Air Conditioning and Jesus

by Kolleen Lucariello

It was hot outside. As in, really hot for where I live in central New York state. After a long-hard-winter and a cold-snowy-spring, we’d been looking forward to the arrival of summer’s warmth. But just two weeks into summer, and we found ourselves in the middle of a record heat wave. I began to rethink our need for air conditioning.

Pat and I haven’t had air conditioning for most of the 33 years we’ve lived in our home. A few years ago we decided a small one for the bedroom would be beneficial, so we’d at least be able to sleep in unbearable heat.

Usually, I enjoy opening windows to the fresh air. New York summers aren’t like southern ones. Over the years people have attempted to talk us into getting air conditioning, including our children. But just when we might’ve have been convinced, the heat-wave would break, and any urgency we’d begun to feel vanished. Like many New Yorkers, we’d dealt with the heat in other ways, making excuses like:

We can go in the basement if it gets too hot.

It only gets hot here a few days of the year so there really isn’t a need for it.

I don’t like air conditioning, I prefer fresh air.

We don’t need the extra expense.

We’ve survived this long without it.

Then the news reports began to predict record heat – for a record number of days. I wasn’t sure I could take it. Hot flashes AND record heat – together? After talking it over with Pat, we decided it was time to give in to the warnings and purchase a unit that would cool off the rest of the house.

Now on day four of this current heat wave, there’s no doubt I would have suffered without our newly installed unit. I’d have been uncomfortable, grumpy, and miserable for the duration. Our visiting family would have suffered, too.

It makes me think of all the years I had a list of reasons why I didn’t need Jesus. “I’ve survived this long without Him.” “It will cost too much, and I’m not willing to sacrifice anything to follow Him.” “Easter and Christmas is enough church for me.” “I only need Him when the pressure of life is too great.”

Until I realized that missing piece in my life made me uncomfortable and grumpy, which made those around me miserable, too.

And then I met Him. And I wondered: why did I wait so long? Why did I refuse His gift of refreshing Living Water? Why did I make so many excuses? What was I so afraid of?  For sure, beginning a personal relationship with Him outweighed any potential cost.

Jesus addressed our tendency to make excuses with this parable: “There was a man who invited many to join him in a great feast. When the day for the feast arrived, the host instructed his servant to notify all the invited guests and tell them, ‘Come, for everything is now ready for you!’ But one by one they all made excuses. One said, ‘I can’t come. I just bought some property and I’m obligated to go and look it over’” (Luke 14:16-18 TPT).

God has done everything necessary for us to have a relationship with Him. Maybe it’s time to let go of excuses and discover the joy of His refreshment. You’ll wonder why it took so long to finally make that choice.

These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.   John 20:31 NASB

Kolleen LucarielloAbout the authorKolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, is the author of the devotional bookThe ABC’s of Who God Says I Am. Kolleen shares her struggle with identity authentically, bravely and yet, with compassion and humor as she seeks to help others change their identity – one letter at a time. Kolleen and her high school sweetheart, Pat, make their home in Central New York. She’s mother of three married children and Mimi to five beautiful grandkids. For more information about Kolleen, visit her at www.speakkolleen.com.

Join the conversation: How has your life changed since meeting Jesus?

The More We Learn, the Less We Know

by Deb DeArmond

Have you ever observed the evolution of how our children think about us as they move through life? The story goes like this…….

  • At age 5, the little boy says, “That’s my dad! He’s the smartest man in the whole world.
  • At 10 years old, he says, “That’s my dad. He’s a really smart guy!”
  • The pre-teen at 12 says, “My dad is okay.”
  • At 15, he warns, “That’s my dad. He’s a total idiot – just ignore him.”
  • At 20, he says, “My dad’s not a total loser.”
  • At 30, the young man says, “My dad might know.”
  • At 40, the adult son says, “I’m gonna ask my dad what he thinks.”
  • “I’m not making a decision till I talk to my old man,” the mid-life man of 50 says.
  • At 60, he says sadly, “Man I wish my dad was still alive. He’d know what to do.”

If you’ve ever been down this road with your children, you know it can be a challenging place. As teenagers, kids really do believe they know all that needs to be known. You have to be a lot older to know what you don’t know.

How does that happen? As youth, our sphere of life is very limited. And then life happens and moves us beyond our zone of the familiar. Maturity develops from the lessons that our mistakes teach us.  And at some point, we get that flash of understanding: I know very little and have so much growing left to do.

 The more we learn, the greater our realization is of how much we still don’t know.

The Word of God warns us to be careful about self-aggrandizing assessments:

“What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever” Isaiah 5:21 (NLT).

“There is more hope for fools than for people who think they are wise” Proverbs 26:12 (NLT).

“Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others” Proverbs 12:15 (NLT).

“At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike” Matthew 11:25 (NLT).

Just as it blesses us as parents when our children seek knowledge and are open to learning, the same is true with our Heavenly Father. A teachable spirit, one that desires wisdom, blesses Him. And as we grow in the knowledge of Him, the more we realize there is much still to learn.

Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise.   1 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

DeArmond-29 copyAbout the author: Deb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship, and conflict resolution. A writer and professional speaker, Deb addresses topics related to the family and women. Her books include: Related by Chance, Family by ChoiceI Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last and Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! Deb’s books help readers, whether engaged, newlywed, or long-time married, create the life God meant marriage and family to be. You can read more from Deb at Family Matters/Deb.

Join the conversation: When did you reach the understanding of how much more there was to learn?

 

The Missing Ingredient

by Crystal Bowman

Resting in a ceramic bowl on my kitchen counter were three almost rotten bananas. My conscience told me what I needed to do—preheat the oven to 350 degrees and get out the flour, sugar, shortening, and eggs. With my eyes glancing toward a stained recipe card now and then, I began to measure, pour, blend, and beat the ingredients. A tantalizing aroma soon permeated my kitchen, and I anticipated the pleasure of my husband and children as I served them warm buttery slices of delicious banana bread.

After rinsing the mixing bowl, measuring cup, and spatula, I peeked in the oven window to check on my creation. But instead of finding a rising loaf of banana bread, I saw a sunken mound of dough. I quickly reread the recipe and realized I had forgotten to include one tiny teaspoon of baking powder. How could one ingredient make that much difference?!

In 1 Corinthians 13, the Bible talks of a necessary ingredient—for everyday living. That ingredient is love. It’s the kind of love that God has for his people— an unconditional, never-ending, come-as-you-are kind of love. It’s patient and kind, never self-seeking. It does not envy or boast or keep a record of wrongs. It rejoices with the truth and never fails.

Jesus summed it up quite well with his poignant answer to a trick question by a teacher of the law. When asked which commandment was the most important, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV).

Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, God enables us to love others the way that he loves us. It’s not always easy, but when we love and accept others for who they are, we demonstrate God’s love and can make a difference in their lives. Loving others also brings glory to God, who is the ultimate definition of love.

Every day, we can ask God to help us add the ingredient of love to all that we do. And when it comes to making banana bread, you can add lots of love, but don’t forget the baking soda!

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7 NIV).

Crystal BowmanAbout the author: Crystal Bowman is an award winning, best-selling author of more than 100 books for children including Our Daily Bread for KidsM is for Manger, and Does God Take Naps? She is a speaker and mentor for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and teaches at writers’ conferences. She is a regular contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine and writes lyrics for children’s piano music. Crystal lives in both Florida and Michigan, and when she is not writing or playing with her grandkids, she loves to sneak outdoors to walk and talk with God.

Join the conversation: How has being loved by others made a difference in your life?

 

Broken or Brokenness?

by Ava Pennington

I’m a broken person. I’m also someone who desires to live in a state of brokenness. These may sound the same—and maybe they are to some people—but the difference in my life is huge.

During a recent lunch with a friend, she mentioned a book she was reading on brokenness. Our conversation challenged me to consider brokenness in my own life.

Our world and its inhabitants are broken. Hurting. Seeking something better, even if they don’t know what that “something better” is.

Most would agree this broken world is not a good thing. Our culture has decided we can live a better life apart from a relationship with our Creator. But we were never meant to live apart from God. And the results of this willful independence can be seen everywhere we look. In people. In values and relationships. Even in the natural world around us.

When something is broken, it no longer functions as it should. In our disposable culture, broken things end up in the trash. But in God’s economy, He takes broken people and doesn’t just fix them, He makes them brand new through faith in Jesus Christ.

So as a Christian, I’m no longer broken in the sense that my only future is the junk heap. I’m now able to accomplish the purpose for which I was created. But the only way I can move forward is in a state of brokenness.

Brokenness is a continuing posture of humility and dependence on the One who created and saved me. It’s an accurate view of myself in the light of who God is. One of the best descriptions of brokenness I’ve found is in the Beatitudes:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.   ~ Matthew 5:3-12 ESV

Or consider these verses:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” ~ Galatians 2:20 ESV

Total dependence on the Holy Spirit of God. Trusting His leading. Obeying His Word. The result is not just a repair of my broken self to be usable again. The result is that I become more valuable than I was before.

God redeems and increases the value of each person who relies on Him. In our brokenness, the cracks are still visible, but now they are made beautiful by His touch.

I am broken no longer. But I embrace the brokenness that allows His grace to work in and through me for His glory.

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”  Isaiah 57:15 ESV

© 2010 Martin Alan Grivjack Photography Martin Alan Grivjack Photography

About the authorAva Pennington is an author, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) teacher, and speaker. Her most recent book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God, is endorsed by Kay Arthur of Precepts Ministries.

Ava has also published stories in 30+ anthologies, including 25 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse.

She is a passionate speaker and delights in encouraging groups with relevant, enjoyable presentations. For more information, visit www.AvaWrites.com.

Join the conversation: How do you cultivate a sense of brokenness?

Is It Sin?

by Julie Zine Coleman

“Did you see my son walk past your house a few minutes ago?” my friend Martha asked, watching me pull weeds from my garden. Her teenage son was giving her and her husband a run for their money. He was rebelling in just about everything for which his parents stood. The deteriorating relationship was breaking her heart.

I hadn’t noticed him walking by. “His jeans have rips all the way up his legs,” she explained. “His hair is scraggly, and he hasn’t shaved in weeks.” She sighed. “But when I complained to my husband, he asked me: “Is it sin for him to look like that? If not, leave it alone. We have bigger battles to fight.”

Good advice for a parent of a teen. It’s good advice for the Church, as well.

We live in a world consumed with appearances. This mind-set bleeds into the church: we can be guilty of concerning ourselves more with outward expressions than an internal faith.

Jesus confronted this very attitude in the leaders of his time. They were angry his disciples failed to ceremonially clean their hands before eating. This violated what was called the Oral Law, a set of traditions the Pharisees themselves had written. In response, Jesus pointed out their violation of Mosaic Law, commands from God Himself, on honoring one’s parents. Bottom line: they might be following their own set of rules, but their hearts were far from God.

Shallow religion consists of a set of external do’s and don’ts. My parents’ generation had those kind of clear standards. If you were a Good Christian, you did not drink alcohol, did not dance, nor would you dare darken the door of a movie theater. Playing cards were the devil’s tool. Secular music, especially rock and roll, was categorically banished.

Most of those restrictions make us shake our heads these many years later. But we are foolish if we don’t acknowledge that the rules of one generation have merely been replaced with new rules today. People’s spiritual well-being is still being judged on their outward conformity to the current standard of behavior.

But God is not interested in outward conformity.

God is interested in our hearts. Isaiah the prophet was sent to warn the people that their religious actions weren’t impressing God. “This people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me,” the Lord told him (Isaiah 29:13, NASB).

Shallow religion can be a dangerous thing. Jesus compared the Pharisees to whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside, but inside filled with dead men’s bones and rot. “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness,” He charged (Matthew 23:28, NASB). The Pharisees’ pride in their self-sufficiency made them unable to perceive their need for a Savior. It was a problem with eternal ramifications.

How can we avoid setting up false standards? We need to start with asking ourselves what really matters to God. We need the Holy Spirit to help us discern between what is a cultural expectation and what is destructive sin. Then rather than focusing our attentions on outward appearances, we must keep our eyes trained on the One who saved us.

Grace should mark the lives of all believers toward each other. Keeping focused on Christ will result in encouragements that come from a heart rooted in the love of God rather than judgment.  It will help us view people through the lens of God’s love.

“Is it sin?” became my husband’s and my mantra when we entered the world of teen parenting. It has guided our interactions with our church community as well. We cultivate hearts that choose to love God rather than focus on actions which are nothing more than a to-do list. We don’t want to waste our time and energy on the shallow.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:36-40 NIV

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the author: Julie 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 are some expectations we can hold today that really are more cultural than spiritual? How do you tell the difference?

Photo by FuYong Hua on Unsplash

The Trouble With Snakes

by Sheri Schofield

It was time to sell the house. The market was moving quickly and my husband felt we could make a good profit if we got in on the boom. We lived in a quiet neighborhood next to a wetland full of wild iris, willows, a seasonal pond, and lots of wildlife in Washington State. It was an ideal place to raise our two children.

Drew, a lively third grader, was always catching little creatures in the swamp. One afternoon he came racing into the house with a bucket. “Mom! Mom! Look what I’ve caught!”

I peered over the rim to see four black water snakes. “Can I keep them?” Drew begged.

“NO!” I said quickly. “They will escape!”

My husband Tim said, “No they won’t, Sheri. I’ll make sure they can’t get out of the terrarium.”

I did not argue with him, but I just knew we would regret this.

A couple of days later, the doorbell rang. It was a middle age, plump lady who was a prospective buyer. I smiled and ushered her into the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen. As we turned to go down the hallway, I noticed an escapee from Drew’s room coming our way.

“What’s THAT?” the lady screeched.

Trying to be soothing, I said, “Oh, it’s just a little ….”

“SNAKE!” she shrieked, jumping three feet straight up. She landed with a loud crash then pivoted and raced out of the house, pounded down the sidewalk, and squeezed herself into her tiny VW Beetle.

“But it’s a very nice house!” I called after her hopefully.

She gunned the engine and raced off in a cloud of dust.

We didn’t sell the house that spring. About a month after we removed it from the market, Drew and Christy, our youngest, caught two-dozen black snakes from the wetland. Together, they brought them to the back door, beaming at their catch.

“NO!” I said. “Get rid of them!” This time there was no argument from Tim.

A few minutes later, I heard a shriek from my next-door neighbor, Val. Dashing out the back door, I looked over to see if she was okay. I saw Val waving her hands around frantically, her two kids each holding up two black, wiggly snakes for her to see. I quietly went back inside and closed the door. When another neighbor screamed, I just shook my head. No need to wonder about the reason for the scream. Her kids played with mine, too. I didn’t answer the phone when it rang, either.

It’s so easy to allow little things into our lives that displease our Father. We may think they are harmless, like those water snakes. But they are bound to show up at the most inconvenient moments! If I hold onto anger or resentment, it is going to become evident. It will eventually grow into something that will hurt those around me, even those I love the most. For anger and resentment turn into bitterness, and bitterness poisons not only me, but others as well.

I’ve found that the best way to keep those seemingly little sins out of my heart is to deal with them on the spot, refuse to let them into my soul, and close my thoughts against them. I must not hold onto feeling self-righteous or wounded, or those feelings will come crawling out into the open around others.

Lord, let me treasure only those thoughts that find their origin in You, not in the serpent of Eden!

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things …. and the God of all peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8 & 9, NIV

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Children’s ministry veteran Sheri Schofield was unexpectedly called on to save her husband’s life, a battle that took her to the Pentagon, Congress, National Security and the President of the United States. At her website, www.SheriSchofield.com, she shares this journey in her book One Step Ahead of the Devil. Sheri’s new book, The Prince And The Plan, launched on June 1. It is designed to help parents lead their children into a saving relationship with Jesus.

Join the conversation: How do you guard against harboring anger or bitterness?

Bicycle Built for Two

by Pam Farrel

“. . .  for we walk by faith, not by sight. . .”  2 Corinthians 5:7 NASB

When I was a newlywed, I worked as a special education aide.  Bill and I helped Anton, one of my blind students, experience as many physical activity activities as possible. He dreamed of doing things like baseball, bike riding, swinging on a swing, or sliding down a slide. One day, we rented a bicycle built for two. I got on the front, and Bill helped Anton onto the back seat. I peddled away with the sound of giggles and happy squeals behind me as Anton peddled away into complete darkness. He showed great trust that day, completely leaving his well-being in someone else’s hands.

It was not unlike the kind of faith that God sometimes calls us to have in Him.

A personal example of this in my life was when God called Bill to attend Talbot Seminary to become a pastor. That meant moving this farm girl to the heart of Los Angeles. I wasn’t even sure God existed in LA! But just as Anton trusted me to steer him into one of the best adventures of his life, I climbed onto the back of a bicycle built for two, and Bill wheeled us to the heart of Los Angeles to prepare for a lifetime of service to God.

I imagined it was a lot like Sarai when God called Abram out: “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 NIV). Can you imagine the ensuing conversation?

Abram: Sarai, God told me we are moving.

Sarai: Moving! Where?

Abram: Don’t know, He will tell us.

Sarai: When do we leave?

Abram: Now.

To her credit: she went!

How many of us inadvertently squelch the hopes and dreams of others? It is so easy to allow our fears crush the faith of those close to us– people like our mate, our friends, our pastor, our business partner, or our children. When your friend, your mentee, or your child is offered an opportunity to spread their wings and soar, do you clip them?

When your husband shares his clear call from God, how do you react? With skepticism? Anger? Nay-saying? In marriage, trust God’s leading and HE can take you BOTH on an adventure!  He knows you are a team and will honor you both as you walk through the doors God opens for you.

Sarai trusted God enough to obey him. And in the new land she was blessed with her long-awaited miracle son.

When you trust God, peddling by faith into what might seem the dark unknown, often it will become the blessed ride of your life!

Hop on!

Lord, let us not be fearful of the adventure. Father, you are in the driver’s seat so we choose to trust You when we can’t see the path ahead. Amen.

pam ferrelAbout the author: Pam Farrel  loves bike riding with her husband. Together they are international speakers and co-authors of 45 books including A Couple’s Journey With God , which inspired this article. The Farrels invite you to join them in “Living Love-Wise” at the intersection of God’s love and God’s wisdom.

Join the conversation: Has God ever called you to step out in faith?

Blunders to Blessings

by Fran Sandlin

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”   Romans 8: 28 NASB

Where is it? I felt along my right side for the little black purse, and it wasn’t hanging there!  My heart leaped in terror. Where could it be?  I had attended the Christian Bookseller’s Association Convention and was now returning home to Texas. Traveling alone in the Orlando International Airport, I had hurried to the Disney store to buy an item for my granddaughter only to discover I was missing my most important accessory. Yikes! I had retrieved my attaché case at security but not my purse. I wondered….Will I ever see it again? My credit card, driver’s license, a few dollars?

With a pounding pulse and a sickening emptiness, I prayed silently as I ran to catch the people-mover for a ride back to the main airport lobby. In my haste I accidentally boarded the wrong one that took me to the opposite side of where I needed to be. After another ride back to the gate area, I found the correct ride to my original security check point—all the time thinking… It will be a miracle if my purse is still there.

At security I asked the female attendant if she had found a small, black purse. Without hesitating, she reached in a drawer, pulled out my purse, examined the drivers’ license, and said, “This looks like you. Here’s your purse.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

The plane now boarding, I raced back to the gate check-in counter. The flight attendant said, “All the seats are taken, but I will scan the computer one more time.” I waited. “Okay”, she exclaimed, “I found a middle one.”  As I finally buckled in, with a sigh of relief I thanked the Lord that after all my boo-boos, I actually made the flight.

The distinguished white-haired gentleman in the aisle seat introduced himself as the consultant for Word of Life Press, responsible for selecting materials for Christian publishing in Korea. Also coming back from the booksellers’ convention, he wanted to know more about my books. We had a lively conversation, and he seemed genuinely interested in our work.

A few months later, our publisher notified us that both books were being translated into Korean. What a nice surprise!

I’d never lost my purse before and haven’t since. When I recall that incident it reminds me that God is in charge of “divine appointments.” He works all things together for good for those who love Him—He can even turn our blunders into blessings.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you that you are interested in the details of our lives, and your unconditional love guides us to unexpected joys–even when we mess up.

fran sandlinAbout the author: Fran Caffey Sandin is a retired nurse, wife, mother, and grandmother in Greenville, Texas. She enjoys baking, flower arranging, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Jim. Fran is a church organist, a core group leader for Community Bible Study, and author of See You Later, Jeffrey, and Touching the Clouds: True Stories to Strengthen Your Faith. and has co-authored others. Jim and Fran are parents of two sons awaiting them in Heaven; a married daughter and son-in-law, and three fabulous grandchildren.

Visit Fran at her website:  www.fransandin.com

Join the conversation: How has God directed your path lately?

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Invitation to Rest

by  Leigh Powers

The file folder in my pool bag was calling my name. I’d played with the kids in the water for a while, but an hour sitting next to the pool and enjoying the sun sounded like a good opportunity to look through the research for my next writing project.

I pulled out my highlighter and kept one eye on the kids as they played water tag and slid down the water slide, patting myself on the back for maximizing my productivity. I made it about a third of the way through the stack before I felt the gentle prompting I’ve learned to recognize as the voice of the Spirit. Pause. Rest. Breathe.

I stopped midsentence and looked around the pool. Really, Lord? Here? The pool was crowded with families. The air was full of cheerful babble and the occasional tweets from the lifeguards’ whistles. It wasn’t the place I would have chosen for a quiet interlude.

The gentle whisper came again like a butterfly-soft caress. Rest. I put the cap on my highlighter and closed the folder, then leaned back against my lounge chair. As I sat quietly, I started to take note of details I hadn’t paid attention to before. Bird song flitted beneath the rise and fall of the conversations around me, and the sweet fragrance of honeysuckle mingled with the sharp smell of the chlorine. A familiar verse came to mind: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul” (Psalm 23:2). I felt God’s presence with me. Those few moments of quiet stillness made my soul feel refreshed and restored.

It made me wonder how many times I miss God’s gentle invitation to rest. Life is full of deadlines, to-do’s, and my Mom’s Taxi Service part-time job. Yet I dare not get so busy in my pursuit of what needs doing that I miss God’s invitation to engage with what is eternal. As our Good Shepherd, God knows the needs of our souls. He guides us to what we need—even when what we need is simply a few moments of rest.

Today, be attentive to God’s gentle promptings. Look out the window. Go for a walk. Simply be. Rest in the power and beauty of God’s presence, and let the Good Shepherd restore your soul.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

leigh powersAbout the Author: Leigh Powers is passionate about helping women find hope and healing in God’s word. An author, speaker, pastor’s wife, and mother of three, she loves digging into Scripture and helping others find their places in God’s great story of salvation. Leigh is the author of Renewed: A 40-Day Devotional for Healing from Church Hurt and for Loving Well in Ministry. You can read more from Leigh at her blog, www.leighpowers.com.

Photo by Koko Curio on Unsplash

Weeding and Waiting

by Cheri Cowell

A flat tire had derailed my carefully laid plans.

After bitterly complaining to God about the fact that I did not have time for this interruption, I surrendered. I decided to use the wait for emergency road service to make a call to a friend who needed encouragement. That felt good. All right Lord, You were right. Thank you for helping me to take the time to make those calls. So now what do you have in store for me? I looked around at my surroundings.  There was a flowerbed full of weeds right in front of me in the church parking lot where I waited (in safety—another blessing that did not escape me once my attitude had changed). While I’m here I might as well weed the whole bed.

Weeding and waiting. . .what a great way to spend an afternoon. Not.

Hurry up and wait seems to be what I find myself doing most of the time. From the checkout line at the grocery store to the waiting room at the doctor’s office, I often find myself forced to wait. And as I do, oftentimes the weeds of impatience, pride, and selfishness rear their ugly heads. God faithfully uses those moments to show me my true self in all its glory.

Some weeds can be strikingly beautiful, and it’s not until they’ve taken over an entire yard that we see their destructive nature. Like the other day, when after several weeks of waiting for an appointment to see the Orthopedic Surgeon, the rude receptionist wouldn’t let me see the doctor. She said I needed a referral when I knew I did not. Even after calling the insurance company and having them explain my benefits to her, she refused to let me in.

Unfortunately, I did not handle the situation with grace. I exploded, impatience and pride overtaking me like weeds in a garden. My ugliness was highlighted even more when God fixed my problem by having another doctor’s office go out of their way to work me in that afternoon. In comparison with my bad attitude, His pure and unmerited grace exposed my sin for what it was: dirty as mud.

“If you don’t mind waiting,” the receptionist at the second office said, “I will work you in.”

“That will be great,” I responded, knowing the wait would give me more time to do a little weeding.

Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you. Proverbs 20:22 NIV

cheri cowellAbout the author: Cheri Cowell is the author of Direction: Discernment for the Decisions of Your Life. To connect with Cheri visit www.CheriCowell.com .

Join the conversation: What weeds are in your garden?