This is Not a Warning

by Deborah Maxey

I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. Luke 24:49

Jesus said the above quote to His disciples at the end of His time on earth. They were to be witnesses of the things they had heard and seen while He was with them. But they would not be doing that alone. He would send the Holy Spirit to empower them to fulfill their role in spreading the gospel. So, they should stay in the city and wait for His arrival.

Unfortunately, I’m guilty of not “staying in the city until you have been clothed with power on high.”  Even when I know the Bible promises that “I am going to send you what my Father promised.”

And ironically, I am inclined to do this just when I need Him most.  In my head, I know He will empower me, but the higher my anxiety, the more likely I am to assume I am facing the worst possible scenario. So, I have no peace.

The enemy of peace roars like a lion but has no bite, only the power I give it through the energy of my thoughts.

I have two memories (yes, I’m a slow learner here; it took two) of being so horribly off-track that I mistook the fake roar for the Lion of Judah. The first time was when my hubby agreed to a cruise after years of my asking. His father had been a pilot and owned a small plane. I had not flown since early childhood. I boldly told him: I wasn’t afraid to fly. I was afraid to fall.

Our cruise necessitated a two-part flight to Florida to board the ship. Although I prayed, I became convinced that my anxiety was the Lord’s way of preparing me for the worst. Don’t laugh here…I had us update our wills and made sure I left our house spic and span. Just in case.

With trepidation, I boarded the first small plane while hubby reminded me it was safer than driving. On the first leg of our trip, we sat behind the pilots. With a white-knuckle grip on the chair arms, I asked things like, “Do you think they see that other plane at three o’clock?” (Erm…yes, it was loud enough for the pilots to hear.) When they pulled out a huge book I freaked, “Oh no! They had to get out the manual.”  I began looking for smoke on the wings, and finding none, I anticipated the landing gear was stuck. Turbulence scared me silent, but that’s because I was praying like a soldier in a foxhole.

When we reached Charlotte, NC to transfer, the pilot turned to us and said, “We’ve had you bumped up to first class for your trip to Miami.” We thanked him. I apologized. They told hubby, “Good luck,” with a sympathetic wink.

In first class my heart was settling. I saw God’s gracious care. I prayed, “Lord if you’re going to bring me home to you in a crash, please let it be after the cruise.”  

Disembarking at home, I realized what I had done with a whack on the forehead, and created a phrase I’ve used many times since: “That is what my anxiety sounds like.” I realized before the trip I had not “stayed in the city” long enough to feel His powerful peace.

The next incident was before major back surgery. No escaping it. I had to have it. My mother’s discs had been like falling dominos with lifelong pain. Was I headed down the same path? When I prayed, I thanked God no matter what the outcome, not realizing I was listening to the roar and forgetting to “stay in the city.”  

When the surgeon met me in the prep room that morning, I was a comedian (anxiety does that to me). I laughingly told him, “I wrote you a poem: Don’t hesitate, Resuscitate. Resuscitate.” He didn’t laugh. He saw the real emotion. He took my hand and said, “Deborah, this surgery is extraordinary for you. But it’s ordinary for me. I’ve done it hundreds of times.”

I had done it again. I had taken an extraordinary God of abundance, grace, generosity, and peace and made Him as ordinary as my anxiety would allow.

Now when the deceiver roars, I say, “This is what my anxiety sounds like,” and pull up an extensive list I keep in my phone of all the times God was extraordinary in my life. I may combat anxiety, but I have an extraordinary God along with His arsenal.

All the deceiver has are my defective thoughts.

This article was brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: A licensed therapist, Deborah McCormick Maxey retired from her counseling practice in 2020 to joyfully invest her energy in writing Christian fiction, devotions, and her website that focuses on miracles.  

The Endling: A Novel by [Deborah Maxey]

Deborah’s debut novel, The Endling, is newly released! Native American Emerson Coffee is the last surviving member of her tribe. When US Marshals inform her she’s being hunted by a mob hit man, Emerson declines their offer of witness protection. But when three innocent children become caught in the crosshairs, Emerson must decide if she will risk it all—her mountains, her heritage . . . even her life—to secure their safety. 

Join the conversation: How do you rest in God when a challenge is approaching?

He’s Got Your Back

by Julie Zine Coleman

One evening, a few of us sat around swapping labor stories. I had to laugh—we are all well past childbearing age—but each labor experience was as fresh in our minds as if it were yesterday. There are some things you just don’t forget.

I sheepishly informed my friends: I wasn’t much on natural childbirth. In fact, I considered myself the president of the Epidural Club. I walked into labor and delivery each time and announced to all within earshot: My name is Julie Coleman. I want an epidural. Please have the anesthesiologist standing by. (This worked two out of four times for me. I had my twins naturally, but not by choice.)

Some of you childbearing-supermoms out there are probably offended. Please forgive me, for I’m no supermom. I hate pain. If you’ve never had an epidural, let me tell you, they are amazing. Once it is administered, you lay in your hospital bed, totally relaxed. Once in a while you notice the needle indicator on the monitor climbing. Wow, you calmly think. This is a strong contraction. Then you close your eyes and take a little nap.

Yes, I am a fan of epidurals. They render you totally numb below the waist. You see the contractions with your eyes, but that’s as far as the affect goes. Beautiful.

The writer of Psalm 91 had a similar kind of experience. “You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon…you will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.” The psalmist was no idiot. He was well-aware of the danger that lurked around every corner. But he was also aware of God’s protection.

Some danger we can see with our eyes. But there is a second kind of danger. Paul warns us of this unseen threat: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” The bigger threat to our well-being exists in the spiritual realm.

We may not be able to see it, but it exists, alright. We get a rare glimpse into the world of the unseen from 2 Kings 6. The prophet Elisha had offended the King of Aram, who angrily sent horses and chariots to surround the city where Elisha and his servant were staying. When the servant rose in the morning, he saw the city was surrounded. “Alas, my master!” the servant gasped. “What shall we do?”

Elisha could see the threat as well as his servant, but he didn’t blink an eye. “Do not fear,” he encouraged the trembling man. “For those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha then prayed that the Lord would open the servant’s eyes so that he might see the reality of God’s protection. The writer of 2 Kings tells us: “The Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

Like the writer of Psalm 91 or a woman in labor after an epidural, Elisha looked with his eyes and acknowledged the danger, but the sight did not bring fear to his heart. Why? He knew there was more to the story than what his physical eyes could see. And this knowledge made all the difference.

We have an enemy bent on our destruction. Peter tells us that Satan is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour. He goes after our weaknesses, finding any place he can use to gain a foothold in our lives. He purposes to extend our anger into bitterness, temptation into disobedience, and pride into narcissism. We give him an inch; he turns it into a mile. He is a formidable foe. He is aided in no small part by our own sinful nature, that part of us that relentlessly drives us to act in ways that oppose the God we love.

We exist side-by-side with things bent on our destruction. So how can we live without fear? The psalmist answers that in the last stanza of his song, giving voice to God Himself: “Because he has loved Me, I will deliver him… He will call upon me and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see my salvation.”   

We can look dire circumstances in the eye with confidence. What we see with our eyes should not bring fear to our hearts. Why? God has our back.

“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300

About the authorJulie Zine 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 crafting. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Of what are you afraid?

What Can I Bring?

by Nan Corbitt Allen

“…present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Romans 12:1 NASB

I’m from the South, and there are certain things that we say and do that are, well… uniquely southern. For instance, recently someone asked me to a meal at her house. I accepted and then immediately asked, “What can I bring?” I always ask this, and almost always, the answer is “Just bring yourself.” This time was no exception. It’s a polite, habitual exchange, at least around these parts. It’s just what we do.

One of the first songs that my husband had published in the 1970s was a new tune to this anonymous text. It was a children’s song, but the beginning of his writing passion.

The wise may bring their learning,
The rich may bring their wealth,
And some may bring their greatness,
And some bring strength and health;
We too, would bring our treasures
To offer to the King;
We have no wealth or learning –
What shall we children bring?

I’m sure I’ve told this story before, but it’s worth telling again.

Years ago, we got paid in lobsters!

Yes, a tiny church in Nova Scotia asked for an accompaniment track to one of the songs my husband and I had written. My husband created the track and didn’t charge the volunteer music leader a penny. The church was in a small fishing village and had very little money or resources.

A couple of weeks later, a large package arrived at our door – a special delivery box from Canada that said “Live Lobsters” stamped on the outside.  We opened up the package that had been shipped in dry ice and found thirteen live, but a little weary, lobsters straight from the sea. What a gift! For the receiver (us), it was quite beautiful and delicious. But for the giver (them), it was a true sacrifice…all they had to give.

Both Gospel writers Mark and Luke recorded an event that happened in the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus was sitting there and watching people as they put in their money in the offering plate. The wealthy, of course, gave a lot, but not nearly so much that would cause them to go hungry or do without…anything. But a widow, who had only one coin, put it in the till. Only He knew that this was all the woman had to live on. Jesus was really impressed with her willingness to give everything she had to God and used this as an example to His disciples.

Paul also writes about the attitude of giving, not just the amount. “Each one must do just as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NASB).

Next time you get an invitation to dinner and ask, “What can I bring?” be willing to bring anything and everything, even if you suspect that the host will say “Just bring yourself.”

In fact, perhaps that may be the best gift of all.

 “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people, knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Colossians 2:23-24 NASB

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books. Nan and Dennis retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

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Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: How do you put Colossians 2:23-24 into action?

A New Name

by Doris Hoover

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1 NIV

I have a surname which I received from my father and a married name which I received from my husband. But my best name is the one I got when I was adopted by the Lord, who officially declared me “a child of God”.

My daughter and her husband adopted a precious little boy. Removed from a life of neglect and dysfunction, he was placed into their loving home. On his official day of adoption, he was given a new name which identified him as belonging to my daughter’s family. His new name affords him all the benefits that come with his new standing. He has his very own bedroom in his very own house. His adoptive parents lavish love upon him. They shower him with material, emotional and spiritual blessings. He went from a chaotic uncertain home to a home that offers stability, safety, nurturing, and love.

Before we’re adopted by the Lord, we suffer from neglect because the world only offers empty promises that never satisfy our deepest needs. Dysfunction is the norm, and our future is uncertain. Our souls are starved for spiritual nourishment.

God sees our deprivation. His heart opens to us, and we’re invited to become part of His family. Jesus is the means through which we’re officially adopted. From that moment on, we have a new standing with all the benefits it affords. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:16-17 NIV).

Oh, how blessed we are to have a new name and a new standing! But do we live in their power?  In John 17:13, Jesus promises us the full measure of His joy. Paul assures us in Ephesians 3:20 that our Father can do immeasurably more than we can even imagine or ask because His power is at work within us.

Too often, I forget about the benefits of being in God’s family. I imagine you may as well. This forgetfulness shows up as worry or complaining, as fearfulness, or as a lack joy. If those emotions fill our days, we’ve definitely forgotten that we’re part of the most powerful family in the universe. In fact, the Father of our family created the universe.

Let’s live up to our new name by turning away from our old worldly attitudes. Let’s remember who we are and claim our heritage. Then we can live in the power of the blessings God bestows upon each one of His children. Because that is what we are!

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

doris Hoover

About the author: Doris Hoover lives in Florida, but she also spends time along the coast of Maine. Her passion is discovering God’s messages in nature and sharing them with others. You can visit Doris at captivatedbythecreator.com. 

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Doris’ book, Quiet Moments in The Villages, A Treasure Hunt Devotional invites you to step outside to discover the treasures God places around you. She leads you to beautiful places in her home town. Her poetic descriptions and beautiful photography draw you into moments that will stir your heart.

Join the conversation: What benefits of being in God’s family do you appreciate the most?

Spiritual Truth at the Movies

by Elaine Helms

Recently we watched a really old, black and white, award-winning movie called Rebecca. It was about a young, immature woman who amazingly married a very wealthy widower and moved into his palatial home by the ocean. There were several spiritual analogies that came to mind as I reflected on this Alfred Hitchcock suspense tale.

First, the new wife reminded me of immature believers. She could not believe that this polished, successful man really loved her, since she was ordinary and not polished or glamorous at all. The matronly head housekeeper fueled this perception by telling her about how beautiful and brilliant the previous wife (Rebecca) was and how much her husband and everyone else loved her. This all added to her insecurity, making her think that she was unable to compete with this ghost of the past.

There is another spiritual analogy seen in a scene where the housekeeper whispers in her ear that she should just end the futility of it all by jumping from the window to her death. That housekeeper reminded me of the devil, the perpetual “accuser of the brethren” who is “prowling around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (Revelation 12:10, 1 Peter 5:8). He looks for weakness and pounces. Discouragement, defeat, and depression are just some of the flaming darts he throws at us. That is why we are told in Ephesians 6:11-12 (NASB) to take up the whole armor of God, especially the shield of faith, to be “able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Truly “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB).

The third parallel is to God’s love for us. The story had a dramatic climax when the new bride discovers that the widower had not loved his first wife at all. Apparently, Rebecca was an evil, vindictive woman who made his life nearly unbearable. They only kept up appearances for the family name’s sake.

This new knowledge of her husband’s genuine love for her, transformed the new bride into a much more confident and mature woman, who stood by her husband in the face of possible imprisonment. Their love was the key to both of them being transformed into the people they needed to be.

How often in our Christian walk are we like the insecure, immature new wife? Not really sure of God’s love for us and wooed by the devil into believing that we are worthless and unacceptable to God. We live defeated lives, maybe even thinking suicidal thoughts spurred on by the devil, until we finally hear the truth and believe what God says in His word, that He truly loves us (Jeremiah 31:3; 1 John 3:1, 4:16).

Like the bride in the story, we go through an amazing transformation when we live in God’s genuine, unconditional love. We can rise above the lies of the devil and stand on the promises of God. We can now step out in faith with confidence in Him. He will fill us with His power to do whatever He calls on us to do. We can now walk in the works he planned before the foundation of the world for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). We can now pray with new boldness because we know God hears our prayers. He delights in the prayers of the upright (Proverbs 15:8b).

Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive . . .

For the Father Himself loves you.” John 16:24, 27 NASB

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: With her passion for God, humor, vulnerability and spiritual strength, Elaine Helms encourages audiences and readers to draw closer to God and live the abundant life Jesus came to give His followers. Prayer Coordinator for both the Southern Baptist Convention and My Hope America with Billy Graham, Elaine has 30 years of experience in church, national, and interdenominational prayer leadership.

Her book, Prayer 101, What Every Intercessor Needs to Know is used by thousands of leaders across the country and around the world to train and equip intercessors to pray personally and corporately. Journey through Scripture, find inspiration in stories of others, and learn simple yet effective strategies for prayer. www.ChurchPrayerMinistries.org.

Can Turmoil and Peace Co-Exist?

by Nancy Kay Grace

Do you long for peace in a world of turmoil?

Have you found yourself overextended by pressures or frazzled by uncertainty? The pandemic has added another layer of stress on everyone, as we’ve had to adapt in many ways. Add to that any interpersonal problems or anxiety regarding health issues, and concentration becomes more difficult. I find my mind spins faster and flits from one thought to another when confusion ramps up. When the mind races, the heart loses peace.

At those times, peace seems unattainable and far away.

Yet Jesus gave the promise of peace. How can peace co-exist with turmoil?

I witnessed this unusual co-existence while my husband and I hiked along a mountain stream. The early summer rains and snow melt flowed through a valley. Although sections of the trail were underwater, we kept hiking, stepping on rocks to crisscross the winding stream. We were determined to see the waterfall at the end of the trail. As we approached the waterfall, we heard the roar of the water tumbling off a rugged cliff from thirty feet above. Closer, the crash of the water over the rocks sprayed my face. It was exhilarating being close enough to feel the coolness and hear the power of nature.          

Glancing down at the pool of water at the base of the falls, I noticed a great contrast. One side of the pool churned and bubbled under the waterfall, but the water on the other side of the rocky basin remained smooth and undisturbed. On the calm water rested a butterfly, oblivious to the swirling water only a few feet away.

Crashing water on one side, gentle butterfly on the other. Turmoil and peace coexisted side by side.

Peace in the Bible is characterized by shalom, which is more than the absence of hostility. It is the wholeness that comes through our relationship with Jesus Christ. Peace allows us to rest secure in him in the midst of insecurity. The Lord is the creator of real peace, a true refuge of security and safety.

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, gave us these promises for the times of turmoil:

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to 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

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

Remembering those promises calmed my anxious heart when I faced the uncertainty of cancer surgery. Jesus gave me true peace in the midst of turmoil. By spending time with the Lord in prayer and the Scriptures, God’s power and tranquility soaks into us.

What a blessing it is to look to the Prince of Peace instead of the turmoil of the world!

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Nancy Kay Grace is thankful for the gift of peace in the face of turmoil. She is a speaker and award-winning author of The Grace Impact, a devotional about the touch of God’s grace in our lives.  

Visit https://www.nancykaygrace.com to sign up for her monthly Grace Notes devotional newsletter. You can also connect with Nancy on Facebook or Instagram.

Join the conversation: Do you have an anxious heart?

Are You Worried You’ll Make the Wrong Decision?

by Debbie Wilson

Did you ever play blindfold games when you were a child? I remember one in which the blindfolded partner navigated through a maze by following instructions from a trusted partner. “Three steps forward. Stop. Sidestep right.” Success depended on a trustworthy guide and a trusting listener.

Sometimes, trying to discern God’s will in a decision feels like playing blindfolded.

When I pray, I hope to receive clear directives like: Go with this doctor. Attend this conference. Send your child to this school. Move to this neighborhood. Instead, like the childhood game, God often says, “Take two steps forward; stop.”

It seems more efficient to say, “Put your child in this school,” than to say, “Call Sarah; see how her children did there. Sidestep. Attend a homeschool convention. Turn around; visit your public school.”

As in the blindfold game, God wants my full attention. He wants me to trust Him instead of trying to figure out the straightest route.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21 NIV). This Scripture indicates God doesn’t hide His will from us. However, instead of lighting up the path with a floodlight, He walks behind me whispering His directions as I go. My heavenly Father wants me to enjoy His company on the journey.

When I’m predicting everything that might happen or hurrying and worrying through to a decision, I miss the pleasure of His presence.

I’ve realized some of the stress I experience while trying to make the best decision comes from my effort to maintain an illusion of control. Like Eve, I want to be like God—in control.

God created us to need Him. Psalm 23:3 (NIV) promises that our good Shepherd guides us “along the right paths for his name’s sake.” His reputation is on the line. He watches over my every step. Providing for my needs is His job. Trusting Him is mine.

Here are some questions to consider to help take the angst out of a decision.

  • Why does this matter to me?
  • What am I trying to attain or avoid?
  • Do I feel my well-being (physical, emotional, spiritual, or financial) or someone else’s rests on this decision?
  • Does my perspective change if I shift my view from making the right decision to trusting God to be my provider, healer, source of joy, and strength?

For example, if you’re in the process of choosing the right place for your child’s education, why does that decision matter so much to you? Are you afraid for your child’s safety, career future, the influence of peers, or something else? Are you trying to avoid pain or regret? Do you believe God wants the best for your child? Do you feel your child’s welfare is up to you?

When I identify what I fear a wrong decision could cost, I am able to bring that concern to God.

Even when God gives a clear answer, it doesn’t eliminate the need for faith (Heb. 10:38). Ask Gideon. Having God personally tell him His will for his life didn’t erase all of Gideon’s doubts. A wise decision won’t eliminate the need for trust, either. So whether in making a decision or trusting Him with how a choice turns out, we must exercise our faith muscles.

Look at that decision again. How can you turn this into an opportunity to experience God? Perhaps the first step is to thank Him that He already knows your needs and praise Him for being your good shepherd.

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.  Romans 8:6 NASB

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Have you experienced God’s direction? How did He show you the path you were to take? Please share!

Believing for God’s Best

by Christina Rose

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

It was time for a new car, but it was hard for me to let go. Our 2003 Honda Odyssey was filled with memories of camping trips, carpooling kids to practices and tournaments and trips to the beach and Disneyland. It seemed like yesterday when I would glance in the rearview mirror to see the volleyball girls laughing and enjoying a movie with popcorn, red vine licorice, and Gatorade after a game. The van was now almost 20 years old with dents and defects, but I couldn’t give it up.

My kids were now driving new cars and pleaded, “Mom, this is embarrassing, your car smells like old dogs and soccer shoes and it looks like junk. Get a new car.”  One day another dad pulled up next to me at the grocer’s.  Elby had a life size cardboard cutout of Julia Roberts strapped to his passenger seat with a bungee cord.  “Hey Christina,” he teased, “Why are you still driving that dinosaur? When are you gonna get real that you’re not a soccer mom anymore?”

I laughed, “The day you get real that Julia Roberts is not your girlfriend!”

I began the search for a new car and decided that a little white car would be nice. Since it had been almost 20 years since I bought a new car, the high prices overwhelmed me. Nonetheless, I printed out a picture of a little white car and put it on my altar next to my Jesus painting. Each day and night for months I prayed, “Thank you God, for the grace and favor for my new car.”  Despite this, I still couldn’t let go of my old car.

Until it got totaled. Declared a total loss by the insurance company. I felt sick and frozen with anxiety as I said goodbye to my car, recalling years of happy memories. It was like losing a best friend. I fought off fear, knowing that since I couldn’t let go of this car, God was now taking it out of my hands and had a new car for me. While I searched for it, I soon found out that my fixed budget wouldn’t buy much. As I was about to settle for an old piece of junk that looked like a garish dented blueberry, I heard God speak to me, “I don’t do junk. Go get your little white car.”

I picked out the perfect little white car just a few miles from my home and gave a ridiculously low bid, yet it was instantly accepted. Within a few hours I had the keys and was happily driving down the freeway, confessing, “God, thanks for taking care of this for me and please increase my faith about everything.”  I wanted that peace that surpasses all understanding.

I was given the vision of Peter, walking across the water towards Jesus in a terrible storm. He wanted to have faith and believe that he could walk on water just as Jesus could, but midway through, he took his eyes off of Jesus and focused on the storm instead.

But when he saw the strongwind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” Matthew 14:30-31 NLT

Focusing less on our circumstances and more on the object of our faith helps us to face seemingly impossible situations. If we have compassion on ourselves and accept that as humans we are not expected to shoulder every burden, we can let go and trust that God knows our every need. Sometimes he may rip the control out of our hands if we refuse to let go, as he did for me to show He wants nothing but His best for us.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  Ephesians 3:20 NLT


This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About 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. She is a world traveler, surfer, foodie, cappuccino loving chocoholic and a devoted mom to kids and dogs and auntie to many nieces and nephews who live around the world.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story. With her young family on the verge of falling apart, 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 is available to us all, especially those who need hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: Has God ever supplied what you needed and more?

Labels

by Deborah Maxey

As a psychotherapist, I found every client presented with one common issue. They mislabeled themselves. And believed it. They might tell me they were “losers,” only to find they may have created a profitable business or raised successful children.  Many could tell me they hated being around people because they were “ugly, too fat, too thin, too tall, too short.” And I was looking at an attractive person.

Their thoughts had become labels they believed. Where did the labels come from? Together we worked to locate the sources. Those around them saw them that way first. But once they believed it was true, the negative label became their own. It was embedded in their core. Their heart.

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7 (KJV)

Our brains are wired to accept the negative far faster than the positive. Negative is like a heavy ball rolling downhill. Positive is like pushing a heavy ball uphill. We argue against compliments inwardly, “This old thing? Yeah, well I have gained ten pounds since you saw me. Or, “Yes, but that isn’t as good as yours.” We accept the negative quickly. “I agree, I could have done better. I loused this up. I do look sick, tired, older….”

Negativity defeats self-love.

Paul wrote: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13: 9 KJV). If we don’t love ourselves, we can’t love our neighbor. We believe that everyone we meet is judging us harshly by the same criteria with which we judge ourselves.

So how do we overcome that? We can start with prayer, asking the Lord to show us what prevents us from accepting and loving ourselves. Then write down our negative labels. Who taught us to see ourselves that way? Finally, we dispute every one of them with facts that disprove them. One at a time. No giving it a quick once over here. Pray to be shown.

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15, KJV).

Jesus knew that many labels were assigned to him by people who had watched him heal the sick, raise the dead, or feed thousands with a child’s lunch. Yet, they had difficulty saying who He was: The Messiah, The Son of God. Their thoughts about Him, despite evidence, prevented them from accepting Him and allowing it to change their hearts.

Who do we say that He is?  Is He the Lord of our hearts that can help us exorcise the negative labels that keep us from seeing ourselves as His exquisite creation?  He is. He performs much bigger miracles than that! 

We can pray to let go of the labels that other humans have given us. We can begin to acknowledge and accept the truths of how God labeled us in His Word: “For I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14 KJV). We can listen for how we speak or think about ourselves and know that we are not praising God when we annihilate our positives and rehearse negative thoughts that become reality in our heart.

We have a Helper. He’s on standby. Just waiting for us to call Him in. We are not alone in this battlefield of the mind.

This article was brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author:  Deborah McCormick Maxey Ph.D. “Re-tired” from her psychotherapy practice to be “Re-purposed,” writing Christian devotions, articles, and fiction. She features personal miracles monthly at deborahmaxey.com.

The Endling: A Novel by [Deborah Maxey]

Deborah’s debut novel, The Endling, released this year. Native American Emerson Coffee is the last surviving member of her tribe. When US Marshals inform her she’s being hunted by a mob hit man, Emerson declines their offer of witness protection. But when three innocent children become caught in the crosshairs, Emerson must decide if she will risk it all—her mountains, her heritage . . . even her life—to secure their safety. 

Join the conversation: With what labels do you struggle?

Deborah McCormick Maxey Ph.D. “Re-tired” from her psychotherapy practice to be “Re-purposed,” writing Christian devotions, articles, and fiction. Her debut book, The Endling: A Novel is available at Christian Books, Amazon, and Barnes and Nobel. She features personal miracles monthly at https://deborahmaxey.com/

Praying with Confidence

by Jennifer Slattery

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

We pray differently when we recognize God as our Father. Not in a figurative, authority figure sense or as a harsh rule enforcer, but as the attentive, dare I even say doting, all-powerful Dad that He is. When we fail to understand those truths, we approach God hesitantly. Apologetically. We say things like, “I know others are dealing with so much worse, but could You please …” Or, “I hate to bother You with this, Lord …”

My daughter doesn’t approach my husband and I with such disclaimers. I have, however, witnessed this hesitation in youth our family has taken in over the years. Kids who come from rough places and developed a distorted view of love and themselves. They struggled to recognize, understand, and fully accept their worth. As a result, if they sought my help, or my ear, at all, they did so timidly, entering my office with eyes downcast, as if their very presence irritated me.

The opposite is true. When they approached me with confidence, with honest and unfiltered requests, I didn’t find them rude or bothersome. I was filled with joy because their actions revealed trust—of me and my love. I knew they’d begun to see themselves less as a houseguest and more like a beloved child.

If you’re a parent, you probably understand what I mean. Maybe you’re smiling at a memory of your son or daughter running into your bedroom, begging for a pony or something else you had no intention of granting. Or asking for protection from monsters you knew don’t exist. I doubt their pleas irritated you. You expected them to ask for the big things and the small, the things you loved to grant and those you lovingly withheld. That was your role—to decide what requests to fulfill or deny—just as theirs was to ask.

Jesus offered us, His beloved, this same invitation when He said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7, NIV). He then shared an analogy intended to deepen our understanding of our Heavenly Father at His core and who we are to Him.

 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” Jesus said. “Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-10, NIV).

If we interpret Christ’s words as a promise to grant all of our desires, we’ll be disappointed and subsequently disillusioned. If we receive His statement as the caring invitation it was, however, our confidence in Him and His love grows—regardless of His response.

His heart is for us always, and He longs to grant us not just good things, but full access to Himself. That doesn’t mean He wants us to embrace a flippant and entitled attitude. That’s not relationship; that’s not love. But He does want us to come. To come often, to come easily, and to come with the boldness of someone who knows they are indeed wholly, eternally, and oh, so deeply loved.

Pause to consider your common approach to prayer. Do you proceed to God’s throne with the confidence of a child of God and heir of grace (Hebrews 4:16) or with the timidity of a tenant? What might God need to do within your heart to help you approach Him as His beloved

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Jennifer Slattery

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites.

Faith Over Fear (podcast) - Jennifer Slattery, Jodie Bailey and Shellie  Arnold | Listen Notes

Join Jennifer and her Wholly Loved Ministry team for an online mother-daughter conference for moms of teen through adult daughters. The mother-daughter relationship can be one of the most precious connections we experience, but they can also be a source of conflict and pain. Wholly Loved Ministries wants to help moms and daughters love one another well and experience the deep connections their hearts crave. Through personal anecdotes, biblical truths, and thought-provoking discussion questions, this event equips moms and daughters to cultivate the depth of relationship God Himself wants them to experience. In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.

Join the conversation: What might God need to do within your heart to help you approach Him as His beloved?