Walking in the Dark

by Karen Wingate @kwingate715

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”
 Isaiah 42:16 NIV

My family loves to tour caves. Don’t misunderstand: we’re not those brave souls in stained jeans and flashlight-fitted headgear that go spelunking through untamed tunnels. We like the safe, low-light, rough-hewn paths taken with a tour guide who knows how to get from entrance to exit in 90 minutes.

A routine aspect of a cave tour is to get to the lowest point of the cave and turn out the lights so the tourists can experience total darkness. The docent warns his group this is going to happen. “Hold on to something and don’t move,” he instructs. Everyone does, because we’re tourists, not spelunkers. We don’t want to be left in the dark. Especially alone.

Every time, as I hear the gasps around me, I laugh. It’s such a simulation. For one thing, the tourists have fair warning that darkness will occur. Try getting caught off guard by pitch black; now that’s real panic.

I know what life in the dark is like. Born totally blind, I experienced eight childhood surgeries that brought my visual acuity to a less extreme status of legal blindness. My weird pupils have extra difficulty adjusting to a sudden light change. When lights turn off, my body freezes in panic. It takes a whirl of brain rearrangement to call into mind my coping mechanisms and move forward once again.

I’m pretty sure all of us have had that feeling of getting caught in the dark. We have our life map in hand. We head resolutely toward our destination. And then suddenly, the lights go out. A parent dies. A divorce happens. We hear the C word from the doctor. A problem beyond our expertise drops a boulder in our path, stopping us in our tracks. Even the next moment of life looks uncertain. In panic, we realize we can no longer see the exit sign pointing us to the security of light. We feel alone because the problem obscures the presence of anyone who cares or could help.

But we’re not alone. And there is a way out. There is always a way out.

God knows our situation. We may not be able to see in the dark, but He sees us and promises to stay with us. Better yet, He has provided a destination and architected the path that leads to that destination. Faith is grabbing on to hope and moving forward in confident trust that our Sighted Guide will not abandon us.

Imagine life without hope. The antonym of hope is despair, resignation that there is no way through or around the conflict we face. Without hope, we would have no reason to take even one step. Faith combines with hope when we willingly move forward, trusting that even though we cannot see the future, a loving benevolent, all-powerful God can. He’s committed to making sure we come out on the other side.

Trust God. Unfreeze your feet and take the next step. Let go of the panic and grab on to Him. It may be still pitch black where you stand, but God will see you through to the end.

Lord, thank you for staying with me through the difficulties I face. I rely on You to bring me through to my final destination and to give me enough light for the next step.

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Walking in the Dark – encouragement from @KWingate715 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Karen WingateAbout the author: Karen Wingate is the author of over 250 magazine articles, 150 devotions, and multiple units of Christian education curriculum with four different publishing companies. Mid-life, Karen underwent surgery for a routine repair on a retinal tear and came out of surgery with better vision than she had ever had before. Karen writes and speaks about her vision gain and is currently under contract with a publishing company for a book about seeing God in the moment. She lives with her “Preacher-Creature” husband in Western Illinois and is awaiting the birth of her first grandchild. Visit Karen’s blog at www.karenwingate.com

 Join the conversation: How has God shown you that He is with walking with you in your darker moments?

 

The Race

by Sheri Schofield

Dogsled racers from all over the United States have headed to the snowy, ice-packed mountain slopes here in Montana. When they all come together, the dogs go wild with excitement. They know it’s time to race! Many dogs jump straight up into the air, barking, eager to race. One by one, the teams approach the starting point. Only the voice of their own master counts to the dogs, for each team begins separately down the icy trail. Finally, their master shouts, “Hike!” They’re off on the 350-mile Race to the Sky, a pre-qualifying race for the famous Iditarod in Alaska. The crowd cheers and waves.

Temperatures hovering around zero degrees – or lower . . .camps set up in the snow . . . running until they are exhausted . . . Yes. But the dogs are full of excitement! They have been training for this race for months. They have learned endurance.

The Apostle Paul compares the Christian life to a race.Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV).

What is the “everything that hinders” that we are supposed to throw off? It’s a very personal thing. I recently identified something that needed to go for me: my local newspaper! The political gossip was pulling me down and distracting me way too much, pulling my thoughts in a direction that was not profitable for my ministry. Though I would miss the cartoons, I cancelled my subscription, so that I could focus on my writing and teaching, for I am training a group of young leaders at church who need my attention.

I haven’t seen a newspaper in weeks now, and guess what? My focus has improved! My writing and teaching are better. My stride in the Christian race upward is stronger. For I have thrown off the weight that was holding me back.

That was an easy fix. But not all solutions are so easy. What happens when the weight is a relationship? A person? More thought must go into that, for we have to ask, “Has God put this person into my life as part of my training or my endurance development? Did God assign this person to my team? Am I supposed to make adjustments in order to work better with him? Or is this person simply draining the life out of me and holding me back from serving God?”

It is not easy to know that answer! Relationships are complicated. Only God can tell us what to do, and our own bias can influence our spiritual hearing.  Somehow, we need to find both truth and love in our answer. Even when we do, others might not agree with our decision. That’s why it is so important to keep our eyes on Jesus, our ears tuned to his voice, our own will surrendered to His will . . . no matter what the cost. When the Master calls “Hike”, we must throw off the weight and hit the trail. There’s a race to win!

 But this one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13,14, NIV

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The Race – thoughts on #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!

Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.

Join the Conversation: What is God prompting you to throw off?

 

As Far as Accountability Is Concerned

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I was scrubbing furiously, trying to get the hot fudge stain out of my fave workout shirt. And then…the revelation. It was like, “Oh hello, irony. For a minute I didn’t see you there.”

Not that the new diet isn’t going well or anything. Because I don’t think it actually counts as eating badly if you only ate your husband’s dessert because you forgot you already ate yours. Doesn’t count. Because, “forgot.”

It’s not that I haven’t tapped into all the diet helps presently out there. But I considered I might not be doing it right when I started typing “healthy recipes” into my phone and auto-correct filled in with “pudding cake and cheese dip and lies.” Also, auto-correct can be very judgey.

In the meantime, I’ve found there are stages a person must go through before accepting a new diet: 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Donut…and then I’m not exactly sure what comes after number four. Very probably another number four.

The other day, after too many fours, I knew I needed some human accountability. I may, however, have overdone it there. This afternoon I was reaching for an oatmeal cream pie when a sniper fired a warning shot.

Still, maybe I shouldn’t concern myself as much with sniper fire as I do with taking accountability seriously. Would you believe I’m actually scripturally compelled to “be concerned”?

“And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, HCSB).

The Greek word translated “be concerned” means to so focus the mind—to consider this thing so carefully—that the result will be the right response. And this “be concerned” is in the present tense, so it’s not simply referring to a one-time consideration. We’re called to seriously and perpetually think of ways we can promote love and good works, encouraging everyone in our sphere of influence to love Jesus by the way they love and serve each other.

And isn’t it almost another irony that we promote those things as we ourselves live in that love? That means our accountability is loving—no bullets. It’s not even “judgey.” It’s more “stir-uppy”—stirring up others to love and good works.

This kind of accountability looks best when no one is aiming for condemnation or judgment. Not for wounding or shaming or angering, either. It can happen when we lovingly confront. But it should never be our aim. Loving, not sniping. It’s good to let humility be the order of the day when someone else is concerned enough to “stir” us as well—even if we don’t necessarily agree. The truth is, we don’t exactly have an auto-correct, either.

O Lord, may we love You better as each of us buoys the other. May we inspire and encourage—and be inspired and encouraged—to love you, love each other, and to love serving.

Even though it’s not a new message, we can decide to be okay with reminders that we’re accountable to one another. Because, never mind the desserts and the four stages of donuts or whatever, sometimes…“forgot.”

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As Far as Accountability Is Concerned – encouragement 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.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

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 do you build up the believers around you?

Waves of Mercy

by Melissa Heiland

Life can be overwhelming between family, ministry, health, and finances. The to-do list grows and free time seems non-existent. The pressure I sometimes feel is akin to being buried beneath a heavy weight–of unmet needs and expectations. Under that load, it’s easy to lose perspective.

That is when I like to head to the beach. It is a place of rest and relaxation for me, a place where I can once again gain perspective. At the beach, my mind clears as I breathe the ocean air and observe some of God’s greatest gifts revealed through His glorious creation.

He alone has spread out the heavens and marches on the waves of the sea. Job 9:8 NLT

Standing at the shore, I am reminded of the faithfulness and power of God. The ocean has a rhythm, much like my life. The tides come in, bringing times of loss and cleansing. Then they retreat, leaving in their wake times of peace and rest. Sometimes, I feel as if the waves will overpower me, and yet, I know the One who calms the sea. He promises to keep me safe when my eyes are fixed on Him.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! Psalm 139:17,18 NLT

The copious sand at the shore is a beautiful reminder of God’s abundant love. In the Psalms, the Lord tells us that His thoughts about us outnumber the grains of sand. Too many to count! When I am tempted to feel unloved and unseen, I need only fill my fist with sand and watch it sift through my fingers to remember how loved I am.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

And how I love the birds! As I watch them easily soar over the ocean, I am reminded, that with God, I too can soar above the stormy seas of my life. There is freedom in Jesus.

God has revealed Himself to us in His Word and in His creation. I’m so thankful for that. Sometimes, when the pace of life is fast and furious, we need to step away and be still, to let God speak to us and refresh our souls, giving us strength and peace to continue in the work He has called us to do.

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Waves of Mercy – insight and encouragement from Melissa Heiland on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Melissa heilandAbout the author: Melissa Heiland is the Founder and President of Beautiful Feet International, a mission organization that plants pregnancy ministries around the world. She is an international speaker and author who is passionate about mommies, babies and sharing the Gospel. She has written devotionals for pregnant moms, new mothers and short-term mission teams, as well as a children’s book based on Psalm 139. She and her husband Ken have 6 children and 5 grandchildren.

Join the conversation: Where do you go to find perspective?

Persevering Amid Piles of Rubble or Puddles of Mush

by Patti Richter

The year 2020 arrived with more than a bang: a US embassy attack followed by ballistic missiles and the resulting loss of a passenger plane. Meanwhile, as Australia battled wildfires, several other countries experienced either earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. Closer to home, we watched a troubling impeachment trial and grieved the death of a beloved sports icon.

Most of those bad-news events involved countless people who suddenly found themselves in adverse or worse circumstances. Daily, many people must fight for their lives, evacuate, or deal with disaster.

Others face a more private heap of trouble, like a mountain of debt, a broken relationship, or an unhealthy addiction. Difficult challenges require perseverance or, as one longsuffering friend says, “pushing through a puddle of mush.”

As we scroll through social media, we see online prayer requests and calls for help. We can pray and offer support, or we may feel called to put aside our personal well-being to enter someone’s world of pain.

The Old Testament includes an account of such a mercy mission. Nehemiah, a royal cupbearer in Persia, grieved from afar over his people’s “great trouble and disgrace” on account of Jerusalem’s broken-down wall (Nehemiah 1:3 NIV). After fasting and praying, he received permission and support from Persia’s king to leave his palace position to go help those exiles who’d returned earlier to their devastated homeland.

Once in Jerusalem, Nehemiah found willing but weary workers; the ongoing threats of enemies who opposed the rebuilding of the city wall had taken their toll. Their resolve was further weakened by the negative words of their own people: “There is so much rubble” (4:10).

Nehemiah directed these workers in two ways. First, he stationed them at regular intervals behind the wall, “with their swords, spears, and bows” (4:13). He also encouraged them to fight for their families and their homes, with assurance: “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome” (4:14 NIV).

They finished the wall in fifty-two days. Nehemiah wrote says, “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid… because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:15-16 NIV).

Like Nehemiah, the Son of God left his royal abode for the sake of others. Jesus came to earth to confront the rubble of man’s sin, and He sacrificed his life to atone for it. Before accomplishing this, he struggled against the suffering that awaited him. On the night of his arrest, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and, “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44 NIV).

With these stories in mind, the writer of Hebrews offers all of us help in persevering when discouragement leaves us hopeless:

  • “Draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (10:22 NIV).
  • “Hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (10:23 NIV).
  • “Consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (10:24 NIV).
  • “Let us not give up meeting together” (10:25 NIV).
  • “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:3 NIV).
  • “Through Jesus… let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name” (13:15 NIV).

Our fears and our foes diminish in size when we remember that God is with us because of his Son, who took our greatest burden upon himself.

The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. John 6:29 NIV

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Persevering Amid Piles of Rubble or Puddles of Mush – encouragement from Patti Richter on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Patti Richter headshot 2017-1nAbout the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She writes and edits global mission stories for The Gospel Coalition and her faith essays appears at BlueRibbonNews.com.

Patti is the co-author of Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of SufferingIt is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: What has been a source of discouragement to you lately?

 

Surprised by Suffering 

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

 

An old friend of mine recently suffered a medical problem which required extensive surgery. The whole ordeal caught her off-guard. “I never expected to have to go through anything like this,” she sheepishly confessed to me. “I assumed that the Lord would protect me from suffering.” Psalm 121 had been her mantra for many years: “He who watches over you will not slumber… the Lord will keep you from all harm…”(Psalm 121:3, 7 NIV).

 

My friend had it half-right. We can count on the presence and care of a God who misses no detail. Nothing can separate us from his love or the salvation we received through his grace. But to expect a life devoid of suffering would necessitate ignoring a large portion of Scripture.

 

Whether we like it or not, suffering is part of God’s plan for his people.

 

In the pivotal point of Mark’s gospel, Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was. Peter jumped in with a breakthrough revelation: “You are the Messiah.” Jesus quickly cautioned him not to tell anyone.

 

Jesus knew the disciples’ understanding of the nature of his messiahship was still inaccurate. The common Jewish messianic expectation was based on Old Testament Scriptures promising a conquering hero. He would come to liberate Israel from her oppressors, set up a kingdom, and reign from Jerusalem. The disciples were excited about this. So they anxiously awaited the day Jesus would come into his own.

 

Many prophecies do reveal him as a conquering hero and ruling king. Yet others portray him as a suffering servant, facing rejection by men and even by God. Isaiah wrote, “It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer… He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:10, 5 NIV).

 

Suffering would be part of the messianic plan. In fact, it was The Plan.

 

Peter then actually took the Lord aside and rebuked him. Jesus recognized Peter’s emotional reaction for what it was: personal disillusionment. The life of ease and power the disciples anticipated was quickly fading away as Jesus revealed what the future had in store.  

 

Peter needed to adjust his messianic expectations. “You do not have in mind the things of God,” Jesus told him, “but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23b NIV).

 

Jesus then took the disciples a step further. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” he told them. Suffering would be part of the plan for them as well.

 

We will experience suffering on many levels. Physical pain, disease, and the effects of old age will intrude into our lives. Grief will drive us to our knees as we struggle to survive great losses. All of us will experience hurts and offenses that are difficult to forgive. But as believers, those things are not without purpose; suffering is a perspective-changing crucible. The unimportant details that would have distracted us in our walk with Him become trivial. With everything stripped away, we find that God is all that matters.

 

Peter eventually understood the purifying opportunity suffering presents. In his later years, he wrote: “He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2 NIV). 

 

Someday, suffering will no longer exist for us. We will no longer need suffering in our lives, because we will finally be complete. But until that time, count on suffering to be a part of your life. Embrace it as best you can, for it is evidence of a loving God at work in you.

 

“He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”                                                                                                                                                              2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV

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Surprised by Suffering  – encouragement 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: How has suffering affected your priorities and understanding of God?

Dealing with Horrific Circumstances

by Robin Gilbert Luftig @robinluftig

“…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

I stood in horror as the doctor’s words sunk in: your son has a broken neck. Hours earlier he had attempted a backflip—as he had accomplished hundreds of times before—but this time he didn’t make it over. He landed on his head and neck. There in the hospital my son tried to reach for my hand, but all he could do was offer a palsy-like movement.

Finally settled in his hospital room, I watched as the medication slowly took over and guided him to sleep. He lay there, neck braced and tubes of medication and monitors surrounding him. I pulled up a chair, leaned my forehead against the side of his mattress and readied my heart to pray. I knew I had an open channel to the Creator of the Universe and could speak to him about anything. This prayer needed to reach past all the clouds and stars. It needed to grab God’s attention. Yet all I could say was, “Oh God … Oh God … Oh God … Oh God ….”

Have you ever had a moment that shook you emotionally to the point where you had no words to speak, only utterances? Sometimes that’s all we have to offer.

And sometimes that’s enough. Comfort can be found in terrible situations, but it takes determination on your part. Moses told the Israelites, “…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, emphasis added).

 So when all you have is Oh God … Oh God … Oh God, know the Holy Spirit is working on your behalf, interceding for you. After I prayed that day in the hospital room, 1 Peter came to mind.

“… though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even through refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:5-7 (NIV).

The Apostle Peter wrote these words to the first century Christians who were experiencing persecution. He knew they needed encouragement to look beyond their circumstances. Those sentiments continue through today. When those words came to my mind there in the hospital while I waited for the doctor’s prognosis, they brought peace to my heart. I knew no matter the outcome, God was still in control.

Dealing with the emotions surrounding trauma may take longer than you anticipated. Peace seldom relieves a dark situation with a one-and-done prayer. Continue reaching out and listening. That doesn’t mean to return to the Oh God … Oh God … Oh God-type of conversation with God, but it does mean to remember Who is with you, cares for you, and is always in control.

Oh, and my son? His neck healed and he’s an avid volleyball player in Chicago these days.

There are times when we cannot change circumstances, we can only experience them. But we don’t have to experience them alone. Allow God to bring peace in all your storms.

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Dealing with Horrific Circumstances – encouragement from @RobinLuftig on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

SONY DSCAbout the Author: Be grateful in everything—even the bumpy rides, is Robin Luftig’s mantra in either writing for
non-fiction readers or speaking to audiences on the healing after tragedy. She’s an award-nominated columnist for great magazines such as Leading Hearts, CBN.com, and many more. She is the author of two books, Learning to Bloom Again and the just released God’s Best During Your WorstImage result for robin luftig God's Best(Bold Vision Books) in March. Her first novel, Ladies of the Fire launches the end of 2020. Robin enjoys speaking all over the country and would love to be your next keynote presenter or workshop leader for your conference, retreat, or women’s event.

Join the Conversation: Have you been able to be at peace in a terrible time in your life? Please share!

Us Loves You

by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior.” Psalm 25:5a NIV

My family attended a Baptist church while I was growing up and no excuse was good enough to get out of going, barring coma or gushing blood. As a preteen, I was quite annoyed to be stuck in Sunday night “Training Union” class. I did not wish to be either trained or unified with the other unfortunates, like me, who were forced to be there.

So many more important things to do – bike paths to forge; Lost in Space to watch on TV, homework to ignore.

Instead, I was held captive week after week by Mr. and Mrs. Buford, a childless, elderly couple, neither of whom had completed eighth grade in order to help their families scratch a living on farms during the depression. They owned no television, nor microwave, and had never been on an airplane. Why, they had no idea what a video game was. Unfathomable.

Yet there they were, week after week, month after month, faithful as the springtime rain. I and my know-it-all cronies scoffed at their country bumpkin speech. So uncool.

“Us loves you.”

It was the phrase with which Mrs. Buford started every class. An occasional snicker would burst from one of us enlightened scholars, but the Buford’s never seemed to notice.

Soon they’d have us racing to look up Scriptures, learn the books of the Bible, and win candy for answering Bible story questions. Of course, we acted as if none of this was the least bit fun. Yawn.

“Us loves you.”

Mrs. Buford would close the hour with the same ridiculous phrase, a warm smile crinkling her careworn face. Somehow, I remember like it was yesterday.

Fast-forward thirty years.

My husband Chuck and I are surrounded by a group of 12- to-14-year-olds, all of whom wish they were elsewhere. We are trying to teach them scriptural principles and bring God’s Word to life.

They’re only interested in who got busted Saturday night.

Chuck asks a boy with a purple Mohawk whose father is in prison to read a specific passage of Scripture aloud in answer to his question about how we know the Bible is true. The boy reads haltingly, unsure of what some of the words mean.

We explain it in terms he can understand. He’s still unconvinced. Skeptical. Mistrusting. But for some reason, he keeps coming back. I notice that he listens, really listens, when one of the other boys asks, “Miz Coty, why do you meet with us every week, when all we do is eat your food, wreck your house, and give you one big headache?”

The answer travels through time and registers in my mind as if I’m hearing it for the first time.

“Us loves you.”

Faithfulness has a resonating voice, doesn’t it? In this world of casual abandonment, when we choose to faithfully serve God by using our gifts and abilities to help others in His name, His love shines through like a lantern piercing the darkness.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you” (Proverbs 3:3 NIV).

We may not preach globally, or teach from an elevated platform, or have more than a handful of Facebook friends, but if we show up day after day, week after week, faithfully glorifying our Savior in the ministry He has custom-designed for us, He’ll be there too.

Whether we’re riding herd on a passel of squirming preschoolers, sweeping up crumbs after a home Bible Study, or invisibly running the worship service sound system, Papa God promises to bless us and keep teaching us the eternal truth of His ways.

And that’s the way I want to go. How about you, my friend?

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Us Loves You – insight and encouragement from @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deboracotyAbout the author: Debora Coty lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband, Chuck, two grown children and four energetic grandbuddies. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Debora’s newest release, Too Blessed to be Stressed for Momsaddresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: Have you ever felt frustration that your ministry is too small? How has/is God using your efforts for His kingdom?

What Good Can Come from Bad News?

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

“The vet called. The tests on Max came back positive.” My husband’s words punched me in the stomach. Have you ever felt slugged by unwelcome news?

Max is our standard poodle. If I could use only one word to describe him, it would be magnificent. Max’s beautiful tail waves like a banner when he glides down the sidewalk. His coat is as thick as lamb’s fleece. When he was a puppy, we marveled the first time he watched a distant plane cross the sky. His sensitive spirit knows when to be gentle and when to play hard.

Max also impresses strangers. One man ran out of his house to get a closer look. Another pulled his truck over to ask about him. Perfect strangers want to have their pictures taken with him.

The vet had tested Max for Masticatory Muscle Myositis (MMM). I’d hoped Max’s issues were a side effect of Addison’s disease. The descriptions of MMM are too horrible to fathom.

Knowing Max’s challenging health issues, you might think we wish we’d chosen another puppy. Not at all.

As my daughter said, even if MMM takes Max, it has been worth it to have him. We wouldn’t trade a few years with Max and all of his problems for decades with another healthy dog. A day doesn’t pass without him making us laugh. He has taught us much about love, life, and faith.

Our son Brant expressed how Max’s challenges have refined his faith. “I had to ask myself if I’ve really trusted God with my eternity,” he said. “Because if I can trust Him with something that big, shouldn’t I be able to trust Him with Max?”

Brant was expressing the truth of 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NASB): “…you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Fire purifies gold so that it will gleam for a little while on earth. Trials purify faith so it will sparkle for eternity. Watching Brant’s faith shine has filled me with joy. We have great hope God will transform Magnificent Max into our Miracle Max. But, no matter how this turns out, Max has been worth it!

If we can say that about Max now, imagine how we will respond when we are finally able to see how God used our temporal pain to bring us eternal joy. Grieving a loss, a beloved family member, friend, or even a pet, is not wasted when it polishes our faith. With the Psalmist, we learn to say “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25, NIV).

God cares about our challenges and uses them to polish our faith. One day, we will see the result and gasp—it was worth it!

Max was only two when we learned his diagnosis. He is eight now and though he has experienced some setbacks, he continues to fill our lives with joy. He is indeed our Miracle Max.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT).

TWEETABLE
What Good Can Come from Bad News? – encouragement 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: What trials have you experienced that ultimately grew your faith?

Got Milk. Need Meat?

by Lori Hynson 

For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.                                                  Hebrews 5:13-14  (NLT)

 Pediatrician visits with my kids always included measuring their progress on a growth chart. From birth, their height, weight, food intake, and motor skills were recorded to ensure good progress.

If so inclined, God could chart our spiritual progress in much the same way. When we accept Jesus, God delivers us once again as newborn spirits, feeding and nourishing us in His Word as we begin to grow and mature, first on milk, and later on meat as we grow in Him.

In my family of “sort of” believers, we only attended church for weddings, funerals and, inexplicably, to have our babies Christened.

When I was just out of high school, a teen pregnancy and shotgun wedding made me strive to prove I could still be a somebody. I ran myself ragged for years to prove my superior abilities, convinced this would win the approval I craved.

When 9/11 happened, I decided church might not be a bad idea. Besides, since I wanted to sing gospel, I could multitask! In super fashion I joined a church, accepted Jesus, and was baptized because I thought you were “supposed to.”

My chart may have announced my new birth at age 47, but my growth would be stunted for the next four years. I now had a pencil mark drawn on God’s doorframe, but nothing else about me or my lifestyle changed. The new me was born, but my old self-y self refused to move out. Forget feeding on milk. I survived on prenatal vitamins.

Four years later, when a storm blew into my life, I tried, as usual, to fix the situation on my own. When that failed, I prayed for God to approve my plans but got no response. When I finally found myself in the worst trouble I’d ever faced, God grabbed His spiritual forceps and delivered me. Helpless. Wailing. And flat on my face.

Now that He had my attention, God told me it was time for self-y me to get lost and to find Him instead. Trust in Him alone. I agreed, and God began to feed me His milk. But in order for me to grow higher and deeper, it was time to start solid food. Time to open wide!

I read, and He fed. He showed me the worldly lies in my life that had to go—like believing that I could rely on myself alone in life, or that I could control my circumstances. He countered the lies with His Truths. He carried away the me-things and filled me with desire for more Him-things.

At last I moved from milk to solid, life-giving meat. In the last decade, I’ve grown in spiritual height, weight, and depth, reaching ever more for the Jesus in me.

Hebrews 5:13-14 tells us that the solid food we find in God’s Word is the nourishment that supplies the depth to know right from wrong, according to His standards. Too bad the malnourished me didn’t recognize that I needed a whole lot more meat a whole lot sooner. The knowledge gained by mature me could have spared immature me a whole lot of pain.

Has your spiritual growth been stunted by sticking to the easy-to-swallow milk of God? Like me, maybe you haven’t noticed that you’ve stopped thriving on a diet of just milk. We might believe we’ve already reached our growth destination, or we’re simply stumped as to how to get there.

Got milk? Need meat.

TWEETABLE
Got Milk. Need Meat? – insight from Lori Hynson 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: How do you get real meat into you?