Live, Love, Laugh, Snort

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I convince myself I’m pretty mature. And then I see somebody run into a door while texting and it all suddenly becomes very clear. Because, let me tell you, I can laugh for a good twenty minutes. Mercilessly. Not just a little, under-the-breath chortle either. No, I’m talking about laughing so hard that no real sound comes out—just those weird, wheezy throat-squeaks. Then tears. Then snorting. That kind of laughter.

Videos of people stumbling? Don’t even get me started because I can laugh until I nearly pull something. Like a muscle or a spleen or whatever. Which, ironically, might mean that I fare worse than the people I’m watching stumble.

So now that I’ve owned up to my immature laughter, I might as well go ahead and confess that I also laugh at my own jokes. Uproariously. If I say something I think is funny and you don’t laugh, just be ready for me to repeat it with a rising level of volume and obnoxiousness. I have a lot of stamina. You will laugh.

We’re told that “a joyful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22, HCSB) and, not that we needed it to, but science backs it up. I’ve heard that joyful-hearted laughter can boost immunities, decrease pain, reduce heart disease and help with weight and sleeping issues. Wow, why aren’t we taking more of this medicine?

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He kicked off His teaching with the Beatitudes, His beautiful list of “blesseds.” The word translated “blessed” here is from the Greek, makarios, and it means contented, blissful…happy. But then we look at those Beatitudes and see that “poor in spirit” and “mournful” top the list. It’s a list that takes us all the way to “persecuted.” I know it’s already clear that I’m not the best at deciding what should make us smile, but at first glance, this list doesn’t seem any too joy-inducing to me.

In His day, these words of Jesus were groundbreaking. He changed the way people thought about joy. And though it’s been studied from every direction since, the concept is still revolutionary. Outside of Christ, people generally understand happiness to be all wrapped up in their ability to do whatever they want, whenever they want. They think it’s mostly about having things and money and power. But Jesus taught from that mount—and by His life—that we’re called to think differently.

Makarios refers to a happiness that doesn’t depend on circumstances. The first two Beatitudes, “blessed are the poor in spirit” and “blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:3-4, ESV), usher us into this new way of thinking. It’s the gospel way of thinking. Real happiness doesn’t happen until we come to grips with the fact that our soul is utterly impoverished apart from Christ and until we deeply mourn over our sin. Embracing the gospel causes us to look at every single one of those Beatitudes in an entirely new light.

Paul said in Philippians 2:5, “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus” (HCSB). I’m praying that I really will mature there—no stumbling. That I will think more like Jesus and look more like Jesus and be more like Jesus. I’m praying it will spill over into how I share His gospel and love on His people. And that He will be my joy. And that it will morph into all kinds of laughter. Even the wheezy-snorty kind.

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,  that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever. Psalm 30:11-12 NIV

TWEETABLE
Live, love, laugh, snort—finding true joy – @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: What was your most recent laugh?

Choosing Endurance with Joy

by Cheri Swalwell @CheriSwalwell

“But we’re not quitters who lose out. Oh, no! We’ll stay with it and survive, trusting all the way.” Hebrews 10:39 (MSG)

When I used to think about the word endure, I have to admit, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I would invariably think of these horrible things I had to do because they were good for me, but for which I had absolutely no desire: choking down cooked spinach because it’s healthy, exercising for 30 minutes a day, cleaning the house, ____ (you fill in the blank!)

However, a September women’s conference at my church changed my perspective on enduring. I learned that when God directs me to do something, even when (or maybe especially when) I know that the assignment is going to be anything but easy, if I choose to remain faithful and obedient, God will bless that choice. That’s endurance.

Enduring doesn’t have to be painful. It doesn’t have to be torture. It can be choosing every day to ask God to help me in the difficult moments, so that I can fulfill the assignment He has given me to do, for however long He chooses to keep me there.

I’m reminded of Noah—he endured building an ark year after year— even when the world had never seen rain like that before. He completed the assignment God gave him, and his family was saved from death. Do you think he enjoyed coming home from his day job only to put in hours into his ark assignment? With the dimensions that were given in Genesis 6, this was one assignment that couldn’t be knocked out in a weekend!

And then there was Moses. Exodus 2-4 describes his life as a shepherd in the desert with his father-in-law and wife for forty years, before his encounter with God at the burning bush. His assignment: to lead a bunch of complaining, grumbling people through the desert for another forty years. I’m thinking the first forty years were less painful and definitely less effort for him than the latter forty. Yet because he chose to obey, he was used to lead God’s chosen people out of Egypt into freedom.

Six years ago, I surrendered my life to God to use however He chose. Three years ago, I began praying specifically for an answer to a prayer that still has not come to fruition. This past September I surrendered my dreams to God (fully this time with no hidden agenda) and asked Him to replace my desires with His.

While on the outside it may look like I’m still “enduring,” my perspective about the journey has changed. I am choosing joy. I am choosing to be faithful. I am choosing to look for and see God in the little and the big. I am choosing to endure because I know, in His time, if I continue to obey and remain faithful and endure the present circumstances, God will bless that faithful obedience by carrying out His dreams for my life.

Do you think Noah envisioned as a teenager that one day God would use him to replenish the world and to save his family by building a giant boat? Do you think Moses, while wandering around in the desert, exiled from Egypt, had any inkling God was using that preparation to eventually use him to free His people from bondage and lead them into freedom?

God used both these men to carry out His purposes, intentions much greater than anything they could have thought up in their wildest dreams.

And, my friends, I’m believing God is going to use my time of preparation to fulfill His dream for my life, no matter how He wants it to look. I am choosing to endure so I can give Him all the glory for the answer when He chooses to fulfill his purposes for me.

TWEETABLE
Choosing to endure doesn’t mean a choice of hardship, surrendering to endurance often brings joy – @CheriSwalwell on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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: What dream has God called you to? Do you feel this time (while you endure) could be His preparation for what lies ahead?

Where Are Your Treasures Buried?

by Kendra Broekhuis

I left my freshly baked cookies cooling on the kitchen counter, the windows slightly opened and the doors locked, so I could run a few errands with our toddler. The scent of peanut butter mingled with the early autumn breeze in a way that said both “delicious” and “welcome.”

Apparently it was too warm of a welcome, because I came home to find many of those cookies missing from my kitchen counter. I assumed my husband had stopped by and grabbed one or six, and reminded myself to flash my Annoyed Wife Eyes at him later.

I put the remaining cookies in a plastic container and brought our son upstairs to lay him down for a nap. At the top of the steps, I noticed a peanut butter cookie lying crumbled on the carpet, and another resting on top of our kids’ bunk bed. I had the eerie feeling I wasn’t alone. My heart pounded as I kept my eyes peeled for anything else out of place. I turned the corner into another bedroom and squirrel. There was a squirrel in my house, stealing my peanut butter cookies and hiding them all the way upstairs.

I ran to get a broom to shoo it out of our house – all the while frantically demanding the mute creature to tell me his secrets: “How did you get in here?!” I chased it downstairs and watched it weasel its way through a hole in our window screen it had chewed for entry. I slammed the window shut and let out a breathy chuckle of relief.

A further investigation would reveal the pesky intruder had stashed cookies all over the house, including in my husband’s stack of t-shirts. Though my neighbors and I joke that our squirrels are possessed by demons, this behavior comes quite naturally to them. Squirrels prepare for winter by storing their nutty treasures all over their domain. What this squirrel got wrong, in my slightly biased opinion, is where he decided to store his treasures.

There’s a lesson to be learned here, besides remembering to replace nylon window screens with bite-proof steel. Jesus encouraged His disciples to make sure they were storing their treasures in the right place:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” {Matthew 6:19-21 ESV).

Jesus wants us to examine where our heart’s focus lies. Do we think of our work and possessions in light of the fact that our lives on earth are as fleeting as a mist? Do we obsessively accumulate stuff, always seeking the next purchase we think will make us happy? Do we constantly worry about the future we know that God has already planned for us? Do we work for our own glory instead of praising Jesus for the good things He has done for us?

When we change our perspective from “for now on earth” to “forever in heaven,” we can learn to hold loosely everything we can see, taste, and touch, knowing it could all be taken away in a moment. We use our earthly possessions to love others and work to glorify God’s name over our own. When we store our treasures in heaven, we value our relationship with the One who has promised us the gift of eternal life with Him – above all else.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 NIV

TWEETABLE
“When we store our treasures in heaven, we value our relationship with God . . . above all else.” Kendra Broekhuis on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kendre BroekhuisAbout the author: Kendra Broekhuis is an author, speaker, and intentional neighbor living in the city of Milwaukee. For her day job, Kendra stays home with three of her children and misses her fourth in heaven. She recently launched an online community called Mourning Companion where people can safely lament their sorrow and see their grief articulated. To read more, follow her on Facebook and Instagram at @kendrabroekhuis and @mourningcompanion, and at www.kendrabroekhuis.com. Or grab a copy of her book, Here Goes Nothing: An Introvert’s Reckless Attempt to Love Her Neighbor.

Join the conversation: How do you store your treasures up in heaven?

Finding Your Quiet Place During a Season of Weariness

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

I remember waking up one morning and thinking I don’t feel like facing this day.

I didn’t feel like doing anything on my to-do list. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed.

I was exhausted from a busy schedule, tired of all the noise, and in need of a quiet retreat.

I dragged myself to the Psalms that morning because I had nowhere else to go. In those songs of Scripture, I sensed the heart break, the happiness, the frustration, the elation, and the desperation of those songwriters – all human beings who felt many of the same emotions I did.

And there in Scripture’s songs I discovered a pattern. In all 150 of the Psalms, the phrase “I will” was sung 140 times. And that told me that despite the way the songwriters felt there were certain things they were determined to do. And I realized that there were, as well, certain things I needed to say “I will” about, whether I felt like it or not. One of those “I will’s” has stuck with me through the years: “I will not forget Your Word” (Psalm 119:16 CSB).

As I poured through the Word of God that morning, letting its words penetrate my soul, I found I was refreshed and renewed. I experienced what the Psalmist did when he wrote Psalm 119:25: “Give me life through Your word” (CSB).

On those days when I don’t feel like facing all that I have to do, I now turn to God’s Word first and not only find refreshment and renewal to get me through the day, but a place of quiet retreat, too. In Psalm 32:7, God is called our “hiding place.”

Do you need a place of quiet retreat? A “hiding place” to which you can go and be renewed and refreshed?

Then make Him and His Word your place of quiet retreat – that tower of refuge to which you can run… that shelter in which you can hide.

Hide away with Him and His Word.  Listen to what He has to say to you in the pages of His book. You’ll be refreshed, renewed, and reminded of the One who’s been waiting to get away with you.

God, draw me daily to the strong tower of Your Word where I can find refuge, the green pastures of Your Word where You can feed my soul, and the spacious places in Your Word where I can find rest. Thank You that Your Word is my quiet retreat and the place where I can be renewed. 

God provides a quiet place when we’re weary – @CindiMcMenamin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 16 books including When Women Long for Rest, When You’re Running on Empty, and Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her books and resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, or for more information on her coaching services to help you write the book on your heart, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Join the conversation: Do you have a place of refuge where you can be renewed?

Under His Wings—Solid Shelter for Turbulent Times

by Crystal Bowman

He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.  Psalm 91:4 NLT

As thunder rumbled and raindrops danced against the window, my infant granddaughter slept in my arms, melting into my chest. Oblivious to the afternoon thunderstorm, she rested in peace, knowing she was safe in my arms. My own body was also at rest, enjoying the tranquilizing motion of the silent rocking chair and absorbing the warmth of a six-pound human swaddle.

As I rocked back and forth, my eyes drifted toward a canvass print on the wall. The words of Psalm 91:4 were encircled by a pink and green floral wreath. “He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”(NLT) This verse reminded me that just as I was offering safety and protection to my granddaughter, God does the same for me. The metaphor of this verse is that of a mother hen, clucking to her chicks when she senses danger. She stretches out her wings and urges her young to run to her for shelter. Under her wings she will keep them safe from harm and the dangers that threaten.

We are living in turbulent times. Some of us are facing serious illness or financial challenges. Some of us have adult children who are questioning the faith they were taught in their younger years. Some have spouses who no longer desire to be married to them. Broken families and broken hearts have become the norm. But in the middle of these storms brewing around us, God spreads His wings and beckons us to run to Him for safety and protection.

How do we run to God? We do it with our words. God already knows what’s on our hearts, so why not have a conversation with him? God is a good listener. He is patient. He wants us to give Him our worries, so we can rest and be safe under his protective wings.

As we run to God and converse with Him, we can also invite Him to speak to us through His Word. Psalm 18:30 (NIV) says, “As for God, His way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him.” This gives us a second picture of God’s protection and shelter. The Bible is our compass, guiding our paths and giving us wisdom for daily decisions. The more we read it, the more we can hear from God, and the more we can be under His wings of safety.

No matter what you may be facing today, run to your heavenly Father, for there you will find protection. He will cover you with His feathers and shelter you with His wings. Sit at His feet as you mediate on His Word and talk to Him openly and honestly about anything that is on your heart. He is calling you to come and is waiting for you.

Thank You, Lord, that you are my shelter. Thank You for your promise to protect me and help me with whatever I may face today. I choose to run to You so I will be covered with your feathers.

TWEETABLE
God provides the shelter we need turning these turbulent times – Crystal Bowman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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: Tell us about a time when God’s protection was very evident in your life.

 

 

Laughter: No Prescription Required!

by Deb DeArmond @DebDeArmond

My husband and I love ice cream. And not just any ice cream, but the flavors Cherry Pecan for him and Cappuccino Chocolate Crunch for me. We visit our favorite local shop often. More often than my cardiologist might prefer, but I’ve not detailed my obsession to him or the frequency with which I indulge.

We have a “standing” order. A hot fudge sundae for each (!) with our specific favorite ice cream flavor. The kid at the drive-through, Ed, knows us well. I once informed him if he didn’t see us over the course of a week, she should call the police and report us missing. He laughed. So did we.

So, it was an interesting evening when Ed was off, and the young woman at the drive through was unaware of our VIP status. Ron placed our order as always. The reply was jarring: “I’m sorry, sir. We’re all out of Cappuccino Chocolate Crunch.”

This was new.

My husband looked at me with raised eyebrows. “So what do you want?”

I thought for a moment. “I have no ideas what flavors they carry other than our two. No clue.”

Without missing a beat, Ron turned to the menu board speaker. “That’s okay. We’ll wait.”

There was a long silence, followed with “I’m sorry sir. I don’t know what that means.”

I began to laugh. I think I snorted a little. Ron clarified. “We’ll have to come in and see what’s available.”

I laughed as we pulled around and parked. I laughed as I exited the car. I was still laughing and gasping for breath as we entered the building. My mother would have described it as “carrying on out of control.” She’d have been right.

It’s a small store. We could see the girl from the drive through window who looked at us like maniacs. It made me laugh harder. People gave us a wide berth.

“Cappuccino Chocolate Crunch?” asked the manager. I nodded. It was the best I could do in the moment. “I got ya covered.” He went to the freezer and grabbed a pre-pack take home gallon and popped the lid. Crisis averted.

Nothing makes me happier than a good chuckle, a guffaw or a hearty laugh as part of a faith-filled life. It’s a gift that can break the tension, create connection, and celebrate silliness.

The Bible makes it clear that God believes humor should be on the agenda as a healthy habit. Proverbs 17:22 NKJ says, “A merry heart does good, like medicine.” The words laugh and laughter are mentioned 200 times in the Bible.

Some of those times are not happy moments, such as the laugh of unbelief (Gen. 11-12, 15), the laughter of a fool (Eccl.7:6), and the laughter of derision (Prov. 1:24-26).

But the fourth type of laughter is a healthy expression which brings richness to our lives. Here are a few good examples of why God’s people should have a good laugh:

  • Lack of fear – “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” (Proverbs 31:25 NLT)
  • Happiness and connection – “Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.” (Romans 12:15 MSG)
  • Joy – “God will let you laugh again; you’ll raise the roof with shouts of joy.” (Job 8:21 MSG)
  • Relief – “Good people will watch and worship. They’ll laugh in relief.” (Psalm 52:6 MSG)
  • God is acting on our behalf – “When the righteous see God in action they’ll laugh, they’ll sing, they’ll laugh and sing for joy.” (Psalm 68:3 MSG)
  • Good fortune – “We laughed, we sang, we couldn’t believe our good fortune.” (Psalm 126:2 MSG)
  • It blesses God – Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence.” (Psalm 100:2 MSG)

In other words, while life here on earth is sometimes no joke, laughter is appropriate, healthy, and pleasing to God. So, tune up those vocal chords and let loose a giggle or guffaw, a chortle or chuckle, a snicker, a snort or a shout. Let it fly and exclaim to the world the goodness of God!

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 NIV

4 Types of Laughter—With No Prescription Required – @DebDeArmond on @AriseDaily (Click to Tweet)

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: When is the last time you had a good laugh? Please share so that we can laugh along with you!

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (and Gratitude)

by Cynthia Cavanaugh @CavCynthia

The past several months I’ve been working to cultivate gratitude in my life. There were too many negative thoughts swirling around from situations I couldn’t control. And certainly, I wasn’t the designated fixer! Life can be overwhelming, and sometimes my heart just hurts from all the sadness and brokenness in our planet. I realized that I could turn into a Negative Nelly if I wasn’t careful. Ouch! This is who I really don’t want to be AT ALL!

Months ago, cultivating gratitude turned into a nightly ritual.  Being a visual person, I like creative ways to be intentional especially when God has gently prodded me about something I need to change. As I slip under my feather comforter each night, I posture myself to touch each of my five fingers. Moving over each finger on my hand, I name what I am grateful for that day.

As days have turned into weeks and weeks into months a subtle, slow transformation has taken place in a crevice of my soul. Negative Nelly and her thoughts have been shoved out and replaced by a new resident, bringing thoughts of thankfulness rather than despair. I find myself looking at the world differently. Even on a hard day windows of opportunity to be thankful present themselves and gratitude seeps through.

My new ritual is so ingrained, I can’t go to sleep without naming at least one or two things for which to be grateful. It is like taking vitamins for the soul. It keeps us healthy and changes our perspective.

I’ve read about the effects of gratitude, both in physical and emotional health. A grateful perspective has the potential to transform how we approach life. I’ve personally seen it to be a sweet balm to my broken heart. Embracing gratitude to the fullest is the best pathway to wholeness. There was a time several years back that I believed my heart could never be whole again.  It was too bruised, too wounded, too betrayed, and too weary. As I slowly surrendered, Jesus changed my heart and I looked to Him to be my teaching healer on the journey. His ways are perfect and his timing is impeccable.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, my heart is bursting with gratitude. It is surprising how many times it trickles out into the moments of my day. My ritual of gratitude has transformed me. My heart is healing.

I don’t know what circumstances you might be facing right now. Maybe the thought of being thankful is the farthest from your mind. I’ve been there. I pray that there will be a moment this week in between family gatherings or chaotic Black Friday shopping where thankfulness catches and inspires you to want more gratitude in your life. I challenge you: give it a try for 30 days every night. I guarantee that your tired heart will be different at the end of 30 days. Here is some inspiration to get you started:

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1 NIV

 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17 NIV

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  Philippians 4:6 NIV

TWEETABLE
How gratitude is like vitamins for the soul – @CavCynthia on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

cynthia cavanaughAbout the author: Cynthia Cavanaugh is the author of five books, including Anchored, and is a speaker, life coach, and leadership professor at Trinity Western University. She knows nothing about coffee and is a self-proclaimed tea addict who loves connecting with women helping them to flourish. 

Join the conversation: How do you cultivate gratitude in your heart?

The Mysterious Gift of Being Grateful

by Afton Rorvik @AftonRorvik

The package on my doorstep surprised me. I hadn’t ordered anything. No one in my household had a birthday. No national holiday loomed on the near horizon. And I hadn’t heard the doorbell ring. My dog hadn’t even barked.

I ripped opened the squishy package and discovered a pillow with a large word written on it: GRATEFUL.

Who could have sent this? I hunted and hunted for a card, but clearly someone had ordered this from a company and had it shipped to me. Was it the friend I helped out last week? Or the guests we housed last month?

Although I wanted to send a thank you note, I sort of loved not knowing who sent the pillow because it caused me to evaluate my life over the past few weeks. Had I interacted with people in such a way as to make them grateful? Had I lived in a grateful state within my own heart—looking daily for God’s good gifts?

I love this word: Grateful.  I want it to stick to me like Velcro and follow me around like a love-me-please puppy.

BUT gratitude takes effort. I naturally tend toward more of a glass-half-empty view of life—an Eeyore mentality. I can wallow in worry about what-ifs, isolate myself, criticize people in process who don’t respond to me the way I think they should, keep a list of all that seems upside-down in my life. . .

I’ve working to retrain my brain and heart by starting my days with worship. I sit in a cozy chair, turn on my playlist of worship songs, and open my hands to God. I let go of what weighs on me (often naming them specifically) and celebrate God’s good gift to me of Father-love as I let the music wash over me.

And I find myself returning again and again to this verse in James 1:17 (NIV): “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

How could I NOT live in gratitude when I live in the truth of these words and in the presence of the Father who does NOT change?

After posting a photo of my mysterious gift on Facebook, I learned that it had come from a friend I first met when I was 13. We now live states away but have managed to stay connected all these years. What a delightful no-good-reason, just-for-the-fun-of-it gift! J  But even more fabulous—what a gift of enduring friendship!

This November my new pillow sits in our dining room window reminding me (and hopefully all who enter there) to remember the transforming power of this word: Grateful!

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.                                                                                                                                    1 Chronicles 16:34 NASB

TWEETABLE
The Mysterious Gift of Being Grateful – @AftonRorvik on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

afton rorvik2About the author: Afton Rorvik savors words, flavored coffee, time outside, and living connected. Although an introvert, she has come to realize that what really matters in life is people and faith in Jesus, which gives her the strength and courage to live connected. Afton wrote Storm Sisters (Worthy), a story-filled book about learning to stick around when storms hit a friend’s life. She blogs monthly at  aftonrorvik.com and thoroughly enjoys Pinterest (Afton Rorvik).

Join the conversation: For what are you grateful this week of Thanksgiving?

 

Praying to be Like Turkeys On The Loose

by Sheri Schofield

“Mubble-mubble-puuuurrrrr-mubble-mubble.” The unusual sound drew my attention away from the book in my hands. What could it be? I walked toward the window and looked outside. Crossing the lawn below me was a flock of nine wild turkeys! They didn’t say “gobble-gobble”. That’s the male turkey’s call when he wants to advertise himself. When turkeys make that mubble and purr noise, it means they are content.

These huge birds wandered along, often leaning their heads close to mubble into each other’s ears. It reminded me of a group of happy women wandering through the farmer’s market together. They seemed like such a pleasant group!

And they are organic! No hormones, no antibiotics, no human-concocted feed. They are an altogether different bird than those scrumptious Butterballs. Wild turkeys can run at speeds of up to twenty-five miles per hour. They fly. They are hardy. They roost in the forest, eat snakes – yes, they love rattlesnakes for breakfast – and they are alert for danger.

The domestic turkeys that become Butterballs are weak, very plump, and cannot run or fly. They all look alike. They live in overcrowded conditions crammed up next to other turkeys and not encouraged to exercise. For human consumption, they are delicious. But survivors they are not.

As I watched the turkeys peruse my lawn, I found myself thinking that the two different kinds of turkeys are a lot like two different kinds of Christians. There are those who go all out for Christ, regardless of danger, ready to do whatever it takes to spread the gospel and defeat the devil – the serpent. They don’t allow the world to tell them what is right or wrong and pay little attention to political correctness. Their eyes are on Christ. They see danger approaching and take action. They are spiritually alert and swift. They soar on wings like wild turkeys. (Okay – you can think “eagles” if you prefer!) They endure.

Then there are Christians who prefer to be just like everyone else, crowded together, safe and politically correct to a fault. They follow the world’s philosophy and fit in nicely. But they never soar or run. They don’t recognize danger approaching. When it comes, they quickly fall away, for they have not developed the will to resist, to fight the danger.

So my Thanksgiving prayer will likely include something like this: “Lord, help me to be like the wild turkey! I want to be swift and strong in my spirit. Do not let me fall into the danger of feeding my soul on the world’s philosophy. Don’t let my soul end up like that juicy Butterball! Keep me feeding on your Word alone for wisdom. Please keep me organic through and through!”

Yes, I am known to have really strange prayers! My family is always on the alert. But I do think I will catch them by surprise this time!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates in his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3, NIV

TWEETABLE
Praying to be like turkeys on the loose – 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: For what are you most thankful today?

Don’t Forget to Remember

by Julie Zine Coleman @juliezcoleman

Most Americans are well-versed in the events which led to the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1620. But the suffering did not end there. Soon after the celebration, the Pilgrims found they had overestimated their harvest and would once again be forced to endure a long winter of meager rations. To further exacerbate the food shortage, a ship arrived in late November with thirty-five new settlers and absolutely no provisions. The little group barely survived the winter.

The growing season the following year did not go well. The lack of food left the settlers too weak to properly tend the fields, and the harvest was a dismal failure. With meager food stores and many mouths to feed, the rations during the following winter came down to a daily portion of five kernels of corn per person. This lasted three or four months until the next harvest finally supplied an ample amount of food.

Those two years of suffering were not far from the Pilgrims’ minds as they gathered with their Native American neighbors in the fall of 1623 for a second Thanksgiving celebration. The first course, served on an otherwise empty plate, was five kernels of corn. The celebration of a plentiful harvest was that much more meaningful when compared to past times of desperate want. The Pilgrims determined to remember.

I have a friend who places a dried kernel of corn on each dinner plate for her Thanksgiving guests. Before the meal begins, each person names one thing for which they are thankful then drops their kernel into a basket being passed around the table. It’s one way that family remembers.

We have been called to do the same. Remember. Paul wrote the Ephesians: “Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ… having no hope and without God in the world… But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12-13 NASB).

The Ephesian church was experiencing difficulty in melding two groups, Jews and Gentiles, into one unified church. Their heritage, culture, and backgrounds were so very diverse. To help them resolve their differences, Paul took them back to who they were before Jesus. They had shared a bleak future with no hope of ever being right with God. They needed to remind themselves where each of them would be if Jesus had not shed His blood on their behalf.

Remembering they all started in the same boat and that each one was saved by grace (not because of their race or accomplishments) would help them worship side by side as brothers and sisters.  Paul concluded: “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall…so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace” (Ephesians 2:14-15 NASB).

Remembering is something God encourages all believers to do. It’s why we celebrate Communion on a regular basis. As we share the elements, we remember Christ’s sacrificial death and suffering, as well as His victory over sin and death. We also remember what we were before our salvation: spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), slaves of sin (Rom 6:17), enemies of God (Rom 5:10), without hope (Eph 2:12), and condemned to an eternity of suffering and spiritual death (Rom 5:18).

Remembering this swells our hearts with thanksgiving and praise. Thinking about our before is helpful in cultivating a grateful heart and a love for Christ in the here and now. Looking back on what we have been saved from helps us to more fully appreciate the lengths to which God went to bring us into a relationship with Him.

So this Thanksgiving, take some time to look back. And remember.

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Colossians 1:13-14 NASB

TWEETABLE
Remembering what God has done swells our hearts with thanksgiving and praise – @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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

Join the conversation: What remembrance gives you gratitude?