Preparing the Soil of Your Heart

by Debb Hackett @Debb_Hackett

In the fall, I check the strength my biceps for the hours I know I will spend leaf blowing and bagging. This isn’t anything I ever did when I lived in England, but despite the hard work, it remains a joy because it’s still a multicolored novelty. At least until the next good wind gives me another yard-full. Then I might frown for a moment.

Fall isn’t traditionally a time we think about planting seeds; it’s when we watch the foliage lighting up the horizon before falling away. The trees then grow dormant over the winter, only to burst to life again in a blaze of spring glory. But even when the plants are “sleeping” they’re preparing for spring.

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”  Matthew 13:23, NIV

The Parable of the Sower was a metaphor about different responses to the Word of God. Even when we have heard and responded, there can be challenges that can draw us away from the Lord: distractions that can pull our eyes from the life-giving message of the cross to focus elsewhere.

Both seeds grew. As I pondered the difference between the thorny ground and the good soil, I was struck by how slim the difference was between the two types. It’s the same with my heart. How often am I walking closely with the Lord, but then begin to fixate on my circumstances?

Jesus, in His great love and mercy knew that we’d face challenges. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). He is greater than anything we can encounter here on earth. In order to stay healthy, we need to aim our face toward the Son, giver of life and hope.

We follow His teaching, asking Him to guide our steps. We try to live faithful lives that bear fruit. But in order to grow anything, the soil needs tending. So how do we prepare the garden of our hearts to foster future growth?

I’m checking for weeds, things that distract me from the Gospel, and I’m fertilizing the soil, putting in the nutrients that will feed new growth. I’m spending time reading the Word, studying it, and applying it to my life. I’m worshiping in my car, my kitchen and of course — in the shower, I am belting praise out unless the house is sleeping. Finally, I’m fellowshiping with other believers who can encourage me as I go.

This fall as the leaves tumble, let them be a reminder to take the time to tend our hearts to keep them hospitable to future new growth. It’s the way to keep us from growing hard towards the God who loves us passionately. Then we will be ready for whatever lies ahead, for a new season of challenge and abundant life.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105, NIV

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Preparing the Soil of Your Heart – insight from @Debb_Hackett on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Deb HackettAbout the author: Writer, broadcaster, and speaker Debb Hackett  has been a radio journalist for more than twenty years. Married to a test pilot, Debb writes for military wives and lives just outside Washington D.C. with her husband and children. She’s having lots of fun working on an inspirational contemporary romance series. When she’s not writing, Debb can be found leading worship, playing bass, or skiing. Also, if you can swing by her house while she’s making scones, that would be a win. She blogs at: http://debbhackett.com

Join the conversation: How do you keep your heart soft towards God?

Wise Beyond Our Years

by Nan Corbitt Allen

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.                  Proverbs 2:6 NIV

At the end of almost every school year my sons would bring home a sack full of miscellaneous work created throughout the year. I don’t know why the teachers sent these treasures home on the last day instead of during the year, but most of the time they did.

The end of the year that our youngest finished 5th grade, he brought home the usual paper bag containing drawings and papers that he’d done in the past nine months. I took each one out and marveled at my boy’s achievements. He’s smart. He’s creative. He’s a good boy.

Down at the bottom of the sack was a little booklet with a yellow cover and a hand-drawn title.

 5th Grade Words of Wisdom.

Okay. Before I trashed it with the myriad of other papers, I sat for a moment and read a few of the entries. I was expecting things like historical facts, or geographical discoveries, or even new vocabulary words that the kids had discovered. I was wrong. It seemed as though the teacher had asked her students for insights rather than facts and figures.

I saved the book and tossed much of the rest. Recently, I rediscovered that booklet while cleaning out a filing cabinet. Here are a few words of wisdom I gleaned:

“I’ve learned that whenever we have to line up tallest to shortest, I’ll always be last.” I can relate.

  •  “I learned that the older you get the more clothes you get for Christmas.”
  • “I learned that cats don’t always land on all fours.” You’ve gotta try that to discover this!
  • “I learned to never roller blade backwards down a hill.” Again, experience tends to teach.
  • “I learned that if you stick a fork in a light socket you will get a new hairdo.”
  • “I learned that the more you mess with your hair the worse it looks”. Not a truer word…
  • “I learned that short jackets only keep you warm from your waist to your neck.”

There were others that were funny or clever or just down right profound. Like these:

  • “God will answer prayer when He thinks it is time.” How can a 5th grader know that unless he’s been speaking to the Almighty about something he needs?
  • “You don’t always get what you want, but you need to be thankful for what you have.”
  • “If you look a person in the eyes while you’re talking to them, they will trust you better”
  • “God is always watching.”

The dictionary says that wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. It presumes that experience and knowledge will lead to good judgment. It’s a choice, I guess, to allow failures to teach us, disappointments to mold us, and successes to humble us.

But we should never let any one of our negative experiences define us.

Author William Arthur Ward put it this way: “We can choose to throw stones, to stumble on them, to climb over them, or to build with them.”

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” James 1:5 (NKJV).

Whenever I feel guilty asking God over and over what to do in certain situations, I remember that verse. I realize that God wants me to ask Him. Perhaps He even smiles when I ask, because He knows I trust His judgment and will follow His leading.

Not a moment is wasted when we look to Him to teach us through it. He can use both our positive and negative experiences to grow and mature us. In His wisdom, we can become wise.

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Wise Beyond Our Years – encouragement from Nan Corbitt Allen on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Nan Corbitt AllenAbout the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 40 years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

Nan and Dennis live in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: What is one piece of wisdom that you have gotten through experience?

From Bitterness to Beauty

by Ashley Lauren McClain

I recently saw a quote going around social media. “God doesn’t always change our circumstances. He sometimes changes us.”

Have you ever prayed for something with such confidence that you just knew God would do it…that it was just a matter of time before He came through and answered your prayer? I have.

My husband and I had recently walked together through a really hard season at our church. I was ready to go, and he was determined to stay. Month after month I woke with the same prayer first thing on my mind.  “God, change his heart to go, or give me peace to stay.”

Of course, I was fully confident that the Lord was going to change my husband’s heart and waited with full anticipation for Him to do so. But He didn’t. He changed my heart instead. He did that by showing me that I had allowed unresolved conflict to become bitterness.

As the writer of Hebrews encouraged his readers to live lives in holiness and peace, he also warned them of things NOT to do. Living with a root of bitterness was on this list. “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many” (Hebrews 12:15 NLT).

If you have ever lived with a root of bitterness in your life, you know that poisonous is the perfect word to describe what it does to us. My hatefulness had affected every aspect of my life, just as literal poison spreads in the body. There was no peace… in any situation. And worse, I had allowed my anger to spread to others, causing corruption in them as well.

For a long time I felt totally justified, until the Lord began to reveal the extent of my issue. As He did, He proceeded to change me, unexpectedly softening my heart towards the situation. His grace and mercy completely amazed and overwhelmed me. Had I preemptively run away from the situation, I would never have experienced His healing power. I would have missed Him taking me from bitterness to beauty and freedom that ONLY the Lord could have done. Trust me. I was very determined I would not change my mind.

There is no way to even begin to explain the beauty that is on the other side of bitterness if we are just willing to walk through the process with the Lord.

He is so kind to not let us stay there, because He has so much more for us. I will be the first to raise my hand and say that this is not easy, but I will also be the first to raise both of my hands and say “Thank you Jesus for not letting me stay in camp bitterness. Thank you for loving me so much that you didn’t answer my prayer the way that I wanted you to. Thank you for wanting so much more for me than I could ever have imagined for myself. Thank you for being so good.”

I don’t know where you may find yourself today. But I do know if you find yourself in camp bitterness where I was living, the very best thing you can do is to give that burden to the Lord.

I encourage you to let Him change your heart, to willingly walk through that process with Him.

Let Him free your heart and show you what unspeakable beauty, freedom, and joy that is waiting for you. He wants so much more for us. Sometimes we just have to be willing to let Him change us, as hard and as humbling as that may be. It is so very worth it.

 “…giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”  Isaiah 61:3 NASB

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From Bitterness to Beauty – encouragement from Ashley Lauren McClain on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Ashley McClainAbout the author: Ashley McClain is a girl with big dreams and a blog to encourage women in their journey through this life we have been given by the greatest Gift Giver there is! She loves to read, write, drink coffee, and spend time with the hubby & puppies! Connect with Ashley on her website ashleymcclain.org. She would love to hear about your journey too!

Join the conversation: Has God ever healed you from the root of bitterness? Please share!

The Fear of Missing Out

by Crystal Bowman

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV 

Have you ever suffered from FOMO—the Fear of Missing Out? I have before, and I’m still wrestling with it now! I was supposed to attend a major women’s conference in Tennessee where I would be schmoozing with my fellow Christian authors and speakers. The three-day event concluded with a fancy-bling banquet and entertainment by a major Christian celebrity. Following that conference, was the Christian Product Expo, where I’d have the opportunity for more schmoozing—this time with retailers and big names in the publishing industry.

I had decided months before these events that I would be there. I even felt like God was telling me to go. I registered for both conferences and booked a hotel room as soon as early-bird registration was open. I was invited to lead a workshop on writing for children. I was scheduled for four radio interviews and a television interview. I was invited to have not one—but two books signings. I not only wanted to be there, I felt I needed to be there. My newest book had just released in February and this was my big chance to let the world know.

As I anticipated this exciting opportunity, I pictured myself smiling and talking about my new book as I personally signed each copy. I even knew what outfits I’d be wearing and was tempted to start packing weeks in advance. But none of this happened. The events came and went without me, and I suffered from an acute case of FOMO.

When my mountain climbing-marathon running-alligator hunting husband ended up in ICU in July, I was sure he’d pull out of it in time, and I’d still be able to attend the mid-August event. But he didn’t, and I didn’t. He was released from the hospital after ten days, but was in no condition to be alone while I did my thing in Tennessee.

One-by-one I contacted my publishing companies, my hotel roommate, the conference directors, media interviewers, book singing schedulers, and more. Choking back tears, I notified each person that I would not be attending the conference. Then I had a chat with God that went something like this: “God, I don’t get it. I felt like I was supposed to be there and that You wanted me to go. My husband has not been in the hospital since the day he was born. Why now? Why this?”

The above words from Isaiah were written at a time when God was calling the nation back to Him. There was an infinite difference between their thoughts and His. They needed to trust Him. He did not act arbitrarily, but in love. Even when they didn’t understand what He was doing, they could count on His perfect character.

I believe that God is not accountable to me, and He doesn’t owe me answers. I know that as I surrender to Him, He will carry me through difficult times.

But I also love how He sometimes offers a glimpse of His purpose when the unexpected interrupts our lives.

Weeks later, on a walk, He helped me realize something. I kept thinking about all the people I had called or emailed to let them know my plans had change. I thought about what each of them said— “I’ll be praying for you and your husband.” “I’ll be sure to give this to our prayer team.” “Is it okay if I share this at our staff meeting, so we can pray?” Because I had to inform so many people about my change of plans, dozens of people were lifting up my husband and me in prayer. People I don’t even know.

I don’t know when I’ll have another opportunity to schmooze with authors and retailers to promote my new book. But I know that God’s ways are higher than my ways and that He is in control. When I fully trust His ways, FOMO is just an acronym that has no power over me.

Dear God, when life changes quickly in ways we don’t understand, help us to surrender our plans to You and trust You to work out Your ways for good. Amen.

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Crystal BowmanAbout the author: Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books including, Our Daily Bread for Kids. She and her husband have three married children and seven huggable grandchildren.

Ten percent of women struggle with infertility. Mothers In Waiting—Healing and Hope for Those with Empty Arms contains 30 hope-filled stories from contributors like Valorie Burton, Katie Norris, and Shay Shull, whose journeys through infertility and miscarriage to adoption and miracle births will buoy your faith. You don’t have to suffer alone.

Join the conversation: Has God ever given you a glimpse of His purpose when the unexpected hit?

Doubts? Get Back to Basics.

by Monica Schmelter @monicaschmelter

For the Lord is good.
    His unfailing love continues forever,
    and his faithfulness continues to each generation.  Psalm 100:5 NLT

In seasons where prayers go seemingly unanswered, you may find yourself riddled with doubts and questions. At least that’s how it is for me.

I’ve been praying over a prodigal for over ten years, and despite my fervent prayers, she continues to make excruciatingly painful choices. I find myself asking God a lot of doubt-filled questions. Why God? When God? How did we get here God?

When I think my prayers are going nowhere and questions and doubts are mounting, I find it incredibly helpful to return to the basics.

For me, that means I cease and desist with the questions, and start digging into God’s Word. As I begin reading its truths, I rediscover a Heavenly Father who is faithful and good. I am reminded that He hears every prayer. His Word assures me He is answering my cries, even if I can’t see or feel Him doing it. And as I soak in those truths, my questions and doubts dissipate.

Going back to the truth helps me to stop my faulty thinking. It inspires me to stop going off on my own and abide once again in Him.

Recently, as I struggled with my prodigal’s situation, God led me to John 15:5: “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (NLT). The verse reminded me that going ahead of God, demanding that He do things my way and on my timetable, is the opposite of resting in Him. It’s counterproductive, because He is the source of anything good that can be accomplished. Remaining in Him gives me strength to live out the truth. Ultimately, I can accomplish nothing on my own.

But as vital as it is to our spiritual health, the whole remaining in Him thing is easier said than done. So I tackle that challenge in much the same way as I do those doubts and questions. I post encouraging Scriptures on paper sticky notes, on my computer screen, and my cell phone. So when challenges to trusting God resurface, I go right to those prompts to remind me of the truth, which encourages me to stay on course. It keeps me from allowing unbelief to fester.

Living out the truth is an expression of our trust and love for Jesus Christ. His Word says if we love Him, we will obey His commandments. When doubts and questions about unanswered prayers are looming, our immediate obedience might be thwarted. It’s hard to obey someone you can’t trust. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with taking our doubts and questions to God. But allowing doubts to remain unchallenged is destructive.

Are you are in a season where you’ve been praying for someone or about something for a long time without an answer? A journey back to the basics might be helpful. When you start with the truth, remain in the truth, and live out the truth, you will be much more aware of your Heavenly Father present with you and be able to lean into His goodness and faithfulness to every generation.

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monicaheadshot (1)

About the author: Monica Schmelter hosts the daily television show Bridges on Christian Television Network. In her spare time, she searches for delicious and decadent calorie- free chocolate. You can find out more about her on FacebookPinterestTwitter, and Instagram.

Got a junk drawer? Ever find yourself stuffing stray items in there without thinking? Monica’s book, Messy to Meaningful, will help you sift through and sort out the unnecessary spiritual things weighing you down. Stop holding on to so much junk that you can’t fit in the good things the Lord is calling you to. Monica, and co-authors Rhonda Rhea and Kaley Rhea will take you through your junk drawer and make you laugh along the way. Find yourself some beautiful…free.

Join the conversation: What truths about God encourage you the most?

 

The Only Thirst Quencher

by Rebecca Barlow Jordan

For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:9 NLT.

A few years ago I bought a new plant called an Ornamental Mustard. It has beautiful leaves, such pretty colors–different from anything I owned. I wasn’t sure where to plant it, but I knew I’d find a place for it.

New plants always perk up the garden, especially when some things are fading. I found a temporary spot on the back porch, until I decided on its permanent home. But I forgot something vital about that plant. In fact, it’s a fairly general principle about gardening, one that’s crucial to a gardener’s success: Plants get thirsty; they need water.

Three days later I looked out the window at my mustard plant sunning on the back porch. I had forgotten to water it. The sun, wind, and rising temperatures had sucked the life from my mustard plant. The leaves drooped so low, they sagged on the hot concrete. Plants can die without water. And just one drink won’t suffice. I could water it today. But the next day, if left in the hot sun–especially if it’s not rooted yet–that plant will need another long, cool splash of water.

In the same way, it’s so easy for us to think we can survive without a daily spiritual drink from God and His Word. I prayed once last week. I did read a chapter in the Bible last year. Been a little busy lately.

Disappointments arrive at our door; harsh winds blow; relationships dry up, and suddenly we’re dehydrated. Last month or last year’s drink didn’t last. We need spiritual refreshment daily. I’m not talking about the Living Water God gives us–our salvation. God has given us life in the Spirit to us as believers.

This is about everyday life. God waits daily for us, eager to refresh our spirit, body, and soul. I am not suggesting we meet with Him because of a sense of guilt or duty. Whether we spend five minutes or five hours alone in His presence is not the issue. Depending on the season of our lives, that time may vary.

But I can testify to this: when we are aware of an extreme thirst to the point of spiritual dehydration, we will run daily, not walk, to Jesus. And we’ll hold cupped, outstretched, hands for Him to fill to overflowing.

And the next day, we’ll want to drink again, because we know our survival depends on it. I don’t mean if we skip our daily “quiet time,” we won’t make it through the day. God is more interested in relationship than in rule-keeping. Our eternal destiny is not the issue. But we do need daily spiritual refreshment and fellowship with Him.

The more we spend time with Jesus, the more we’ll want to again—and again. Because the more we come to Him, the more we will be filled. And the more we drink, the more “vitality” we will experience. Our spirits need daily, spiritual refreshment to thrive.

God’s Word is both our fertilizer and our sprinkler system. And His Spirit is eager to refresh us daily with life-giving water as we communicate heart to heart. He is the only true Thirst-Quencher. And we need Him daily!

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The Only Thirst Quencher – encouragement from Rebecca Barlow Jordan on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

IMG_7350About the author: Rebecca Barlow Jordan is a day-voted follower of Jesus who loves to paint encouragement on the hearts of others. She has authored and contributed to over 20 books and written over 2000 articles, greeting cards, and other inspirational pieces. Rebecca also loves gardening, visiting with her children and grandchildren, reading great fiction, and fishing with her husband. Find Rebecca and her encouraging blog at www.rebeccabarlowjordan.com.

Rebecca’s latest book, Mornings with Jesus 2019, will help you experience a closer relationship with Jesus. It’s full of inspiring, lasting motivation, and provides spiritual nourishment that will fill you with hope and direction.

 

Fruitless Labor

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

He was a preacher who felt the call of God to share the gospel with college students in Chapel Hill, NC. Every Saturday, month after month, he got into his white Ford van and headed for the same street corner. He set up megaphone speakers to play hymns for those who happened by. Then he stood by his van and handed out tracts to anyone who would take one.

Not once, month after month of Saturdays, did he see fruit from his efforts. But he knew God had called him, so he pressed on.

The prophets faced a similar challenge of a fruitless calling. In fact, some of them never got any positive response from their efforts. Not in their lifetimes, at least. But Peter writes, “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you…” (1 Peter 1:12 NASB). As the prophets recorded God’s Words to a rebellious nation, their message was not only for their immediate time frame. God would use those writings many years later, to enable a future generation to confirm the messiah’s identity and recognize the plans of God.

The prophets simply did what God asked, never seeing the fruit of their labor. They trusted God to use their efforts for His glory.

Sometimes God calls us to that kind of seemingly thankless work. He does not offer guarantees or give us insight as to how He will use our efforts. Yet we are called to persevere, operating in faith that God will somehow use what we do to build His kingdom. Our job is to be faithful, leaving the responsibility for any growth to Him.

That faithful but fruitless street preacher? One day a skinny college senior, who was a hippie, drug dealer, and fraternity bad boy, stopped to talk with him. He had been searching for the meaning in life: why was he here? What was his purpose? After discussing Jesus for two hours, the preacher gave him a Bible and suggested he read it. God worked mightily in that young man as he did, until one evening, the boy dropped to his knees and gave his life to Christ. His name was Lon Solomon.

God eventually led Lon to seminary, eventually giving him the position of senior pastor for a large church in Northern Virginia. God used his ministry and preaching to lead countless others to Christ. Through Lon, the Lord saw fit to grow McLean Bible Church into a congregation of over 20,000 members.

Why do I share this story? Lon Solomon was that preacher’s only convert out of his street ministry. God used all that effort to lead one single soul to Christ. But the fruit from that one soul’s transformation impacted the world.

Paul was faithful to the calling he received on the road to Damascus. It wasn’t easy. During his years of ministry, he was beaten, stoned and left for dead, experienced hunger and thirst, but tirelessly traveled dangerous roads to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. And through it all, he trusted in God to take the seed he sowed and multiply it for His glory.

What has God called you to do?  Will you have an impact on the world? Our efforts rarely do. And just as Paul and the street preacher did, we will face hardships and discouragement as we obey. But our responsibility is simple: do what we are called to do. We can trust God to take our efforts and use them for his kingdom while generously allowing us to participate in his glorious cause.

“Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”  1 Corinthians 3:7 NASB

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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 ever discovered some God did through you after the fact? Please share!

 

The Good Path

by Marilyn Turk @MarilynTurk

This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.  Jeremiah 6:16 NIV

One day I went out for a walk. I usually stayed on the sidewalk in our neighborhood, but when I noticed a wide trail leading into the woods, I was intrigued. I had never noticed this trail before, and I didn’t even know existed.  But I knew I had to follow it. Although it was obvious that I was not the first to travel the path, what lay ahead was unknown to me. Where did it lead? How far did it go? How long would it take me to discover what lay ahead?

Step by step, I followed the trail, fascinated by the unveiling scenery around me, a natural barrier between two streets. Through the trees and undergrowth, I could see the backyards of houses or their back fences.  Sometimes the path was wide and clear, and I could see farther ahead. Other times, the undergrowth closed in around me, and I could only see part of the path. yet I pressed on.

I questioned myself – why did I go off the main sidewalk? Had I committed to a journey I wasn’t prepared for? Yet, I wanted to find out where it led, trusting the invisible hand that beckoned me. As I traveled, unexpected surprises met me along the way—a fallen tree I had to climb over and lovely wildflowers in yellow and lavender bringing color to the greenery around them. I stopped to take a few pictures with my phone, then continued on, pulled forward like metal to a magnet.

Occasionally, a jogger or a biker passed me on the path. I didn’t mind though, because I knew my pace was my own, and I needn’t hurry to catch up. This was my path, my time, and my chance to enjoy the journey.

When the path appeared dark and mysterious, fear threatened my progress. Yet I continued, expecting to see light just beyond the obscure places. And I was not disappointed, because the path finally opened up for me, and I found myself at the end, glad to have experienced the journey.

The destination was important, but the discoveries made along the way were equally so.

Life is much like my walk down the trail. Like the verse above, when we ask God to lead us, He often takes us down trails we hadn’t expected. We can be afraid and balk at the challenge, or we can accept the new opportunity as part of God’s plan. Sometimes we meet roadblocks or detours and think we’re on the wrong path. But God has reasons for these as well, and He calls them all “good.” He wants us to learn, to grow, and to trust Him, as we travel. But how can we do that unless we keep moving forward?

Jeremiah was called by God to bring His word to the people. His people were steeped in sin and judgment was imminent. They were looking in the wrong places for peace and security. God was calling them to choose a different path. They were being given a choice and were standing at the crossroads.

Would they trust Him?

They would not. God informed him: “You shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you; and you shall call to them, but they will not answer you” (Jeremiah 7:27, NASB). Their bad choice resulted in missing out on wonderful blessings they would have been given had they taken the other way. As they traveled with Him, He would have revealed Himself in new ways and their love for Him would have grown. It was the way of rest and life and security. Their lack of trust in God’s plan for them cost them dearly.

Perhaps we have our own idea of what we plan or want to do. Maybe we’re confused about which way to go. But God knows the plans He has for us, and once we trust Him with our future, He will give us peace, “rest for our souls,” that comes from the confidence that we are following His leading.

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The Good Path – @MarilynTurk on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Marilyn TurkAbout the author: Marilyn Turk’s roots are in the coastal South. She loves God, discovering stories hidden in history, and lighthouses. Her novels show how faith works in the lives of her characters and include two World War II novels, The Gilded Curse (placed second in the Golden Scrolls Awards) and Shadowed by a Spy, and the Coastal Lights Legacy series set in 1800s Florida, Rebel Light, Revealing Light, Redeeming Light, and Rekindled Light. Marilyn is also a contributor to the Daily Guideposts Devotions book.

Join the conversation: Has God ever taken you on a journey on an unexpected path?

Hope that Bubbles

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.                          Romans 15:13 CSB

I would’ve appreciated the comment. Except…Alka-Seltzer.

Every now and then, an extra-grace-filled person tells me I have a “bubbly personality.” Isn’t that sweet? It makes me think of happiness and fun and sparkling party punch in a splashy hot tub—and I take it as a compliment.

Unless I overanalyze it. That’s what I did not too long ago. As a matter of fact, I overanalyzed a lot of the happy-fun right out of it. Because I would think of bubbles and my mind would take me straight to…Alka-Seltzer.

I’ve tried. I really have. Just can’t drink it. I know that stuff can help a sick stomach. But I’ve always had trouble getting past the fact that it’s…churning. If I’m holding a glass of it, it has to mean my stomach is already churning, right? So this “glass of churn” is supposed to fix my stomach churn? I find that hard to swallow. In every way. Every. Way.

Especially since when I let my mind dwell on the churn too long, I start thinking about butter. Churning butter. It’s not a happy-fun thought for a person who really should swallow that Alka-Seltzer.

Analyzing from another direction, if I’m going to be bubbly, I want to bubble in the right way. Paul talks about how God fills us to the point of bubbling over in Romans 15:13. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” (CSB). Know what’s better than happy-fun bubbles? Being so filled with joy and peace that we overflow with hope. It’s hope that effervesces!

Some days, life here on this earth seems like anything but a sparkly party. Our tendency—even our habit—can be to focus on the negatives. Every little bellyache looks bigger from that place of hopelessness. Getting stuck in a pattern of negative thinking will breed more negative thinking—and we can find ourselves drowning in gloom instead of overflowing with hope.

So where do we find hope that overflows? According to that verse in Romans 15, we find it from the God of hope—the one who does the hope-filling and who packages it with joy and peace—“by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

The “as you believe” of the passage is from the Greek word pisteuein. It refers to a belief that’s wrapped in faith, trust and confidence. As we find our pisteuein in our God of hope, we see Him build even the smallest hope into the kind that radically revolutionizes a life.

There’s a bonus. Others love to be near a hope that overflows. They love it when some of that hope bubbles over and splashes onto them. You won’t find many who go out of their way to hang around a hopelessly negative person. But those joy, peace and hope bubbles? They attract people.

If you’re not overflowing in hope, maybe stuck in some of those negatives without much joy or peace, could I give you a little encouragement? Because there is hope available to you. The God of Hope wants you to have it. His Holy Spirit lives inside you, ready to power up that hope. Have faith in the God of Hope. Trust Him. Joy and peace is swimming in it, and there’s hope enough to splash around in.

And that makes better bubbles. Not butter bubbles. Nope, eternally better bubbles.

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Hope that Bubbles – insight 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: What is it about God that floods you with hope?

Ambassadors of the God Who Sees

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20 NASB

Less than five years off the street, I simultaneously craved love and fought against it. I hungered for Jesus but acted as if I didn’t know Him. And in part, I didn’t. I had bits of knowledge, enough to cross over from death to life, but not enough to propel me into freedom.

To the onlooker, I was rebelling against God and His truth. My husband and I went to bars almost every Friday and Saturday. It wasn’t uncommon for us to stay until last call. We were living together while unmarried, and quite honestly, it didn’t even cross my mind that this was wrong.

My entire worldview was contrary to God’s. This worldview, this way of thinking, had developed slowly, over almost two decades. Transformation—which always begins first with the heart and then one’s thoughts—would take time. And love. And Gentleness.

Patiently, bit by bit, God brought light to my darkness and truth to my falsehood.

He used three people in particular, one I initially found strange. This man worked with my husband, a railroader, and in time, a friend. He kept coming around, offering to help, giving and letting us borrow things. Wanting nothing in return. Every once in a while, he’d throw Jesus into the conversation, or subtly say he was praying for us. And then he’d leave.

No pressure. No Bible thumping. No condemnation.

God also sent two pastors our way, one right after the other. They stopped by, joined us for coffee. Took us to lunch and dinner. Answered our questions, but mainly acted as friends–as if oblivious to our drunkenness, foul language, and frequent fights.

They looked past the outward gunk to the hurting, hungry hearts beneath.

And here’s the deal—had they come at us with condemnation, with any expectation, I would’ve bolted. Hid. Maybe never entered a church again. Though I might not have known a lot of Scripture, I had years of condemnation, of self-loathing. Of shame. Of believing I was unworthy of God’s love.

And God saw me (Genesis 16:13). He saw my hurt, my confusion and deception. My shame. And instead of calling me to rise to where He was, He came to me. As the God who bends down to listen (Psalm 116:2). Through three obedient and faithful men, God shattered my expectations, broke through my defenses, and built steady and enduring bridges, gently, lovingly, drawing me closer to Himself.

We moved four years later, and those men never saw the results of their patience. For all they knew, their efforts had been wasted. They have no idea the impact their relationship with this sinful, foul-mouthed couple from the west coast made.

Except for one of them—my husband’s coworker. Last year, this man, the one who’d so patiently reached out, joined us for dinner. It wasn’t long before our conversation turned to my writing and ministry, and all God has done through a street-girl turned speaker. That night, we were able to share how God used his efforts, nearly a decade later.

He’d chosen to build bridges. To show love. To trust that, God would bring two broken, sinful people to Himself, in His perfect timing. He didn’t consider himself responsible for the end result. He was but a guide along the journey, long before any fruit from his efforts emerged.

I’m reminded of their example when I encounter others so different from me. My initial reaction is to pull away, to self-protect and choose the comfortable. To resist focusing on the outside and stay focused on the broken heart within. I’m reminded of who I’ve been, yes, but also of who I am now—another representative of the God who sees, loves, and transforms.

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Ambassadors of the God Who Sees – 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.

Hometown HealingShe’s home again, but not for long…
unless this cowboy recaptures her heart…

Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good?

Join the conversation: What ambassador of God has had an impact on your life?