Loving My Mother-in-Law

by Louise Tucker Jones

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.                                                              Ruth 1:16 NASB

On March 4, 1966, my late husband, Carl and I were married in a little Army chapel, just hours before he was deployed. It was nearly a year and half before we saw each other again. Not having grown up together, I barely knew his parents and contemplated waiting until Carl returned home before trying to build a relationship with them, being as I was away at college most of the time.

But thankfully, the Lord nudged me to visit their home on weekends. Carl’s mother was as lonely as I was. We baked cookies and made fudge to send overseas, then we popped popcorn and watched the late movie on TV. We looked through photo albums and talked for hours on end about the person we both loved most—my husband and her son. One night she explained the illness that had been slowly robbing her of life since she was a young adult.

Growing up in a small, coal-mining town, Etta Mae developed severe emphysema and was advised to never have children.  She did anyway—just one. Doctors told her she would never see that child grow up, but Etta Mae had a secret weapon. She trusted a powerful God and had long ago asked Him to allow her to live long enough to raise her son. We talked about it at length. She needed new lungs and in 1966 there were none to be had.

I had only that year with Etta Mae. In the summer of 1967, Carl was called home on an emergency leave as his mother made her way to heaven. I am so thankful I did not put off building a relationship with her. It never would have happened. I’m glad God plopped me in the middle of a lonely mother’s prayers. I flourished under her love before she ever put words to it as she lay in a hospital bed and whispered, “I couldn’t love you more if you were my own daughter.”

My mother-in-law’s faith and tenacity taught me much about God’s promises and loving others. I truly believe that as she sat in that little Army chapel and witnessed Carl and me exchange vows, she whispered to the Lord, “Mission accomplished!” Then she went about teaching me how to love a daughter by marriage with the days she had left, just as Naomi did for her daughter-in-law, Ruth.

I have now been a mother-in-law for twenty-five years and I’m forever grateful for the godly wisdom Etta Mae modeled for me. I’m also thankful that I listened to God’s gentle whisper to build that relationship, even when it was hard. I realize it can be scary to make that first move. To love someone who is different from you or someone you don’t know well. But the Lord has a way of putting people together who need each other.

Whether you are the mom-in-law or daughter-in-love, you both already love the same person and that’s a beginning. Like Ruth and Naomi in the verse above, God has purposed wonderful blessings in our relationships with our in-laws. He’s not just putting people together at random. He’s building a family!

God sets the lonely in families… Psalm 68:6 NIV

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Loving My Mother-in-Law – encouragement 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 HusbandsLouiseTJ@cox.net http://www.LouiseTuckerJones.com

Join the conversation: Has God blessed you with a special relationship in your family?

The Kingdom…in a Nutshell

 by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.   Matthew 13:44 CSB

I love eating a big handful of money. Er…pecans. I meant pecans.

Seriously though, sometimes a gal just wants to snack on some of those delish pecans, right? And evidently also wants to cease having that extra $14.50.

Not to get all squirrely about it or anything, but I had a craving for them the other day and the only bag I could find at the convenience store was tiny—and eight bucks. I bought them anyway. Even though I knew that was just nuts.

I wonder if squirrels even know what they’re stashing away these days. If they figured it out and learned to trade them on the gem market, maybe they could leave those old trees behind and move on up to a de-luxe apartment in the sky.

Our faith walk is often affected by what we squirrel away, spiritually speaking. Sometimes without even realizing it, we find we’re spending all our work energies angling for hanging onto comfort and ease and contentment in our circumstances. Sometimes our focus is stolen away by an intense desire to stash away money and things. Sometimes we can find ourselves desperately scrambling for great power, influence or fame—scrambling like we’re readying for the hardest winter.

As we’re following Christ, the “hardest winters” are the ones we experience when all those earthly aspirations leave us feeling disappointed, dissatisfied, disillusioned—empty. Joyless. Brrr. Even worthy aspirations are empty when we seek them selfishly, or we leave Jesus out.

Paul said in Romans 14:7 (CSB) that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” It’s not about that handful of snacks. We find joy as we focus on the kingdom of God, and as we let the Holy Spirit rule our hearts.

Two of the parables of Jesus teach us the overwhelmingly precious value of His kingdom. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46 CSB).

Jesus teaches that the kingdom is so valuable, a person will freely give up everything else in life to lay hold of it. The kingdom of heaven—that place where God, our King, rules.

For believers, the King rules in our hearts by His joy-giving Holy Spirit. To follow whole-heartedly is our calling. Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25 CSB).

Lord, by the working of Your Holy Spirit in me, help me focus right there, finding life, stashing away the eternally valuable, letting go of anything temporary I might selfishly crave. Giving all. As Your kingdom dwells in me, may I dwell in Your kingdom.

I want to pray that regularly, allowing Him to renew my focus every place it gets off.

That’s probably also why I’m giving up on my jewelry idea. The one where I make myself a necklace. From 24 karat pecan halves.

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The Kingdom…in a Nutshell – 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 does knowing you are a part of the Kingdom of Heaven impact your life in the here and now?

Whose World Is This Anyway?

by Sheri Schofield

The other day when I was playing on my keyboard, looking out over the view of forest, mountains and sky, I saw a herd of deer crossing our property. I was playing This Is My Father’s World. The deer all paused and turned their ears toward me, reluctant to move on. They were listening to the music. A robin hunting for his breakfast cocked his head at the sound and hopped up onto the roof, moving closer and closer to the song.

Yes, this is indeed my Father’s world! The animals and birds know it. In the midst of a world in panic, I can be still and know that He is watching over me. Psalm 139 tells us that God knows all about us. He sees us at all times, for we who believe in Him are His children.

The psalmist David wrote, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! (Psalm 139:16- 17 NLT).

I trust God with my present. I can trust Him with my future. No matter what happens on earth, I know I will spend eternity with the One who loves me. Therefore, I will not be afraid. This is my Father’s world. He is in control, whether in times of calamity or peace. Why then should I fear that which can only touch my body? My soul – the real me – is secure!

What is in store for those who have given their hearts and lives to Jesus? The Apostle Paul, quoting the prophet Isaiah, wrote, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9-11 NLT).

The Apostle John tells us that someday God will bring a new heaven and a new earth into being, an earth without a sea. (So those of you who love the beach, enjoy it now!) To this new earth, God will bring the holy city, the new Jerusalem, prepared beautifully, like a bride for her husband.

I love what John writes next: “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:3-5 NLT)

 This is what is in store for those who love Jesus. Eventually, when time has ceased, we will spend eternity with the One who wipes away all tears and pain, the One who has conquered death and will eliminate it forever.

I do not know what tomorrow holds. No one can. But I do know the Lord of tomorrow! Jesus, the One who loved us so much that He died for us, holds us close to His heart and speaks peace to our souls, peace in the midst of the storm.

So I will sing with the birds this spring and smile at the future. My life is in His hands forever, no matter what happens on this fallen planet.

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.    Song of Solomon 6:3 NIV

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Whose World Is This Anyway? – encouragement 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: How does a secure future affect your life in the here and now?

Because Some Things Simply Never Get Old

by Beth Duewel @DuewelBeth

...and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing…                                                                                                              James 1:2-4 ESV

Every few months I start a new to-do list. Maybe you’ve recently started planning that new project? A new goal, like that new look for the new you? Granted, the “out with the old—in with the new” can be so inspiring.

Like the time I decided to make a change to my daughter Brooklyn’s OLD room. It was pink with polka dots, sorta looking like a neon-pink giraffe. (If you have a pink giraffe at your house—solidarity, friend!) It had fulfilled my then eight-year-old’s dream of “The best room evvvvver!”

I’d poured work into it way back when. But now it was time to pour more paint into the tray to cover it up. As I did, I thought back to the special time of Brooklyn helping me create it, all pink and happiness. But now it quickly became apparent that moving on would not be as easy as I thought. Let me just say—pink giraffes don’t go down without a fight.

Seriously, after three coats of primer and paint and pink still poking through, my husband’s eyes began to question what I was doing. Did his eyes even have to ask? I simply wanted an easy checklist item on my DIY to-do list. I wanted to accomplish something. I wanted to enjoy it.

The good feelings disappeared far more quickly than the polka-dots did.

And I sure didn’t help the situation. Because, while I started painting with a passion, I found it necessary to stop for a sandwich and then a meeting. A load of laundry. A lint trap. A deadline. It turned into days and days of this unreasonableness as every other thing threatened to overwhelm my good intentions for those walls. I ended up stuck in overwhelmed mode and fixated on something elses for three whole weeks.

Turns out—it’s important to get-right-back to painting. Especially when you forget to replace the lid on the paint before a three-week long lunch break. Want the FYI on the DIY? A can of Bleached Cotton congeals, turns the color of baby pooh, and shrinks to the size of a salad plate when you let it go. Can you say, “All dried up and good for nothing?” The paint had lost its purpose, and I’d lost my appetite.

That’s one of the things I’d like to remember as I march fresh into this new day, new project, or new perspective: that something fresh isn’t necessarily the something NEW I need to throw myself into. Discovering fresh joy may mean revisiting a previous passion, project, or purpose, or a goal I’ve intentionally left behind. I have to admit, the “newish” tendency doesn’t go down without a fight, but I’ve discovered it’s never too late to try again.

Moving forward doesn’t always look like I’d imagined. Even spiritually, sometimes progress can look like failure. But failure is always an integral part of the faith-fight with the sense that no matter what—God in His excellence—is doing the work and helping me to grow. To forge ahead by going…back? To endure by helping me to break an old habit. To renew a strained relationship or maintain an old hope. To finally forgive. Or to pray with perseverance that certain prayer (again). Because some things simply never get old!

Want a fresh new outlook for a new day? Here it is: With God there is no NEW or OLD, there is only forever.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever (Psalm 138:8 ESV).

 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing the in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians15:58 ESV).

So take another look at the verse with which we began, this time with closer resolve, “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1: 4 ESV). Turns out it’s important to get right back to looking for the good, because this verse in its entirety is the reminder to “count it all joy” (vs.2), with encouragement to stay-put and consider everything that’s become a part of our journey. Even those painful things we’ve left behind.

So, here’s to pink giraffes and a new resolve to pray that too familiar prayer! Again. And again. And again.

Father, renew my spirit in surprising ways today. Help me move forward with fresh hope and purpose, believing in what You’re going to-do. But also keep me looking back with faith to all You have already accomplished. Revisiting the familiar reminds me of how good, faithful, and loving You are. You really do want me to lack nothing. Thank You in advance for forever. Amen.

 Adapted with permission from Fix Her Upper: Reclaim Your HAPPY Space, Bold Vision Publishing.

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Because Some Things Simply Never Get Old – encouragement from @DuewelBeth on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

beth duewel (2)

About the author: Beth Duewel is a writer, speaker, and blogger at Fix-Her-Upper.com. She has three almost adulting children, and lives with her husband in Ashland, Ohio. Beth and her coauthor, Rhonda Rhea, are super excited about their newfix her upper reclaim your happy space book,  Fix Her Upper: Reclaim Your Happy Space.

 

Join the conversation: What “old” thing is God bringing to your heart today?

Time for a Nap

by Terri Clark @TerriClarkTCM

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.                                                                                                                               Psalm 4:8 NIV 

I seldom ever take a nap during the day. It’s not that I’m opposed to naps, but I’m one of those perpetually fast-forward personalities that has a hard time slowing down long enough during the day to take one. But the other day, my late nights and early mornings caught up to me. I was so sleepy and sluggish; I couldn’t concentrate on anything and needed a power nap.

Setting the timer on my phone for 45 minutes, I curled up on my bed and started to drift off to sleep, but the room was so cold, I couldn’t relax. My husband keeps the thermostat set at “frigid” in our house. Remembering the quilt folded at the foot of the bed, I pulled it over myself. With the heavy warmth of that quilt wrapped around me, I instantly fell into a deep, restful sleep.

It feels good to have a fresh start; and grabbing a little rest is needed. When my timer went off, I woke up refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the day.

We normally just think about rest in terms of our physical bodies, like when I ran out of steam in the middle of that day. But rest is essential for our soul and spirit as well. We tend to forget about our need for spiritual and emotional rest. It’s easy to become weary and worn out when our lives are filled with concerns and worries for our family or marriage, work issues, finances, health, or even ministry.

Hey, let’s face it, we live in a cold world, and as much as I needed the warm quilt to relax and rest in a cold room, we need a covering over our minds and hearts to relax and rest in the Lord. That’s where we find peace for our weariness.

God has provided a covering for us that is even better than my warm quilt. Look what it says in Psalm 91:4 NLT: “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” When our minds are filled with a million thoughts, when we are stressed out, when life seems out of control and when things aren’t going the way we want them to, it’s time to step away and rest under the soft downy feathers of God’s faithful promises.

Our situation may not change right away, but His peace that comes with His covering, allows us to relax and rest. After a time of refreshment with Him, we’ll have what we need to get on with the situation at hand.

So, how about you? Are you in need of a spiritual and emotional nap? Cover up under the warmth of God’s wing. He is there for you. Here are a few more verses to read while you rest.

  • Ruth 2:12 (BSB) “May the Lord repay your work, and may you receive a rich reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have taken refuge.”
  • Psalm 17:8 (NIV) “Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings.”
  • Psalm 18:30 (BSB) “As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.”
  • Isaiah 51:16 (BSB) “I have put My words in your mouth, and covered you in the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’”
  • John 14:27 (NLT) “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.”

May you wrap yourself in God’s peace and be able to rest in Him today.

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Time for a Nap – encouragement on finding God’s peace from @TerriClarkTCM on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Terri ClarkAbout the author: Terri Clark works with women to prepare and equip them to receive God and the blessings He wants to produce in their lives. She began to answer God’s call on her life in 1994 and has since impacted women all over the world with His news of salvation, edification, and healing.

Her book, Fanning the Flame: Reigniting Your Faith in God, identifies and addresses the issues which most affect a believer’s spiritual flame: the busyness of life, Christian service, pride, and worldly temptations. Join her in this pilgrimage and reignite your spiritual lamp with a fresh, empowering faith–a faith that will stand through a time of testing.

Join the conversation:  What are some of your favorite verses that help you to rest?

Come Alongside

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman
You would think it wouldn’t be so hard, remembering your wife’s birthday when it falls just two days before yours. But more often than not, in our early married years, Steve forgot. Many times. It became a thing for us. I was hurt, even angry, each time I ended up having to remind him half-way through the day that it was my birthday.
Finally, one year, I waited to see how long it would be before he finally remembered on his own. The day went by quietly, no gift, no well-wishes. And the next. Finally, on the morning of Steve’s birthday, the phone rang. From a nearby room, I heard him answer his mother’s happy birthday phone call.

“What? Today? Wait a minute…” he rushed over to the wall calendar. “Oh no! Oh no!”  He hung up the phone and cautiously entered the living room. “I’m so sorry,” he said, looking close to tears. At that moment, I knew that Steve’s forgetfulness was not because he didn’t care. He wanted to remember my birthday. But he couldn’t even remember his.

It was to be a great lesson for us in learning to respond to potentially divisive issues as one. We often share that story as we teach marriage classes to illustrate the importance of working together.

It is also an important concept that should guide us in operating as a church. Paul had some good advice for Timothy on dealing with differences. Timothy was a young guy whom Paul sent to pastor the Ephesus church. There were some bad teachings infiltrating the ranks. It was time to clean house.

Paul begins chapter five with these words: “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters…” (1 Timothy 5:1-2 NASB).

There are two ideas worth noting here. First, Paul is contrasting rebuke with appeal. The Greek word translated rebuke was a strong word. It literally meant to strike with blows. (Paul was using it figuratively here, pummeling with words rather than fists.) Interaction between believers should never be done in that kind of spirit. Instead, Paul urged Timothy to appeal. The original Greek is the word parakaleo, the verb form of the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit (paraclete), which carries a sense of comforting and encouraging while guiding. Quite different than striking out, it is a coming alongside to help.

Second, Paul tells Timothy to think of his fellow believers as family: fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers. Your family remains your family, no matter what the issues. They are an extension of who you are. Their joy is yours, as well as their shame. So you do the right thing by them, even when it is not easy; this often necessitates sacrificial love.

Steve uses a clever two-part graphic in our premarital/marital classes. The first part pictures two people with a problem between them. The issue is divisive, driving the two apart. The second is the better option. Rather than the problem sitting between them, the two stand together and aim their energies at the problem as one.

I think this concept is exactly what Paul was communicating to Timothy. 

When correction is needed, it can be handled one of two ways. The first is to verbally chastise with a me-versus-you kind of mentality. The end result is insult and alienation, quite the opposite of what should be our intentions.  In the second option, we approach with humility and love. Rather than point an accusing finger, we come alongside and face the problem together. The presenting issue can now serve as an opportunity to develop unity within the family, rather than tear the church apart.

It’s how Steve and I solved the birthday thing. We decided on a strategy that would put us on the same team rather than adverse sides. About a week before the birthdays, I casually mention the coming dates. “What do you want to do for our birthdays this year?” I ask. We make plans together. Win-win. It works for us.

Jesus prayed that his church would be one, and that our unity would show Christ in us to the world (John 17:21). How we deal with problems matters. When we appeal rather than rebuke, come alongside rather than point the accusing finger, we are moving toward that end.

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2 NASB

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Come Alongside – encouragement from @JulieZColeman on @EdieMelson (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 revealing 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: Has someone ever “come alongside” you?  Or–have you had an angry confrontation aimed at you? How did your situation work out? Do you think how we approach someone in conflict matters?

Faith Over Fear

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

My mother was a fearful person. As a child, I learned not to approach her unannounced. At times, I’d forget to call her name or make noise before I entered a room. I’ll always remember the look of fear on her face and the way she jumped when I “sneaked up” on her.

As Mama aged, her level of fear increased. My father’s death–nineteen years prior to Mama’s–contributed to her anxiety. She worried constantly about finances, taxes, potential home repairs, the health and safety of her loved ones, and world events.

One day I mentioned something I read in the newspaper and a report I heard on the evening news. “I don’t read the paper anymore or watch the news,” Mama said. “I don’t even like to answer the phone, because I’m afraid it will be bad news.”

I sat down beside my mom, held her hand, and said, “You don’t have to be afraid of the future. God has taken care of you all these years. He isn’t going to abandon you now.” Tears glazed her eyes and her chin quivered. As we held hands, I prayed for her. I asked God to help her trust his unfailing love and power to protect. Then we looked up several verses about fear.

The Bible addresses fear over three hundred times, coupled with the directives to be courageous, strong, remember God’s promises, his faithfulness, protection, and to trust rather than fear.

Today, as we navigate the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19, fear seems to tap us on the shoulder at every turn. Media reports tend to focus on worst-case scenarios, enhancing fears and increasing anxiety. Shortages, protests, political bantering, misinformation, and medical concerns combine to discourage, disillusion, and depress. But we don’t have to allow fear to control our lives.

Near the end of her life, Mama seemed calmer, although anxiety sometimes surfaced. A few months before her death, a hospice worker identified my mother’s fears as classic symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), the result of some frightening experiences in childhood, including the death of a first-grade friend.

Following my mother’s death, I looked at the flyleaf of her Bible and found two verses in her handwriting:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

“Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” 1 Peter 5:7 TLB

I believe these verses and prayer lessened Mama’s fears and provided a measure of peace in the final years of her life. Like my mother, you can make the decision not to let fear control you. Don’t allow COVID-19, or any other challenges you face, to paralyze you with fear and prevent you from following God’s designated path for your life. Fortify yourself with Scripture and prayer and choose faith over fear.

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Faith Over Fear – encouragement from @CandyArrington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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

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

Join the conversation: How are you managing fear in light of what we are seeing all around us?

The Wet Blanket Maneuver

by Cheri Cowell @CheriCowell

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.                                                                                                                                                   1 Peter 3:8-9 NIV

After graduating from college, I worked as a substitute teacher in area elementary schools. Inevitably in every classroom, there was one child that was the class target.

That child was the brunt of jokes, had few friends, and was teased unmercifully. Today, we’d call this bullying. Quite often, the child’s reaction to the teasing spurred the perpetrators on to further abuse. I deeply felt the pain of these struggling children, because for many years, I was one of them.

On so many days of my elementary and middle school years, I would come home to my father in tears. He would tenderly say, “Well, Cheri, you’re just so pickable, that’s why they pick on you.” He’d then go on to assure me that my reaction was what was fueling their fire, and if I wanted them to stop, I needed to change my how I responded to their barbs.

With his help, I learned to master the wet blanket maneuver. When someone meant me harm, I sent him or her blessings in my mind. And it worked! After a while, it was no longer fun to pick on Cheri.

This isn’t a new concept. God came up with it first. Our Scripture today spells it out. We are to replay evil with blessing. My father had simply been teaching me a biblical principle.

Peter teaches us that to living in a godly way with our fellow brethren must begin with us. Peter tells us to start by being sympathetic, compassionate, and humble. Then he goes on to say, if we truly want harmony, we should refrain from reacting negatively to evil insults.

Wait a minute…what about them? 

I can hear myself saying those words to my father. What was I supposed to do, then? Just stand there and take it? No. We are to throw a wet blanket on that fire. Send blessings their way. Pray that God will bless them. When we do, we will receive the greater blessing—knowing we are loving as God loves.

It worked for me back then, and that principle is still valid today. There are a lot of nasty people out there who leap at the chance to find fault or boost themselves up at the expense of others. How we respond can make all the difference.

As you pray today, praise God for being your Heavenly Father who knows what it is like to be the brunt of insults. Ask Him to help you live out your faith by being sympathetic, compassionate, and humble, even when someone is being a bully. Finally, invite Him to help you foster true harmony with those who wish to do you harm by mastering the wet blanket maneuver.

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The Wet Blanket Maneuver – encouragement from @CheriCowell on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Cheri Cowell is the author of 365 Devotions for Peace (Thomas Nelson). She can be found at www.CheriCowell.comCheri CowellCheri Cowell is also a contributor to When God Calls the Heart to Love. To learn more about Cheri visit www.CheriCowell.com.

Cheri’s latest release is a new Bible study called Becoming His Princess: A Seven Week Study on the Life of Sarah. Co-authored with friends Jennifer Slattery, Susan Aken. and Dena Dyer, it follows Sarah’s uncertain journey from Ur to a place of rest. God met her in the middle of her pain and striving, and rewrote her story—through grace. He wants to do the same for you. 

Join the conversation: Have you tried the Wet Blanket Maneuver? What happened?

 

Doggin’ Sin

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

…Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.                                                                                                                                                        Genesis 4:7 NASB

One day, the Boys treed a squirrel. I came outside to find two of the smaller limbs of our large cottonwood tree hanging against the trunk, the obvious result of the bigger boy trying to get to the furry rodent. (By the way, “the Boys” is our collective name for Boone and Remi. Boone – Boy #1 – is an 80-pound yellow lab, and Remi – Boy #2—is an energetic, 11 pound rescue pup. The two are great friends.)

While I stood there trying to decide what to do, the squirrel leaped to the ground and took off across the back yard with Boone in hot pursuit. The squirrel jumped into the globe willow near the back fence and hustled to the upper branches.

When Boone reared up on the small tree he reached halfway to where the squirrel sat. The squirrel barked; Boone barked and howled; Remi yipped and circled; and several neighborhood dogs even joined the chorus.

Something had to be done before my willow tree became a casualty of war. I put Remi in the house. Then I dragged Boone by the collar to the patio and held him there to give the enemy a chance to escape.

After several minutes, the squirrel inched down the trunk of the willow and jumped to the ground. Unfortunately, at that moment I lost my grip on Boone and off he went to catch his prey. The squirrel climbed the 6-foot wooden fence and scurried along the top. But instead of leaping over it to safety, it hopped into one of two small Bradford Pear trees in the corner flower bed.

Focused on his mission, Boone thundered into the flower bed plowing over small shrubs as he went. The squirrel taunted him, hopping from one pear tree to the other and back again, Boon doggin’ his every step. The trees whipped from one side to the other as the chase continued, while I desperately tried to catch and hold the dog.

The wicked squirrel could have easily escaped, but instead, it hit the ground and took off back toward the house with Boone in hot pursuit. When the squirrel reached the cottonwood tree, back up it went, and we were right back to where we started.

Thankfully, my then-teen son arrived home about that time. Mark put Boone in the house and got rid of the trespasser. With the evil rodent gone, the Boys could go back outside without being tormented. However, for the rest of the evening, Boone sat under the cottonwood, looking up into its branches. Just in case.

I wish I was as determined about keeping sin out of my life as Boone is about keeping squirrels out of the yard. Sin is serious, and can often lead to destruction. Getting rid of sin can require extreme measures. Jesus said “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Matthew 5:30 NIV). Jesus used hyperbole to emphasize the danger of allowing sin in our lives. We must cut it out of our lives. And we must guard ourselves from new temptations.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:4 NIV). On the night He was betrayed, Jesus told the disciples to diligently protect themselves from temptation. Sin will torment us if we don’t constantly and carefully guard our hearts and minds.

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Insight on “Doggin’ Sin” from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. She encourages women to get into God’s Word for themselves in order to build an unshakable faith that will stand firm through all the trials of life. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught the Bible in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She has a Masters in Religious Education and a certificate in Women’s Ministry from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 8 books and Bible studies, including “Lavish Grace” and “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents.” She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her “mostly retired” husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and three dogs – one of them on purpose. She provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy also connects with women at FacebookPinterest, and Instagram.

Join the conversation: What sin do you need to “dog” today? What temptation requires a little extra guard duty?

I Gave up Gossip for Lent

by Dena Dyer @DenaJDyer

“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”                                                                                                              Joel 2:12 NIV

A few years ago, I gave up gossip for Lent. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but I was raised as a die-hard, ultra-conservative Southern Baptist, and fasting was never, ever talked about in our church.

Trying something new in the spiritual realm was a bit scary. However, since learning about the tradition of fasting during the weeks leading up to Easter in order to concentrate more fully on spiritual things, I’d been intrigued. So, after God began nudging me toward a Lenten fast, I prayed, “Okay, Lord, I’ll do it. What do you want me to give up? Fries? Soft drinks?” I thought I could lose a few pounds and get more spiritual. Definitely a win-win situation, from my vantage point.

Then the Holy Spirit said, “Give up gossip.”

Well . . . that should be easy, I thought. I never talk about other people. And I don’t like it when other people do. Sure, that’ll be a cinch!

Just call me “Self-righteous Sally.”

I didn’t realize how addicted I was, until I had to give it up. Day one of my fast, I noticed uncomfortably that I really missed gossip: with girlfriends (although we usually called them “prayer requests”), from entertainment magazines (they’re not called “guilty pleasures” for nothing), and from gossip-type television shows.

I had always justified my need for the latest celebrity news by telling myself that I was simply keeping tabs on the arts, my chosen field. The problem was that gossip didn’t just inform my viewing. I also regularly read Internet articles about celebrities, which fueled my desire to watch shows and read magazines about them. Those habits made me less content with my body and material possessions, as well as the level of obscurity I “enjoyed” in my career.

God chose that time to show me clearly how I had let sins like gossip sneak into my life. After all, I had told myself, gossip was not lust or murder or adultery. It was a tiny slip-up, and everyone should be allowed one or two a day, right?

Clearly, God has a lot of patience with me. Once I got past rationalizations, excuses, and justification, I confessed and asked the Lord to forgive me. He also used the season of Lent to heal a relationship which had been strained by gossip.

Jesus once declared that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man. Similarly, I’ve found that spiritual disciplines don’t only draw me closer to God; they also create more space in my cluttered heart and mind for life-giving, life-giving pursuits.

This year with COVID-19, all of us have had to sacrifice more than we bargained for during the Lenten season. However, these weeks of forced isolation are a good time to allow God to show us where we’ve worshiped false idols and given ourselves over to worldly desires.

Without our usual distraction of busyness and activities, we can choose to pray and fast, weeping over our collective sins and mourning our complacency–as in Joel 2:12. Perhaps God will use the pandemic to bring scores of people back to Him or into a saving relationship with Jesus for the first time.

But whether or not we see widespread revival, we can each individually search our hearts, confess our failings, and invest more of our time in pursuing the things of God. If we do, our season of “fasting” will reap eternal rewards.

This article first appeared on The Theology of Work website. Used by permission.

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I Gave up Gossip for Lent – insight from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

dena headshotAbout the author: Dena Dyer is an award-winning author, speaker, and non-profit leader. She loves encouraging hurting, harried women with humor and hope. You can find her on Instagram or Facebook, or at her website.

Dena’s book, Grace for the Race,  uses real-life stories, Scripture, and gentle humor to soothe the souls of frazzled females. By being honest and vulnerable about the ways God has shown Himself to her as she’s struggled with motherhood, Dena hopes to help moms realize that they’re not alone, and they’re not crazy!

Join the conversation: How are you using this time of isolation for your spiritual growth?