Are You Overlooking Your Best Gifts?

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

One summer, our four-year-old son drove a friend’s battery-powered three-wheeler. Watching Brant’s joy planted an idea. This would make the perfect Christmas gift.

My husband and I located a red one that December on sale. We stretched our seminary student budget and bought it. I smiled every time I imagined Brant’s surprise on Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve we set the gleaming three-wheeler beside the tree. I went to bed anticipating the excitement of the next morning.

But Brant didn’t like his gift. It wasn’t blue—like the one he’d ridden that summer. “But red’s your favorite color,” I reminded him. Didn’t matter, Brant wanted blue.

That year, his friends and sister scooted around on the three-wheeler. But Brant. Wouldn’t. Even. Touch. It.

The next summer we visited my friends again and Brant anticipated riding the blue three-wheeler. He was surprised at how much smaller and more worn it was than his three-wheeler. His attitude toward his vehicle changed. But by this time, because of Brant’s lack of interest and our coming move, Larry had already promised it to a man for his grandchildren.

Our good gift to our son never benefited him, because he rejected it.

I wonder how many times I’ve repeated my son’s story. I missed the joy of a good gift because it didn’t look like what I imagined or wasn’t the color of a friend’s. Worse, how many times have I’ve questioned my Father’s wisdom and love?

When God’s gifts don’t look like we imagined, we feel disappointed or rejected. We can’t imagine that His gift is better than what we asked for.

One year, I had a roommate who didn’t get anything I said. I felt frustrated trying to connect with her. One night in my journal I came across a prayer I’d written earlier to become a better communicator. I laughed to myself. God was answering my prayer, just not in the way I’d imagined. While I’d pictured an easy exchange of ideas, He was teaching me how to listen and express myself in ways that didn’t come naturally.

Do you have prayers that seem to be unanswered? Could you have overlooked the answer because it came wrapped in a blue bow when you expected pink?

It’s not too late to change our attitudes and enjoy God’s good gifts.

  • List the “gifts” you wish were different. Include experiences, personality traits, and people in your life. God already knows your thoughts, so be honest.
  • Ask Him to open your eyes to see them from His perspective.
  • Go down your list and, by faith, thank Him for His promise to work even the bad things together for your good and for the good of all who love Him (Rom. 8:28).

When our four-year old dismissed his Christmas gift, he wasn’t the only one who missed out. Our family missed the joy of him enjoying his gift. Remembering God gives good gifts helps us look for the good. The treasure may be hidden, but we know it is there.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.  James 1:17 NIV

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Are You Overlooking Your Best Gifts? – insight from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonAbout 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, is to be released February 2020. 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: Has there been a time when you failed to recognize what God gave you as a desirable gift?

When You Get a Rock in Your Candy Bag

by Lori Stanley Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

“Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”                                                                                                            Hebrews 11:36-40 ESV

Don’t you just love Charlie Brown?

His big, old, round head, and his black dot eyes. His sober approach to the trials of daily life and his wise but innocent perspective? Charlie seems to exist in a dimension just one degree apart from all the other kids – separated by an invisible shield. One that keeps him from kicking footballs, but also helps him see what others cannot.

Remember Charlie Brown on Halloween? He is trick-or-treating with his friends, but when comparing their candy sacks after each house the other kids exclaim, I got a popcorn ball! I got a chocolate bar! I got gumdrops!

Then, poor Charlie – I got a rock. I can relate to Charlie Brown.

It’s hard to stand by while others receive exactly what they are requesting or hoping to find or need while you’re holding a sack full of rocks. But sometimes, that’s how life works – even when we love Jesus.

When disasters strike, there are stories of miracles, people who should have been harmed, but were somehow delivered. Praise God for that!

But there are also stories of those who fell victim to tragedy, were caught in the crossfire, lost precious loved ones in the storm. And how hard is it to praise God when the miracle passed over the one you love only to land on another? It’s hard as rock.

Or, perhaps you’ve worked towards a dream, knowing it’s a dream from God – a vision, a goal, a ministry, an art. And you thought you knew where it was going. Believed it was blessed – prayed over – inspired. And you have poured everything into the endeavor.

But the finish line eludes you, or worse, it seems to be disappearing all together. You find yourself on the sidelines watching others called out onto the field, crossing the finish line, achieving the dream while you sit by holding a bag of rocks. How hard is that? Hard as rock.

But, what gift does Charlie Brown give us? This little cartoon with a soul. His story makes us feel less alone in a crazy world. His perseverance inspires us to carry on. His disappointments help us see that often there is more to life than getting exactly what we want.

Through Charlie Brown, we are drawn to the mystery of grace. The grace of a God who pours out His love in ways we sometimes miss while we’re standing at His door asking for what we want.

And Charlie Brown reminds us that there is a bigger story. While the other children were busy about their lives, Charlie stands there with a sack full of rocks and moves us to ask the greater questions.

It’s hard to be Charlie Brown. It’s painful to watch others rejoice or receive while we stand there wanting, grieving, lacking, struggling, waiting. The temptation is to become bitter or to assume we’ve been rejected or that we are unseen. When really, God has simply written us a role that moves us – and others – to ask the greater questions. It’s a role that is hard as rock.

But Jesus was the first rock – the cornerstone – and on Peter the rock, Christ built His church, and we are all living stones. So, we are not alone.

Did you get a rock? I know it’s hard – but take it to Jesus who has held that same rock and praise God, dear Charlie Brown, praise God.

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When You Get a Rock in Your Candy Bag – encouragement from @LoriSRoeleveld on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

lori Roeleveld Headshot 2015About the author: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever been given a rock? What deeper issues did it lead you to question?

 

 

Embrace the Crawl

by Ashley Lane Jones @BigSisterTweets

My son Gordon refuses to crawl. He’s a healthy, chubby baby nearly nine months old, and he’s plenty strong enough to push himself up and crawl around. I’ve figured out the problem, though: he wants to move while sitting up. He’s so proud that he can sit up all by himself, and he loves being “up high,” so to get down on his hands and knees and scrape along the floor…no thank you!

 Instead, Gordon has mastered what I call the “roll and flip.” He starts by sitting up, then he lays down briefly, rolls over a bit, and then flips back up. While he can move some distance in this prairie-dog fashion, he doesn’t have much control in the direction he’s going.

While playing with Gordon the other day, I got down on my own hands and knees to show him how it’s done. That’s when I began to empathize with his plight, for I didn’t want to crawl around on the floor, either. Sitting is so much easier and more comfortable!

I realized the same can be said for our spiritual lives. When we get saved, we become enamored with such lofty things as worship, fellowship, and community. We love nothing more than to sit and bask in God’s presence.

As wonderful as that is, God doesn’t want us to spend our lives sitting on the sidelines.

God has unique plans for each of us, to give us “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 NASB). But every plan of God involves two things: salvation and sanctification. While our salvation is a gift we receive from God, sanctification is the process of becoming more like Jesus as we grow closer to Him.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3a NASB).

“… sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15 NASB).

Over the course of our lives, God will work with us to sanctify our hearts, often through prayer, Bible study, and the repentance of sin. These may seem like simple steps, but they aren’t easy. We all know we should pray and study God’s Word, but it’s hard to get up early in the morning, and we’d rather watch TV than read our Bibles. We desire to follow God, but it can be quite painful to admit our sins, ask God for forgiveness, and then choose the better path that He has laid out for us.

Sanctification is never flashy or glamorous. No one will stand up in church and praise you for your efforts. You might even feel self-conscious as you leave your cushy spiritual seat to scrape along on your hands and knees.

But don’t lose heart! There will come a time when the crawling leads to standing and then to walking—not on your own volition but in the power of the Lord. The time spent alone in prayer and study, and the lessons hard-learned, will all bear fruit and prepare you for the steps ahead.

If you’ve been sitting in church for awhile, ask God if it’s time to start crawling. If so, then humble yourself and get on your spiritual (and maybe even your physical) hands and knees before the Lord. Don’t “roll and flip” around, worried about what other people are doing and saying. Your time to walk will come soon enough. For now, embrace the crawl.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.  1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NASB

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Embrace the Crawl – encouragement from Ashley L. Jones, @BigSisterTweets on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

View More: http://courtneywahl.pass.us/jones-familyAbout the author: Ashley L. Jones uses her Master’s Degree in Biblical Studies to write articles and books that help others see God as alive and relevant to their everyday lives. The first book in her faith-based children’s series, Big Answers, will release in Fall 2020.

Ashley’s debut book, Modern Cast Iron: The Complete Guide to Selecting, Seasoning, Cooking, and More, is available on Amazonashley lane jones book now for preorder. Chock-full of stories from Jones’s own childhood growing up with cast-iron meals, as well as recipe after tantalizing recipe, Modern Cast Iron explores the countless ways that cast iron benefits health and happiness. For more information, connect with Ashley at www.BigSisterKnows.com.

Join the conversation: Have you sensed God working on your sanctification? Please share!

If Only I Can Touch Him

by Karen DeArmond Gardner @kgardnerwrites

Jesus said, “Daughter, you took a risk trusting me, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed!” Luke 8:48 MSG

She wove her way through the crowd, her only thought was reaching Jesus. If the crowd knew the truth they would turn on her, yet she was determined to encounter the One who could heal her.

The crowd stopped moving when a man approached Him, obviously full of sorrow as he told Jesus of his dying daughter. He begged the Teacher to come and heal her. Jesus agreed and began to accompany him to his home.

The woman slipped in behind the Teacher, and in desperation, reached out, managing to touch a tassel hanging from His prayer shawl. The moment she made contact, she felt power course through her body. Stunned, her only thought was, “I am healed!”

Fear gripped her when He suddenly stopped. Scanning the crowd, he demanded to know, “Who touched Me?”

The men with Him answered, “With so many in this crowd, Rabbi, it is hard to tell who touched you.”

Terror set in as His eyes fell on her, “Who touched me?” He knew! His eyes locked on hers and she fell at His feet to tell her story.

With a trembling voice, she blurted out, “It was me, I touched you. For twelve years I’ve been bleeding.” She knew she as spoke the words that the crowd could turn on her; the Torah was clear: everyone she touched became unclean, and to touch a man in public was forbidden. “I am alone, with no one, as I am untouchable. I have seen every doctor and spent all my money. My hope was gone until I heard about the people you healed. My only thought was if I could touch you, just maybe I, too, could be healed.”

The crowd looked on, waiting to see what the Teacher would do. In amazement, they watched Him reach down to lift her chin. He looked into her eyes with such love and said, “Daughter, you took a risk trusting me, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well! Live blessed!” Tears streamed down her face as she was enveloped in His love and acceptance.

As she made her way back through the crowd, she held her head high, the word “daughter” ringing in her ears.

The question that runs through my mind is this: why did Jesus bother asking who touched Him? He had to know. And although He knew how the crowd could react to her story, He asked anyway.

She was unclean, physically and spiritually. A woman who could not participate in worship and had not been touched by anyone in 12 years. She was broken in so many ways; she had nothing to lose so in spite of the fear, she blurted out her story for all to hear.

This is what Jesus wanted—for all to hear her story. It’s what He wants from all of us.

“Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others He has redeemed you…” Psalms 107:2.

For too many years I hesitated to tell my story. Like the woman with the ‘issue of blood’, I expected rejection and judgment. Telling our story is not about what happened to us but what God did with what happened to us, “… to show the faithful love of the Lord.” Psalms 107:43.

It is about Him, about what He has done with our messiness of our life. Our focus is not on how bad we were or the horror that was done to us. The goal in the telling is to bring Him glory.

Be-Loved, tell your story. Show the faithful love of the Lord and how He redeemed you. He deserves that glory.

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If Only I Can Touch Him – insight from @kgardnerwrites on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

karen dearmond gardnerAbout the author: Karen DeArmond Gardner is a 30-year survivor of domestic violence. She has spent 15 years on her own healing journey and nearly that long helping others find freedom, restoration, and redemption.

Karen is a facilitator in Freedom Ministry/Sozo and directs the Women’s Ministry at Catch the Fire DFW Church. She also facilitates Mending the Soul, a group that leads women through the trauma of their past into healing and wholeness. She serves on the Board of Directors for Arukah House, a transitional home for women coming out of sex trafficking and abuse.

Karen blogs at Crack the Silence and can be found at her Crack the Silence Facebook page. She continues to be a helpful contact and resource for abused women in her church and community.

Join the conversation: Tell your story: what has God done for you?

He Gives Back to Us

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.  2 Corinthians 9:8 NASB

I remember the day I was supposed to meet Alice for lunch. I didn’t want to go. It had nothing to do with Alice. I just felt I was running on empty, I didn’t have much time, and I didn’t have much to give.

Alice didn’t have a problem she wanted me to fix, or any type of issue with which she wanted me to help. She simply wanted to meet a friend for lunch. As we sat there and talked, I learned a lot about her that day. And I learned a lot about myself. We talked about raising daughters, and how we each were raised. We expressed an appreciation for how God works in our lives. I shared with her some encouragement from Scripture and then prayed with her, asking God to give her wisdom and discernment as a parent. Then she prayed for me.

I left that lunch feeling grateful that I had met with Alice. I felt rejuvenated, refreshed, and refueled for the day. What had happened?

God works in ways we sometimes don’t anticipate. I’ve noticed that when I have little left to give, but I show up anyway, God makes sure I’m blessed just for showing up. Sometimes God has a way of either filling me with the same energy I just infused into someone else, or He causes me to be encouraged by the person whom I thought I was going to encourage. I went to lunch that day expecting to pour myself into Alice, but she poured herself into me instead.

It must have something to do with the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The golden outcome of that, I believe, is that as we “do unto others” (in this case, provide encouragement, just as we’d want to be encouraged), God makes sure that encouragement comes back around to us. Sometimes God repays us through the kindness and encouragement of others. Whatever the case, I’ve found, most unexpectedly, that God often infuses energy into my life when I’m simply obedient and do what I know He wants me to do.

What goes around comes around in the name of Jesus. Second Corinthians 9:8 tells us: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

Lord, help me to be open to the divine appointments You send my way, not just so I can fill others, but so that You, through others, can fill me.

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He Gives Back to Us – encouragement from @CindyMcMenamin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer, national speaker, and certified writing coach who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of several books including When Women Long for Rest, When You’re Running on Empty, and Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her books and resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, or for more information on her coaching services to help you write the book on your heart, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

What Readers are Saying about Drama FreeIt was a book I didn’t want to put down. It was packed with Scripture, biblical truth, and helpful resources on how to diffuse drama that we all face in life.

Join the conversation: What life-supplying encouragement has God sent to you lately?

 

 

 

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

by Julie Coleman @JulieZColeman 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NASB

Ironic to the beauty that was characteristic of the Hawaiian Islands, the leper colony Molokai was home to some of the most deplorable and wretched conditions on the earth.  Missionary Father Damien arrived on the scene in 1873 to spread a message of hope and to minister to those who had been sent to the island to die.

He erected a church and worked tirelessly to provide decent shelters and improve the quality of life for the lepers who lived on the peninsula. Those suffering with leprosy politely attended the church services, out of respect for this man who selflessly gave of his life. But in their minds, religion remained something for those who did not suffer from the disease. Damien began every sermon the same way: “My dear lepers . . .”

Years passed. One morning as Damien prepared breakfast, he accidentally spilled boiling water on his foot. There was no pain. Damien realized that the dreaded had happened. He had finally contracted the disease. That Sunday morning, he began his sermon differently: “My fellow lepers . . .”

The news that Damien was now one of them spread like wildfire throughout the leper community. As the curious lepers watched, Damien continued to live out the rest of his life in dedication to the God he trusted. Religious revival swept the colony. God had suddenly become very real to the lepers while displayed in the life of one who suffered as they did.

God can turn our pain into an avenue of His grace and mercy. Knowing they are not alone is a balm to those who suffer.

When painful circumstances strike, our first prayer is for the Lord to take them away. Much of our prayer times sound like a Christmas wish list, as we tell God what to “fix” in order for life to be more comfortable for us. While there is nothing wrong with bringing our concerns before the Lord, we should also be praying about our own response should the Lord choose to allow that circumstance to remain. We need to pray for endurance and grace. Our goal should be that God might be glorified through us and that we would remain faithful to Him through the trial.

“…The God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4 NIV). One of the reasons God brings painful circumstances along is so we can effectively minister to others. After walking in someone else’s shoes, we can listen and respond with an empathy we could not have had without going through the experience ourselves. Having been there gives credibility to our spiritual counsel.

Knowing this should revolutionize our prayer lives. In the midst of the pain, we should be looking for ways God makes Himself real to us through the struggle. We must ask God to make us sensitive to what He is endeavoring to teach us. Because one day we will be given an opportunity to pass on what we learned in the experience to another who is in the midst of the battle. And they will need what we can give them.

Are you struggling right now? Julie shares what God is revealing to her in her current battle with breast cancer on her blog. Check it out!

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Walk a Mile in Their Shoes – insight from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a 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 has God revealed to you in a struggle that you have been able to use to encourage others?

Learning to Listen Well

by Natalie Flake Ford @tearstojoy

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 NIV

Panic. Dread. Unprecedented Fear. These words describe the emotional turmoil in the car just moments before my daughter’s first driving lesson. After a quick prayer, I gently instructed her on keeping between the lines as well as knowing when to brake and when to speed up. As I did this, my anxious feelings slowly began to dissipate. Peace and calm gradually replaced my fear and anxiety.

In order for my daughter to drive well, we had to turn off distractions (cell phones and radio). As she listened intently to my voice and worked diligently to obey my commands, she gradually learned to drive.

God wants the same for us in our daily lives. Too often distractions drown out his still, quiet voice until we are consumed with doing what the world deems important. The result is becoming preoccupied with worry. Henry Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest and psychologist, wrote, “Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life.”

If we want to walk in obedience to Christ, we have to remove distractions so that we can focus on His voice. This is easier said than done. Silence can be uncomfortable.

I don’t know about you, but when I get quiet, my mind starts to race. I obsess over my to-do list and struggle with the urge to “do something.” If I am quiet long enough, anxieties, fears, hurtful memories, anger, and pain threaten to consume me.

Uncomfortable with these feelings, I want to stop this “inner chat” and hide in busyness. But to do so would mean missing God’s voice and the peace He offers. When we are still before Him, the Holy Spirit does a healing work in the deep recesses of our heart and soul.

One of my seminary professors required that we spend three hours alone with the Lord. Honestly, I dreaded this assignment and thought it to be a waste of time. But out of obligation, I gathered my Bible, a hymnal, a journal, and my guitar and headed for a local state park.

In the beginning, it felt awkward. My mind wandered, and I continually fought to bring it back to the Word. But as I disciplined myself to be still, I experienced one of the sweetest, most intimate times with the Lord that I’ve ever had. I left that park different than when I arrived. I was filled with contentment, peace, and joy, even though my circumstances remained the same.

Spending three hours alone with God daily is not realistic for most of us. But we can make finding quiet moments a priority, whether it be the few minutes before we get out of bed, turning off the radio in the car, or meditating on the Word during our quiet times.

Consider scheduling time in your calendar for solitude and don’t let anything change that appointment. Get up early on Sundays and spend time preparing your heart for worship — maybe even go to the Church and find a quiet place to pray and listen.

Solitude is not easy. It is awkward at first, but it has the potential to radically sanctify us and make us more like Christ. If Jesus was always intently listening to the Father, how much more do we need to do the same?

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Learning to Listen Well – insight from Natalie Flake Ford, @TearsToJoy on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Natailie Ford headshotAbout the author: Natalie Flake Ford teaches counseling and psychology at Truett McConnell University.  She is also a licensed professional counselor. Dr. Ford is passionate about missions and lives to make Jesus known.

In her book, Tears to Joy, Natalie details the tribulations of dealing with mental illness. Debunking stigma and presenting practical advice, she offers hope to those who have dealt with a loved one’s mental illness or suicide, even to those who have struggled with it themselves.

Join the conversation: How do you manage to incorporate solitude into your life?

Resolutions Actually Can Be Successful

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

I was working out at the gym with a friend, and we chuckled together as we noticed how crowded the gym had become since January 1st. Then, as it happens every year, about four to six weeks later, the gym returned to its normal level—and once again we didn’t have to wait in line to use the weight machines.

Yes, the New Year resolution for buffing up the body and becoming healthy lasts a short time for most people. Great motivation at the start sometimes is not enough to continue.

Why is that? For many of us, it’s because we make our goals too high and become discouraged when we can’t meet them.

But there is a solution. It’s found in “The 1% Principle.” It’s the idea of setting small goals toward a bigger one. Then, when we meet the small goal (1% instead of 75% or larger), we’ll be encouraged to continue.

Here are some ideas:

Instead of “I will have a devotional time with God for one hour every day this week,” think: “I’m going to spend 5 minutes with God two times next week.”

Instead of “I’m going to stop eating all sugar,” think: “I’m going to limit sugar to one item per day.”

Instead of “I’m going to go to the gym every day this week,” think: “My goal is to go to the gym two times this week.”

Instead of “I’m never going to get angry with my child again,” think: “Since dinner time is the hardest time to be patient, I’m going to concentrate on staying calm on Tuesday and ask a friend to pray for me during that time.”

Get the idea? Instead of thinking 100% toward a goal, start small and be encouraged as you reach it. Then you’ll continue to move toward the larger goal. (And by the way, it’s OK to do more than the 1% goal if you’re able).

Does this sound like a plan God can’t applaud? After all, doesn’t He know He can empower us to reach huge goals? Of course He can, but He also understands that “we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14 NASB). That’s why He says, “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:15 NASB). Note that He doesn’t say, “so that your perfection may be evident to all.” He expects us to be in process little by little and is pleased with our progress—even 1% at a time.

How can you use the 1% Principle to grow closer to God and become more of the person God wants you to be? Make a plan now and carry it out—little by little—1% at a time.

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Resolutions Actually Can Be Successful – encouragement from @KathyCMiller on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy C MillerAbout the author: Kathy Collard Miller lives in Southern California and is the author of over 55 books including the Daughters of the King Bible study series. One of the studies is At the Heart of Friendship. As a popular women’s conference speaker, she has spoken in 35 states and 8 foreign countries. Her passion is to communicate practical biblical ideas for trusting God more. Visit her at http://www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Her latest latest release is , Heart Wisdom, a part of her women’s Daughters of the King Bible study series. Heart Wisdom includes ten lessons about the different topics included in The Proverbs, and is perfect for individual or group study. Reach Kathy at www.KathyCollardMiller.com

Rest First

by Michele McCarthy @MicheleRMcC

Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29 NASB

God’s call to rest isn’t crawling into bed with a good book (though who couldn’t use a day or two of that now and then)? It’s a much greater call—to live from the place of rest every day. It can take the form of relaxing tense, scrunched up shoulders, choosing to breathe easy in the slow lane of the store or freeway, or trusting Him to promote the call on our life as we keep our focus on our Father.

I have been learning that for me, rest is choosing to be still and listen for daily direction.

While attending a short ministry school, one of the staff members asked me if I wrote. Sure, I thought, grocery lists, to do lists, and the occasional prayer journal. I shrugged and told her, “I kind of write.”

“You should write about your journey to help other people,” she suggested. As outlandish as the suggestion was, and as insignificant as my story was, her words stirred my heart. So I began to write.

I completed my amateurish, boring, sad story of my journey within a few months (book writer skills not included). Pounding computer keys, I put on paper what I thought I was supposed to write. The End. Then I voiced, “God, I’ve written the story, it’s up to You now. I’ve no idea what to do next.”

God’s next beat anything I could have done on my own

I met Linda Evans Shepherd in California, both of us from different states. I misunderstood her to say she was a publisher, since she’d “published” several books (no snickering, I’m new at this). Because of her comment, I knew she’d know how to publish my book, right? So of course, I had to introduce myself. She graciously invited me to the AWSA conference the next month as a protégé.

Attending AWSA felt like I found home. These ladies loved books and loved the Lord even more. I began to wake up with children’s book ideas. The Lord led me to begin working with a writing coach. I felt Him nudging me to attend two different writers’ conferences. My appointments there encouraged me in my projects. I even met a publisher who expressed interest in my book.

All of this was the result of simply obeying what I believed the Lord had called me to do. He’s done the rest. Which brings me to my point.

Rest.

God calls all of us to enter into His rest. First is the rest of salvation: trusting in the work Jesus did on the cross to cover every one of our sins; accepting His gift of grace, understanding we are saved through no efforts of our own. “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:9-10 NASB).

But there is a second kind of rest. We need never strive while following Him in obedience. As Greg Winfield wrote on faithmessenger.com: “Entering into God’s rest takes place after we have done the will of God in any given situation and are waiting to receive the promise.” We can rest in His power and in His wisdom, trusting that He will be faithful to complete what He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).

Our work is to rest in Him.

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Rest First – wisdom from @MicheleRMcC on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

michele mccarthyAbout the author: Michele McCarthy is married and a mom to two sons and Gigi to five adorable grandchildren. She is a Texas Christian University graduate with a degree in Education. She attended Lifestyle Christianity University in Watauga, Texas. Michele is a co-founder of LWT (Living Write Texas), a Christian writing group for women. She loves reading, painting, all things witty, and hot fudge sundaes.

Michele’s book Daddy and Me, is the story of the unconditional love of the Father. Every child is free to picture their own daddy and most importantly their heavenly Father; the Father who loves them perfectly, without reserve, no matter what, while gently holding each child in His hand.

Join the conversation: What does God’s rest mean to you?

The Pursuit of Joy

by Sheri Schofield

Tim and I were soon to be married when we began talking about our spiritual gifts. This was a hot topic back in the early 80s and the recognized variety of spiritual gifts was very broad. Tim laughingly told me, “Yeah, I took a spiritual gift test once. It said that I have the gift of martyrdom!”

We both laughed. Tim was calm and patient, and he had a great sense of humor. We couldn’t see the connection with martyrdom.

I don’t have the spiritual gift of martyrdom. I’m admittedly a wimp about pain. Headache? Run to the cupboard and get some aspirin. Problem solved. Why should I suffer needlessly? And martyrdom? No, no! Not for me!

Our Founding Fathers felt the same way, for they stated the right to pursue happiness right into our Constitution’s Bill of Rights! Pain is not happiness, so I reach for the painkiller. My avoidance of pain extends into all parts of my life: avoiding painful situations, avoiding difficult people, avoiding challenges that might cost me something. I tend to go toward the easy.

But Jesus said, “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39 NIV).

Does that sound like the pursuit of happiness? Not to me. But is happiness what I want? Or is joy better than happiness?

What is the difference anyway? Happiness is the feeling we get when life is peaceful and everything is going our way. It is like playing in a calm, quiet lake. Joy is the feeling we get when we have successfully accomplished something difficult. The more difficult the challenge, the greater the joy.

Happiness is what we want for our children. Joy is what we hope they will discover as they grow up. Joy is not found in playing at the lake, but rather in climbing the mountain next to the lake, with all its obstacles. Joy is standing at the top of the mountain looking out over the view. Joy is learned through maturity and challenge. Joy is for grown-ups.

My husband, Tim, did indeed become a martyr – one who suffers greatly for his testimony and faith. He took a stand for Jesus that cost him dearly, and almost cost his life. Now he has severe PTSD and major depression. And I have walked side by side with him each step of the way.

This is not the path I would have chosen! Nobody deliberately walks into pain. But in the suffering, I have come to know God in a deep, abiding way that has brought me far greater joy than the easy life would have brought me.

I have discovered the joy of His presence because of the pain.

Now in this New Year, I stand near the top of the mountain, huffing and puffing, pausing for fresh wind, looking back over the way God has led me. The view from here is terrific! I see the challenges of the past as well as new goals ahead. I would not go back to playing at the lake for anything! I’m going to conquer this mountain and discover the treasures of joy on the way to the top!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great could of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12: 1-2 NIV

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The Pursuit of Joy – encouragement from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.

Join the Conversation: When has pain produced the by-product of joy in your life?