

Through a seemingly methodical assignment, God revealed then heightened Adam’s need. So that He alone could fill it, which He did when He created Adam’s “helpmate” Eve.

He wants to do the same for us. When loneliness hits, it can be tempting to fill that void through unhealthy and perhaps even morally compromising relationships. But God invites us to surrender our emotional needs to Him, trusting He’ll fill them in His way and His timing.  Our role is to come to God and follow His lead. His role is to provide.

In my situation, that meant analyzing myself first in light of God’s truth. Scripture encourages us to love others well, to practice forgiveness, to make allowances for other’s faults, and to diligently pursue reconciliation. As I began to seek God’s will for my marriage, I came to realize that all my sinful attitudes and behaviors were creating barriers between my husband and me. More than that, I realized I needed God’s help—His power working in me—to change.

I shifted my efforts from trying to change my husband to praying for his heart, mine, and that our two broken and sinful hearts would heal and blend.

God was faithful. It’s been over two decades since I first surrendered my heart, my needs, and my marriage to Christ, and I’m in awe of all God’s done. He melded two fighting, distrustful, wounded adults into a united, intimate example of love.

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God has the answer for that ache of loneliness we sometimes battle – @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, speaker, and the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries. She writes for Crosswalk, is the author of eight contemporary novels, and helped write Wholly Loved’s Bible study based on the life of Sarai (Gen. 12-23) titled Becoming His Princess, releasing in the spring/summer of 2019. When not writing, Dancing in the Rain by [Rife, Eileen, Slattery, Jennifer]reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall outings with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband. Visit her online at jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com.

Join the conversation: Can you remember a time when God provided a needed relationship for you?

Think About Jesus

by Kaley Rhea @KaleyFaithRhea

But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,  to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds.    Ephesians 4:20-23 ESV

The best advice I ever got, I got before I was six years old.

Do you still remember the nightmares you had as a child? I don’t know if it’s neuroscience-y brain-formation stuff or invisible spiritual stuff or some combo of both, but it’s curious to me that some of my most vivid and haunting dreams happened when my experience of the world and reality had been so small.

I remember running into my parents’ room, waking them up. I remember choosing the words “bad dream” instead of “nightmare” because nightmare felt scarier. And my parents would inevitably ask “What did you dream about?”

I’d say “I don’t remember.” When I did remember. But I lied, not because I didn’t know how to communicate about the neighbor’s dog getting its head ripped off or a hoard of ham-sized spiders coming up from the storm drain in front of our house or the demon-monster under my baby sister’s crib. I lied because I was afraid that—even though I don’t remember this ever being the case—if I said the things out loud they would sound silly. That what was terrifying and upsetting to me would be dismissed by the people whose opinions I valued. So “I don’t remember” seemed easiest and safest, and anyway it was much too dark to comfortably talk about scary things.

In other words, I took away my parents’ ability to comfort and reassure me. And really, waking the parents up for a dream you can’t even remember seems sillier than being freaked out by a bloody, headless dog. So I was working against my own ends there.

My parents would look at each other and eventually say to me, with gentleness and also tiredness, “Well. Try to go back to sleep.” Which wasn’t very satisfying to me, but I didn’t have a good argument. I’d already told them I didn’t remember why I was scared. They were only working with the information they had.

But one of those nights, before they sent me back to bed, my dad said something world-shaking to me. God gave him the wisdom—at interrupted-sleep-cycle o’clock in the morning—to look at his small, incomprehensible daughter and say the words, “Think about Jesus.”

Those. Words. Stuck. Even in my limited understanding, it was a game changer. Think about Jesus. But Jesus was Sunday school songs and waiting to eat dinner and church puppets and flannelgrams, and you’re telling me, Papa Rhea, that thinking about that Jesus could have any effect on whether I refuse to let my eyes drift to the dark corners of my bedroom ceiling?

But you know what? My papa was right.

I began to think about Jesus. Not as an intellectual exercise. Not as a counting-sheep soporific. I began to think about who He is.

Even now, my natural tendency is to pin all the wrong things to the top of my brainfeed. To go first to the anger, first to the trauma, first to the resentment, first to the fear, first to the ugly. But that is not the way I learned Christ! When I am dwelling in the goodness of who Jesus is, what He has done, what He continues to do, what He will do, it doesn’t make me ignore those other things. It doesn’t make me fall asleep to them or pretend they don’t exist. It allows the Holy Spirit to place all those things in a right perspective. It ensures that, by His strength, I won’t be defeated by them.

What does my anger look like when it’s first channeled through His righteousness and compassion? How does my response to trauma change when my mind is set on an eternity with my Lord? How does my resentment appear next to the beauty of His forgiveness? What fear could I have that would dare even to tilt its head back and look up at Him?

And the more I think about who Jesus is, who I know Him to be, the faster I come to realize I can communicate with Him about the things that are upsetting and frightening to me. The safer I feel in letting Him into the parts of my soul my instincts tell me to hide. The freer I am to accept His comfort and love and discipline. The deeper my relationship with Him becomes. And the more I want to know Him.

The best advice I ever got, I share with you now, wherever you are. Think about Jesus.

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The power we can find when we think about Jesus – insight from @KaleyFaithRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kaley RheaAbout the author: Kaley Rhea is a St. Louis-area author and one half of the mother/daughter writing team behind 2017 Christian romantic comedy Turtles in the Road (along with the hilarious Rhonda Rhea). She also makes up one third of the writing team for the just-released non-fiction book Messy to Meaningful: Lessons From the Junk Drawer (co-written with Rhonda Rhea and the fabulous Monica Schmelter). She’s unclear on how fractions work, but if Rhonda Rhea is the common denominator, Kaley is pretty sure that makes her like five-sixths of Monica Schmelter. Or something like that.

Join the conversation: What thoughts about Jesus are most meaningful to you?

The Lion Monument

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer 

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:11 NIV

Mark Twain referred to the massive stone carving in Lucerne, known as The Lion Monument, as “the saddest and most moving piece of rock I have ever seen.”

From the moment it comes into view, there is something gripping and poignant about the dying lion carved in the sandstone side of a former rock quarry. Even before I knew the story, the expression of grief—a mixture of pain and sadness and regret—on the lion’s face resonated with something deep within my heart.

The inscription above the lion translates: “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss.”

Curious as to know what inspired such a moving monument and inscription, I did some research upon returning home.

In the eighteenth century, the Swiss upper class generated their income streams by enlisting young men as mercenaries to other countries. This is how nearly one thousand of these mercenaries, known as the Swiss Guard, came to be protecting the French monarchy of King Louis XVI at the time of the French Revolution.

On August 10, 1792, a mob of angry citizens numbering in the thousands overtook the royal castle. There were approximately seven hundred of the soldiers stationed there at the time. The king, hoping to placate the rioting crowd, ordered the Swiss Guard to lay down their weapons. The soldiers did not immediately obey, but continued fighting until their ammunition ran low. The King’s order became a death sentence for these men.

The carving of the dying lion has a wooden stake driven through his heart, but it also shows his paw lying protectively over the shield bearing the Fleur-de-lis of the French royalty.

The story behind this monument fascinates, moves and inspires me. But I couldn’t help but note the resemblance to me as a soldier in God’s Kingdom. Would loyalty and bravery be noted in an inscription about my life? I certainly hope I live in such a way that it would.

But I do know my King will never tell me to take off my armor or lay down my weapons. Not when I’m sitting in church. Not when I’m teaching Vacation Bible School. Not even when I’m in the midst of praise and worship at a Mercy Me concert. Never.

Our enemy does not quit. He is no respecter of battle lines or boundaries. And our King knows this.

Sure, the enemy may allow me periods of peace where I can get comfortable and overconfident–convince myself I’ve won. That’s the trap he uses to catch me without my armor on.

Flash forward from the massacre of the Swiss Guards to only a few decades later, and we find ourselves at the battle of the Alamo. When Santa Anna came to San Antonio in preparation for the siege of this small mission, he rode in under a black flag: take no prisoners. Even to surrender meant certain death.

Satan, too, rides under a black flag—the flag of no quarter.

The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians, “Put on the full armor of God so that you may take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” I haven’t yet found the verse that tells me to take it off this side of eternity.

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What the Lion Monument can teach us about the armor of God – @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet) 

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: Each of the pieces of armor is important to us in battle. Which piece has meant the most to you when you have been under attack?