The Infamous Cereal Caper

by Kathy Collard Miller

For two-and-a-half years, my mother-in-law, Audrey, lived with us. Audrey suffered from Lewy-Body Dementia which caused her to be paranoid and have delusions and hallucinations. It was a difficult time where Larry and I learned to slow down our reactions, develop greater selflessness, and work through what was really motivating us.

I remember one morning when Audrey was eating her bran cereal. Every morning I had to soak the cereal in milk for at least thirty minutes to make it soft. Audrey said to me, “There are rocks in my cereal. I know you’re trying to kill me.”

I could feel the hair on the back of my neck begin to rise. But I prayed quickly, “Lord, this is my old pattern of wanting to be approved and not wanting to be seen as undependable. I’m going to pause because I know in Christ I am dependable, loved, and approved.”

Audrey mumbled something else, and then said, “And I wish you’d do a better job of it.” Of course, she meant that I should make her cereal without rocks. But the juxtaposition was funny. I should do a better job of killing her? I stifled a laugh and wasn’t upset—for once!

Another morning she shuffled down the hall toward me exclaiming, “Don’t lie to me, you attacked me last night!” Oh! Being called a liar is one of my hot buttons. I so wanted to be mean in return, but I again slowed down my reaction and prayed, asking God to help me see myself as he sees me—as a daughter of the King. The Lord gave me compassion for Audrey who was also a daughter of the King, who at present was mentally influenced by dementia. Her words didn’t bother me in the least.

I definitely could see God was doing a work of spiritual growth within me, and how the frequency of my unloving reactions had diminished over time.

A few years later, I became the primary caregiver for my own mother. What I learned during the time I cared for my mother-in-law has empowered me to love my own mother better. At times I’m still tempted to react in my old ways, but I’m not sinfully reacting as much as I did even with Audrey.

My spiritual growth in this area did not happen quickly. That kind of progress comes through yielding to the Holy Spirit one situation at a time. As we ask for guidance and strength for a godly reaction to difficult people, God provides. And as He does, He changes our hearts to be more like His.

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. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…” Romans 8:28-29a NASB

Kathy C MillerAbout the author: Kathy Collard Miller has been a writer and speaker for over 40 years which surprises her since she doesn’t feel old enough. But God has opened doors for seeing over 50 of her books published and speaking in over 30 states and 8 foreign countries. Connect with her at: KathyCollardMiller.com.

Join the conversation: In what ways has God been growing you lately?

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Your Team Needs You!

by Sheri Schofield

“I am having insulin rushes in the middle of the night,” my husband said. “The doctor said it is not diabetes and won’t do any more testing for two months. She doesn’t have time. But I need to get this under control!”

All week long I had been directing Vacation Bible School at our church. Tim’s symptoms had started just before VBS began. Now his entire body was shaking most of the time. Tim is usually very calm, but now he was afraid.

I suspected that his symptoms had come to a head simply because I was involved in teaching children about the plan of salvation that week, and the devil wanted to distract me. So he was attacking my husband. This had happened before.

I called Tim’s mom, my best friend. “Dollie, will you please pray for Tim to get help for this medical problem, and for the devil’s schemes to be thwarted while I tell these children about Jesus?”

Dollie began praying immediately. Tim planned to go to the emergency room the next morning. Things were getting out of hand. But the next day, all the symptoms were gone! And they have not returned.

Ephesians 6 teaches us about a spiritual world that may be invisible but is alive and active. Paul writes, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV) We are mostly unaware of this reality until those deeds of darkness are aimed straight at us.

Over the years, I have learned that whenever I undertake a large outreach for Jesus, the devil attacks me where I am most vulnerable: my husband or my children have a crisis. So I am no longer surprised by the crisis when it comes. Instead, I call upon true prayer warriors to pray the crisis away. I keep my eyes on Jesus and He puts His peace in my heart while I continue on with the task. There’s no way I’m going to give Satan the victory!

Are there pastors or missionaries in your life, people who are serving God? Are there leaders who are always there for you in your time of need? They need your prayers! For everyone who ministers in the name of Jesus faces what I faced this past week. The devil is bent on distracting them from their work for Jesus.

Those who belong to Jesus are a team. Paul called those in supportive roles “partners in the gospel” (Philippians 1:5). We each have a part to play. Prayer warriors are valuable and essential assets to any leader. So join the spiritual battle these servants of Jesus face daily! Be part of their team by holding them up in prayer so that they may minister freely without personal crises to distract them. Your team needs you!

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 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, will be launched June 1. It is designed to help parents lead their children into a saving relationship with Jesus.

Join the conversation: In what ways have you supported those in full-time ministry?

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Risk-Taker Wannabe

by Cheri Swalwell

Moses raised another objection to God: “Master, please, I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer.”                                                                                                                        Exodus 4:10 The Message

I’m a risk taker wannabe. I was a tomboy growing up who loved to climb trees … until I got stuck and needed help getting down. I played football with my church youth group … until my nose broke for the second time. With a success rate like that, I’m far less prone to take risks now.

So it was a bit of a stretch for me, when five years ago, I asked God to use my family however He chose. My desire was to leave a spiritual legacy. His answer came with the downsizing of my job and its ultimate elimination six months later. I panicked, but God provided two new positions. A few years later, God continued my trust-adventure by asking me to resign from one of those positions. I was afraid to take that step, not knowing how I would pay the bills but knew obedience to God’s direction was the only choice. One week after I resigned, God provided another job.

I’m not the only one who avoids the scary unknown. Risk-taking didn’t come naturally to Moses, either. While living in exile after killing an Egyptian, Moses was approached by the Great I Am from within a burning bush in the middle of the wilderness. God had a job for Moses to do. He would go as God’s spokesperson to Pharaoh, demanding the release of one and a half million slaves.

Moses responded with grave misgivings. First, he questioned God’s wisdom, then he resorted to excuses. “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11 NASB)

In response, God patiently worked with him, promising to be with Him and explaining the big picture of His plan for His people. He even gave Moses several miraculous signs to prove He was really God.

Moses then reminded God that he was “slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10, NIV).

The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say”” (Exodus 4:11-12 NIV).

Back when I had asked God to use my family and me, as He began removing things to make space for His plan, like Moses, I panicked. I asked for clarification. I fasted and waited two additional weeks to “know that I knew that I knew.” I was so afraid of making a mistake and missing His blessing.

And, just like with Moses, God continued to patiently, gently, and lovingly meet me where I am. He understands me and is not surprised when I need one more sign, knowing my need to prepare before I jump into something scary or life-altering.

By saying yes and walking in obedience one step at a time, even when timid or scared, I am fulfilling the passion God has placed in my heart. He reveals His glory, for any progress made in advancing God’s kingdom isn’t because of something I did but simply because I obeyed when God said to walk. He did the rest.

I’ll admit it: I’m a lousy risk-taker. But when I choose simple obedience, God gives me the adventure of a lifetime and blesses me for my faith and obedience.

cheri swalwellAbout the author: Cheri Swalwell is a Christ follower who thoroughly enjoys her calling to be a wife, mother, and writer, in that order. She has the privilege to write regularly for Book Fun Magazine and her devotional book series, Spoken from the Heart, as well as two other books, Hope During Heartache and Caring for the Caregiver are available through Amazon. She would love to connect with you through her website, www.cheriswalwell.com, through email: clSwalwell99@gmail.com, or Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/cheri-Swalwell.

Join the conversation: When has God called you to step out in faith?

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Light the Way

by Julie Zine Coleman

He hadn’t even noticed his wallet was missing. Not until he answered a knock on his door. There stood a group of teenagers, holding it out in front of them. They’d found it at a nearby mall and used his driver’s license to locate him. Knowing it contained a newly cashed paycheck’s worth of bills, he could hardly believe such integrity. Not one dollar was missing. Grateful, he offered them a reward. They politely refused. They were just happy they had successfully reunited the wallet with its owner.

He had to know more. Why were they so honest? Who were they? The kids smiled shyly and told him they were Christians from a local church. Their integrity was a mere reflection of the One they followed.

The following Sunday, he came to church. He didn’t know much about God, but he knew whatever those teens had was something he wanted. It wasn’t long before he had given his life to the Savior as well.

Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 NASB). God uses our acts of love to make himself known.

God is all about revealing himself to the world. It’s always been his purpose. “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” God promised (Habakkuk 2:14 NASB). Paul tells us in Romans 1 that God first revealed his eternal power and divine nature with His creation. Next, He chose the family of Israel to reveal Him to the nations. Then the ultimate revelation came: Jesus Christ, “the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3, NASB).

And now, Paul tells us that “the manifold wisdom of God… [is now made] known through the church…” (Ephesians 3:10, NASB).

He has chosen US, the Church, to be the vessels through which He is revealing himself today! This serious responsibility has big implications for how we live.

I was recently confronted by an angry neighbor. He accused my sweet dog of something that was absolutely untrue. As I cringed under his bitter words, my instinct was to shoot right back with a hefty dose of reality. But before I could open my mouth, the Lord reminded me that I was there at that moment to represent Him.  A careful, loving response had the potential to show my neighbor Jesus in me.

What better way is there to reveal Christ in us than love? After all, it is just a reflection of the love God has already lavished on us. And there’s plenty of that to spread around.

Paul wrote: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10 NASB). The world’s brand of love is often self-seeking and self-righteous. The kind of love we can offer (agape love) chooses the good of another over ourselves. It is as different from the world as light is from darkness.

My angry neighbor? After a quick prayer for the Lord’s strength, I bit my indignant tongue and responded to his anger with humility and grace. I hope that someday this unhappy man will put His trust in Christ. Maybe God will even use my decision to treat him with love to draw him in.

The world is stumbling around in darkness. God has called us to light the way for them.

“For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” Ephesians 5:8

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: In what ways have you seen people respond to love?

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What Are We Really Forgiving?

by Ava Pennington

What’s one of the most common reasons we give for not forgiving others? If you’re like me, you might say forgiveness implies approval or tolerance of the behavior. We read about forgiveness, talk about it, and teach it. Yet for most of us, forgiving others is one of the most difficult things God asks us to do.

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me that one reason we may find it difficult to forgive is because we misunderstand what it is that we’re forgiving.

What if I told you we are not forgiving the sin?

King David wrote, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:4 ESV).

Even the Pharisees of Jesus’ day understood that God alone can forgive sin. That’s why they pitched a fit when Jesus forgave the paralytic. In Luke 5:18-25 (ESV), we read:

Behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed…but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.

And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”

And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Yes, only God can forgive the actual sin. And since Jesus is God, He demonstrated that He also has the authority to forgive sin.

Perhaps that’s one reason we struggle with forgiveness. We’re trying—and failing—to forgive something we don’t have the right to forgive. We justify our failure to forgive by saying we don’t want to communicate tolerance for the sin. Or that it’s not right for the other person to “get away with” what they’ve done.

So if we’re not forgiving the sin, then what are we forgiving?

Consider that we’re forgiving the offense. The offense against our rights. Against our values. Against our family. Against whatever it is that we hold dear.

By forgiving the offender, I’m saying my rights are less important than freedom from bitterness and resentment. I’m saying my job is not to forgive the actual sin, but the offense against me. The offense that has trespassed my rights.

Could it be that the act of forgiveness is the ultimate act of admitting that I’m not God? That in giving up my right to be angry and resentful, I’m submitting to the authority God has to forgive sins?

Could it be that when we forgive others, we’re expressing our awareness that we’re in desperate need of the same forgiveness? Because, let’s face it, it’s just about impossible to go through life without giving offense, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Sooner or later, we’ll need others to forgive our offenses against them.

Even so, forgiveness is not something we can even begin to do in our own strength. We need the prompting of the Holy Spirit to motivate us to surrender our rights (Galatians 2:20). And we need the power of the Holy Spirit to humble ourselves to actually forgive (John 14:15-17). Finally, we need the Holy Spirit’s comfort to know that God is a just judge (Genesis 18:25), and we can trust that He will make all things right in the end.

There’s a freedom in forgiving others. Freedom in knowing God is God and we are not. Most of all, freedom in offering what we, ourselves, need.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 NIV

© 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: Have you ever struggled to forgive?

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Listening for His Song

by Cindi McMenamin

Alice remembers the day she felt desperately alone. But only for a while. She lay on the cold exam table as she was moved into the tube-like chamber. She was undergoing an MRI of her brain to determine why she was experiencing headaches.

“Other people told me about the experience, but nothing really prepares you for it,” Alice told me a few days after the procedure.  At first she kept her eyes open when the hood enclosed her. But then she realized she needed to close her eyes and think about something else.

All sorts of sounds were occurring. A crashing sound, some pinging. As she closed her eyes and tried to relax she put the sounds together and made a song. “I pictured the sounds as notes to a song, rising up and going down,” Alice said. “I created in my mind a little symphony with the sounds, trying to picture the notes as they happened.”

Alice was creating a symphony of praise in the middle of uncertainty. Oh, how that helps when we’re anxious or fearful.

From the time my daughter could talk, I taught her to sing about whatever she was experiencing. If she was hungry, we’d sing about it. If she was excited or if she was bored at having to wait for something, we would come up with a song. Often it was the same tune and we just created new words. This kept her focused not on her situation, but on the song. It was a way of distracting her from worry or uncertainty and causing her to keep a song – and some joy – in her heart.

That must be what God is doing in our lives when He gives us songs. He’s distracting us from our distress.  Like a loving Heavenly Father, God turns our hearts away from worry by tuning us into a song.

In Psalm 40, David sang of waiting in a pit for God’s deliverance. When God pulled him out of the sinking mud and set him on solid ground, David says that God put a new song in his mouth. God not only gives us songs of praise after our victories but songs of surrender while we’re still in the pit!

Are you in a place of uncertainty today? Whether you’re on an exam table, in a hospital waiting room, alone in an unfamiliar place, or waiting in what feels like a pit, He can fill you with His songs. Let Him help you pull together the sounds and situations of your life into a symphony of praise to Him.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God…” (Psalm 40:3a).

Lord, when I feel anxious, afraid, lonely, or depressed, fill my heart with a song of praise to You.

About the authorView More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindi: 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 When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold), God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart, Drama Free and When God Sees Your Tears. For more on her books and ministry, or to learn more about her coaching services for writers, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Join the conversation: What songs bring you the most comfort in uncertainty?

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How to Rest from Worry

by Debbie W. Wilson

I can worry with my eyes closed. In fact, I’ve done some of my best fretting in my sleep. Even when I’m alert, worry drones on beneath the surface looking for an opening to pop through.

My worries appear reasonable. Physical facts support them. But—and this is a big “but”—they leave out the character and nature of God.

When I experienced some health issues that included fatigue and brain fog, assorted fears taunted me. The realization that aging could make me frail and vulnerable frightened me. I realized that when I feel strong I know that with God I can handle life. But when my ump to push though evaporates, my confidence fizzles.

I reexamined my premise: with God can handle anything. I had to ask myself if I believed God could cover everything when I couldn’t help. Was my confidence in Him or in me? Physical, mental, emotional, and financial proficiency brings the illusion of security. Lack of those brings a terrible awareness of vulnerability.

Nature supported my perception. Strong animals dine on the weak and wounded. Ruthless people exploit the poor and aged.

But God gently, but strongly, interrupted my fretting. The Bible Gateway app I’d set on continuous play got stuck on Deuteronomy 33. Even after I manually moved it forward, every time I opened it to continue where I’d left off, it went back to this particular chapter. Since I tend to listen to it when I’m doing other things, I couldn’t always readjust it. I decided God had something He wanted me to hear.

Sure enough, verse 12 continued to stand out. “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders” (NIV).

One morning, while listening to praise music, that verse opened up for me. “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him.” God offered security. Would I let myself rest in Him?

That morning I decided to “rest secure in Him.” I pictured my Shepherd lifting me onto His shoulders, as a shepherd would a lamb, and carrying not only me but also all the cares I’d picked up. Relief washed over me.

What cares has the world laid on your shoulders? Will you let yourself rest secure in Him? Jesus offers rest to us. We choose whether or not we’ll receive it.

 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 25:28 NIV

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Join the conversation: What are the things in your life that are making you yearn for rest?

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Mark My Words

by Deb DeArmond

I enjoy listening to podcasts on a variety of topics while traveling. There’s a lot to choose from: shows for writers, travelogues, cooking, and business. The speakers I look forward to most, however, are those that start the day with me: podcasts by pastors and teachers that help grow God’s Word in my heart. Those that take me deep and make me think, “Hmm. I’d never seen that before in that Scripture.” Or, “Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever read that passage before.” After 45 years as a Christ-follower, it still happens. Often.

Recently, a podcast entitled, “A War of Words” by Pastor Bill Johnson recently caught my eye. And by the end of the message, my heart had been caught up as well. The idea that jumped out at me most as I listened was simple: “When God speaks, He creates.”

As a Christian writer and speaker, that’s my goal. I always pray that the Lord empowers my words to create pathways, understanding, growth, and peace for those who read or hear my words. I want to encourage them to walk more closely with Jesus. So I ask for the exact right words for what He’s led me to teach.

I read it aloud to myself and ask others to read it as well. I inquire: “Does it reach the heart? Is it encouraging? Is it too direct? Might it offend, or does it inspire rather than discourage?” I use the same process as I write books and articles. I am always focused on using words that will have the greatest impact for my audience.

There are a multitude of scriptures on the topic.

  • Proverbs 21:23 (ESV): “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
  • Psalm 141:3 (ESV): “Set a guard, Oh Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
  • James 3:8b-10 (ESV) “[The tongue] is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God’ from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

Have you been on social media lately? Me too. Now there’s a word choice challenge!

As I look back on my interactions online, I might occasionally have strayed from purposeful word selection (!!). The war of words these days can ignite carelessness in us on topics close to our heart, or when we feel under attack for our beliefs and choices. Passion can push us in the wrong direction if we are not cautious and focused on using our words to create, not criticize or crush our accusers.

Jesus, as He stood accused, offered no words in His defense. “When He was insulted, He did not insult in return,” 1 Peter 2:23a (CSB).

Please understand, I don’t recall ever attacking someone’s parentage or intelligence. No name calling or insults. But words are my business. And I can be tempted to use them in a manner that will not create an opportunity for growth in those who receive them.

Thinking of God’s propensity to create made me say, “Hmmm, I can do better. I need to do better, because I represent Him.”

And mark my words, I will. What about you? Anyone want to join me?

DeArmond-29 copyAbout the authorDeb 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: How do you keep from being careless or worse with your words?

 

Coffee? Or Cough-ee?

by Rhonda Rhea

I microwaved my second cup of coffee this morning and couldn’t figure out why in the world it tasted like cough medicine. Granted, I’m never sure how I’m supposed to be awake enough to get my own coffee when I’ve yet to have my coffee.

Three or four sips in, I still didn’t get why it tasted so weird. Somewhere around that fifth sip, I woke up enough to remember it wasn’t my second cup of coffee. It was my first. And then another realization slowly started to sink in:  I haven’t made the coffee yet this morning.

I stared at that cup of coffee for a few minutes thinking about how I’ve been gone for a few mornings and Oh my word. When did I make this coffee?

Let’s be clear. There are times when adding extra creamer isn’t going to cut it. Not even a lot of creamer. Not even if it’s caramel macchiato creamer. Cough-medicine-au-lait is never going to be anybody’s specialty drink of the day. And frankly, I’m pretty sure those first four sips were a little chewy. No wait. I think I’ll stay in denial about that for a while longer.

It’s a good reminder, though, that sin can be something like that. We don’t make life taste better by trying to flavor sin with something we think might mask its icky-ness. We don’t fix anything by excusing or rationalizing. We can’t avoid dealing with its objectionableness by distracting ourselves with something else or otherwise trying to forget about it, either. What we have to do every time is just plain get rid of it. Pour it out. Get a clean cup. Start over. We confess sin, turn away from it, and go a different direction.

Facing up to our sin is anything but tasty. It’s unpleasant. Humiliating, even. But necessary. At every point we come face to face with our sin, we get a closer look at our own depravity and our surprising penchant for evil. It’s easy to deceive ourselves about our bent to sin, but this is no place for denial. When we do get a taste of our sin’s offensiveness, the revelation that we could actually be so utterly wicked can be outright devastating. It sends us into a place of mourning.

But it’s at that place of mourning that Jesus comes alongside us. When we become painfully aware of our inability to lift the tiniest finger to clean up the mess, and at the point we realize anew our complete dependence on Him to do it, He reminds us of His cross. His payment for every sin was complete. Jesus suffered unspeakable agony on that cross for sin—agony that should’ve been ours.

Remembering the inexpressibly high price of sin also reminds us to keep a short account of it. First John 1:9 reminds us that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (HCSB). Not a masking. Not a distraction. Not a denial. No, a complete cleansing. A new cup, as it were. That’s a better something to chew on every morning.

In other things to remember, making sure I’ve put on a new pot of coffee is high up there on my list for tomorrow. I’m happy to report that at least this morning’s coffee didn’t make me sick. As a matter of fact, I haven’t coughed once all day.

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23 NASB

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is still wondering if coffee can actually ferment. She 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: What helps you to keep your relationship with God fresh?

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Fly, Baby, Fly!

by Sheri Schofield

It was springtime here in the wilds of Montana, a busy time for all the animals and birds that were raising their young. One morning I looked out over our rugged landscape to see a family of ravens flying toward the towering rocks by our house. The parents were teaching their young to fly that day. As they touched down, one of the young ravens slipped and struggled to recover. It managed to get a firm hold, but I could tell it was scared. One by one the other young birds flew short distances from the rocks and returned. But the one that had slipped refused to fly.

The parents circled the rock around their scared baby croaking, “Fly, Baby, fly!” But Baby croaked back, “Are you kidding? I’m not budging from this rock!”

This went on for a couple hours. The other fledglings were doing very well. But not Baby. Finally, the raven family headed back up the canyon. Baby squawked, “Don’t leave me!” But its family kept flying. Finally, Baby flapped his wings and followed his family back to their nest.

I thought about how many times I feel just like that baby raven! I experience a difficult situation, and I withdraw. My computer tech tries to teach me something, and I can’t figure it out, so I choose to let it go rather than continue the struggle. I run to my comfort zone, my regular household responsibilities. I tell myself, “I’m too old for this! What am I thinking! I live out in the mountains, far from civilization. My children are grown and don’t use this technology, so I can’t call them and ask for help. This is too much for me!”

But God didn’t create me to stay in my comfort zone. He wants me to be brave. He wants me to fly!

In Psalm 61:2 (NIV), David wrote, “From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Like the raven, I feel secure on my Rock. My God is my safest place of all. But unlike the rock next to our house, my Rock moves with me! If I venture to fly into the unknown, my Rock, God’s love, flies beneath me, ready to uphold me if I grow weary!

David also wrote, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” Psalm 139:9 (NIV)

I can hold onto that! I can boldly say, “If I attempt to rise above this computer mystery, if I explore these new ideas and try to apply them, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast!”

So, Lord, let me be brave! Let me respond to your call to “Fly, Baby, fly!”

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (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, was launched June 1. It is designed to help parents lead their children into a saving relationship with Jesus.

Join the conversation: What makes you cling to the Rock?

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