The Root of Bitterness

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV

Where I live in Texas, Mesquite trees are an invasive and often destructive problem.  Ranchers have been known to refer to them as “Devil Trees” or “The Devil with Roots.” They are hard to destroy.

We can cut them off at ground level. That solves the problem, for about a day, because they come back—with enthusiasm. The Mesquite tree has a tap root that reaches deep underground. Far down the root is a knot, and in order to get rid of the tree for good, we have to dig down to that knot and cut it out.  Anything less, and we’ll be dealing with that tree again before too long.

Bitterness in my soul is the same. It comes in so easily, a comment made, or a look given. Sometimes it floats in like the soft weightless seeds of the dandelion, so lightly that I don’t even know I’ve allowed an offense to settle in and turn to bitterness.

But once it takes root and starts to grow, it interrupts my fellowship with God.

Less than ten seconds of watching the news tells me I’m not alone in this. The urge to be bitter is a temptation—and we know from whom temptations come. We want to give in to the bitterness, because it is our justification for feeling anything other than love towards another.

Sometimes we must distance ourselves from the source, if we aren’t yet able to withstand the temptations: social media, certain people, or even the news channel. As long as we are still feeding the root of bitterness with the fertilizer accessible from these sources, we can’t begin to dig down and remove the root.

I know some situations are impossible to avoid. Your job, your neighbors, family members. But what if it’s your church?

Paul wrote: “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:26-27 NASB). Holding a grudge and refusing to forgive gives Satan a foothold—not only in me, but in God’s Church.

I suggest that sometimes we need to step away until we can recognize where the bitterness is coming from. My tendency to be fertile ground always stems from something in me more than anything someone has done to me. Perhaps the offense spoke into one of my insecurities or threatened the control I try to keep on my life—or highlighted the fact that I’m not really in control anyway.

My bitterness will be contagious. Perhaps I will spread it through the way I respond to a comment or answer a question, what events I choose to attend, or where I sit. A little look here or there. Body language that reflects something other than joy and love. On a bad day, I might be tempted to make an innocent remark that isn’t really innocent at all. Like the weightless seeds of the dandelion, my bitterness can spread with very little effort. And Scripture tells me that the seed will grow to cause trouble and division, and become the burden of many.

Keeping myself in the same environment that feeds my bitterness only distracts me from getting to the true source. Like the pesky mesquite trees, I can be so busy fighting what is above the surface that I don’t take time to dig down below and get to the real source of the problem.

Paul wrote: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice…” (Ephesians 4:31 NASB).  Don’t allow that invasive, stubborn root to remain in you. Ask the Lord to help you forgive, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

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

Join the conversation: How do you deal with bitterness?

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Do You Have a Right-Hand Man?

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.                                                                                                                   Psalm 16:8, NASB

I sat down on the floor of my office and cried. My inner circle around me was falling apart. And I felt so alone.

My assistant in ministry and close friend for the past two years had just informed me that she had to step down from her position in order to take care of priorities at home. I understood her reasons. I wanted to be supportive. But all I could think about was losing her. She would no longer be there to help me. No longer be there to be my sounding board, my prayer support, my “other half” in a very real sense.

I felt like I was losing my right hand.

Hours earlier, I had spoken to a large group of women about the seasons of our lives in which we need to be pruned. I talked about how rose bushes need to be pruned. They look choppy after the pruning, but come spring, the roses come back brighter and more beautiful than ever before.

But here I was, being pruned in my own life, and feeling like I was losing my right hand!

“God, this doesn’t feel like pruning,” I prayed. “This feels like my right hand is being chopped off!”

Desperate for His presence and His comfort, I turned to the Psalms. I read Psalm 16 aloud and stopped suddenly at verse 8.

“…because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

“Lord,” I prayed, “I’m complaining that I’ve lost my right hand, but You are the One who is truly at my right hand. You are the One who helps me, counsels me, encourages me. You are the One who never leaves my side.

“Oh God, I’m so sorry I didn’t see it before. You truly are my Right-hand Man.”

As I read through the rest of the Psalm, I smiled at how it ended: “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (verse 11, NASB emphasis added).

God was telling me in my moment of fear and anxiety that not only was I never alone, but I never would be. And with my God at my right hand, there is abundant joy in His presence and pleasures forever. He was making it clear to me that there’s no one else I would rather have at my right hand.

I got up off the floor, walked out of the room with my Bible in one hand, my head held high, and my Right-hand Man at my side.

Thank You, Lord, for the reminder in Your Word that I never walk alone. You are always at my side.

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Do You Have a Right-Hand Man? – insight from @CindiMcMenamin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 16 books including her best-selling titles When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold), When God Sees Your Tears, and God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart. For more on her books and resources to improve your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, or for a free consultation to see if she can help you write your book, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Do You Long to Hear God’s Whispers on Your Heart? “You willcindi mcmenamin God's Whispers to a Woman's Heart seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Do you want to know His thoughts of you, His plans for you, His comfort and His presence? Get Cindi’s book, God Whispers to a Woman’s Heart.

Join the conversation: Pruning can be an uncomfortable process. Have you ever felt the Lord was pruning you? Did a time of growth follow?

Connecting the Dots—Or Maybe Chasing Them

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I was watching the cat wildly chase a laser dot the other day, and I thought, Wow, if that red dot was a Butterfinger, that could totally be me.

Those wild moments are the times I think Sammy could be the poster animal for the cat version of ADHD. It’s weird, because that poster cat is the same cat who can also be extremely focused. Any and every new item we bring into the house has to endure a thorough and focused Sammy-sniffing. Personally, I think that’s when he’s trying to determine whether or not his entire body will fit inside whatever it is. And if it’s even close—even if it’s not close—he ignores the fact that he has a BMI that’s got to be pushing 50, and he’s in. Maybe not all in, but in.

While my body mass numbers aren’t as bad as Sammy’s, they’re not so good that I can mock him as much as I’d like. And although I’ll go after most chocolate with laser-dot enthusiasm, any time I start climbing into a bag that looks like it’ll hold about 20% of me, somebody may need to take me to a see a professional. I’m wondering if the toughest part would be trying to decide if it should be a physician, a psychiatrist, or a veterinarian.

I have to say, though, that sometimes Sammy might have the right idea. Distractions can be time-stealing brutes, and they’ve earned their bad rep. But as contradictory as it may sound, I really don’t think distractions always have to result in negative productivity. They don’t always have to be bad. Only sinful distractions are bad.

Have you ever been working so diligently on a project that you thought your head might explode? Following a little distraction for a few minutes can sometimes sort of “reboot” our creative mojo.

I confess, every once in a while, a “mental Butterfinger” can help me get back to a task with renewed enthusiasm. Nothing sinful, mind you. Some music, a walk, a few minutes of reading, maybe. The Lord can even spark new ideas in some of those laser-dot moments. And that gives one pause. (“Pause.” Not “paws.”) The trick is to figure out if we’re procrastinating to avoid something we need to stay focused on, or if we’re instead taking a little respite from it so we can re-energize.

We do need to be careful, though, that we don’t climb into a distraction that’s smaller than we are. Sammy still doesn’t get this. We have big things to accomplish for the Kingdom, through the One who empowers us. Spending time getting refreshed is one thing. Killing time on tiny things is another. Paul tells us to be careful about spending, not killing, our time. “Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise, sensible, intelligent people, making the very most of the time…firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17, AMP).

We spend our time well when we spend it wisely and with His purposes ever in mind—even when we’re chasing a dot.

Endeavoring to live purposefully in His will? I’m in. All in. Me and my entire body mass index.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 NASB

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Connecting the Dots—Or Maybe Chasing Them – thoughts from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown, mostly-coffee-drinking children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: How do you prioritize use of your time? Do you have any tips to share?

The Frost Busters

by Sheri Schofield

Yesterday was one of those Rocky Mountain High days: high altitude, high humidity, and high temperatures – for Montana, at least. Even the buzzards were hot! I saw one perched on a fence post, facing into the wind. Its wings were stretched out with every feather separated as far as it could go, and its tongue was hanging out of its beak.

You wouldn’t think 74 degrees would be considered that hot! But back in March, we hit a record low of -42 degrees during calving season. We lost thousands of calves across the state and many adult cattle as well. That buzzard weathered the cold. Now it was 116 degrees hotter. You bet it was overwhelmed!

Jesus spoke of a spiritual climate change that would happen in the last days. He said, “Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 12:10 NLT).

Sin has always been with us. But in recent years, it seems to be increasing at a gallop. What was once hidden from others is brazenly broadcast to all. There is a boldness and pride about sin these days. What was once considered sin is now being celebrated as personal rights. Evil is considered good. People’s natural love for their own families is freezing over under this increased assault. Our natural response as Christians is to back away from those who boldly proclaim their sin.

But is that the answer? Should we let fear hold us back from giving our world the antifreeze it needs so desperately? What can we do to bring warmth to a frozen-hearted world?

Peter wrote, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sin. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.  God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (I Peter 4:8-10 NLT).

Love begins at home. Then it spreads outward to other believers. Love from God that cannot be contained then reaches out to the lost around us. It grows, spreading warmth to those who are secretly enduring lives of frozen desperation, captured by the powers of darkness that dominate our land.

Before He left this earth, Jesus told His disciples what would happen after He was gone. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem [home], throughout Judea [neighborhood], in Samaria [surrounding countries], and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8  NLT).

We are to love in the power of the Holy Spirit. Loving those who are difficult cannot be done on our own steam. We have to be plugged into God’s supernatural strength and power, like electrical appliances must be plugged into electric outlets. Then, with the Holy Spirit flowing through us like an electrical current, we can reach our world with the Son of love and defrost frozen hearts one at a time.

Have you mastered loving your own? How about those at church? Your neighbors? Take these challenges one step at a time, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and see just how many hearts God can melt through your love!

God wants to defrost hearts with his love, and he is gathering a defrosting team. Maybe we could even have team shirts made: “The Frost Busters!” Will you join us? Go, Team, Go!

“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” 1 John 4:7-10, NLT

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The Frost Busters – thoughts in #FollowingGod from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the 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!

Sheri’s new book, The Prince And The Plan, is a beautifully illustrated, interactive picture book, written for children ages 4-8, that helps parents lead their children into a lasting, saving relationship with Jesus. It explains abstract concepts through words and interactive, multi-sensory activities. Useful for children’s ministry as well.

Join the Conversation: When has your heart been warmed by the love of others?

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

by Cheri Cowell @CheriCowell

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  James 1:5-6 NIV

Have you ever found yourself between a rock and a hard place? It is an uncomfortable place to be. Stuck between difficult choices, two options that both seem good or both seem bad, needing to make a decision that has unfortunate consequences.

As children, many of us learned that making wrong decisions could be the ultimate mistake, so at times we avoided the whole thing. Later we came to understand that no decision is indeed a decision in itself. So how are we to make difficult choices? Where do we find the wisdom to make good choices?

God has the answer in a simple gift He calls wisdom.

The Book of James is short but packed with practical knowledge. In the above nugget, we learn that wisdom is not something that comes from study, a strong character or will, or even from a good heart. True wisdom, divine wisdom, is a gift from God, and all we have to do in order to receive it is to ask. The process of asking reminds us that we are totally dependent on Him for wisdom. God promises that when we ask for His wisdom, God promises to give it. He never tires of providing it.

James goes on to explain that once we receive wisdom, we must then trust it. How do we trust? Simply put, we act. We make a decision and move boldly and confidently, knowing that if we have aligned ourselves with God by our request, God will lead us forward.

If you just gulped as you read that last sentence, you know this is a real test of where your trust lies. If we trust that God is who He says He is, and trust that He will direct if we ask, then we can trust Him and will act on that belief.

This is how we move from between that rock and hard place.

I’ve found that when I follow these steps, God is able to move me where I am supposed to be. If I move in a wrong direction, He will correct my course. If I move in the right direction, He goes before me. The saying is true: God doesn’t tend to move anchored ships that stay safe and secure in the harbor. God moves a ship that is moving through the open waters.

In prayer today, thank God for His perfect wisdom that is always available for you. Ask Him to help you remember to seek it whenever you find yourself in difficult circumstances, then determine you will trust Him and make that move.

About the author: Cheri Cowell is the author of 365 Devotions for Peace (Thomas Nelson). She can be found at www.CheriCowell.com.

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Cheri Cowell Cheri Cowell is also a contributor to When God Calls the Heart to Love. To learn more about Cheri visit www.CheriCowell.com.

Inspired by best-selling author Janette Oke and the Hallmark Channel original TV series When Calls the Heart, Brian Bird and Michelle Cox explore the love-filled moments from the fictional early 1900s town of Hope Valley. Stories of romantic love, as well as love between families, neighbors, and friends, will touch your heart and encourage your soul to recognize the potential of love in your life.

Join the conversation: What wisdom has God given you recently? Tell us your story!

Continual Change

by Doris Hoover

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.                                                                                                                           1 John 3:2 NIV

I love to watch clouds. As air currents glide through them, cottony wisps morph into dream pictures. Mountains change into oceans which transform into deserts with horses galloping across them. Continuously clustering and stretching, the clouds form new pictures by the minute.

Clouds remind me that I’m also in a process of change. God has a perfect design for me. It evolves in increments. As the Holy Spirit glides through my spirit, causing subtle transformations in my attitude, values and priorities, I begin to morph into a different person. I may not know what I will become, but the Lord has a vision for me. He has a vision for each one of us. Little by little, He reshapes us to conform to His beautiful design.

Change has been a constant since the beginning of creation. The Lord began with a dark void which He transformed into light, sky, water, and land. His vision evolved until the world was complete. Then the Lord admired His masterpiece. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 NIV).

The Heavenly Father works a master plan in us, too. Like chalk blown across a sketchpad, the Lord breathes across our lives, gradually moving us toward His vision. As we yield to the Spirit’s influence, we’re transformed.

David asked the Lord to make changes in him. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV). By asking God to change his heart and attitude, David became as malleable as a cloud in the wind.

Circumstances are also in the process of change. They’re not permanent, even though, at times, it seems that way. We may wonder how long we have to endure the responsibility, the stress, the hurt, or even the mundane drudgery of each day. But our situations aren’t static. God works in them as powerfully as He works in us. Our “lot” in life isn’t permanent. We may think we’re stuck in a situation that will never improve; however, the Lord moves through our circumstances in imperceptible ways, making alterations according to His perfect plan. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

When I read through my journal entries, I see the cloud pictures of my life. The unfolding of my story amazes me. Through the Lord’s intervention, situations which seemed hopeless became victories.

Invisibly, the Lord moves through our circumstances and our hearts as He creates His masterpiece. We usually don’t notice the revisions until we look back over the years. Each breath of divine air moves the filaments of our lives closer to a heavenly design. Even when we smudge our pictures, the Lord is able to blow over the chalk to turn our smudges into something good. Such modifications take a lifetime, but the Lord works in us until His work is finished. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

We may not know what we will become or how our circumstances will evolve, but each day the clouds remind us that changes are happening. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV).

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Continual Change – thoughts on walking with God from Doris Hoover on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

doris HooverAbout the author: Doris Hoover lives in Florida, but she also spends time along the coast of Maine. Her passion is discovering God’s messages in nature and sharing them with others. You can visit Doris at captivatedbythecreator.com. 

Doris’ book, Quiet Moments in The Villages, A Treasure Hunt Devotional invites you to step outside to discover the treasures God places around you. She leads you to beautiful places in her home town. Her poetic descriptions and beautiful photography draw you into moments that will stir your heart.

Join the conversation: Looking back over the years, can you see the progress God has accomplished in you? Please share a before-and-after example!

The Skirmishes Go On

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

“O Death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?… Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:55, 57

Once only inhabited by a small Japanese civilian community of sulfur miners and sugar farmers, the island of Iwo Jima became a stronghold of pivotal importance in World War II. As the war progressed, Japan evacuated its citizens from the island and prepared for the inevitable Allied forces invasion. A huge number of bunkers, hidden artillery, and an amazing eleven miles of tunnels were in place by 1944. Twenty-one thousand soldiers were at the ready when Allied forces began firing on Iwo Jima.

On the fourth day of the battle, the first objective was captured: Mount Suribachi. Five marines and a Navy corpsman were photographed raising the American flag at its summit. That moment is now immortalized in the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington, VA.

Once the high ground was secure, the invasion slowly moved northward. Very heavy fighting continued. The Japanese fighters considered surrender dishonorable and most tenaciously fought to the death. But the Allied forces eventually took the airfields and remainder of the island. A month into the invasion, the island was officially declared secured.

Even so, over 3,000 Japanese troops remained in the island’s maze of caves and tunnels. For many days afterward, still more American lives were lost as they worked their way through the tunnel system routing those that refused to surrender. The battle may have been won, but the enemy continued to fight, determined to take in their death as many with them as possible.

While the Allied victory was a great triumph, Jesus Christ won the greatest victory the world has ever witnessed. The Son of God, after three days in the grave, rose from the dead. No longer are we under condemnation for our sin. It was dealt with, paid for, and cast from us as far as the east is from the west. The victory is already ours because Christ has already won.

The enemy has been soundly defeated. Satan’s future final demise is already recorded in the Bible, when he is cast into the lake of fire to suffer torment for eternity (Revelation 20:10). It is just a matter of time before God finally ends his reign on earth.

Yet while victory has been recorded with indelible ink, the skirmishes still go on. While we were given new life at our salvation, we still struggle against our old sinful nature which relentlessly demands satisfaction, and we fight the enemy ever-tempting us to sin. Paul described him as “the prince of the power of the air…the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2 NASB). Peter warns “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NASB).

The war may be over, but the fighting continues on.

These skirmishes are a part of the life we live until Jesus returns. In fact, God has carefully equipped His soldiers to fight the good fight (Ephesians 6:10-18). Satan may have lost the war, but he is deadly serious about taking as many down with him as he can before his reign of destruction comes to an end.

We may even lose some of these skirmishes, especially when we attempt to fight in our own strength. But it is important to remember in those moments of depressing defeat: the war’s victor has already been determined. The Good Guy won. Our hope is not in the circumstances of this world. It is in the future God has prepared for us, “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:4 NASB)

Nothing that happens to us on earth will impact the surety of our salvation. The victory belongs to the Lord.

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The Skirmishes Go On – insight on walking with God from @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. 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.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Have you been involved in a skirmish lately? Please share!

The Tool of Drool—And Thirsting Well

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

No kidding, I had this very conversation with my daughter the other day:

Kaley:  Know what I found just now on Pinterest? Peanut butter cup gooey butter cake.

Me:  I just gained three pounds hearing you speak those words.

Kaley:  I just lost three pounds in drool.

After I thought about it—well, after I laughed, and then after I thought about it—I decided she might actually have something there. The next diet craze? How about “Slobber Yourself Thin!”

I don’t know why that shouldn’t work for me. Show me an even half-decent fudge cake and suddenly I’m a St. Bernard.

On the new diet plan, it wouldn’t even matter that I’m not the greatest cook in town. Nothing would depend on my baking. Just other people’s pictures of theirs. Seems to me as long as there is social media, food snapshots won’t be a problem. Log on any medium and there’s a virtual slobber-azzi.

I’m intrigued by the exercise implications here too. Instead of the tying on the tennies for running, I could just tie on the drool bib. Ready, set, salivate!

Who knew drool could be a strategic tool in the arsenal of weight loss weapons? I think I’ll start a board on Pintrest for all my spittle-inducing photos. Kaley said I should call it “Pavlov’s Pics.” … That does ring a bell.

But you know what rings truer? The reality of our spiritual appetites. I have to ask myself regularly what my soul might be drooling after. In this fallen world, the temptation is always there: hunger for possessions or pleasure, thirst for enjoyment or ease. Our enemy whispers in our ear, enticing our focus away from things eternal to everything temporary and ultimately unsatisfying.

Our souls are created to be thirsty. The problem is that we so often go after all the wrong things to quench that thirst. We head for the temporary substitutes that leave us more spiritually dehydrated than ever.

It’s funny how as we stay hungry and thirsty for the Lord, we’re satisfied. Hungry and thirsty. Yet at the same time, completely satisfied.  Our thirst—our longing for Him—can be a tool in the hand of God, shaping us into the image of Christ by His Holy Spirit. As we’re reminded of our desperate need for Him and as we ask Him to fill us, any other thing we ever craved make so much less sense. He is absolutely all we need.

David “prayed thirsty” in Psalm 63:l: “God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water” (HCSB).

Just a few verses later, we’re given a delicious description of what happens after a hungry/thirsty prayer: “You satisfy me as with rich food; my mouth will praise You with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:5 HCSB).

That leaves me feeling wonderfully full, in the most real, to-the-soul way. Jesus said in John 7:37-38, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him,” (HCSB).

Father, Son and Holy Spirit—we are complete in our triune God who meets our every need.

No fooling. And no drooling.

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The Tool of Drool—And Thirsting Well – @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown, mostly-coffee-drinking children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: How do you differentiate between good and bad things to drool over?

Deepening Your Prayer Life

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?                                               Psalm 42:1-2 NLT

There are times when shouting out a prayer is all one can manage. Like when I was raising an infant … on three hours of sleep. Or when, upon hearing my daughter talking about doing oversea missions in India’s slums or communist countries. Or the day I was stuck in Atlanta with no money, credit cards, or ID (which was necessary to fly back home).

Shout out prayers, those, “Oh, Lord help me,” cries, uttered countless times throughout the day, are valid. Necessary. And at times, a woman’s only avenue to sanity. But if our prayer life continually resembles an elevator pitch, before long, our spiritual life will suffer.

Divine intimacy, the kind that fills up all the empty and broken places within and melds our heart to our Father’s, requires regular, unhurried communication. This is what I long for. What I hope for, and at times, what I intentionally move toward. But then life gets busy, I get distracted, and I slip into shout out prayers once again.

If I want to grow as a believer wife, mother, and friend; if I want to experience the deep joy and peace Christ promised His believers, I’ll make prayer a top priority—a habit.

Luke tells us about the events leading up to the birth of John the Baptist. He began by describing John’s parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, stating they were known for their faithful obedience (Luke 1:6).

In other words, that was their main defining factor.

As a priest, Zechariah was chosen by lot to “enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense” (Luke 1:9 NLT). This would have been a sacred, intimate time between him and God.

But he wasn’t the only one who met with God that day. According to Scripture, while he was burning incense inside the temple, a great crowd stood outside, praying.

Prayer had become a way of life for these people, a habit that had been established over a thousand years previously. Before the exile, since the time of Aaron, the first Jewish priest, incense was burned twice each day, and whenever the people smelled its holy aroma and saw it rising heavenward, they prayed. Now, over fourteen hundred years later, the people continued that custom.

That kind of dedication and consistency often eludes me, because I get “too busy,” distracted, or sometimes discouraged, especially if it feels like God isn’t answering. Yet by the time Elizabeth and Zechariah came on the scene, God had been silent for 400 years! And I often find a few years of unanswered prayers difficult. This happens especially when I’m approaching prayer in a self-centered way, focusing on what I might get, rather than Who I can get to know.

Yes, God is faithful, generous, and attentive. And yes, He answers prayer and gives good gifts to His children. But the best gift He’s ever provided is that of Immanuel: Jesus Christ, God with us. Let’s not get so caught up in what we don’t have that we miss out on the beautiful gift of divine presence God makes available to us today.

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Deepening Your #Prayer Life – insight from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer Slattery

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Restoring Her Faith and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. 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 to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.

Drawing Near is a 90-day compilation by Wholly Loved Ministries. Each day, God beckons us to Himself, calling us to rest in His love and grace. As we do, He heals our hurts, overpowers our fears with love, and restores us to the women He created us to be. This devotional, written by women who are learning themselves to live anchored in God’s grace, will help you deepen your faith and grow your relationship with Christ.

Join the conversation: What are some ways you refocus yourself on Christ? How have you made prayer time a priority? Share your thoughts and examples with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other!

Receptive Listening

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

In the morning let me hear about your faithful love, because I’ve put my trust in you. Show me the way I should live, because I trust you with my life.                         Psalm 143:8 NIRV

On my morning walks, I usually encounter the same couple, at the same place, at the same time. The man always wears headphones. Not ear buds, but big, thick, cover-your-whole-ear headphones. Although he walks with his wife, it’s obvious he’s tuned out everything around him. He doesn’t hear birds chirping, leaves rustling, or cars approaching. He’s in his own zone, and conversation with his wife, or anyone he meets, is non-existent.

One morning, as I passed them, I realized I’m often like the headphone man. Even though I talk to the Lord each day, I don’t always listen. Frequently, my ears are plugged, because my mind is consumed with solving problems, pondering concerns, or planning the course of my day. Most often, I spend a lot of time requesting and rehashing and very little time listening.

Receptive listening requires a cessation of speech, a silencing of not only audible language, but also mental self-talk. Often, after an incident, we craft and perfect what we wish we’d thought to say on the spot. But what would happen, if instead, we turned off the mental speech-making and listened to what God has to say about the situation?

The Children of Israel were backwards-looking whiners. They spent a lot of time complaining about what they didn’t have and wishing for a return to their former existence. (Apparently, the abuse and living under the oppression of slavery had slipped their minds!) When Moses wanted to get their attention, the message was often preceded with “Hear, O Israel!” In other words, “Heads up, people. I’m about to tell you something important.”

God often prefaces his message to us in a similar way. It may be through the words of a friend, family member, Scripture, or an event. Or he may speak to us directly via the Holy Spirit. No matter the vehicle for the message, if we’re not listening, we miss important directions.

Spiritual lack of focus is a struggle for all of us. What happens in our physical life almost always overtakes our spiritual life, unless we make a conscious effort to integrate the two. The world yells for our attention while the spirit quietly prompts. The best way to tune in to God’s voice is to spend time in his Word. Scripture ingestion and digestion are as vital to spiritual life as food is for physical nourishment. “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty” (Jeremiah 15:16 NIV).

Sometimes, it feels like God isn’t listening because he doesn’t answer in the time frame we establish, but Scripture assures us he hears, “And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for” (1 John 5:15 NLT).

Remember, we are the ones with the hearing problem, not God. Today, tune out the noise of the world. Take off the headphones. Remove the ear buds. Silence the TV. Stash your phone. Stop talking. Open your heart, mind, and spirit and listen. Can you hear God’s voice?

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Receptive Listening – insight from @CandyArrington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy ArringtonAbout the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: Do you often hear from God?