Sitting With My Savior

by Cindy Martin

I find myself wrestling with a new twist on an old issue. I posed a couple of questions to God a while back, “What do You really want me to be doing with my life? How should I actually be spending my time here on earth?” After seeking His heart on a day I’d set aside to ponder these questions with Him, His answer was clear….well sort of. His inaudible, but unmistakable response to my query was, “Be available.”

What does “be available” actually look like? That day, I was at a crossroads, asking God which of the many options before me He wanted me to pursue and He asked me to BE available. (Notice that He didn’t ask me to “do available”, but rather to “be available.”)

Herein lies the wrestle – the age old wrestle – how do we BE available? How do we live in the tension between being and doing? After all, the incessant doer in me knows that things still need to get done. Yet my heart knows there is more to it.

The writer of Ecclesiastes articulates my frustration but also brings some clarity to the issue. What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 NLT).

Work was God’s idea and is His gift to us. ‘Doing’ and ‘being’ both originated with Him. They were not intended to be in opposition to each other. Rather, their kingdom design was to complement each other. The fact that God “planted eternity in the human heart” means that our spirits know that we were created for something more than mere physical labor and existence. But, because we can never understand all that God is up to in our lives, we spend a lot time ‘doing’ in an effort to figure out ‘being’.

I’m learning that ‘being’ is not the cessation of activity so I can engage in monk style meditation, but rather making space in my mind and in my schedule for Him to have full access to my undivided attention. I call this time, “sitting with my Savior”. I’m not reading Scripture, I’m not praying, I’m not even engaging in worship. I’m simply sitting still with my palms turned up in a posture to receive from Him, giving Him opportunity to pour into me what I need from His divine hand.

Sometimes it’s encouragement for my soul; other times, it’s wisdom for a circumstance I’m facing or direction for the road ahead. I’m amazed by His attentiveness to me. The more time I spend “being” with God, the more He informs my “doing”. Sitting with my Savior deepens my trust in Him and sweetens our relationship. The posture of my heart is changed, and I leave our time together renewed, refocused, and ready to “do” His will!

Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go’, Whether to the right or to the left.  Isaiah 30:21 NLT

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Sitting With My Savior – encouragement from Cindy Martin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Cindy MartinAbout the author: Cindy is a writer, speaker and certified personality trainer who has a heart for helping people to get unstuck. She is passionate about teaching others how to live beyond their circumstances. She lives with her husband Walter on an acreage near Calgary, Alberta (Canada). They have two adult children.

If you feel angry, impatient, or overwhelmed and feel unable to stop the relentless internal revving, there is a better way to live. Living With Your Heart At Rest invites you to step out of the blender and into deep soul rest. Cindy shares with passionate conviction and authentic experience that it is possible to live with your heart at rest … before you’re laid to rest.

Join the conversation: When is the last time God had your undivided attention?

 

Hidden Labels

by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty

You’re the God who sees me!” Genesis 16:13 MSG

I often get frustrated when my daughter is trying to teach me some new technological gizmo that I can’t seem to grasp. I find myself pulling out the dumb label I keep tucked inside my shirt and plastering it across my chest in neon letters.

Wearing this label, I feel justified that I can’t learn anything new; it’s just who I am – “the way God made me.”

But Cricket doesn’t buy it. “Mom,” she says in an unsympathetic tone, “quit playing dumb. I know you’re not. You can get this. Now stop hiding behind the ‘old dog’ mask and concentrate on this ‘new trick.’”

We often rely on labels to clarify our identity. If we’re not sure who we really are – or maybe don’t like who we really are – perhaps we can hide behind a label that reflects who we wish we were.

We look into a mirror and see an image, but not the same image Papa God sees when He looks at us. Our vision and self-perception have been jaded by labels we’ve received our entire lives. We still wear labels that were callously glued onto our backs from childhood, stamps like klutzy, stupid, not good enough, or fatty-fatty-two-by-four, can’t fit through the bathroom door (my personal nemesis).

And then there are other labels we’ve assigned ourselves as we’ve grown up, like airhead, idiot, loser, or damaged goods.

 These negative labels erode our confidence and work subtly, beneath the surface, to make us feel worthless. The internal damage is often reflected externally in our posture or countenance. We may slump our shoulders, hang our heads, or keep our eyes downcast.

We wear these destructive labels so long we eventually get used to them and aren’t even aware of their presence. Or power. Our thinking is shaped by them, which then subconsciously modifies our behavior to fit our label. It becomes a vicious cycle.

As a fashion-conscious teen, I carefully cut the Tommy label off a pair of worn-out, hand-me-down jeans and sewed it onto my Kmart specials. That label kept me in style for several peer-impressing years.

Labels can build us up or tear us down. Some women wear a chic label proudly, or maybe trendy, wealthy, or politically correct. Others work hard to earn labels like professional, successful, efficient, intelligent, or competent. Still others become known by their beliefs as pro-life, godly, activist, or conservative.

 It’s up to us which labels we choose to wear.

I often wonder if the apostle Peter saw himself sporting a Liar label or one that boldly proclaimed: Rock.

Would Rahab’s label say Slut … or Redeemed?

When all was said and done, did Naomi consider herself Bitter… or Restored?

And how about Saul: Christian-killer, whose label flipped to Paul: Greatest Evangelist of All Time?

So tell me, what labels do you have tucked inside your shirt? Do you hide them so well that nobody knows they’re there but you? I’ve got news for you, sister: Someone else knows, and He isn’t buying it either. Matter of fact, I don’t think Papa God puts much stock in our labels. He doesn’t even notice the stickers we’ve plastered all over ourselves.

When we invite Jesus into our hearts and ask Him to fill us with His love, all God sees when He looks at us is the gentle, sweet, and beautiful reflection of His Son.

Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 CEV

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Hidden Labels – insight 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: What labels do you choose to wear? Do they reflect the way God sees you?

Tornado Prayers

by Linda Evans Shepherd @LindaShepherd

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.                                                     John 14:33 ESV

One summer evening, five years ago, the sky turned black as the tornado sirens blared. I looked out the window at the fast-moving sky and saw the stinger of a tornado rolling sideways over our house.

 Were there more twisters to come?

I stood over the bed of my medically fragile daughter. Together we were about to face a day I’d hoped would never come. It wasn’t supposed to. The word on the street was, “We’re safe from tornadoes, because the Colorado foothills protect us.”

But the trouble was that the fast-moving storm was blowing the wrong way: west towards the mountains instead of east towards Kansas.

As the storm pressed itself against the mountains, the entire sky began to rotate. While quarter-size hail threatened to rain shards of glass from the skylight overhead, the air crackled with electricity.

How I longed to take my daughter into the basement, but her wheelchair wouldn’t make the trip. She was too heavy to carry and too fragile to drag. So there we were, stuck in harm’s way, with only a mattress and the name of Jesus to protect us.

With only the name of Jesus?

I faced the blackness outside our window as I stood my ground, commanding the tornado to “go up,” in the name of Jesus.

The sky turned orange and the heavens roared like a freight train while I tucked Laura beneath her bed and continued to pelt heaven with my prayers. But the problem was the storm was stuck against the mountain and stayed there, rebuilding on itself for almost six hours. Just when I thought the terror would never stop, the storm finally ended with a boom of a lightening strike.

Soon the news-at-10 revealed that an E 3 tornado had passed only a mile away, destroying homes as it thundered toward the foothills.

The next day, not sure which neighborhood the monster had entered, I felt the urge to call a friend, a friend who wasn’t quite ready to believe in God. “Did you see the tornado?” I asked when she picked up the phone.

“Did I?  I heard a noise outside and stepped onto my porch and looked up, directly into the wall of the tornado just over my house.  That’s when I saw my neighbor’s roof sail by.”

“Did you get hit?”

“No, and the odd thing was the tornado jumped over my house before it exploded the rest of the neighborhood.”

“Do you know what I was praying while that tornado was on the ground?” I asked.

“What?”

“Go up, tornado, go up in the name of Jesus!”

My friend sucked in her breath.  “Well, I have to admit, that was a really good prayer.”

When you face a sudden storm, don’t discount the name of Jesus, even if it’s the only weapon you have available. For the name of Jesus is more precious and more powerful than anything else you could choose to rely on. In fact, Jesus Himself said, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:33 ESV).

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Tornado Prayers – encouragement from @LindaShepherd on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

linda evans shepherd

About the author: Linda Shepherd Evans is the president of Right to the Heart Ministries and the CEO of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA), which ministers to Christian women authors and speakers. She’s the publisher of Leading Hearts Magazine and Arise Daily. Linda is an award-winning author who has written numerous books. Her prayer books have sold over a quarter-of-a-million copies. She is an internationally recognized speaker.

Linda’s latest release, When You Need to Move a Mountain: Keys to Praying with Power, is a practical and encouraging book that explains what intercessory prayer is, how to pray as an intercessor, and how to experience victory. You’ll quickly find the specific help you need to pray for the needs close to your heart. You’ll also learn how to develop your own intercessory prayer battle strategy and to celebrate each victory with thanksgiving.

Join the conversation: What power have you witnessed when calling upon the name of Jesus?

LIFE

by Tammy Whitehurst @TammyWhitehurst

 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.                                                                           Psalm 34:18 NIV 

Everything was going fine, then it suddenly feels as if we’ve stepped in front of an oncoming train or just walked face forward into a brick wall. We never saw it coming. It stopped us cold in our tracks.

LIFE: a hit of some kind to the home and heart. Most of us have felt deserted either emotionally or spiritually at some point. The pain can either derail us or propel us into the arms of Jesus.

A few years ago, I found myself in a dance with depression. Without Scripture guiding me out of the dark and back into the light, I would still be in the pit. Even as I clawed myself up and out, I knew Jesus had me in the palm of His hand.

During those dark days, I always believed the dark cloud would one day give way to sunshine. It is true when God tells us weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:1-5).

The key is to keep digging through the darkness until it bleeds light. It will….. because God says it will.

As Christians, we keep moving forward even if we have to drag ourselves. Even if we must claw our way into the next day….. and the next. God sees, hears, and cares. Because of that we have hope. God is good even when life is bad.

I can’t answer why we must walk through a crisis or how long we have to stay.

I can’t tell you when it all will change.

BUT…..

I CAN tell you where our help comes from. His name is Jesus and He won’t bend nor will he break. Even when our future is uncertain, he walks ahead of us to show the way.

When fear is overwhelming and questions have no answers, rely on the peace that surpasses all understanding. He is strong enough to rescue, to save….expect the unexpected when it comes to unleashing and bombarding Heaven with our prayers.

When it comes to life, the older we get the more we realize that “sometimes” is a real word that requires real faith.

Sometimes we get answers quickly.
Sometimes we don’t.
Sometimes people are healed.
Sometimes they aren’t.
Sometimes marriages last 50 plus years.
Sometimes not.
Sometimes relationships are mended and forgiveness comes full circle.
Sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes people realize true peace is found when we cross the line in the sand and step out on faith.
Sometimes the line is never crossed.

But even in uncertainty, as believers we can stand with our heads held high. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can march forward, not backward, eventually regaining the hope we might have lost.

Rough waters make smooth stones. Smooth stones bring down giants. Armor up. It’s time to report for duty!

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LIFE – insight and encouragement from @TammyWhitehurst on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

tammy whitehurstAbout the author: Tammy was a middle school teacher before graduating from New Orleans Theological Seminary in 2010. Now speaking full-time, she has been interviewed on radio stations including Moody Christian Broadcasting and has authored three devotionals. She is also the co-director of Christian Communicators Conference, training speakers across the country. She has been described as a hoot with a capital “H” and she struggles like the rest of us with dust, dishes, cellulite, junk drawers, and wrinkles. Find out more about her at TammyWhitehurst.com

Join the conversation: When is the last time life knocked you off the tracks? What gave you hope?

Crisis

by Cynthia Simmons @CynthiaLSimmons

…Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. Job 13:15 NIV

The change came suddenly. One Saturday morning, my husband, Ray, and I sat on the couch chatting. In a second, an odd expression crossed his face, and I wondered what upset him. I watched in horror as his limbs jerked and twitched. Plus, he didn’t respond when I called his name. Seizure. Seconds passed as I argued with my inner RN, refusing to believe what I saw. My husband was healthy–except he’d had a temperature and headache. Our doctor diagnosed the flu, which didn’t cause convulsions.

Ray’s body teetered, and he came close to sliding off the sofa. I pried myself away to summon my oldest son for help. The two of us eased my husband onto the carpet. Once I had Ray on his side surrounded by pillows, I reached my doctor who said to call an ambulance. Soon flashing lights and sirens filled the air, and neither of those brought calm. I longed for the EMTs to rush my husband to the hospital and unearth the problem. Instead, the techs pelted me with questions over and over. Gradually, Ray woke up both angry and uncooperative, not normal behavior for my sweet husband. His condition worried me.

Once in the emergency room, doctors diagnosed encephalitis, an infection of the brain. The specialist who managed his case found the exact virus right away and prescribed the appropriate drug. She said we were fortunate to find the cause so quickly. However, I kept watching Ray’s level of consciousness and his confusion, and I knew his condition was serious. At one point, I cried after the stress of the day, but the night nurse fussed at me. She said my tears could delay his recovery, so I sucked in my feelings and acted braver than I felt.

The next day, a neurologist dropped in and fired questions at my husband. Ray couldn’t wake up enough to understand and gave garbled replies. After listening to my husband’s failed communication, the doctor took me out in the hall and divulged grim news.  Apparently, my husband never had the flu, which meant the infection had more time to damage his brain. This doctor predicted months of physical therapy to reteach him motor and language skills. His prognosis overwhelmed me. Later, I discovered the other doctors held back their predictions to avoid oppressing me.

Looking back, I’m so grateful I had read Edith Schaeffer’s work. She had written about her husband’s ministry and final illness in her book, Tapestry. She stressed we would all experience hardships in life and our response to pain mattered, since the spirit world would observe us.

Consider Job. Satan believed he would turn against God if he lost his family, so God allowed testing. Can you imagine all the angels watching? I’m sure demons stayed nearby too. Job mourned by shaving his head and tearing his clothes after losing his children. However, job responded with: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21 NKJV). When Satan then took his health, Job still didn’t blame God. He was determined to trust God no matter what: “…Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15 NIV).

Job’s story, along with insight into the spiritual realm, gave me incredible strength as I cared for my husband in those dark days. Since I had just started writing, I suspected this was battle raging in the unseen world to keep me from being effective. I struggled with exhaustion, worry, and fear as my husband inched toward a new normal, but I never accused God of hurting me. I was determined to walk through it all knowing the Lord walked with me. He would use it all in time for His glory.

When life suddenly changes, remember Job. Stay close to God while you grieve.

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Crisis – encouragement when life is hard from @CynthiaLSimmons on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Cynthia-Simmons-5About the author: Former home school mother of five, Cynthia has a special spot in her heart for young moms and loves to encourage all women to pursue God. She hosts Heart of the Matter Radio, and writes inspirational fiction and non-fiction.  Find her at www.clsimmons.com.

Join the conversation: Have you had a crisis in your life that challenged your faith in God?

Counterintuitive Peace

by Deborah McCormick Maxey, PhD @DeborahMaxey2

…he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge.                                                                          Psalm 91:4 NRSV

“Brain surgery.” Never had two words produced so much anxiety in me. I had prayed the world renown medical team would suggest I try yet another pill. My mind constantly replayed what it would entail to create a “hole in the head”: scalpels in my grey matter and affixing a titanium plate.

It was the first week in December, and instantly I knew that other than my husband, who was with me, God was calling me to keep this scary news from everyone else. I could not let the joy of the Christmas holiday be marred with the fact that I would undergo this on New Year’s Eve, I would undergo this procedure.

At first I was mystified, as a worship leader and a prayer warrior, by God’s direction to not ask for prayer. But eventually I understood: He wanted me to look up, not around, for support.

A few days later I felt God moving me to message a Facebook acquaintance whose sister is a pastor. They both advised me to memorize Psalm 91 and to think of it as “911” to God, because of His promises of protection it held.

I began intense study on that psalm. Verse by verse I journaled deeply into the meaning of the words. As a visual person, it was not enough to understand what the Scripture said, I wanted images to spring to mind as I recited the words in praise and petition.

For the above verse, I googled “birds protecting their young” and found pictures that brought me peace. Birds stretch out their huge pinion feathers and fold their young beneath their wings to shield them. Huddled safe from everything, the babies sleep peacefully while the parent bird stands watch, taking the blows from any attacker. Just as Jesus did on the cross.

I found another reassuring image in verses 11-12 (NRSV): For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up.”

Verse 15 (NRSV) also promises God will not fail. “When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.” Each verse brought joy and confidence that the Lord would be there for me through everything that lay ahead.

En route to Duke University on the day of surgery, Psalm 118:24 (NKJV) spontaneously repeated in my head: “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” And unbelievably, I felt the truth of those words.

Before leaving for the hospital, with a Sharpie, I had written “Psalm 91” in the palm of my hand, ready to grasp it like a squeeze ball if I needed extra strength. But there was an unintended effect: several hospital staff saw it, recognized it, and prayed with me on the spot. Folks I never met on the surgical team, found me afterwards to say that they also saw it and prayed.

I suffer from a chronic neurological disorder, Trigeminal Neuralgia, known as the “The Suicide Disease” because seventy two percent of those diagnosed end their lives within two years of onset. But through the surgery, which had been so scary to anticipate, God greatly reduced my 24/7 pain. He knew all along that His grace would be sufficient when I sought and trusted in him.

When things look overwhelming, and it feels counterintuitive to trust fully in Him, we can know He has a plan, a lesson, and a blessing in store. Over time, prayer, and the study of His Word, we learn to discern His voice. And His presence in our discipline brings us peace.

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Counterintuitive Peace – encouragement from @DeborahMaxey2 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deborah maxeyAbout the author: Deborah Maxey, winner of numerous writing awards, has several short stories soon to be released in anthologies. Her first novel, “The Endling,” is scheduled to be published by Firefly Southern Fiction, Iron Stream Media. Along with a love for storytelling, Deborah is worship leader at her church, devoted wife, mother, grandmother, fine artist, and a licensed professional therapist in Lynchburg Virginia.

Join the conversation: What has been counterintuitive for you in your relationship with God?

The Garden

by Pam Farrel @PamFarrel

Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27

It was God’s plan to make us different from each other from the moment he imagined us. He designed estrogen and testosterone and God knew just how that would play out in a relationship. Those differences were by design and for a good reason, to complement each other.

But sometimes those differences are a quandary to our mate.  When we moved to San Diego, we had a desire to be a light of love to our community. Because both of us were athletes, volunteering in youth sports was a natural place to begin. Bill served as the President of the youth basketball league for eight years and one day at the gym one the dads walked up to him and said, “I think something is wrong with my wife. I think she might be broken. Can we come in and see you?”

When they arrived, the husband turned to his wife and said, “Go ahead” which seemed to be a green light to begin talking. She began jumping from topic to topic to topic, and the husband looked at Bill with a panicked gaze and said, “She does this all the time.”

Bill, knowing social scientists explain the way women interact with life as “integration”, meaning everything connects to everything else, said, “Just think of her mind like a plate of spaghetti. If you look at a plate of spaghetti and follow one noodle around that plate, it looks like it touches every other noodle. She is traveling through her life connecting it to you. Because of this, women are natural multi-taskers.“  Bill taught the husband some listening skills, and his wife talked for 55 straight minutes. Then she sat back and sighed. With a smile she said, “That was great! If I am like spaghetti, then what is he like?”

“Oh, that will be next week,” Bill replied, because he wasn’t quite sure how he was going to explain how her husband compartmentalized things to easily grasp and integrate them into his life. He began to pray for a food illustration that would depict this. One morning our sons were making toaster waffles and up popped a waffle. Bill immediately thought, “Compartments!”

When the couple returned, Bill explained that men are like waffles because they think of one thing at a time. Each issue mentally goes into its own box or compartment. Because of this, men by nature are problem solvers. They like to go into a box, figure out the problem, apply a solution, then move on.  The husband had an issue that he had tried to solve with his wife for years, and that day Bill was the compartment police. Anytime the wife wanted to hop to a different box, he would bring her back to the original topic. That day they finally solved the issue.

Bill came home and said, “Pam, today I used an illustration in a counseling appointment and it really seemed to help a couple. Then Bill detailed to me how men are like waffles, and women are like spaghetti. I replied, “It is a little corny, but if it worked, then I trust you, and I trust God. Yes, let’s use it at the conference we are teaching.”

Now, Men are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti, has sold nearly 400, 000 copies and has been translated into more than 15 languages. We are sure the main reason why so many people seem to connect to the word picture is that it takes couples back to the garden. As we go back to the way God designed us, male and female, to value and appreciate the differences, we can learn to use our differences in all of our relationships.

Lord, help each of us show visible expressions of appreciation for the way you wired us. Amen  

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The Garden – insight from @PamFarrel on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

pam ferrelAbout the authorPam Farrel. author of 50+ books, is an international speaker and co-director, with her husband, Bill of Love-Wise.comHer newest book is Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament: A Creative Bible Study Experience (co-authors Jean E Jones and Karl Dornacher) from Harvest House.

Pam and Bill are the bestselling authors of Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti(and small group DVD series); Single Men Are Like Waffles, Single Women Are Like Spaghetti; and the teen version: Guys are Waffles, Girls are Spaghetti.

Join the conversation: Do you see differences in how God designed you and your spouse?

Pressed, but Not Crushed

by Rhonda J. Dragomir @RhondaDragomir

“I’m sorry, honey. He’s gone.” I dropped the phone and sagged to my knees.

The voice on the line belonged to my father, but his words could not be true. I’d left for my honeymoon only four days earlier, and the last person I’d hugged goodbye was my eighteen-year-old brother. How could he be dead? An accident at work had ushered him from the construction site straight to heaven.

Numb with disbelief and grief, the next days blurred together in a bizarre mishmash of emotions and activities. My new husband and I left immediately for home, winding our way around mountain curves in dense fog. Friends thronged the funeral, but greetings and condolences flitted through my mind faster than hummingbirds. Few words lingered, not even those of the sermon.

For months afterward, sorrow and anger pressed me under their combined weight. I mourned my brother and raged at God for allowing him to die. The beautiful blossom of newlywed life became unrecognizable, its petals torn asunder and ground into pieces.

God is a Master Perfumer, a fragrance creator of great artistry and skill. A fine perfume begins with rare, costly ingredients. A flower is plucked at the height of its vitality while its aroma is sweetest. But the strongest, most beautiful scent will only be released when the blossom is pressed until its oils are extracted.

The Master knows the unique aroma he wants our lives to emit and permits only the circumstances that will enhance the overall blend. As flowers in his hand, it pleases him when we humbly submit to the press, even though we cannot understand the formula.

All fragrances have a “top note” when applied, and it is often tangy and too intense. Through time it fades until the body of the perfume, the “heart note,” emerges. Though the top note of my fragrance was unpleasant, the grief faded as years passed. When the perfume was absorbed and warmed by my acceptance, a different aroma came to the fore. I shared my “heart note” with others who struggled with grief, and I reveled in lively, happy childhood memories. The fragrance of joy once again scented my life.

Never was a more fragrant bloom pressed than the Rose of Sharon, our Lord Jesus Christ. Not only was he pressed—he was crushed, freely giving his life, so through his sacrifice we might be spared the same horror. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed (2 Corinthians 4:8). God desires us to emit the very aroma of Christ in this world, especially among those who wonder how we endure disasters while maintaining our faith and peace.

When hard times come—and they always do—know that God, the Master Perfumer is at work. Yield to his plan. When you do, the aroma of your life infuses the air with a heavenly fragrance that glorifies God and permeates the world.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing… 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 NASB

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Pressed, but Not Crushed – insight from @RondaDragomir on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: An avid reader and writer, Rhonda Dragomir lives in the heart of idyllic horse country in central Kentucky. Her degree in Social Work from Asbury University prepared her for more than forty years of ministry as a pastor’s wife.

Rhonda writes both fiction and nonfiction, and she was named 2019 Writer of the Year by Serious Writer, Inc. Learn more about Rhonda on her website: www.rhondadragomir.com.

Join the conversation: Have you been “pressed” by God? How did it change you?

I’ve Got a Mansion, Just Over the Grill-Top

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 NIV

I don’t believe it’s true, but someone once told me that a house perpetually and perfectly well-kept is a sign of an “uninteresting” life. Again, not true. But for people who believe it, I might be one of the most fascinating people they’ll ever meet.

Sometimes, to get inspired to get my house in order, I look up cleaning and organizing tips on Pinterest. Next thing I know, I’m thinking about D-I-Y-ing something amazing. It has nothing whatsoever to do with cleaning my house, but still. It’s not like I can’t use one more idea for building a grill gazebo—that will never, ever happen.

At some point I do realize I have to get real and tidy up. I was gathering shoes from the family room one time and chuckle-whined to my daughter, “Your dad has three pairs of shoes in here.” Then, “Mercy! Two pairs of your brother’s shoes over there. Ten man-shoes in one room!”

My daughter, who is always at home with the clever comebacks, answered, “In my father’s house are many man-shoes.”

Even at its tidiest, my house? Never uninteresting.

It’s even more interesting that, spiritually-speaking, we live in an ever-messy world. Not just a bit of disorder now and then. Not simply a little dusty here or there. Fallen. A place where immorality and depravity are a lot closer to the norm than right living and love for God. In all its messiness, our world doesn’t merely avoid loving God. There are those who are passionate in their attempts to remove His influence. It’s not exactly “mansion, sweet mansion” here.

Jesus really said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, KJV). It’s a passage that thrills our souls. Not the man-shoes—or even the mansions. It thrills because in the midst of dealing with the mess of this world, we’re reminded of the treasure of living in the presence of God.

I do love the thought of a place “prepared.” A clutterless place far removed from everything messy. Better yet, there’s a reception. “I will receive you to myself.” What will make heaven the sweetest home? We’ll be “received”—by Jesus.

In an untidy world, dirty little distractions can threaten to sidetrack those of us who seek to faithfully follow Christ toward that reception. It’s vital that we not allow any of the world’s mess to block out the glorious eternal.

A few verses later, Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17, HCSB).

That’s how we focus and follow:  His remaining presence! The same Lord who promises to receive us indwells us by His Holy Spirit. Oh what a gift His presence is. For the hope of our glorious future. For life here and now.

For the organized—and also for those of us who are, let’s say, a little too fascinating.

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I’ve Got a Mansion, Just Over the Grill-Top – encouragement & humor from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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About 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: What are you looking forward to the most when you get to heaven?

He’s Way Ahead of You

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

 …Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear. Isaiah 65:24 NASB

I am a planner. I begin every day by making a list of what I am going to accomplish. But as much as I try to envision the day ahead, it’s rare to see things go according to plan. A call from a friend needing to meet and talk. An emergency babysitting request for a sick grandchild. A knock at the door announcing an unexpected guest. You know what they say—the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Of course, unlike me, God knows the future and only plans for what He already knows will happen. The prophet Daniel discovered this after getting a vision he could not interpret. As he began to pray for understanding, the angel Gabriel appeared before him. He informed Daniel, “At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you…” (Daniel 9:23 NASB).

Did you catch that? Daniel hadn’t even finished his prayer when God sent Gabriel down to answer his request!

The psalmist put this ability of God this way: “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all” (Psalm 139:4 NASB).

We can scheme and plan. But there is no way we can project exactly what will happen at any given moment. Because life happens. And those bumps in the road come when we least expect them.

But nothing takes God by surprise.

That fact is an immeasurable comfort to me when disaster strikes. It was the truth I taught my fifth graders on the terrible morning of 9-11. After relating what news I had heard, I asked them, “Do you think this has taken the Lord by surprise? Can you picture Him in heaven, face-palming and saying, “Planes as weapons!! I didn’t think of that one.”

Of course, they knew enough about God to know that would be a ridiculous idea.

Why would we ever doubt Him? Maybe we take Him too literally when He metaphorically describes Himself in human terms. In Exodus 7:5, God says that He will stretch His hand against Egypt. In Numbers 6:25, Aaron included in his benediction that the Lord would make His face shine upon us. Psalm 34:15 tells us the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous. In Isaiah, God proclaims, “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.”

Word pictures are very common in Scripture, allowing us to use the characteristics of readily familiar things to understand God a little better. But we should never be foolish enough to limit Him by those metaphors.

When Moses asked to see His glory, the Lord told him, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live” Exodus 33:20 NASB). He put Moses in the cleft of a rock and covered him with His hand until He had passed by.

God is so much greater than anything we can imagine. The loftiest, most incredible thoughts we have about Him are woefully inadequate to even come close to the reality of who He really is. “I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27 NASB). To restrict God to our human limitations will limit how much we can trust Him.

Planning and having goals can be a good thing, but we must keep our hearts and minds open to the “interruptions” He will bring along. Understanding that His plans are always best, that His ways are higher than ours, will keep our hearts soft and able to respond to Him in trust and love when they do. And will enable us to claim His agenda for our own.

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He’s Way Ahead of You – encouragement & insight from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300

About 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: What “interruptions” have turned out to be blessings in your life?