When We’re Spiritually Cross-Eyed

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant.                                                                                             Psalm 34:4-5 NIV

Someone has said, “If you have one eye on yesterday and the other eye on tomorrow, you’ll look at today cross-eyed.”

That’s what regrets do to us. Regrets can paralyze us from thinking positively about God’s present working and even steal our enthusiasm for the future. We concentrate on a mistake from the past and fear the consequences of that regretful incident will continually hamper our future. Cross-eyed.

In fact, regrets are a form of worry—we worry with thoughts like, “if only I had treated my child better” or “if only I hadn’t said that to my friend.” Such worry keeps us focused in ourselves, making us unable to receive his loving approval, which would enable our efforts for His glory.

What can we do to fight against crippling regrets?

The Apostle Peter could easily have been paralyzed with regret. He’d denied knowing Jesus three times the night He was arrested. That one terrible failure had the potential to keep him from fulfilling God’s plan for his future. But after a conversation with Jesus on the beach, Peter knew he needed to move past his mistake. Without even a single mention of Peter’s big fail, Jesus told him: Take care of my sheep. (John 21: 17) Stop looking back. Keep focused on what God would have you do next.

From a Scriptural standpoint, the word “forget” means more than not remembering. Holding on to a regret entails being held hostage to the memory. It is not God’s will for us to be held captive by the past. Jesus already paid for that sin. So God has already forgiven it.

The key to overcoming regrets is to forgive ourselves and to forgive others. It is a choice to let go of focusing on the hurt we inflicted and the hurt that others have inflicted upon us. Our enemy, Satan, wants us to mentally bash ourselves over the head by tearing ourselves down. When we do that, there is no positive value. We will not earn back God’s approval (we already have it); we only dig ourselves into a pit of depression.

Isaiah 43:25 can motivate us to forgive ourselves. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (NIV). At a time when I needed to forgive myself, I was struck by the phrase, “for My own sake.” I realized, Lord, You want to have fellowship with me because you love me so much. And if I am overcome by regrets, my ability to fellowship with you is compromised. I have distanced myself from Your empowerment to serve.

Are you condemning yourself for the past?

God wants you to embrace His forgiveness and empower you for godly living. Then you won’t be looking at life cross-eyed. Instead you will be eyeing the past, present, and future through the lens of Jesus’s cross!

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When We’re Spiritually Cross-Eyed – insight from @KathyCMiller on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy C MillerAbout the author: Kathy Collard Miller wrote her book on trusting God more and overcoming worry because God was showing her how she was cross-eyed with regrets and fear. That book is titled Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries. She has also written over 55 other books on various spiritual life topics. Kathy has spoken in more than 35 states and 9 foreign countries. She and her husband, Larry, are parents, grandparents, lay counselors, and often write and speak together. They live in Southern California. Visit her at www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Join the conversation: Are there regrets in your life that have kept you from living in freedom? Or have you applied the forgiveness of the cross to prevent being spiritually cross-eyed?

The Grinch That Stole Spring

by Sheri Schofield

“Where did all those dandelions go?” I asked myself, as I walked through the mountain meadow near my home. There had been at least six cheerful flowers blooming on the bank the day before, some of the first flowers of spring after the long, barren winter months. I had been looking forward to seeing them! To me, they represented joy and new life.

Later that day as I was driving into town, I saw an animal head pop up from a culvert not far from the missing dandelions. It saw me and quickly ducked back into the tunnel. I stopped and waited to see what it was. The head looked kind of like a prairie dog, but it was much bigger. I thought, “If the prairie dogs are getting that big these days, I’m moving into town!”

Soon the animal’s head popped up again. I sat very still, my camera phone ready. Slowly, the creature moved a little higher, and finally climbed up on the bank where I could see it. I snapped a few pictures then drove down the mountain to a wide spot in the road to try and figure out what the animal was.

It was a yellow-bellied marmot. It turns out that marmots just love to eat dandelions! He’s been nibbling away at the cheerfulness of our mountain’s colors. I’ve named him Grinch.

Our current world health crisis is doing the same thing as that marmot: stealing the new life and joy of springtime. So what can we do to combat this Grinch?

Habakkuk faced a Grinch, too. He had been complaining to God about all the evil in Israel and asking God to do something about it. God told him that Babylon was going to invade Israel. God was allowing this in order to turn his people back to himself. God had had enough of Israel’s disobedience. Habakkuk describes what would happen:

God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden. Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps. He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble . . . (Habakkuk 3:3-6 NIV).

We are living in a time when God is, figuratively, shaking the earth, trying to get its attention and draw earth’s people back to himself. It is scary, even for believers! But Habakkuk’s response gives us great insight about how to overcome this time of trouble, this Grinch – this plague – that God is using to get earth’s attention. Habakkuk said:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights (Habakkuk 3:17-19 NIV).

Do not be afraid of what God is doing! For he is calling earth’s people to himself. In the face of this great trial, rejoice in the goodness of God – goodness that will get people’s attention before it is too late, and will draw all who listen back to his loving heart.

Lord, let there be revival!

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God .  Psalm 42:1-2 NIV

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The Grinch That Stole Spring – insight 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 has God gotten your attention in these troubled times?

Find Your Hideaway

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7 NIV

My friend was at her wits end. She was overwhelmed with all there was to do while being stuck at home with three children, a stressed-out husband, a pile of laundry to do, a pile of dishes in the sink, two barking dogs, and a fish in a tank that needed cleaning.

When I called she was nearly at her breaking point. She vented. I listened. We talked about how sometimes it’s life. Sometimes it’s unexpected circumstances that take us by surprise. And sometimes, we just need to get away from it all. I asked if she had somewhere – anywhere – to go in her house where she could be quiet and alone and we could pray.

“Maybe the closet!” she said, exasperated.

“Go to your bedroom closet and shut the door,” I instructed.

She brought the phone upstairs and into her large walk-in closet and shut the door. She sat on the floor and we prayed. There in the dark and quiet of her bedroom closet, my precious overwhelmed friend found her hideaway with God.

It’s when we find our hideaway with God that we can begin to hear His sweet songs of deliverance.

“You are my hiding place,” sang David in Psalm 32:7. “You protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance.”

When I imagine God as my “hiding place,” I realize I can go away with Him in my heart at any time and find that quiet place of rest and worship. But sometimes it’s not so easy, when we have distractions all around us and noise in every direction. That’s why it’s important to find our “hideaway” and retreat there often.

Maybe your hideaway is in your living room chair in the early morning. Maybe it’s your study where there’s a fire going and a cup of hot cocoa on your desk. Maybe you’re like my friend and your hideaway is on the floor of your bedroom closet. Or maybe you have to resort to the quiet of your car, even if it’s parked in the driveway as an escape from the noisy house. Wherever that quiet place is, go there often and thank Him for meeting you there.

 Lord, lead me to my hideaway in You so I can get quiet, sense Your presence, and hear Your sweet songs of deliverance. Thank You for always meeting me here in the quiet.

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Find Your Hideaway – encouragement from @CindiMcMenamin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 17 books including her best-selling When Women Walk Alone (more than 145,000 copies sold), Women on the Edge, and When Women Long for Rest: Finding Peace for Your Overwhelmed Life, all on sale at her website now: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Join the conversation: Where is your favorite hiding place?

LORD, At This Time Will You…?

by Erica Wiggenhorn @EricaWiggenhorn

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.   Romans 5:5 NIV

The hospital was only eight miles away, but the drive felt endless. The pediatrician’s voice replayed through my head like a taunting nightmare, “Go! Right now! Don’t wait! I’ve called the ER and told them you are on your way!” Our six-week miracle daughter had vomited up her last four meals. Her diapers were dry, and she had begun to grow listless. As we drove, I could see her brown eyes pleading with me in the reflection in the little purple princess mirror that hung from her car seat. Too weak to cry, her eyes pierced through my mama heart knowing she writhed in pain.

I parked the car, and with trembling fingers struggled to unlock her car seat. Finally clutching her tightly to my chest, I ran into the emergency room. I gasped her name to the nurse behind the window, and she immediately buzzed us back. They took Eliana from my arms and carried her out of my sight behind locked doors. My legs gave way and I fell to the floor of hospital hallway, sobbing.

LORD, we waited ten years for our daughter! At this time will You take her from me after just six weeks?

Maybe you’ve asked God that same question, “LORD, at this time will You_______________?” then feared His answer. Or feared not getting an answer. Felt your legs give way and the sobs erupt. Part of life on this planet includes wrestling with questions to which we don’t get the answers we hope, or finding there simply are none to be found.

The early disciples searched for answers. “LORD, at this time will you restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6 ESV).  Would the promised kingdom finally be established now, the one for which they had been eagerly awaiting for three long years?

It had been a roller coaster ride in recent weeks: so much to take in. After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and appearances, there was only uncertainty as they looked ahead. What would happen next? Was it finally time for all of the good and rewards they had been promised?

The problem was, their limited definition of what constituted good was not on track with God’s.

My definition of good on that hospital floor meant holding a healthy baby girl once again.

Look at how Jesus answered his disciples: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” (Acts 1:7-8 ESV).

The disciples were looking for specific circumstances to come to pass. But God had something so much greater for them, so far beyond any specific circumstance. He was promising not so much a present circumstance; but a Presence in all circumstances. They would receive the Holy Spirit. He would provide the power to prevail in every season of unanswered questions.

Right now, much like the disciples, we are living in a season of unanswered questions.

How long will we practice social distancing? Will I lose my job? Will someone I love get sick?

Will life go back to the way we knew it before? Will my future plans for my life still be possible? Will I make it through whatever loss lies ahead?

Jesus offers us the same answer He gave His disciples, “The Father has fixed His plan. He promised power to carry you through. You will be a witness of the power of His presence in your life.”

As the clock on the hospital wall ticked above us, each second feeling like an eternity, I sensed the LORD’s presence draw near. Eventually the nurse reappeared. Eliana needed surgery for pyloric stenosis. The valve between her esophagus and stomach was too small. They would need to surgically enlarge it so she could digest food properly, but after some time, she would regain her strength.

As you and I wait for answers to unfold in all this uncertainty, let’s embrace the power of the Holy Spirit to prevail, rejoicing in His Presence in all of our circumstances.

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LORD, At This Time Will You…? – wisdom and faith from @EricaWiggenhorn on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

erica-wiggenhorn-headshot-1About the author: Erica Wiggenhorn is an award winning Bible study author of Unexplainable Jesus and An Unexplainable Life by Moody Publishers. She longs to see people’s lives transformed through the power of the Word of God. You can find out more Unexplainable Jesus: Rediscovering the God You Thought You Knew by [Erica Wiggenhorn]about Erica her ministry at ericawiggenhorn.com

Step into the streets of Jerusalem and encounter the Jewish Rabbi who turned the world upside down. After rediscovering Jesus from the pages of the book of Luke—or maybe discovering Him for the very first time—you’ll see there is no other plan, goal, ambition, or Person worth following but Jesus.

Join the conversation: What question do you hold in your heart today?

Can You Distinguish the Voice of God?

by Lee Ann Mancini

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 NIV

“What do I do, Lord?” “Can you hear me, Lord?” “God, is that your voice?” “When will you answer me, Father?” I’ve asked these questions at many points during my Christian walk. Certainly, my desire is always to follow the will of God. But sometimes when I am faced with a major decision, I struggle to identify how the Lord is leading me. I ask Him for an audible command or a clear sign regarding which way to proceed, but instead, all I get is silence. Can you relate?

God isn’t always so hard to read. In the Old Testament, God led the Israelites through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). He spoke directly to the heroes of our faith like Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, giving them clear and audible instructions as to His perfect will. They did not have to wonder what God’s will for them was.

But even hearing from God directly, they did not always respond with obedience. God instructed Adam very clearly, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17 NIV). We all know what happened next! When God told Moses that He had chosen him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses was reluctant to follow God’s instructions, saying, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11 NIV). Even Abraham proved disobedient to the Lord.  He put the covenant seed in jeopardy when he lied to the king concerning Sarah, “She is my sister” (Genesis 20:2). The patriarchs’ behavior demonstrates that even an audible command from God is not enough to ensure the obedience of His people.

God still communicates with those He loves. He reveals Himself to us through the revelation of the natural world around us and through the special revelation of His Holy Word. He comes to us in dreams and visions. He speaks to us in times of joy and in times of sadness, such as the birth of a newborn baby or the death of a loved one. He impresses thoughts on us as we pray in His presence.

Jesus spent a great deal of time in the presence of His Father to hear from Him. This was imperative to His mission here on earth: “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30 NASB). His humble obedience led to His death on the cross (Philippians 2:8) and resulted in salvation for all humankind.

Part of communication with God is taking the time to listen. If you believe in Jesus, His Spirit dwells within you. He is in your heart, mind, and soul. He is there to guide, teach, and convict. Paul tells us to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). He is already present. We just need to remain sensitive to His leading. To be filled is to be fully submitted to His voice.

Pray daily that you will be yielded to the Holy Spirit. I like to say the following prayer every day: “Thank you, Holy Spirit, for dwelling within me. Let every thought I have, every word I speak, and every decision I make be according to your will and not my own.”

In the busyness of this world, we need to be proactive about asking the Lord for guidance. Sometimes we aren’t given the time to wait for as clear an answer from the Lord as we’d like to have. Nevertheless, we must trust that God will be faithful to show us His will in our lives—if we seek Him daily and choose to listen closely.

As God told Isaiah and the people: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3 NIV).

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Can You Distinguish the Voice of God? – encouragement from Lee Ann Mancini on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lee Ann Bio PictureAbout the author: Lee Ann Mancini is an adjunct professor at South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary. She is the author of the Sea Kids book series and an executive producer of the new Sea Kids animation series.

Lee Ann’s book, Forever with Jesus, teaches children how wonderful heaven is: no more tears, pain, or suffering. When their neighbor passes away, the children in the story learn that they do not have to fear death, because their belief in Jesus guarantees they will live forever with Him.

Join the conversation: Have you heard from God lately?

Love Songs

by Christina Rose

For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

Spring is here, heralding in blossoming trees, blooming flowers, new babies, sunny skies, spring showers, and fresh hope for the new year. As a tiny child, I watched my mother spend hours on a cold autumn day digging holes to bury bulbs in the ground. When spring arrived, those little bulbs would burst forth with a spectacular colorful display of daffodils, tulips, and crocus. In the early spring mornings, the robins would perch on the fence by my mother’s flowers, bursting with love songs of God’s glory and giving voice to the joy it is to be alive.

We sang as well: my father sang in the choir, while my mother sang with us children in the pews. As we grew older, we were introduced to love songs at dances and weddings, where beautiful melodies would inspire people to fall in love. New parents are so filled with love they can’t help but sing over their babies with joy. I cherish memories of the many hours I sang my babies to sleep as I rocked them by my window that overlooked San Francisco bay.

As my daughters grew up, my songs became less frequent as they became busy with their own lives. Then my songs were suddenly silenced by my father’s suicide. While I never lost my faith, I did lose my joy. The days felt long and my sleep was constantly interrupted by bouts of anxiety attacks, wondering when the next unexpected tragedy might strike. My marriage then ended, I imagine partly because if I couldn’t find peace within, how could I find it with someone else?  Now the anxiety in caring solo for two young daughters increased my already overloaded night watch of keeping the darkness at bay.

My daughters grew up to be successful and independent. As I grew in faith, I was called to write. That process included many trials, like making seven moves in seven years. One daughter joined me, which was a great comfort, but recently she chose to move far away.

I felt lost. I couldn’t understand what God was up to. As I sat looking at the Rockies, I called out, “God, I’ve done everything you wanted me to, what do you want me to do now?”

A soft whisper answered, “Go to church”.

As I entered Cherry Hills Community Church for the first time, the amazing worship band was leading everyone in song. Thousands were on their feet, with hands in the air, singing passionate songs of praise. Before long, I was singing along with them like a wannabe Christian Rockstar.

And then an amazing thing happened – my nightly anxiety attacks left me. The fear had gone, and instead I was awakened by beautiful worship songs. One of my favorites is “Raise a Hallelujah” by Bethel Music. It expresses the idea that our praise can actually be a weapon against the things that cause us anxiety. Praise is an act of trust in the character and power of God.

Like the little bulbs that spend the winter under the pressure of the dark earth, God can help us burst out of the heavy darkness to sing for joy and bloom for His glory. He gives the gift of song to all creatures of the earth– so we can praise Him and sing love songs to one another.

God’s love endures forever. If you have lost your song, pray that God will lead you to others who can help you sing again.

“But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge,  the God who shows me unfailing love.” (Psalm 59:16-17 NLT)

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Love Songs – encouragement from Christian Rose on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

christina roseAbout the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer and speaker certified by the John Maxwell Team of Leadership.  She is a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. A devoted mom of two daughters and great aunt to over 40 nieces and nephews, Christina loves spending time in nature and hosting gatherings for family and friends.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story. Her marriage in shambles, Christina finds herself in a desperate situation with no resources other than herself. After appealing to heaven, the Lord takes her on a journey of awakening and miraculous empowerment. That power that is available to us all, especially those who are in need of hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: What songs help you sing for joy in this dark time?

To the Mother of the Would-Be Graduate

by Patti Richter

Out for a morning walk last week, I stopped to greet a neighbor from a safe, COVID-19-inspired distance. When I inquired about her well-being during these trying days, she burst into tears. Her daughter, she explained, is a high-school senior—was a high-school senior. Everything is upended in their world. And a graduation celebration is nowhere to be seen in the blurry picture.

Though it’s been ten years since my youngest child’s graduation, I totally understood. These commencement ceremonies mark a new beginning for our children, and they may further serve as an invisible book-end to Volume I of motherhood. The parenting journey that began with a stack of diapers and swaddling blankets reaches a pinnacle at the toss of a tassel.

When my son donned a satin robe and mortarboard to receive his college diploma, he thought it was no big deal, just a necessary bit of pageantry. I, however, considered it monumental, a milestone for both of us. I wanted to see his tassel swing with each of his long-legged strides across the stage. And I’d begun celebrating weeks ahead of the event while I addressed linen envelopes. Before sliding the announcements inside them, I rubbed my index finger across the gold-embellished emblem atop each one.

Motherhood usually begins with celebration, as it should. Friends and family come together to shower the mother-to-be with things she will need—about a dozen pages of store registry items these days. But when the baby arrives, the new mother may soon realize the astounding array of items filling the nursery has given her a false sense of confidence. The room is equipped, but is she?

Children have the power to turn their parents into desperate creatures. At first, we’re sleep-deprived. Then we move from that phase to a long succession of others, as if jumping from one stone to the next across an incredibly wide creek. But desperation drives prayer, which means that raising children may compel us to pray more earnestly and more often.

Mothers are well-acquainted with fear and trembling brought on by children and their circumstances, whether real or imagined. Seeking God in prayer will keep our hearts from fainting over any offspring-induced distress. And reading His Word relieves our fears and anxieties as we ingest His wisdom and promises.

The last chapter of Proverbs includes a long passage praising the qualities of a godly woman. It further suggests the attire she needs to run well in this long-distance marathon of motherhood: “strength and dignity,” which help her to “laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25 NIV).

In the future, if not now, “Her children arise and call her blessed” (Prverbs 31:28 NIV). However, it’s the next verse that likely holds the key to her success: “A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30 NIV).

For the mother with a heavy heart over postponed or canceled plans that would have celebrated your child’s milestone (graduations, weddings, etc.), may you experience God’s comfort in your loss. Psalm 94:19 NIV says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”

Meanwhile, please remember the closing verse of Proverbs, which may indeed include another kind of graduation ceremony:

Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.                                                                                                                                     Proverbs 31:31 NIV  

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To the Mother of the Would-Be Graduate – 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: Have important milestone events been canceled in your family this spring? How are you managing the loss?

The Card with a Cross

by Louise Tucker Jones

 “I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand…” Isaiah 51:16 (NIV)

 It was my first time to speak at a Christian Women’s Club and I was a little nervous. I had never shared my testimony in such a format—telling about the difficulties in my life and how God brought me through them. Nor had I ever given a public message of salvation or offered a prayer to pray and become a Christian. I was a novice and it was a little scary.

I wondered how the story of how I coped with my middle son’s death, my youngest son’s disability and heart disease, and my own experience with clinical depression could touch someone’s heart. I thought they would walk out and say, “Whoa, glad that wasn’t me!” But it didn’t happen that way.

At the end of my testimony, I held up a card that each woman had been given when she arrived. As instructed, I asked them to fill out the card then hand it to me on their way out the door. I also asked if they would draw a cross in the corner if they asked Jesus to come into their heart that very day.

Many women stopped on their way out to chat, compliment, or even sympathize as I smiled bravely, thankful the talk was over. Then it happened. A lady placed a card in my hand with a small cross sketched in the upper corner. I couldn’t believe it! God had actually used my words to draw someone to Himself. I had never felt such an awesome experience.

I have spoken at many public venues since that day. But it still amazes me when I find that my message at a retreat or conference or my words on paper have been used by God to draw someone to Him. Each decision is like a love message from God, telling me over and over that He can use any happening in my life to help others.

Though I would never compare myself to the apostle, Paul, his life is a perfect example of this. He was shipwrecked, imprisoned, beaten, and more, yet he kept preaching and speaking for the Lord, even writing letters to Christians from a prison cell. He never quit proclaiming Christ’s love or telling about the difficult things in his life that God used for others’ good.

Some of us have heart-breaking stories to share, yet we are often tempted to tell only the good things, being fearful that we will make God appear unfaithful through turbulent trials. But in truth, everyone is going through something difficult, and they need to know there is a God who will trudge through that deep valley with them. That He will bring them through the pain, the heartache, and even tragic events in life.

I am honored that God chose me to shine a light for someone walking through a dark tunnel that I once traveled. And in spite of the loneliness or pain that comes my way, I can know that God will bring good from it. Not that the incident was good. But God can and will use it for His glory.

Then, like Paul, we can proclaim: “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NIV).

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The Card with a Cross – encouragement from Louise Tucker Jones on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Louise Tucker JonesLouise Tucker Jones is an author, speaker and columnist. Her poignant life stories will touch your heart or tickle your funny bone. Having a son with Down syndrome, Louise coauthored the Gold Medallion award-winning book, Extraordinary Kids. Married to Carl 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands.

Extraordinary Kids: Nurturing and Championing Your Child with Special Needs, provides parents with vital information to help celebrate, nurture, and prayerfully champion their special-needs children.

Join the conversation: How has God used you to shine light into the lives of others?

 

 

Our Refuge And Strength

by Sheri Schofield

“Um, what is this?” I wondered. I had just walked into my office. There, in the middle of the room, stood a tacky old stroller that looked like it was from the 1950s. Its dull metal and frayed fabric stood in sharp contrast to my lovely peach and burnt orange office sanctuary.

Was my husband, Tim, trying to hint at something? Were two grown children, plus three grandchildren not enough? My thoughts went to Abraham and Sarah who had Isaac when they were in their nineties. No. That couldn’t be it! But what was he up to?

That’s when Tim brought the chameleon home. A chameleon is a kind of lizard that changes colors, kind of like the GEICO gecko, only bigger – but it doesn’t do commercials. I was okay with that. Tim put it in a small terrarium. It seemed harmless enough . . . unless . . .

“Honey, why is there a stroller in my office?” I asked with suspicion.

“Oh, it’s for the chameleon,” he said. “It has to get some sunshine every day so that it won’t get a vitamin D deficiency, and I can’t carry the terrarium easily. So I am going to put the chameleon in the stroller and take it along with me when we go for walks.”

Uh-huh. I could just see it now. Tim and I walking along our mountain road and some neighbors jog by.

“Oh! Let me see!” they say, smiling and coming over to check if we have a new grandchild.

The chameleon starts to turn brown and fades into the dirt in the terrarium.

The neighbors’ eyebrows go up. “Uhhhhh… It’s a lizard!” The neighbors look at us peculiarly and hurry away. Now we have a reputation! We’re The Lizard People.

I called my daughter, Christy, who immediately sided with her dad. “Mom, we’re moving back to Montana next year. My dog and I will go on walks with Dad and his chameleon!”

Great. She was no help at all!

I love being a mother. But not to a lizard! My maternal instincts are reserved for my human children and grandchildren. For them, my love is wider than the ocean, higher than the sky, and, as Randy Travis puts it, “deeper than the holler”.

As I write, our nation is being swept with a pandemic. My heart is sharply focused on my own children and grandchildren. Our son, Drew, is a nurse manager at a large hospital, where they are treating growing numbers of virus victims with inadequate equipment and supplies. My prayers focus first on Drew and his nursing staff each day, our front-line warriors.

Many mothers around this country are also praying non-stop for their children during this crisis. Many are wondering, “Where is God?”

TWEETABLE
Our Refuge And Strength – encouragement from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Israel was about to go through a time of suffering. The prophet Isaiah received this word from the Lord: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior”(Isaiah 43:2-3 NIV).

God does not promise we will not suffer. But He is with us in the suffering, holding us close to His heart of love, comforting us. He hears our prayers. So I am storming heaven for my children daily, trusting that God is in control, whether I see it or not. I can feel His presence. Emmanuel – God with us.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. The LORD Almighty is with us. Psalm 46:1-3,7 NIV

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 has God revealed Himself to you in these dark days?

A Deeper Romance

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone.”              Song of Solomon 2:10-11 ESV

Hollywood is rife with romantic notions and many of us have taken our cue from Tinseltown as to what qualifies.

It’s usually a flashy ordeal with diamonds, dancing and beautiful people in beautiful clothes. Romance, the movies tell us, is about gifts and musicians, flowers and fireplaces, fancy foods and fantastic footwork.

As our anniversary approaches every spring, my husband grumbles that I’m not a normal woman. If only my idea of romance lined up with Hollywood, it would be easier to woo and wow me!

On the one hand, I’m not that hard to please. On the other hand, it takes everything he has.

I don’t wish for diamonds or pearls; in fact, I’d prefer he not spend any money at all. What I want is his attention, a long walk, and a real conversation.

For me, it’s the relationship that creates the romance. Romance that works begins when we say, “good morning” and builds as we work through the daily challenges of paying bills and living life. It’s the together part that makes the romance happen. If we haven’t been together in overcoming the obstacles of the day, it’s impossible to impress me with a rose and cheesecake.

God is a romantic. You can tell by His extravagance and the lengths to which He goes to get our attention.

As I sat stewing once over my prayer time, frustrated that certain situations had not worked out to my desiring, I was determined to fret and scowl. As I read His Word, however, He whispered to me again about the depth of His love and reminded me of His unchanging character.

As I prayed, I looked out through the doors of my deck at the muted greens of the spring forest against the gray sky of a rainy day and marveled at His handiwork and the gift of this view. The greens and browns of the freshly budded woods were interrupted with flashes of blue or red or yellow as birds alighted on the feeders before returning to nests hidden in the trees. Their songs warbled and whistled to me as they grew bold through the camouflage of their platforms.

Ever so slowly, the romance of creation quieted my heart and spoke to my soul of a deeper relationship, wooing me to see beyond the transient troubles of the day to the great heart of God, to begin to ask for greater gifts than quick answers.

The God of Creation desires my attention, my attendance, my full focus. He crossed the greatest of divides and gave His only Son to bring me safely into His fold. Because He created me, He knows the secrets of my own soul better than I.

Just as Hollywood has many plastic notions of romance, so the world has many misconceptions about a relationship with God and often these ideas pollute my own thinking. He’s not a genie in a bottle. He’s not the great wish-granter in the sky. He’s not about making my life easier or taking orders for my best life now.

He is about a deeper story, a greater adventure, an eternal romance that began before I was born and will continue into a place where there will be no more false notions, no Hollywood hoaxes, no cheap imitations of grace. And He wants me beside Him on this adventure.

On the one hand, it’s not that hard. On the other hand, it takes everything I have.

The romance of God calls to me and I will follow into the deep, deep heart of the greatest story ever told.

TWEETABLE
A Deeper Romance – thoughts on #GodsLove from @LoriSRoeleveld on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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 has God romanced you lately?