Search High and Low—Without the Low

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I just finished digging through my purse for about 20 minutes, desperately searching for a business card that I’d stuck in there a few days ago. Know what I found instead? Yeah, besides the candy bar of unknown origin. Or age. I found instead the list I spent 20 minutes searching for yesterday. I have proven once again that it’s not just about the looking. It’s also about the overlooking. And, multi-tasker that I am, I can do both simultaneously. Even while eating a candy bar. (Don’t judge. It was chocolate. It’s not like I had a choice.)

My husband doesn’t judge. He doesn’t even tease me when I can’t find something in my purse. One reason is that he’s a really nice guy. I’m pretty sure the other reason is that he knows I see his office on a regular basis. Not that I’m comparing Richie’s office to my purse or anything. Nevertheless, I have to say, if he added nail polish, some lip gloss and a travel-sized can of hairspray, I could picture myself putting a shoulder strap on that office and hauling it to the mall to find shoes to match. We recently had to rummage through his office on a hunt for his keys. We searched high and low before we found them. I was glad to make it out of there in one piece. And without tetanus.

Today I was also rummaging around in Scripture—though it was an entirely different kind of rummaging—and the word “seek” caught my attention. “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” (Psalm 105:4 ESV). I may look for a business card, look for a list, look for the keys—even look for the candy bar I didn’t know I had. But no search is as vital as this one. It’s a three-pronged search that I never, ever want to overlook. We’re told to seek the Lord, seek His strength and seek His presence. And to do this searching “continually.”

It’s a high search. To seek the Lord is to actively desire a connection with Him. It happens through reading His Word, through prayer, through worship—and through keeping fervent our desire to know Him more and more. Seeking His strength is recognizing that all might is His and that there’s nothing we can do in this life without His empowering. Seeking His presence is understanding that He is in us and that He’s at work around us. It’s surrendering to Him, asking for His filling. It encompasses a stubbornly determined, unrelenting desire to love Him more completely and serve Him more passionately.

Guess what happens when we seek the Lord continually. All the other searches in life fall into perspective. That’s a happy place—with or without the candy bar. The verse right before says, “Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!” (Psalm 105:3 ESV).

A heart that’s rightly seeking is a heart that will rejoice. I want to glorify His holy name in the way that I seek. I want to be all about the looking. Never the overlooking. That’s definitely a key element in a life well-lived.

Incidentally, any time you find a key element, you might want to make sure you don’t leave it in my husband’s office. Or my purse.

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.  Deuteronomy 4:29 NASB

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Search High and Low—Without the Low – insight from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for the Messy to Meaningful series, with My Purse Runneth Over coming soon. Edie Melson and Rhonda have a new book as well, Unruffled—Thriving in Chaos.

Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: How has God revealed Himself to you when you have sought Him out?

God’s Wide Receiver

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

I have always chafed at what I perceived was a passive role in my relationship with Christ – because what am I to do is receive Him.

Reception seemed entirely passive to me. Examples of receivers – my phone, my radio, the poor and needy – brought up images of waiting, empty, hand upraised, alive only upon receipt of that which is given or sent. It is, indeed, what I am – poor in spirit, soul-needy, awaiting what God has to give, but was this all of it? Am I just a receiver?

Then, I started watching football with my father, and my Heavenly Father opened my eyes to the true nature of receiving. On that field were receivers in action.

On a football team, there is an “offensive” line. This is the group of players charged with getting the football down the field and across the goal to score a touchdown.

And are we Christians not an offense to those defending the way of the world against the very One who died to save it? And are we not charged with bringing that offense past every obstacle in the heart and mind of each soul to whom we present the gospel?

And does it not require a whole team with the training, the stamina, and the passion to persist, to rise up after every hard hit, to keep our focus on the goal despite the odds, despite the noise of the crowd, despite the intentional deceptions and maneuverings of the opposition?

On this offensive line, there is a quarterback who calls the plays, who holds the ball, who scans the field for the best opportunity, the open player, the optimal moment to release the ball into the air in an effort to progress down the field toward the goal.

And is this not like Jesus, the shepherd always seeking the one who has wandered from the ninety-nine, always interceding before the Father for that one who has yet to come home to His heart, always his ears attuned to the Holy Spirit whispering when the wind is in favor of the release?

Also, on this offensive line, are players who live ready to receive. Running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends specifically, who tirelessly, actively train to receive from the quarterback and complete his mission of progressing their kingdom down the field toward the goal – always into enemy territory.

And the more I learn about these players, the more I understand what God seeks from me.

They devote themselves to the goal. They condition, train, eat, sleep, walk, talk, and live their goal. They know after countless minutes, hours, days, and weeks drilling and training, they may be ready on the field but will come up empty-handed. Still, they live in constant vigilance and hope for those moments when they are the ones open and ready.

They train alone. They practice with teammates. They do individual drills with their quarterback. Sometimes, they spend weekends alone with him just paying attention to his ways, his moves, his signals, so when the time comes, when the pressure is on, when the noise is deafening, and the chaos surrounds, even then, their eyes are on him and they are in position to receive.

And is this not what God wants from those who stand ready to receive Him? It no longer feels like a passive role to me; it doesn’t look like it, either, as I position myself in the fields of God.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.  John 1:11-12 ESV

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lori Roeleveld Headshot 2015About the author: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

Join the conversation: How do you get ready to receive?

Confident Dependence in the Face of Fear

by Jennifer Smith Lane

Last year my husband, an otherwise healthy man in his mid-forties, was diagnosed with cancer. The news blindsided us. Further testing led to the discovery of a second, unrelated cancer in his kidney. Another blow. This was particularly surprising because my husband is a urologist. Not only is kidney cancer his surgical specialty, it has also been the focus of his medical research for nearly two decades.

Suddenly our lives came to a screeching halt. Our world was turned upside down as a treatment plan was mapped out making the next six months look drastically different than what we had planned. If that wasn’t enough, during that same time, we had a water leak in our kitchen forcing us to replace all of the main level flooring, a close family friend died, and our son started having some health problems as well. I felt overwhelmed and afraid.

It’s one thing to say you trust God. It’s another thing to trust God when you are afraid.

Even though God had rescued me from my eating disorder and shown me that He was trustworthy, I still found myself afraid. Could I trust Him to bring me through yet another deep valley of suffering? “As for me, I look to the LORD for His help. I wait CONFIDENTLY for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me” (Micah 7:7 NLT). Wait confidently, with certainty?

When I’m afraid, I find that confidence and certainty are the exact opposite of how I feel. As I reflected on this, I realized I was afraid because I kept thinking the outcome rested on my shoulders when in actuality it rested on God’s. God was asking me to give my fears over to Him and trust Him, but I didn’t know what that looked like, so I turned to God’s Word for answers.

As I studied the Psalms, I was surprised by how often the psalmist prays in commands. Meaning when he prays, he doesn’t sheepishly skirt around his request. No, he pleads with God saying things like, “Save Me,” “Heal Me,” “Rescue Me,” “Help Me,” and “Vindicate Me.” I thought, how could David be so bold as to pray this way? It’s because David’s confidence rested in God, not in himself. David knew that the God he was crying out to was the same God who created the world and all that is in it. The same God who flooded the earth, parted the Red Sea, turned the Nile into blood, and performed countless other wonders and miracles. The same God who made up a plan to save all of humanity through His Son Jesus Christ. Even though David had a lot to fear, he prayed big because he lived in “confident dependence” (Hosea 12:6 NLT) on our amazing God.

We pray to the same amazing God David did. Don’t let fear hinder your prayer life by limiting our limitless God. The next time you’re facing difficult circumstances, pray like you remember how great God is and that He is on your side.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV

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Confident Dependence in the Face of Fear – insight from Jennifer Smith Lane on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

jennifer smith laneAbout the author: Jennifer Smith Lane is the president and co-founder of the Michigan Eating Disorders Alliance, whose mission is to provide education programs to prevent eating disorders. In addition to her non-profit work, she leads an eating and body image ministry walking alongside women on their recovery journey and empowering them to find freedom in Christ. Jennifer, her husband, and three children live in Michigan.

Jennifer’s new book, Transformed: Eating and Body Image Renewal God’s Way, helps women identify the underlying spiritual issues that keep them stuck in eating and body image issues. It is an inductive Bible study that teaches tools to turn to God for rescue through the spiritual disciplines.

Join the conversation: What is it about God that gives you confidence in Him?

 

 

 

Significance through Surrender

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Sometimes our greatest assignments, the steps towards our calling, come during the most mundane activities. And I wonder if the converse might be true as well. Is it possible to miss an amazing, God orchestrated opportunity when we’re focused only on chasing after something we believe will be amazing?

I never wanted to be a writer or speaker. It wasn’t that I was opposed to doing that; I just never considered it. I thought I was going to be a teacher. So I started attending college. I also began serving in my local church, mostly where I saw a need.

When our daughter was young, we lived in Southern California and were active in our church. We covered childcare for the Friday service. I soon began writing curriculum, sometimes that never got used, other times used for a season. I also wrote dramas, parent newsletters, and short story snippets. Rarely did anyone beyond the person I served under know I’d written it. But God knew. And He was working in and through me to grow me and lead me to where I am today. In fact, God used those activities and experiences to awaken my love for writing.

I’ve experienced opposite scenarios as well. I sensed God nudging me to launch Wholly Loved Ministries for at least two years before I finally responded. I felt I was too busy with my writing and the activities I found most important. I never hit pause long enough to truly seek God’s will in how He wanted me to spend and prioritize my time. I was too busy moving ahead.

I became overly focused on my career and under-focused on my Savior, who wanted to be my power source, faithful guide, and stabilizer. As a result, my stress and anxiety levels grew, as did feelings of discouragement and disillusionment.

Eventually, out of mercy, God intervened and put a halt on my publishing career for a time. It was long enough for me to launch my ministry and for Him to purge and realign my heart.

Back then, it felt a bit like death, but in reality, God was restoring life to what had become diseased.

Jesus said “”Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10, NIV). Those who are faithful in the little things will also be faithful in the big things. This means those who work behind the scenes, who show up every Sunday, who do what needs to be done regardless of who else knows or sees, will also be faithful in the big and glorious tasks. Perhaps that’s because their heart won’t be in the recognition, but in glorifying their Savior. For them in is about God’s agenda and glory—and not theirs.

We see this throughout Scripture. Moses, an orphaned baby turned Egyptian prince, turned fugitive, turned liberator, received God’s call while watching sheep (Exodus 3), a mundane and largely thankless job. God called the ancient prophet Elisha, while he was working in a field (1 Kings 19:19-21). God anointed Saul, Israel’s first king, to leadership, while he and a servant engaged in a three-day journey in search of a donkey (1 Samuel 9-10). Then there was Joseph, a braggart teen who received a God-sized dream but was “discovered” while faithfully serving as an imprisoned slave (Gen. 37-41).

I could go on. The Bible is filled with men and women who were called to amazing and history-changing assignments while performing mundane tasks.

May we all learn from their humble examples.

Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.                                                       Isaiah 43:7 NASB

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Significance through Surrender – insight from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout 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 Hometown Healing 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 theyHometown Healing: A Fresh-Start Family Romance (Love Inspired) by [Slattery, Jennifer] 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 HERE to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.

Join the conversation: Can you share a time when God redirected you off of an obsession and onto Him? What was the result?

 

 

Called to be Generous

by Louise Tucker Jones

Blessed are those who are generous… Proverbs 22:9 (NLT)

 My son, Jay, is a Sonic Coke-a-holic. His day is not complete without his Sonic Coke, so I take him every day after lunch. Jay is an adult with Down syndrome and thrives on routine. This one started years ago. Truthfully, I enjoy our outings, and most of the Sonic crew loves seeing his beaming smile. But once in a while, we are served by someone who is in too much of a hurry to appreciate Jay’s exuberance. And sometimes we wait for service a little too long, and I’m tempted not to give that extra tip in my hand.

Then God prompts me to remember the word He dropped into my spirit months ago. GENEROUS. Then I can’t refuse a tip just because I’m impatient. And it isn’t just Sonic where the Lord expects my generosity. He’s challenged me with a whole new meaning to that word.

I’m to be generous in every walk of life, not just in the financial realm. I often hear the Lord remind me to be generous with praise, encouragement, love and kindness. To offer a helping hand without being asked. To compliment one who isn’t expecting it. To be gracious and generous to those unlike me, even if they seem rude.

And here is the biggie. Be generous with forgiveness.

Wait! Does that really fall under the umbrella of generosity? Yes, it does. God expects me to give forgiveness generously. And here’s what I’ve learned. Many times, the hardest person to forgive is myself. Yes. Me. It’s the little things. It’s the big things. Heart-breaking things.

Everything from eating midnight snacks while trying to lose 10 pounds to losing a friend whom I had planned to call to an unexpected death. I too easily pronounce myself guilty and assault my spirit with negative comments.

“What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t I listen to my instincts?”

Perhaps you can identify. Sometimes we’re perfectionists. We don’t allow ourselves to make mistakes and pile on accusations when we do. We don’t think of it as egotistical. In fact, we often feel we just didn’t listen well to God. We prayed then made a wrong decision so it must be our fault. And sometimes that’s true, but other times it’s simply being human.

But no matter which, we need to offer the same forgiveness to ourselves that we give to others. We are not on the same spiritual plane as God. We don’t have all the answers. We will make mistakes and when that happens, we need to quickly forgive ourselves, whether we think we deserve it or not.

I can’t imagine King David thinking he deserved forgiveness when his selfish actions caused not only the death of a faithful warrior but also that of his own baby boy (2 Samuel 12). And I wonder if Peter berated himself when he became frightened and began to sink while walking on water to meet Jesus (Matthew 16:29-30).

 The lame, the blind and the sick begged Jesus for healing, but left with more than a healthy body. Why? Jesus forgave their sins as well, just as God forgave David and Peter. As people who want to follow Him, we need to cultivate forgiveness in our hearts—by remembering the grace of God.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) God’s extravagant love frees us to accept ourselves, with all our faults, as well as others. It also produces a grateful heart that is open to all kinds of generosity. Even forgiveness.

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Called to be Generous – insight from Louise Tucker Jones on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Louise Tucker Jones ProfileAbout the author: Louise Tucker Jones is a speaker, columnist and author of four books, including The Gift of Christmas. Her poignant life stories will touch your heart or tickle your funny bone. Having a son with Down syndrome, Louise writes extensively concerning people with special needs, co-authoring the Gold Medallion award-winning book, Extraordinary Kids. Married to Carl for 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands. LouiseTJ@cox.net http://www.LouiseTuckerJones.com

Join the conversation: Do you have trouble forgiving yourself?

Do God’s Restrictions Seem Unreasonable?

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

“Stop, stop!” I ran to stop the man clearing our land. I’d asked him to remove a section of trees so we could plant some evergreens behind our new house. He and his yellow bulldozer had gotten carried away. Or so I thought.

Now, years later, I regret stopping him.

At the time, I wanted to keep as many trees as we could. Now the gumballs that litter our yard and sprout up new trees remind me of my misplaced affection. While I’d focused on the immediate appeal of the trees, this pro had seen the trouble those trees would cause.

My gumball trees have helped me with some Old Testament laws and stories that sound over the top. One man remarked in a discussion about one such law, “Stoning for adultery? That seems rather severe.”

According to our culture, yes, that sounds unreasonable. But God gave that law to prevent the lifetime of suffering and loss some spouses, children, and even societies have suffered because of this kind of betrayal. Romans 6:23 and James 1:15-16 reveal the deadly nature of all sin. Old Testament laws and stories illustrate spiritual realities. God made the penalty for sin visible so we could visualize the damage wrong actions wreck on our souls and on the lives touched by our wrongs.

We live in a culture that normalizes sin. Illicit sex, recreational drugs, and other deviant behaviors are portrayed as personal expressions and even a means for finding personal meaning and fulfillment in life. The Bible acknowledges the passing pleasure of sin but warns that it ends in death—of character, relationships, spiritual life, and sometimes even physical life.

Is God Unreasonable…or Protective?

If you knew something would destroy your loved ones, wouldn’t your love motivate you to protect them? Is it loving or harsh to forbid your twelve-year-old from borrowing your car? Is it mean to take away the food that sends your child to the ER?

Just as I couldn’t imagine those shade trees causing so much aggravation, I can’t begin to comprehend the ripple effect of sin. But I can trust God’s wisdom and Word about those things. He is eternal. He makes no mistakes because He’s seen the end from the beginning. When He warns against certain behaviors and associations, I can trust that He does so to protect my life and well-being.

“Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Philippians 2:15 NLT).

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Do God’s Restrictions Seem Unreasonable? insight from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, is to be released February 2020. She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Have you witnessed your sin or the sin of others causing destruction?

Follow the Road

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8 NIV

I have never understood why the very first thing my vehicle’s navigation system feels compelled to tell me is “Follow the road.” Is it worried I might drive through the neighbor’s front yard instead? I think perhaps my GPS has control issues. And if you know me, you know how I feel about control issues.

Of course, there is a time to admit our weaknesses and seek dependable guidance.

Recently I found myself driving home from a writing conference in Oklahoma City on Labor Day. Since the trip would take me through the holiday weekend traffic of Fort Worth, I decided to program my navigation to direct me home by a different route through the country. A friend recommended an app for my phone that would not only direct me but warn me of things like cars parked on the side of the road or dangerous debris in my lane. This app told me everything—to the point of being annoying.

I reached the last major turn I was unfamiliar with and knew it was a straight shot down to the next town about thirty miles away. From there I easily knew my way home. Finally, I felt confident in turning off the pesky voice that kept interrupting my music. What could possibly go wrong?

Well let’s review a few things that could possibly go wrong. For starters, I have terrible night vision, and it was almost dark. And while I was currently on the correct road, I failed to notice that there were two highways joined here. The one I needed to continue taking would split off in a few miles. And we can’t leave out the fact that I have a terrible sense of direction.

To make a long story short, I made a long trip even longer. I missed my turn and ended up driving in the exact opposite direction I needed to go. I was headed right toward the place I had gone out of my way to avoid.

I now had plenty of driving time to consider the error of my ways. I thought about all the times I do this with God. He is my perfect guide. He alone knows the path I’m meant to take and what lies ahead.

But sometimes I let a few miles of smooth travel make me overconfident. This directly impacts my decisions. Maybe it’s a situation I’ve faced many times before. I think I’ve got it handled—no need to pray about it this time.

How about when I am reading a devotion or Bible study and I skim over or even skip reading the Scripture because I already know that one, and, well…I’m in a hurry? In my overconfidence, I stop listening to the only voice that sees the path before me and can guide me safely home.

Before I know it, suddenly I’ve missed a turn and find myself careening into trouble that could have been avoided.

Thankfully when this happens, if I seek His leading, God will always guide me back to the right path. First, I repent—I stop going in the direction I’m headed. Then I turn the GPS—God Positioning System—back on through prayer and Bible reading.

God’s Word isn’t meant to bore us with trivial observations or repetitions. If He says it, then it is significant.

There is no way we can go, no path so familiar, that God’s direction isn’t still needed. He alone knows what lies ahead.

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Follow the Road – insight from @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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: What is the best “direction” you have received from the Lord lately?

The Croquet Lesson

by Ava Pennington @AvaPennington

He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good.                                                                                                           Proverbs 19:8 NASB

 The outing was shrouded in mystery. All the planner would say is that we had to dress casually, wear all-white, and make sure we wore comfortable shoes – preferably sneakers. The four of us met at 9:00 am, three of us still clueless about our destination.

When we arrived at our destination, a small, unassuming sign by the entrance announced “National Croquet Center.” A long driveway led us to a clubhouse built in the style and charm of old Florida.

We spent the morning with our instructor, Monte, who patiently explained the history and rudiments of the game. And we had a ball (pun intended!). However, the more Monte spoke, the more I was impressed with applications far beyond the game of croquet.

One of his first words of advice was never say “I can’t.” When one of us faced a difficult shot, the words, “I can’t do this,” often escaped our lips. Monte was quick to admonish us that if we say we can’t, then we have effectively denied ourselves even the chance of succeeding.

As a Christian, I have an even better reason to avoid saying “I can’t.” I’ve been called to do many things beyond what I believe are my abilities. Still, I have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to enable me to succeed in what He wants me to accomplish. Maybe I can’t…but He can through me! As the apostle Paul wrote, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20 ESV).

Another bit of advice from our instructor was to follow-through on each swing of the mallet to gain the distance we needed for the shot. Life is like that, isn’t it? We begin a task, then become distracted or discouraged, and we don’t finish what we start. How many unfinished craft projects are hidden in the recesses of my closet? How many partial manuscripts are sitting inside documents in my computer? The Bible reminds us “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4 NIV).

Monte also cautioned us to be aware of the danger ball. The danger ball belonged to the next person in turn. Even if I set up a perfect shot, the danger ball could knock me out of position.

I’ve been hit by some danger balls in life. It happens when I become complacent, or when I allow unrealistic expectations of people or circumstances to cloud my judgment. The apostle Peter reminds us to “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8 NIV). Even Jesus told His followers to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 NIV).

Speaking of being aware of the danger ball leads me to Monte’s next piece of advice, “Don’t block your partner.” We played in teams, and in addition to being aware of who followed us from the opposing team, we needed to be aware of our partner’s position. It didn’t benefit my team if I only focused on myself. Many of the times we scored a wicket were because one team member made sure her shot did not block her partner.

What would happen in our relationships if we heeded this advice? More to the point, what would happen in our marriages if we heeded this advice? Paul advised us to “not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4 NASB). We can at least start by not “blocking” our spouses so they are free to move as God leads!

Closely related to that last bit of advice is this: “Don’t trash the opposition; instead encourage your partner.” Croquet is a polite game. Instead of trash-talking between teams, we were exhorted to have a positive focus. Paul might have had something similar in mind when he wrote, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).

Our morning lesson culminated in a delightful lunch on the veranda, overlooking the croquet courts. Did I have fun? Absolutely! But I also learned something about myself. Now if I can only remember to apply those lessons…in croquet and in life!

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© 2010 Martin Alan Grivjack Photography Martin Alan Grivjack Photography

About the authorAva Pennington is an author, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) teacher, and speaker. Her most recent book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God, is endorsed by Kay Arthur of Precepts Ministries.

Ava has also published stories in 30+ anthologies, including 25 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse.

She is a passionate speaker and delights in encouraging groups with relevant, enjoyable presentations. For more information, visit www.AvaWrites.com.

Join the conversation: Which piece of wisdom was most helpful to you?

 

Chasing Contentment

by Lori Hynson @LoriSuperGal

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” I Timothy 6:6 NLT

“As soon as I . . .” get that promotion, make more money, potty-train the baby, get that book written, get over this illness, get out from under this debt . . . then I’ll be content.”

Have you spent your life chasing an endless list starting with “as soon as”?

While this is true for most people, it is especially true for those of us living with what I call SuperGal Syndrome. Running after approval, after some kind of achievement, after what someone else may have.

Contentment is the most valuable thing we can possess in life. We all want the first side of contentment—living satisfied, living peaceful, living joyful.  So, we chase after whatever we think will get us there. You know, get us there. The good there.

But true contentment has a second side. Being content is being at peace with all of our circumstances. Even those that weren’t exactly part of our plan—the failure to locate that pot of gold, the health issue, the ruffled relationships, the wayward kids, seeing someone else achieve what you wanted, comparing yourself unfavorably to others.

“I did it my way” may have been a profitable philosophy for Frank Sinatra, but isn’t going to much help the rest of us. Doing it our way usually leads to frustration, disappointment, anxiety, and failure. It leads to more as soon as…

What does the “true godliness with contentment” mentioned in I Timothy look like? It’s us saying, “I want what You want for me, Lord,” and meaning it. Learning what God wants for us, then trusting that God has the best plan for our lives, which may or may not include our as soon as.

Want contentment? Who doesn’t? On my best days, the days I’m NOT off and running too soon after my own plans, here’s what works for me—starting my day with a thankful heart.

Refreshing my mind with the positive—God’s beautiful creation, a smile, my ability to take long walks at my age—it’s all there if I look for it.

When we count our blessings—today’s and yesterday’s, it pushes open the gate to God’s path of peace for us, and comforts ours hearts to face that day’s circumstances.

That, for me, is true contentment.

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Chasing Contentment – insight from Lori Hynson @LoriSuperGal on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori HynsonAbout the author: Lori Hynson is a Recovering SuperGalaholic, author, speaker, Bible teacher, and singer. Her life ministry is to encourage women to recognize and be healed of their self-imposed SuperGal burdens, to find God’s abundant peace and contentment through His Word, and embrace the freedom they can experience daily in their new life in Christ.

Lori’s book, SuperGal vs. God, is the story of a woman who was convinced she could control everything life threw her way. Until she couldn’t fix the one thing that mattered most. A Bible study/book club guide on the truths in this story is also available.

Lori and her husband have five children, thirteen grandchildren, and enjoy living near Valley Forge, PA with their cats Wednesday and Natasha.

Join the conversation: For what blessings do you most often thank God? How does remembering to do so affect your attitude?

Need a Filter?

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”                                                                                                                                          Ephesians 4:29 NIV

A friend I worked with for several years was known for his sarcasm and quick comebacks. But after realizing his “humor” had hurt people’s feelings, he began to work hard to control his speech. Whenever he wanted to say something he knew he shouldn’t, he would pass his hand in front of his face as a physical reminder to “filter” his words. It was a visible reminder to himself to think before he spoke. It gave him pause. Of course, since his efforts weren’t subtle, we all knew he had left something unsaid.

Like my friend, we all need to “filter” our words before we allow them to leave our mouths, to check our speech for any impurities or damaging elements. Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t much value the verbal filter today. Instead, we want to hear every cutting, rude, crude, hurtful word. In fact, the more outrageous the better. All we have to do is tack on a “just saying” and it’s all good.

God not only tells His children we should use filters for our mouths, He tells us very specifically what we should filter out and what we should allow ourselves to say in Ephesians 4:29 NIV: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

The Greek word translated as “unwholesome” refers to far more than foul language or curse words. It means we shouldn’t say anything that tears down or deflates the one who hears our words. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever say anything hard or difficult to hear, but that the goal of our speech is to help and build up the other person.

This is so challenging for me! Think about this, what percentage of what comes out of our mouths helps and builds up the hearer? What percentage hurts or tears down the hearer?

Yes, I long for 100% of my words to build up and 0% to tear down. Unfortunately, my filter is often faulty. How about you?

God commands us to control our speech, so in part, using our filter is a step of obedience. But we also need the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit because “no one can tame the tongue” (James 3:8) on our own. We need His divine power!

If you want to tame the tongue and control your speech, join me in this “filter prayer”:

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3, NIV

Here’s the good news: God is waiting to help us control our speech! Let’s ask Him to help us keep that filter in place!

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Need a Filter? insight from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest.

Kathy’s book “Before His Throne” leads you on a 9-week journey through the book of Malachi to discover what godly fear looks in our daily lives and how this biblical attitude will help you find deeper intimacy with God.

Join the conversation: What about you? Have you ever taken pride in your “anything goes” speech? Have you struggled to control it only to fail time and time again?