Night and Day of the Zombies

by Patti Richter

We sat on the floor hugging our knees to our chest for protection, wide-eyed at the scene before us. Several people with the same ghastly appearance stumbled forward— not in living color but in half-dead black and white.

That was my first encounter with zombies, when Mom allowed my sister and me to stay up late one Friday night to watch a scary movie. It may have been the only time I forgot to eat my popcorn.

Zombies have maintained a steady following for decades, which may have something to do with people facing their fear of disease, or death, or life after death. But it’s a gruesome type of therapy to entertain yourself with the walking dead—rotting flesh, infected and infecting.

I recently observed some modern-day, civilized zombies (although they might refer to themselves in another way since their particular form of mindlessness begins with exercise). I’d seated myself at the only empty picnic table under a shade tree for an hour of reading while my husband and son hiked.

The group of young women sat cross-legged in a circle on a blanket with several babies stowed in a playpen beside them. I assumed they gathered for social and health benefits, but after some low humming they rose and surrounded my shade tree. As they caressed the tree with long strokes, they chanted unintelligible words. When the women’s voices grew shrill with laughter, the babies began centering on their own self-actualization—wailing for their mothers’ attention.

I felt sorry for those women and children. They’re soaking in the world’s counterfeit light in place of “the light of the world” (John 8:12 NIV). Tim Keller says, “Christ gives us true things to think about that overcome the darkness of this life, while others say ‘just hum loudly and look away.’”

However, I do not condemn those who seek to fill a spiritual void since I, too, was once a zombie. According to the Apostle Paul, I was dead in my sins while I “followed the ways of this world” (Ephesians 2:2 NIV).

Paul, sent by the Lord to minister to Gentile nations that did not know God, explained that, without Christ, we are the walking dead. “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts” (Eph. 2:3 NIV). He observed the futility of those “separated from the life of God,” who have “lost all sensitivity” (Ephesians 4:18 – 19 NIV).

The nations currently hope for a return to normal through an effective vaccine against the deadly virus that plagues us. But our normal world features untold suffering from the problem of sin. Greed, strife, deceit and all kinds of depravity will continue to plague our world. And troubled souls will still seek relief through escape mechanisms and mind-altering substances.

However, “a new and living way opened for us” that allows us to “draw near to God” (Hebrews 10:20, 22 NIV). We don’t have to stumble through life infected with sin.

Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV) foretold of the transformation the Messiah would bring: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” This Old Testament promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who came to seek and to save the spiritually lost and confused, even those who were demon-possessed.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2 NIV  

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Night and Day of the Zombies – encouragement from Patti Richter on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.

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Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It 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 you been transformed into the land of the living?

True Colors

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love the cool, crisp days that bring relief from summer’s heat. But most of all, I love the beautiful colors adorning the trees in our Blue Ridge Mountains. My husband and I get great joy from driving through the mountains and hiking the trails to see the changing leaves. And as a photographer, I love capturing images of the lovely scenery.

Recently God revealed a lesson that has changed the way I look at changing leaves and made me love this season even more than before.

Many look at fall as a melancholy time of year. I’ve heard others refer to the colorful trees as giving their last burst of beauty before they die. Truthfully that perception couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Did you know the vibrant colors we see during fall are the true colors of the leaves? Those colors are masked at other times of the year by the flood of chlorophyll that turns the leaves green.

I think of spring and summer as times of abundance. Plenty of sun, with weather that’s easier on the wildlife. Even for people it’s seen as a time of rest and relaxation. And yet, this time of ease masks the true beauty of the trees. During these seasons the trees wear a uniform color, blending in with each other. While it’s beautiful, there is a certain sameness to the landscape.

Life is like that. As much as I love having times of ease, they’re not the times when I shine. I get lazy and my spiritual life reflects a certain amount of lethargy and complacency. When things are easy, I can grow stale, and instead being true to who God called me to be, I merely blend in.

It’s easier to just go with the flow, instead of standing out.

But when adversity strikes, I dig deep and move closer to God. I leave the crowds and begin to work harder at being true to who God created me to be. So, as a direct result of my struggles, my spiritual life begins to shine as insight and inspiration bring color to my relationship with God. This in turn allows me to follow the path He has for me much more wholeheartedly and effectively. Instead of blending in with the crowd, the complacency drains away and His colors begin to shine through me.

We’re in the midst of adversity right now. I don’t know many who aren’t struggling with the new paradigm of life today. But I would like to challenge you to let God use this time to drain away the things that hide the beauty of His Spirit inside you. Allow Him to make you into the true person He called you to be. And as you dig deep and draw nearer to God, do it with anticipation for what He has ahead. 

God has great plans for His people and you are a vital part of that. Rejoice as adversity brings out your true colors! 

And think about this life lesson in light of Romans:

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5 NASB

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True Colors – thoughts on letting God shine through when life is hard, @EdieMelson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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About the author: Edie Melson is a woman of faith with ink-stained fingers observing life through the lens of her camera. She’s a writer who feels lost without her camera and a reluctant speaker who loves to encourage an audience. And she embraces the ultimate contradiction of being an organized creative. As a popular speaker, she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books, including Unruffled, Thriving in Chaos and the award-winning Soul Care series reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives. She lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where she spends time off hiking with her husband and her camera. Connect with her on http://www.EdieMelson.com and through social media.

Join the conversation: How has God brought out your true colors in this season of adversity?

Silent Witness

by Louise Tucker Jones

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

Several years ago, I happened upon a beautiful, mahogany wood-framed picture on a 90% off sale. I immediately claimed it as my own. Not only was it the only way I could afford a $200 piece of art, but it also displayed the above Bible verse, one of my favorites, in calligraphy. It was also written in Spanish, which made me love it even more. 

Majoring in Spanish in college, I spent summers working in San Marcos, Texas. Most of my co-workers were Hispanic and I also attended a Hispanic church, “La Iglesia Bautista,” where I taught a Sunday School class to twelve-year-old boys. Though I’m sure it was awkward for them to have the only Anglo in church for their teacher, they eventually grew to love me as much as I loved them, and brought me little gifts when I left at the end of the summer.

The picture brought back sweet memories as I hung it on the wall of our family room. Soon after that, we had new carpet installed in our home and the entire carpet crew was Hispanic. My husband was present during the installation and told me how each worker stopped and gazed on the picture. He said one older gentleman, who spoke no English, stood and pondered it for a long time. I had to wonder if he knew the Savior of that Bible verse.

Sometimes we forget that we present a witness to people in more than spoken words. People look at the way we live. The things we cherish. How we speak to each other. They notice how we treat strangers, especially during this Covid crisis. We need to take inventory of ourselves. Are we kind to checkers at the grocery store? Do we thank those who bring curbside service of food or other products to our cars? Are we gracious on social media? A single negative post can speak volumes to people we don’t even know. The Bible tells us to “be very careful how we live—not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity….” (Ephesians 5:15-16) NIV

I will never know whether the older gentleman who pondered the artwork in my home knew our Savior, but I am thankful that God used a picture and a Bible verse as a silent witness of Christ’s love.

Lord Jesus, thank you that You do not look at or judge us according to outward appearances—our race, color, language, age, size or any other trait. You look at our hearts. Please let mine be pure. Amen.

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Silent Witness – encouragement from Louise Tucker Jones on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Louise Tucker Jones Profile

About the author: Louise Tucker Jones loves to touch hearts. Her poignant life stories have been published in hundreds of magazines and anthologies, including over a dozen Chicken Soup for the Soul titles. Having a son with Down syndrome, Louise writes extensively concerning people with special needs, co-authoring the Gold Medallion award-winning book, Extraordinary Kids. Married to Carl for 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands.

Join the conversation: What are ways you have found to be an effective silent witness?

The God of Caves and Mountaintops

by A.C. Williams @Free2BFearless

Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” 1 Kings 19:4 NLT

Have you ever identified with a historical figure? Like, you read about them and recognize so much of yourself that it can’t simply be coincidence. You must have been born in the wrong century and separated from them at birth.

That’s how I feel about Elijah sometimes.

Not because of any great thing he did, but more because of his dramatic emotional kneejerk reactions (1 Kings 19). Elijah had just witnessed one of the most spectacular displays of God’s power ever recorded in Scripture. Then a single threat from a defeated, evil woman comes along, and what does Elijah do? He runs for his life and collapses in a heap and begs God to kill him.

I’m sorry. What? Who are you again? Did you not just witness the power of God up close and personal?

See, this is the part of Elijah’s life that I identify with.

I spent last week with the Lord, hearing from Him almost audibly. I saw Him working miraculously, answering specific prayers as though He had written down my every request on a list to personally fulfill. And the moment that miraculous week was over, all it took was one bit of bad news to send me spiraling into a pit of discouragement.

It’s an important lesson to learn and carry with us as we follow Jesus. We are the most vulnerable immediately after a great spiritual victory. Why? Great spiritual victories are exhausting. They often require a lot of emotional and mental fortitude. Just like battle, when you see the other side of any victory, you need rest. The enemy knows that, and that’s why he comes after us harder in those moments.

He throws things at us that he knows will trigger us. He pokes and prods at the dormant fears hovering just under the surface of our faith. And before you know what’s happening, you’re sobbing melodramatically under a broom tree begging God to end your life because it’s just too hard.

We would wise to remember how God handled Elijah during his little meltdown.

God got him to eat, drink, and rest (1 Kings 19:5-7). Then, God sent Elijah on a bit of a road trip that would eventually result in restoring his faith.

So where are you today? If you’ve just experienced a great spiritual victory and you’re still riding the high, hold on, because the valley is coming. It always does. If you’re already in the valley, feeling isolated and worthless, listen up.

The God who spoke to you in victory is still the God you run to in weakness. He hasn’t changed. His power isn’t made less because of the challenges you’re facing. His grace isn’t diminished because you’re struggling to trust it. He is, and always will be, everything you need, and if you don’t have an answer right now for what you’re facing, wait a bit longer. He will provide (Philippians 4:19), and He will fight for you (Exodus 14:14).

In the meantime, when was the last time you ate? Are you drinking enough water? Did you get restful, restorative sleep? Have you gone on a walk outside to marvel at His creation?

Fellow warriors, if Elijah needed these things, so do we.

When the valleys and the caves come—and they will—take care of your physical health so that you will have strength to obey the Lord. Above all else, don’t forget who God is. Whether you’re on a mountaintop or deep in a cave, He is the same.

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The God of Caves and Mountaintops – encouragement from A.C. Williams @Free2BFearless on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Finding Fireflies

About the author: A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if isn’t, her socks will never match. She likes her road trips with rock music, her superheroes with snark, and her blankets extra fuzzy, but her first love is stories and the authors who are passionate about telling them. Learn more about her book coaching services and follow her adventures on social media @free2bfearless.

Join the conversation: Do you identify with Elijah?

The Best Kind of Role Model

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

Blogger Kathi Mascias told a story years ago about Rosey Grier, the former NFL defensive tackle. She wrote: “A mountain of a man with a heart of gold, he was always aware of being in the public eye.” Rosey once spoke to a group of NFL recruits about this very topic. A recruit protested. “I don’t want to be a role model,” he told Rosey.

Rosey replied, “Son, when you accepted the NFL draft, you stepped into that position. The only thing you have to decide now is what kind of role model you’re going to be.”

That reality has a particular ring of truth for believers in Christ. God has decided to reveal himself in this present age through his Church. We are called to live lives that reflect who we are in Christ to the world around us. Paul urged the Philippians to live as “… children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…” (Philippians 2:15-16).

Paul also wrote the Ephesians: “… the manifold wisdom of God [is] now made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10 NASB). It’s not just our fellow man  getting an education. Even the angels and demons are learning about God through the lives of those who believe in him.

Kind of a heavy responsibility, don’t you think? What’s especially sobering is the fact that it is not the words we preach, but our actual lives that are doing the talking.

We often equate our witness to words we speak. There are all kinds of books and programs out there, telling us exactly what to say when sharing the gospel. There’s nothing wrong with studying these things, for Peter encourages us to be ready “to give an account for the hope that is in you.” But if we think our primary witness is in our impressive speech, we’d better think again.

Note Peter urges us to be ready with a response. When others see Christ in us, through the way we are living our lives, they will be intrigued. The genuineness of our walk will naturally raise questions. So we must be ready for when they inquire as to what makes us different.

Actions pre-authenticating words. It really is a genius plan.

In the absence of validating action, words can be mistakenly perceived. I remember a fellow camp staff member who had a requirement to fill during his summer job. He had signed a promise to his Christian college that he would share the gospel at least three times a week. Desperate to keep his obligation, he embarrassed us several times in public places, preaching at anyone who made eye contact. I never did see him lead anyone to the Lord. But I did see him repulse some people. Words come across as preachy judgment when they are not authenticated by actions.

We show God’s love for others by loving them ourselves. Our kind acts demonstrate God’s kind intentions toward them. Humility and brokenness allow them to see our common reality: without Christ, we stand guilty, condemned, unworthy. Extending grace and mercy reflects the cure we’ve been granted: God’s unmerited forgiveness and acceptance.

How we live determines how effectively we fulfill our role as God-revealers. Whether we like it or not, when we believed, we stepped into that position. It’s up to us what kind of role model we are going to be.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 NASB

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The Best Kind of Role Model – encouragement from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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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 do you think is most important in a role model?

Waiting on My Turn to Shine

by Dena Dyer @DenaJDyer

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”  Philippians 2:14-15 NIV

In the spring after we married, my husband Carey and I auditioned for a professional Christian musical production on the life of Christ. The director spoke so highly of both Carey and me after we sang, we felt confident he’d offer us roles.

Indeed, Carey was cast in a leading part–but I was chosen for the large chorus and as an understudy for one of the leading ladies.

Understudy again?
I thought. I am so tired of this! Since high school, it seemed I was always the alternate or the understudy. Though I’m ashamed to admit it now, I became jealous of Carey. I was also envious of the woman cast in the role I had to learn–but not perform.

Sinful much? Sigh. Even though I’d been a Christian since I was seven years old, I still had a long way to go in order to be Christlike. I questioned my appearance, talent, and personality. And I felt sorry for myself. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride

It’s clear now: God wanted more for me than applause and accolades. Throughout my teens and twenties, I set loftier and loftier goals for myself and was never satisfied. Instead of working on things I could control—by reading the Bible, honing my talents, and praying for God to use me as He thought best—I worked against myself. By focusing on accomplishments rather than obedience, I robbed myself of contentment.

Thankfully, God broke me of my perfectionism a few years later. It wasn’t fun, and it didn’t happen overnight. But I’m unspeakably grateful that He didn’t give up on me.

In Philippians 2, Paul encourages the church at Philippi to not complain or argue, and to hold firmly to the word of God. Jesus is known as “the Word made flesh,” and when we hold onto Him, we become blameless and pure–by His grace and mercy and not by our efforts. Then we can be a shining light in a dark world.

Our Heavenly Father is so immeasurably good to us. Like a master craftsman, He hones and perfects our rough edges. His goal is to make us more like Jesus, and He is a patient, loving artist who sees the women we were created to be and isn’t content until we’re fully transformed.

A few years after my temper tantrum over being cast as the understudy, God gave my husband and me the unique opportunity to be one of six lead singers in a Christian-owned professional music theater company in our town. We served with that cast for a total of eleven years, raising our children and getting to tuck them into bed nightly (a rarity in entertainment). The owners of the theater even paid our health insurance.

God is faithful, friends. He knows our desires, and He knows our secret thoughts. And when we align ourselves with His will instead of insisting on our own timetable, He gives us far more than we expect or even deserve.

I want to be a content and grateful woman of God who seeks His face and approval, not the applause of men or the accolades of our culture.

Won’t you join me in praying for God to transform us, so we can shine for Him?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me when I complain or argue about my circumstances. Instead, help me focus on your goodness and grace. Make me more like Jesus so I can shine His light in this dark world. Amen.

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Waiting on My Turn to Shine – encouragement on #FollowingGod from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Dena Dyer is the author or co-author of ten books for women and hundreds of articles in magazines, newspapers, and websites. She lives in Texas with Carey and their sons Jordan and Jackson. She loves bargain shopping, decorating, and traveling. Find Dena on Instagram and Facebook, or at her website.

Dena and Carey’s book, Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples (Barbour) will give your marriage encouragement and hope when you find that the once endearing, charming, and distinct qualities that once attracted you to your spouse are now a source of stress and conflict.

Join the conversation: How do you find contentment?

Rejoice??

by Chris Manion @ChrisManionBook

Make us rejoice for as many days as you have humbled us, for as many years as we have seen adversity. Psalm 90:15 CSB

Rejoice, really?

Have you ever tried to make someone smile or laugh when they didn’t feel like it? Our efforts can generate looks that could make soufflés fall. I know. I’ve given such looks. My son captured one once and put the photo in his favorite Christmas ornament. It reads: “Here comes Santa!”

He places the mortifying ornament front and center on his Christmas tree each year. I move it to the back. The next morning, it mysteriously appears front and center. I roll my eyes. Everyone else grins. It’s one of God’s lessons to me about finding joy in the moments He gives me.

Joy is a challenging word for our times. It happens to be the word I chose for this year. Before all “this” happened.

Do you think God knew what He was doing when He put that word in my heart? I do. And I’m working on embracing it. He’s showing me how to rejoice.

The work of embracing joy in trying times stretches me. It’s meant to, don’t you think? God wants our knowledge of Him to grow deeper. When I try to choose joy these days, tears threaten. “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy…” (Psalm 126:5,6 NKJB).

When I’m obedient to what I know He’s calling me to do, joy comes freely. I laugh then ask myself: Where did that come from? How could I be laughing when I was glum just moments ago?  My soul knows. I can almost feel its eye roll at the question. The joy of the Lord’s delight in us can’t help but overflow into our spirits.

My struggle to embrace joy in dark days deepens my relationship with love. Jesus wants to gives us joy and peace. In fact, if we take Jesus at His word, He’s already given it. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27 NIV).

It pains Him when we refuse His gifts. When we push back on His peace, we refuse His love. It seems incongruous that I would push back, but I do. It’s part of our fallen human nature. I haven’t been willing to submit all my free will to Him yet. I’m still holding onto a ridiculous sliver of hope that I can still control some part of my life.

Joy follows awe like a soufflé rises in the desert heat of an oven.

When we accept the refreshment of His peace in these desert times, joy blossoms from the dry soil of our souls. Then we look up to the heavens and in reverence and glimpse the wonders He created around us.

And we gasp in awe.

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Rejoice – insight on joy from @ChrisManionBook on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Chris Sauter Manion loves to speak from her core Scripture verse: The joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). She’s an award-winning author, leadership expert and inspirational speaker who uses skills from building a $20 million sales organization to help people of all ages embrace the give and take of a deepening relationship with God. Chris lives with her husband of forty-plus years in Florida‘s panhandle where she kayaks and photographs the Gulf coast’s natural beauty. She is a grandmother of five wee ones and loses all sense of time when gardening, creating and cooking. Reach out to her at www.ChrisManion.com

Join the conversation: In what part of your life is God showing you how to rejoice?

A Lesson from a Dog

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Ecclesiastes 4:10 NKJV

The greeting my dog gives me when I come home from a trip is a picture of love. No matter how many hours I’ve spent inhabiting airports, navigating connecting flights, or stuck in traffic, her enthusiastic greeting never fails to make my heart rejoice. No matter how bad I smell or how cranky I am, she doesn’t know the meaning of “personal space,” much less “social distancing.”

I’m not a fan of social distancing either.

Shakespeare may have written “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” but not so with every word in the English vocabulary.

Webster’s dictionary defines “social” as marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with friends or associates. Another variation is of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society.

Removing ourselves from the fellowship of others is not how we were created to live. Isolation leads to loneliness, depression, suicide, addiction, and more. We are trading one disease for another—one global pandemic for another.

We a need to be aware of others’ suffering and have the desire to do something about it. This is compassion, and it is the key to sustaining society.

The term “social distancing” implies the need to avoid interaction with and the companionship of others. It suggests disengaging ourselves from society. But a disengaged society soon becomes a compassionless society.

Even the most independent among us don’t want to live in a compassionless society. We all fall. Emotionally, spiritually, or physically—no one is immune to stumbling on a broken world.

When Solomon penned the book of Ecclesiastes, he purposefully included the passage above emphasizing the importance of friends. With all his wealth and wisdom, he could have hired someone to help him up, but I think he knew sometimes we fall in ways only a friend can recognize and in places only a friend can reach. God was telling us through Solomon’s pen that we need one another.

Let’s go out of our way to be social. Let’s greet everyone we meet with joy—from a safe distance if need be—remembering they are walking through these crazy times just like we are. Check on friends. Perform an act of kindness, preferably one that can’t be returned, for a stranger—or even better, someone whose views and opinions might differ from your own.

Stop looking at others as though they are the problem. Do something that says, “I see you and we’re in this together.” Be as social as possible through whatever means are available…phone, internet, or six feet apart in the grocery store parking lot.

I need to see the light of love in your eyes and feel the joy of your smile. I want to be a friend who recognizes when you are lonely, fearful, angry, or uncertain. I can do that those things from a physical distance, but not a social one.

Take a lesson in love from a dog who simply wants to know I haven’t forgotten or abandoned her, and refuse the misnomer of social distancing.

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A Lesson from a Dog – encouragement from @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

A Firm Place to Stand by [Lori Altebaumer]

About the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. With her boots on the ground, head in the clouds, and heart in His hands, she is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart in search of life’s best adventures. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Her first novel, A Firm Place to Stand, released in January 2020. She also blogs regularly on her website www.lorialtebaumer.com. In between writing, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here.

Join the conversation: What ways have you found to keep physical distance from interfering with social interaction?

Seven Ways to Know God is Watching Out for Us

by Janet Perez Eckles

The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. Psalm 121:5 NIV

Fall is almost here. We go into it with memories of hot summer days, walking on the sand and splashing in the water. This not-so-silly episode in one of Florida’s beach stands out…

“C’mon, Nana.” My granddaughter impatiently pulled my hand. Even at four years old, she knew to lead her blind Nana.

“Don’t go too far,” hubby said, from where he relaxed on a lounger.

With her small hand tight in mine, our feet sunk into the hot sand as we drew closer to the water. We jumped over the waves, giggled, collected shells, and giggled some more.

After a long while I realized I had no idea where we were—maybe too far from hubby. Was he still watching us?

I got on one knee and held my granddaughter’s wet cheeks between my hands. “Sweet baby, look at me, do you see Papa anywhere?”

“Nope. C’mon Nana, let’s jump.”

Suppressing the panic that cramped my stomach, I said silent prayers, the kind that blurts out from the heart. The kind you want to word just right so God would be quick to answer. And my silent pleas were those that bordered on self-pity. “Oh, if I could only see a little bit, this wouldn’t happen.”

With all traces of patience tossed into the sea, I quickly drew closer to a group of folks talking. “Excuse me,” I waved in the direction of their voices. Would you have a cell phone?” I said. “I think I lost my husband.”

As I gave the first few numbers for them to dial, I heard a familiar voice right behind me. “Honey, what’s wrong?”

“Oh, there you are.” I grinned with relief at my hubby.

“I was watching you both the whole time,” he said.

A little shame swept over me. Not because of what had just happened. But I remembered how often, during tough times in my life, I doubted, I panicked, I feared that God took His eyes off me. I worried I had drifted too far from His love, His provision, and His care.

We all do that sometimes, don’t we? We listen to the news; fear grips us. We learn of the growing statistics of the virus; anxiety invades our peace. And the whole time, we wonder is God there? Is He watching? Does He care?

Even in the midst of our well-meaning prayer, doubt creeps in, because we’re still walking on the hot sand of uncertainty. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Fear leaves, doubt ends, and faith comes. They do when we follow these seven steps:

1. Readjust our priorities. Do we seek the answer to our prayer with more passion than we seek God Himself? Some seek answers first, but here’s God’s order of priorities: “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

2. Resist the temptation to recite memorized, perfect prayers, with lovely words and deep insights. God simply wants the genuine expression of our heart. He’s listening. He even knows what we need before we ask Him, “…when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7 NIV).

3. Recognize that sometimes we don’t know how to pray or what our requests should be. So, we can freely ask for Him to show us what to pray for. Confident that He’s aware of every detail, we whisper to Him, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV).

4. Remember that His answer is always in His timing, not ours because a thousand years in God’s sight are like a day that has just gone by (Psalm 90 NIV).

5.Relax and relish in the fact that while we wait, He’s at work in us, in our heart, in our situation because, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).

6. Remove anxious thoughts. In the silence of the moment and in the power of His presence, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6 NIV).

7. Embrace profound confidence, not in the world or government, but in the power of God because “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14–15 NIV).

Father, we praise You because You have Your watchful eye on us and You observe our anxious moments. Knowing that each tomorrow is in Your hands, peace fills us. In Jesus name we thank You.

TWEETABLE
Seven Ways to Know God is Watching Out for Us – insight from author Janet Perez Eckles on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

janet perez eckles

About the author: Janet Perez Eckles is an international speaker, author and founder of J.C. Empowerment Ministries. Through her books and conference messages, she empowers thousands to overcome fear, conquer worry and live triumphantly. Janet’s book,  Hola, Happiness: Finding Joy by Dancing to the Melody of God’s Word is a brief Bible study to nudge you to the next level of triumph and joy. It is packed with deep reflections and answers from God’s Word. No matter what you face–disappointment, fear, heartache, shame, insecurity, sorrow–you will say “Hola” to happiness, peace, and the joy for which God created you.

Join the conversation: What is your favorite go-to verse when you struggle with doubt or fear?

Outwit the Overwhelms

by Nancy Kay Grace @NancyKayGrace

Imagine with me the sweet moments motherhood, of tucking our little ones in at night with soft moon-glow as they drift off in peaceful sleep. Reality shatters the quietness when little feet pad down the hallway. “Mommy, I need a drink!” says the bright-eyed preschooler in the doorway.

The elementary student pops out of bed. “I forgot to tell you something. I need black pants for the school program tomorrow.”

Ugh! Exhaustion and exasperation set in, erasing the sweet moments.

Later, in the middle of the night, the baby screams from intestinal discomfort. A massive blowout needs attention. After tending to the baby, it’s hard to fall back to sleep, thinking about tomorrow’s to-do list.

How do we cope with that overwhelmed feeling?

Jesus spoke words that encourage and help us remember the priorities of life, of loving and caring our family and ourselves. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

This passage helps us conquer the “overwhelms” in several ways.

  • Remember to nurture your relationship with the Lord. Even if it’s a few moments while your coffee is brewing, whisper words of praise to God for being loving and kind.  Read a devotional on your phone to use brief minutes to connect to with God when you are on the go.
  • Take care of you. Jesus taught us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Simple words, but hard to learn. It is nurturing, not selfish, and can improve perspective. We can get so involved caring for everyone else that we neglect healthy self-care.
  • Give yourself grace, just as God gives you grace. Learn to accept the fact that “good enough” is acceptable. Perfectionism is the enemy of grace. Do what you can and learn to be satisfied with it.

By focusing on doing our best for the Lord—pleasing Him and not others—we avoid heaping on extra mommy-guilt.

Psalm 90:12 (NIV) also helps us outwit “the overwhelms”: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

  • Prioritize tasks instead of doing massive multi-tasking. When I have much to do and little time to accomplish it, I try to do too many things at once. I can get overwhelmed with many half-finished tasks that it becomes hard to complete any of them. Prioritize what needs to be done first, and complete it. Then move on to do the next thing.
  • When the “overwhelms” gang up on you, look to the Lord for wisdom. Life is unedited. Unanticipated situations will occur. When we are stressed out, inhale deep breaths, and remember that inner strength comes from the Lord.

At the end of the day, reflect on Psalm 61:2-3 before drifting off to sleep. From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety. Psalm 61:2 (NLT)

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Outwit the Overwhelms – encouragement when life is tough from @NancyKayGrace on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Nancy Kay Grace enjoys the outdoors and zip lining. She is a speaker and award-winning author of The Grace Impact, a devotional about the touch of God’s grace in our lives. She has contributed to several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, The Upper Room devotional, as well as online and print magazine articles. Nancy loves sharing stories of God’s faithfulness and grace. Please visit http://www.nancykaygrace.com to sign up for the monthly GraceNotes devotional newsletter.

Join the conversation: What overwhelms you?