When Crickets Chirp & God Still Shows Up

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

For everything you can name, I’m pretty sure there’s an official phobia listed for it. If you’re afraid of phobias, would you be considered a phob-a-phobe? I’m not sure how true it is, but it’s noted in several places that there are surveys showing the fear of public speaking (glossophobia) and the fear of dying (necrophobia) at the top of people’s lists of most dreaded fears. In that order even.

As a public speaker—and one who is often billed as a humorist—I think tops on my list would be “necro-glosso-phobia.” Fear of death while speaking. Okay yes, I made that one up. But I’ve experienced it on a figurative level once or twice. Frightening.

One of those events particularly sticks in my mind. I was delivering what I considered some of my most rip-roaring material when…it happened:  nothing. A whole big lot of nothing. Hardly a snicker. I think I heard crickets chirping. Kind of a slow death, speaker-wise. The Bible says that laughter is like medicine. I’m telling you, this had to be the control group. Placebos for everyone!

After I spoke, a lady came up to me with a completely lifeless face. Truly lifeless. Without an ounce of expression, she monotoned, “I have never laughed so hard in all my life.” She didn’t crack a smile even then. It was so hilariously strange.

Here’s hoping we always look “alive” to the world. Know what “alive” looks like? It looks like love. 1 John 3:14 (NIV) says, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.”

We have passed from death into life—heavy on the life! We need to pass it on. Others can’t see our redemption unless we live it out. And love it out.

It’s not a new message, but it’s one we need to hear often. We read in the same passage, “This is the message you heard from the beginning:  We should love one another,” (1 John 3:11 NIV). So how do we know exactly what that kind of love looks like? The same chapter gives us that, too:  “This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (verse 16).

Real love sacrifices. The Jesus kind of love is a love that surrenders in humility. It’s a love that endures beyond the very worst offenses. When Jesus was asked which commandment in the law was greatest, He answered, “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). A right-to-the-heart-and-soul kind of love. Being a follower of Christ means we love Him with everything we’ve got, and we love others in His name with the same enthusiasm. It’s our focus. Because it’s God’s focus.

Here’s hoping that if I’m asked to lay aside my rights, my fears, my possessions, my pride, even my very life for another, I’ll give the right response. No silence. No crickets chirping. Just love. Giving sacrificial love to a heartsick world that doesn’t know the love and joy of Jesus is the best medicine we can offer. And that, my friends, is no placebo.

… walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.  Ephesians 5:2 NASB

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When Crickets Chirp & God Still Shows Up – @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: In what ways have you been able to love like Jesus loves?

God’s Training Ground

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

Two of my boys played Lacrosse in high school. I hated the days of training preceding the actual games. Standing in the parking lot watching them push their bodies to the limit over and over, seeing them limp to our car after practice, dirty and exhausted, was trying to this mother’s soul. My instinct was to nurture and comfort. But the coaches knew the harsh regiment was necessary to both the success and safety of the team.

Coach Tom Landry once remarked, “The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.”

Just as in athletics, God’s spiritual training can be tough. It frequently involves hardship and rouses us out of our comfort zone. Through the process we come to understand the reality how truly dependent we are on Him.

David knew the pain of God’s process. During his teen years, God led Samuel to anoint David to be the next king. But it would be quite some time before that promise would be fulfilled. At first, things looked promising. David faced Goliath and brought him down with a single slingshot blow as the entire army of Israel looked on. It would be the first of many other military successes. It wasn’t long before David was a household word. Women would dance in the streets at the army’s arrival, singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten-thousands.” It must have seemed to David that his installation as monarch was right around the corner.

Not so. Rather than becoming king, David found himself running for his life. Saul, feeling threatened by David, spent the next decade or so chasing David around the countryside. He was out to destroy him for good.

In the long wait, David hung on to God’s promise. Even when opportunities came to kill Saul, David resisted. It would be many years of sleeping in caves and living off the land before God did what He said He would.

Why? God had a purpose for those trying years. A group of 400 malcontents, frustrated with the political situation, rallied around David. He trained them into an impressive military corps. David also learned diplomacy skills while dealing with foreign leaders. Most importantly, as God proved His faithfulness time after time, David moved into a deeper relationship and level of trust in Him.

Should the Lord have begun David’s reign while in his youth, as he shepherded sheep for his father, no doubt his leadership would have been far less impressive. So God used David’s time in the desert as a kingship boot camp, providing the experiences and training to someday be a great king.

Those years in waiting were not a comfortable existence for David. But they were necessary. And God didn’t waste a single moment.

Has God called you to something (as He did David)? Maybe a major change or a new ministry? But then when you set out to do it, you found yourself banging your head against a wall? And you wondered: did I hear Him incorrectly?

There have been several times in my life that I have felt His leading. He impresses desires on my heart. But a calling is not necessarily a qualifying. The passion and vision for His plan is given in advance to keep us persevering through the training period.

Some years ago, a Maryland pastor wrote the following in the agonizing days preceding his young wife’s death: “We want things now. Father, microwave us into being like Jesus. But discipleship doesn’t happen overnight. Often God forges His children into His image through the long and dark nights of the soul. We must trust His plan and also His timing! When the time is right, He will bring us out of our trial and we will look more like Him when He does.”

Sanctification, God’s training ground, is a process: often a long and trying process. We yearn for it to end quickly and are unable to see past our immediate, painful circumstances to the wisdom of God.

Yet there is glory ahead. God has a plan and a purpose for the pain. Even when we can’t see the light from inside the tunnel, we can trust in His plan, as He relentlessly moves us toward becoming like Jesus Christ.

He knows the way that I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.  Job 23:10 NASB

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God’s training ground is where we find purpose – @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: Are you in God’s training ground?

How Does Your Garden Grow?

by Kim Williams

 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:4-5  NKJV

I have learned something about myself.  One might assume that since I am hovering somewhere between fifty and sixty, there wouldn’t be much left to learn. Au contraire.

I have always loved flowers, cardinals, butterflies, and hummingbirds. For a long time, each spring, I would buy hanging baskets to decorate my porch, deck, and pool area. It was a big step one season when I made the move from silk flowers to the real thing.  I watered, under watered, and overwatered. Not ideal plant care, I will admit.  As for the rest my garden favorites–my hummingbird feeder never drew hummingbirds, my bird feeder drew squirrels, and my butterfly population was so low, we had only rare sightings.  It was all a little disappointing.

This year I made a change. My daughter-in-law, who has a green thumb, is teaching me how to care for plants that attract butterflies—care, as in actually work at it, that is. Producing beautiful flowers and plants takes intentional effort. Here is the lesson I’ve learned as I’ve worked: I may like to look at beautiful flower gardens, but the upkeep part doesn’t come naturally to me at all. In other words, the natural me does not produce the type of blooms I’d so like to see.

Paul tells believers in the book of Galatians what type of bloom (fruit) the Holy Spirit in us will produce: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. However, he also reminds us in Romans 7:15-20 that making the choice to yield to Him can be a struggle.  “For the good that I want I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want!” (Romans 7:19 NASB). Complete obedience to the Father is a challenge when our flesh is crying out for the opposite.

God the Creator has provided believers with the gardening tools to allow the kind of blooms that will attract others to Him, giving off the aroma of Christ. His Spirit in us will dig and prune to help us throw off the bad and choose the good.  His Word nourishes and fertilizes us, empowering us to grow in our relationship with Christ. Time in prayer waters and refreshes us, and allows us to hear His gardening tips for our lives.

If you are like me, life gets busy being a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, homemaker, leader, and professional. It’s all too easy to neglect the gardening our souls desperately need. Without that cultivating and feeding, we can feel more like a silk plant. It may be pretty, but is lifeless—a mere imitation of what our Creator intended us to be.

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How does your garden grow—inside and out – Kim Williams on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

kim williamsAbout the author: A former teacher, Kim Williams has served twenty-plus years as a preschool minister at First Baptist Woodstock. She travels and trains on teaching techniques, child development, spiritual growth, and leadership. Kim has written two Christian fiction novels: Among the Crepe Myrtles and When the Butterflies Dance, both based on letters discovered in family heirlooms.

Join the conversation: How does your “garden” grow? Are you abiding in the Vine?

 

De-clogging Our Minds

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I had a little wrestling match with my vacuum cleaner recently. It was doing that wimpy-clean thing—you know, where you have to get down on your hands and knees and hand-feed it every little fuzz ball? If I’m going to do that, I might as well not have a vacuum cleaner. I could just pick up every little piece of fuzz and throw it in the trash myself—cut out the middle man.

A vacuum that’s lost all its “suck-ocity” is not worth much. So I got down in the floor, got the thing in a headlock and looked inside to find the problem. Oh, I found a problem alright. Several.

The first was a little piece of sock. Then there was that string. And while I call it a string, I think it might better be described as a length of yarn that could’ve been an entire sweater in another life. There was a hunk of the bathroom rug the size of a Chihuahua—and I hadn’t even missed it. I was also surprised to find what I thought was a loofa. But then I realized it was just a whole bunch of those little plastic fishing-line-like connectors that attach price tags to things. Who knew they could find each other inside the dark recesses of the vacuum cleaner and form their own little solar system? No wonder the machine didn’t want to work! How did all that stuff even get in there?

At least it gave me a little reminder. When we let our minds suck up the wrong things, we can’t expect them to work the way they’re supposed to. There’s a lot less wrestling with our minds when we’re emptying out the clogs and filling our minds with the kind of thoughts that truly feed our spirits and grow our faith.

Negative, evil thoughts will find each other in the dark recesses of our minds. And they multiply. The next thing you know, you find yourself with a solar-system-sized problem in your thought-life.

There’s so much garbage available to us. On the Internet, TV, movies, magazines—it’s accessible at every turn of the head.  If we let our minds suck up trashy junk, we shouldn’t be surprised when we have a hard time staying alert to walking out our faith-life well.

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8-9 what we’re supposed to continually feed our minds: “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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (NIV).

There’s a lot less wrestling with our minds when we remember to fill them with the right things. Less wrestling, more peace. As a matter of fact, that passage doesn’t merely say that we’ll experience great peace, it tells us that the God of peace Himself will be “with” us. It’s vital to our faith-life that we remember that His presence makes all the difference.

And personally, I’m also going to try to remember to clean out my vacuum a little more often. Especially since this last time I was unclogging it, even though we’ve never had one, I’m pretty sure I also found a gerbil.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 NASB

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De-clogging our minds – thoughts from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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: How do you keep your mind de-clogged?

 

What Does It Mean To Love God With All My Heart?

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

At the moment Bill caught his first glimpse of my friend Beth, he was a goner. On their second date, the young Air Force officer made an early declaration: he loved her. But rather than the response for which he hoped, Beth merely rolled her eyes. “You don’t even know my middle name,” she told him. “You can’t love someone you don’t know.”

Jesus identified the greatest commandment as “You shall love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:27) All your heart? How’s that one coming along in your life?

Western thought identifies the heart as the seat of our emotions. So the idea of loving God with all my heart has always challenged me: how am I to be consistent in feeling that strength of emotion, even one so appropriate as loving God? At the risk of sounding judgmental (which I do not intend) I am always uncomfortable when I am in a worship service where people seem to be intent on working themselves into a frenzy in an effort to love God. It seems so…contrived. More for the lover than the One being loved. At least it would be for me.

But recently I read something that helps me make sense of this command. In Hebrew thought, the heart (levav) was considered the seat of the intellect. Very often, the word heart meant “mind and thoughts.” Solomon is said to have “largeness of heart” (literal translation) in 1 Kings 4, which translators have interpreted as “breadth of understanding.” To the Hebrew, heart and thoughts were intrinsically entwined.

We in the west often separate the emotions and the intellect. I’ve even heard people caution that we don’t make the Bible our “idol.” Intellectual study is given a back seat in deference to worship and prayer, things which better help us “experience” God. But in Jesus’ time, study was considered the highest form of worship.

Studying the Scriptures is the way we get to know God. He’s revealed what we need to know in its pages. And the better we know him, the more our thoughts are occupied by him. Knowing God is the key to loving God. Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. As we “feed” our minds with thoughts/information about God, we provide fodder for God’s transformative work within us.

I’m happy to report, Bill did in the end get the girl. They’ve been happily married for over three decades and raised a beautiful family. But Bill, that passionate young guy who so quickly declared his love, would tell you now that the more he got to know pretty little Beth, the deeper his love did grow. What he feels for her now doesn’t hold a candle to what he felt back in the 80’s. The more he knows, the better and more completely he loves.

To know God is to love him. With all your heart.

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What does it mean to love God with all my heart? @JulieZineColema on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.   Ephesians 3:17-19 NASB

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 helps you to grow in your love for God?

The Ladder to Grace

by Sheri Schofield

The photographer I hired to do our daughter’s wedding was a long-time acquaintance. I felt it was time to mention Jesus, so I shared an event with him and told how God had helped us. Before I could go any further, the man said, “Sheri, I don’t believe there is a God. But if there is, he will be happy to get me when I die, because I’m such a good person!”

I looked at him thoughtfully. He was only saying what most unbelievers think. Many say that they have lived good lives. Oh, they’ve blown it a few times, but overall, they’re pretty good people.

“Friend,” I said with a little smile, “you’re like someone who has built a beautiful house. It is gorgeous in every way. When you are finished, you look around in satisfaction. You even have a high wall around the property for privacy. You love that house! But what you don’t realize is that the land on which you have built is a toxic waste dump.”

The man looked at me in shock. I doubt anyone had ever spoken like that to him before. That isn’t done in his world!

“You can stay in your house if you wish, but you will perish if you do. The only way out is a ladder standing against the wall. That ladder is Jesus. But you will have to leave everything behind in order to escape, for everything in your house is contaminated.”

“Each one of us is born in a toxic waste dump called sin. We are contaminated from birth. We build our lives, build our homes and careers, and many never discover that they are dying in sin until they are dead. It’s too late to get out of the dump then.

“God is completely holy. Heaven is uncontaminated. God does not allow anyone or anything into his heaven that is poisoned by sin. The only way we can enter heaven is to ask God to forgive our sins and accept Jesus as the One who saves us from sin. We leave all our self-righteous, contaminated self behind when we come to Jesus. The Holy Spirit washes us clean from sin and sets his seal on our hearts, kind of like a brand. That brand stays with us for eternity and declares to God that we belong to his Son, Jesus.”

All the good works that we did before Christ count as nothing in God’s eyes. Isaiah 64:6 (NLT) tells us, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” We cannot earn heaven by good deeds. However, good deeds flow out of us after we give our lives to Christ. We do them not to gain God’s favor, but to show our love for him. Those good deeds are the ones that count.

My friend has not yet come to know Jesus as his Savior. But I know that every time we meet, he is reminded that he is building on a toxic waste dump. Surprisingly, he is intrigued by what I said to him, and he remains my friend. Every time we meet, I pray that he will climb that ladder out of the trap in which he lives.

The ladder is there for everyone who is caught in the toxic waste dump of sin.

“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:4,5 (NLT)

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The Ladder to Grace – thoughts and encouragement from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield, an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years, has just released her new book, The Prince And The Plan, to help parents lead their children into a saving knowledge of Jesus. Sheri was named Writer of the Year for 2018 at Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Join the conversation: When did you realize that you needed Jesus? What drove you to trust in Him?

Car Horns, Icy Glares and Grace

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

One Tuesday morning years ago, I had a “traffic incident” on my way to lead ladies’ Bible study.  I started the drive frustrated with myself because I left the house late. Then, two stoplights from my destination, the driver of the only car in front of me sat through the green light without moving. While busily chatting with her passenger, she missed the opportunity to turn left. I “patiently” waited behind her for the next green light.

When the light changed to green again, she continued to chat, but failed to drive. So I hit my horn. And no, not a friendly, quick toot. It was a long, irritated blast. She slowly began to move and we both barely made it through the intersection before the light changed again.

As soon as I had the chance, I darted around her, tossing back my best icy glare as I sped by. I approached the last light and got in the right lane to make my turn. I glanced in the rearview mirror. “Distracted Driver” was also in the turn lane. One block from church, a horrible possibility hit me. What if Distracted Driver was also headed to my church?

A community group also met in our church building on Tuesday mornings. She would see me go in and know I was one of those “Christian” women.  I slowed to make the turn into the church parking lot. Another furtive glance in the rearview confirmed my fear. Distract Driver was turning too. I quickly scooted into the one remaining parking spot close to the doors and she made her way further down the lot. I ducked inside the building and into my classroom before she had time to get her seat-belt unfastened.

The Holy Spirit swiftly convicted me. Instead of extending grace, I acted with impatience and anger. My behavior negatively impacted the name of Jesus. Instead of sharing the grace of Christ that day, I was just another example of a graceless Christian.

God woos people to Himself with grace. Yet far too often our witness is anything but gracious. Sometimes our ungracious behavior reflects poorly on Jesus. Sometimes, our verbal witness lacks grace. And still other times our spiritual conversations simply fail to connect with the hearer.

Christians have experienced God’s grace in abundance yet sometimes we fail to share the Gospel of grace in a gracious way. God’s Word encourages us to be graceful witnesses, to behave and speak in ways that connect with others and honor Jesus.

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6, NIV

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Car Horns, Icy Glares and Grace – @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardThis post is adapted from Kathy Howard’s Bible study Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing. Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: What specific changes can you make in your behavior or speech to be a more gracious witness?

 

 

Stop and Go: The Rhythm of Walking with God

by Peggy Cunningham @Inca_Writer

“… Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10 NIV

In the distance, birds chirped their morning concert. Gazing at the clock, I debated––crawl out of my cozy, warm bed or watch the sunrise through the lacy curtains. Too late to pull the covers over my head and drift back to sleep. My brain was already racing with the daily tasks at hand. And I knew rising early usually ushers me into a quiet time with the Lord––at least I hoped.

I’m not a morning person. I prefer to be quiet in the morning except for talking to the Lord. You won’t find me exercising, enjoying a morning conversation on the phone, or turning on the TV. Unless the calendar has me going out the door for an appointment, meeting, or class, I’ll relish the time at home. Now don’t misunderstand, you won’t find me on the couch. I’ll be chomping at the bit to get things done. Cleaning and laundry will most likely steal my attention from the computer that beckons me to catch up on correspondence and my writing schedule.

My friends ask how I juggle ministry, writing, and life––as a senior. A mystery to me also, but I do have help––supernatural help. I tap into that supply when I pick up my Bible and head to a cozy spot in the corner of my house. But, why don’t I rush more often to that special place?

The word “still” isn’t naturally a part of my agenda. Do you go on a guilt trip when you see a photo or article beckoning you to Be Still? I do.

In my busyness, it’s very hard for me to make the time to be still. But I need to make time to stop and focus on the One who stopped His life: leaving heaven to come to earth to die for us. As He stopped and chose us, we can stop and choose Him.

Then we are still. Then our soul finds rest. “My soul finds rest in God alone” (Psalm 62:1 NIV).

For many of us, slowing down is work. It’s natural for us to run, move, go, but it’s unnatural for us to slow down, stop, breathe. However, it’s possible to find that cozy nook anywhere–anytime and for any amount of time if we focus on God and nothing else.

There’s nothing wrong with being busy, being active, being on the go––except, if we forget to keep our passion for Him fueled, it will be all too easy to burn out and collapse.

Where I grew up, we had Stop and Go stores. We stopped, got what food we needed, filled up our tank with gas, then continued on our way.

Stop. It seems simple, but yet it’s the hardest thing to do.

We can practice these steps: Stop. Look. Listen. Breathe. Go. Stop for a few minutes or an hour, look into His face, listen to His voice, breathe in His majesty, and then go, knowing He is God.

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Stop & Go: The Rhythm of Walking with God – @inca_writer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Peggy CunninghamAbout the author: Peggy Cunningham and her husband have been missionaries in Bolivia, South America, since 1981. In 1999, they founded Rumi Rancho Ministries. Rumi Rancho is their ministry base and home outside the city of Cochabamba where they work with the Quechua people and have a children’s ministry. Peggy is also an author. Her children’s books and devotionals are available on Amazon.com, including her latest book Shape Your Soul, 31 Exercises of Faith that Move Mountains, a women’s devotional.

Join the conversation: How do you spend time with the Lord?

 

 

Romancing the Empty Nest

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Everyone said I’d hate this phase. That I’d grow listless, depressed. Perhaps even lose my sense of identity.

That, after eighteen years of parenting, when our daughter moved out, my world would shift so dramatically, I’d flounder and fidget and mope. And maybe buy an obscene number of cats. Or chocolate.

The latter part might be true, but I no longer have to hide in the pantry to enjoy it. In fact, I can have ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, if I choose. We can eat reclined on the couch, or go out, or do whatever else dating folks do, because in a way, it feels as if that’s what we’ve become—the dating couple. Or maybe the newlyweds, only better, because we have twenty plus years of pushing through the hard.

That kind of love doesn’t come easy, and it doesn’t come over night, but once it comes, man is it sweet. And I’ve determined to enjoy every silly, giggly, slightly-cheesy drop in this new life stage.

A couple months ago, my husband and I cleared our schedule, left all the boring aspects of our marriage, like laundry and cooking, behind for a weekend, and took off for the windy city. We chose not to rent a car and would instead travel wherever we wanted to go, whenever we wanted to get there, by foot.

It’d be so romantic. We’d stroll hand in hand through the art museum, watch the Cubbies land a win from our rooftop seats across the street, and we’d end our weekend with the best, gluten free dessert imaginable!

It rained. And not just a little. I’m talking near-Noah caliber. The Cubs game was canceled, and that rooftop experience we’d paid so much money for was filled with loud, beer-sloshing drunks.

We didn’t get to do anything we planned. Except eat. We did a lot of that. And I suppose, sitting in a busy coffee shop watching the sky quite literally “rain on our parade,” I could’ve been upset. Could’ve made us both miserable in fact.

Instead, we chose to enjoy our time together, to focus on every blessing, and celebrate all the ways God has transformed and strengthened our marriage over the years. We chose, as best as we could, to express the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends” (ESV).

Love is patient, longsuffering. It bears all things, including disappointments, a change of plans, and the occasional downpour. It’s not irritable. Instead, it rejoices and celebrates everything good and pure.

But most importantly, love never ends.

I learned something early on in our marriage, something that’s carried me through countless moves, disrupted plans, and canceled events—life, and romance, are what I make them. As fun as the Cubbies and museum would’ve been, those things have nothing on my man. And when it was all said and done, I got to spend two full days and nights with my hero, God’s gift to me.

Perhaps this applies to empty nesting as well. Life is always changing, and our roles will constantly shift, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. To the contrary—our next role or mishap or season could be the most romantic yet!

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Romancing the #emptynest – #encouragement from author @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet) 

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the authorJennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE to stay up to date with her future appearances, projects, and releases. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Join the conversation: What blessings have you received in your stage of a relationship?