Praying for your Pet? Seriously?

by Linda Evans Shepherd @LindaShepherd

Max, my eight-year-old miniature Labradoodle was dying. He’d lost a lot of fur and almost half of his body weight. Now, he lay listless on the floor beside me.

I reached down to pet him. “Sorry you’re feeling so bad,” I said before sending up another prayer: “Lord, please help my dog to get better.”

I have to admit, I felt a little guilty spending one of my prayers on my dog.  Shouldn’t I be praying for world peace, or at least that the Lord would help a hurting friend?

But I just couldn’t help myself.  My beautiful dog had shrunk from forty to twenty-four pounds.  And it was his own fault. He had a thing for chicken bones stolen from our bear-proof trashcan. He’d wait till we went to bed, pad his way down the stairs and sneak up on his shiny silver prey.  He step on the peddle at the base of the can and when the lid popped open, he’d tug the garbage bag filled with bones onto the floor then gobble them as fast as he could.

I’d scold him in morning’s light.  “Dog’s aren’t supposed to eat chicken bones!” He’d reply by licking his pink tongue across his black, furry face.

Then one day, his stomach became upset.  It stayed upset for the next 18 months and nothing seemed to help.

As a matter of last resort, I tried an organic kibble recommended to me by a friend. But three days later, Max was sicker than ever!  I knew it would only be a matter of days before we’d lose him.  But I suddenly had an idea.  I could try feeding him a crockpot of chicken soup; a special recipe for dogs where you add two cups of rice and three chicken breasts to a large crockpot filled with water.   I followed the recipe, and five hours later, I flaked the chicken and stirred the mash together.

Max ate my chicken soup and miraculously kept his dinner down!  I continued to feed Max this dish until his naked tail sprouted fur and his coat begin to fill-in with black velvet.  One day, he even felt like playing fetch again.

A month later, I took Max back to the vet.  When the doctor saw him, she was stunned. She sat down on the floor with him. “Look at you, bud, you’re well!” she said, as Max wagged his furry tail.

So, is it okay to pray for pets?

According to Proverbs 12:10, “The righteous care for the needs of their animals.”  With this in mind, sometimes the best way to care for your pets is to pray for them.  Plus God always wants you to pray for anything that is on your heart.  After all God not only created animals, he’s interested in the things you’re interested in.  So when you pray, pray for the provisions you need, your family members, your church, nation, hurting friends and world peace, only don’t forget to pray for your pet.  God’s grace is big enough to cover your prayers for even the little paws in your life.

Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God.                                                                                                                                  Luke 12:6 NASB

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Praying for your Pet?  Seriously? @LindaShepherd on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Linda ShepherdAbout the author: Linda Evans Shepherd is the author of 34 books including Praying God’s Promises and The God You Need to Know.  She is the CEO of Right to the Heart Ministries and the founder of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association.  She’s the publisher of Leading Hearts Magazine and Arise Daily.

Linda has been married over thirty years and has two grown kids.  She loves to travel and bring the word to groups and events across North America.  You can read more about Linda at Arise Speakers.

Join the conversation: Are there things in you life you consider too “small” to pray for?

Round-Up Time for My Thoughts

by Sheri Schofield

It’s round-up time here in Montana. The mountains behind our house are free range, which means that the rancher below our property drives his cattle up into the mountains in early summer, where the cattle graze for about three months. They are all cows and calves. (The bulls have to stay home, for they are extremely valuable breeding stock.)

When fall comes and the trees start to turn yellow and red, the rancher and his family mount up and ride into the mountains where they round the cattle up and drive them back to their home pasture. The older cows know when round-up time is coming, so they head down the mountain on their own.

Early one morning when my husband and I were still asleep, a loud “MOO” roared across our dreams. Our eyes popped open. There was a cow looking into our bedroom window! She was in my flowers!

I jumped out of bed, grabbed my robe and flip flops and dashed out the back door, with Tim close on my heels. I raced around to the side of the house, clapped my hands at the cow and shouted, “Haw!”

The cow jumped and began running toward the creek instead of the gate. I raced around and headed her off.

“Sheri! Come back!” Tim shouted. “You’ll get hurt!”

He’s obviously watched too many western movies where the cattle stampede and kill the cowboys.

“She’s just a cow!” I shouted back. He didn’t get it, since he did not grow up on a farm like I did. Cows and bulls are not the same critter at all. One can chase cows. One avoids bulls. “Go stand at the top of the driveway and don’t let her get up behind the house!” I shouted.

We eventually chased the cow out and closed the gate. Whew! What a workout! Our lawn and garden were safe . . . but now there was a cow pie in the middle of the lawn to clean up. Cows are messy.

Sometimes when I least expect it, I find that bad thoughts, like that cow, have crept into my brain when I’m not on guard against them. When that happens, I must immediately go into action and chase those thoughts out, for they will lead me into bad actions if I don’t. They will spoil my peace and hurt my relationships.

The Apostle Paul, in his closing remarks to the Philippians, wrote, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you”(Philippians 4:8-9, NIV).

Guarding my heart against bad thoughts toward others is something I’ve had to learn to do. My natural tendency is to take offense at what others say that may hurt my feelings. If I allow those offenses to fester, they will bubble up into my speech, and my resentment will spill out. As Jesus said, ” . . . the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34 NIV). So, I work to give those thoughts to Jesus and ask him to drive them out and replace them with right thinking. I choose to fill my heart with thoughts that please God instead. When I do that, I am filled with God’s peace, and my relationships prosper.

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3, NIV

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Round up time for my thoughts – Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield, an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years, has just released her new book, The Prince And The Plan, to help parents lead their children into a saving knowledge of Jesus. Sheri was named Writer of the Year for 2018 at 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!

Join the conversation: How do you deal with your thought life?

Getting to Know Him Better

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

Consider it a great joy…whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance…so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.   James 1:2-4 CSB

I remember the week I got to know Jesus a little better.

When I say that, you probably know that I’m not referring to experiencing a great vacation, or receiving a huge check in the mail.

No, when God shows me more about Himself, it’s usually during a week when nothing seems to go right. It started with disappointing news from a friend, then a car repair I couldn’t afford, and then a bad case of food-poisoning that left me wiped out physically for three days.

It was then that I remembered a treasured truth from God’s Word.

In Romans 8:28, we are assured that “all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” Verse 29 tells us how God works all things for good in our lives: ” For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son….” (CSB)

There it is. All those “bad things” (like disappointments, unexpected expenses, and illnesses) God promises to work for good in our lives by making us more like Christ through them. He can make me more understanding and gracious toward others through my disappointments, more dependent on His provision through my unexpected expenses, and more thankful for my health and His other blessings to me when I seem to lose mine.

With that in mind, our tough times really pave the way for our Jesus makeover. It is our God encounter. It’s how we get to know Jesus a little better.

When we filter every circumstance of our lives through the grid of His unfailing love, we will see every test and trial, every desert and disappointment, as a loving gesture on God’s part to draw us closer to Himself and make us more like His Son. From that perspective, there is no room for bitterness, worry, or fear.

The Bible says “There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear… (First John 4:18). I believe that means if we love God perfectly we will trust Him implicitly. And where there is absolute trust, there is no fear.

If you’re going through a situation – or several — you don’t like right now, don’t fear. And don’t fight it. Instead, trust that the One who is allowing it is giving you a priceless opportunity to get to know Him a little better.

Lord, help me to cling to you during times of uncertainty, loss, or desperation, knowing that You are in absolute control.

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Getting to know Him better – @CindiMcMenamin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet) 

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 17 books including When Women Walk Alone (more than 120,000 copies sold), God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart, and Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her books and resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Join the conversation: How has God revealed Himself to you in a trying situation?

One for the Other Team

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

Do not give the devil an opportunity. Ephesians 4:27 NASB

One of the most infamous moments in college football occurred during the Rose Bowl of 1929. It was a contest between two evenly matched teams: University of California and Georgia Tech. In the second quarter, Georgia Tech fumbled the ball at their 40 yard line. The ball was scooped up by Roy Riegels, UCal’s skilled linebacker. He turned to the left and began to run. A shove from the opposition careened Riegels into a tackler.  As he pivoted away from him, Riegels completely lost his bearings. Breaking free from the crowd of players, he began to run the wrong way–toward the opposing team’s goal line.

His quarterback saw what was happening and quickly began pursuit. He caught up with and was able to halt Riegels at the one yard line. Georgia players quickly tackled him there before he could reverse the damage. The next play was an attempt to punt the ball away from the Georgia end zone, but it was blocked. Georgia Tech scored a 2-point safety. The final score of the game was 8-6, Georgia Tech. Riegels’ gaffe unwittingly enabled the opposing team a victory.

Poor Riegels never lived the moment down. He was nick-named Wrong Way Riegels for the rest of his days. While we can chuckle at his embarrassing mistake, we might also learn from his story.

Paul wrote of his concern that the Ephesians might unwittingly be helping the enemy’s cause. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for the wrath of God comes because of these things upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:6-8, emphasis added).

Who were these “sons of disobedience”? Commentators suggest various possibilities. It is likely that Paul is referring to people promoting heresy which threatened to divide the Gentile churches early on. Whoever they were, their purpose and motivation is clear from the context of this passage. They walked in the spirit of the prince of the power of the air (Satan) and worked toward disunity and destruction in the body of Christ.

Paul warns that we are not to be partakers with the sons of disobedience. The original word for partakers conveys more than a passing involvement. The Greek lexicon interprets partakers as “having a share with another in some possession or relationship; casting one’s lot with them.”

Years ago, Steve and I were involved in a church that struggled with a polarizing disagreement on the role of women. For a year or so, the issue became the church’s central focus. Anger and disunity resulted. While the various Scriptures on women’s role can be controversial, the command to treat each other with love is not.

One night I stood outside the church talking to a young mother who had become a believer while attending our church neighborhood Bible study. She desperately wanted her husband to come to a saving faith in Christ. He had occasionally attended services with her but as of yet had not made a decision. Nor did it now appear he ever would. “He told me he will never come back here again after watching how people are treating each other,” she confided. “He says that the people in this church are no different than anyone else. In his opinion, from what he’s seen, belief in Christ doesn’t seem to make a difference.”

I was just sick at her words, mostly because I knew I was as guilty as the rest. In my anger over the issue at hand, I had allowed sin to enter the controversy. I had unwittingly become a partaker with the enemy in his destructive scheme on the body of Christ.

Like Roy Riegels, we can score points for the opposing team when we do not walk as Children of Light. The Devil seeks opportunities to carry out his destructive intentions. When we neglect honoring God in our actions, we unwittingly give him a foothold, which he will use to the fullest.

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One for the Other Team – @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. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. 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.

Join the conversation: Have you ever scored points for the opposing team?

 

Jesus, Do You Care?

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

I’m often amazed at the disconnect between my heart and my mind when I think of God’s love for me. I can think, “I know God wants the best for me and those I love” but my heart still worries about what disaster might fall upon me and my beloveds.

That’s what happened to the disciples.

On that day, when evening had come, he [Jesus] said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:35-41 

I can surely understand the disciples’ terror. As they looked around for help, they saw Jesus asleep on a cushion. He was completely oblivious to their need and fear.

I can only imagine how “they woke him.” Did they jostle him? The boat was already being jostled. Did they call to him? The sounds of the wind were already screaming. Did they grab him and shake him? That’s what I would have done. Out of terror.

Then the disciples reveal their underlying motive. “Teacher, don’t you care we are perishing?” We thought we could depend upon you, yet obviously your own comfort—your sleep—is more important than us.

I think their question is often what our heart is crying out to know: do you care? We can be tempted to express it through emotional outbursts because we’re afraid we’ll hear, “No, I don’t care because you don’t deserve it.”

I’ve been guilty of getting angry at my husband and only later realizing the anger was really my heart crying out, “Show me you love me! Maybe my anger, distress, or craziness will get your attention. Prove you care about my welfare!”

After Jesus calmed the storm and the danger was past, the disciples were filled with wonder and awe. They rightly wondered, who is this who can calm the wind and sea? If they had asked that question at the beginning of the crisis, they wouldn’t have become distressed. Because the truth was the storm was no surprise to Jesus. Even though he seemed to be asleep on a cushion, he hadn’t stopped loving them or caring for them. He is the powerful and omniscient God. We can trust his allowing this.”

Have you ever asked Jesus, “Do you care?” He won’t be upset by your question, and wants you to hear, “Child, I do care! Trust me. I know exactly what I’m doing and it will be used for your good and my glory.”

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. Psalm 121:1-4 NASB

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Jesus, Do You Care? @KathyCMiller on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy C MillerAbout the author: Kathy Collard Miller is an award-winning author of over 50 books that include Christian living topics, women’s Bible studies, and Bible commentaries. One of her most recent books is Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory. She is a speaker who has shared in 8 foreign countries and over 30 US states. Kathy and Larry have been married for almost 50 years and are the parents of 2 and grandparents of 2. They live in Southern California and often write and speak together. Visit her at www.KathyCollardMiller.com. She would love to hear from you.

Join the conversation: Have you had times in your life when it was difficult to trust in the goodness of God?

Sitting in Silence with God

by Cheri Swalwell @CheriSwalwell

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.   Psalm 37:4-5 NIV

In December 2006, I found myself sitting in the Christmas Eve service alone. I was recovering from a recent miscarriage and subsequent surgery, my husband was sick at home with the flu, and I was feeling sorry for myself. The image I was anticipating not even one week prior was definitely not what had played out in reality.

The following February, I found myself back in the same emergency room, this time with my husband as the patient, with questions as to what was causing his pain, symptoms and rapid weight loss. We finally received the first of several diagnoses that May and began a difficult 10-year journey toward healing.

However, throughout the physical and emotional upheaval, what weighed most heavily on me was grief for our unborn child. My arms were empty. My heart ached. Yet still, it felt selfish to pray for another child, because of the demands and uncertainty in our lives.

My thoughts kept being drawn to Psalm 37:4-5 (NIV) “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:” I didn’t quite know how that specifically fit my situation, so I looked to Jesus as my example.

In Matthew 26, Jesus went away from his disciples and got really honest with God. First, He asked that this cup (dying on the cross) be taken from Him if possible; but then He followed that request with “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (26:42 NIV).

While my unmet desire didn’t begin to compare with facing death on the cross, it felt right to approach God in the same way. First, I poured out my heart to my Father – all my fears about my husband’s illness, the grief over the loss of our child, and how desperately empty my arms felt. Then I prayed: “Lord, please either give me the desires of my heart (another chance to be a mom again)” OR “Change my desires to match Yours for my life and take away this deep longing that is consuming me.”

I prayed that prayer faithfully, every day, for almost a year. Every day leading up the one-year anniversary of our child’s death was difficult as we worked on my husband’s recovery simultaneously while still grieving. Each day I meant it more and more: “Please, God, either bring my husband and I into agreement about trying for another child, or take this desire away from me and allow me to be content with the blessings You have chosen to give.”

Almost to the year, we discovered we were pregnant with our “bonus blessing.” God once again delighted our family with another child, when we were not even actively trying to conceive.

Sitting in silence, during that difficult time, meant initiating conversation and pouring out gut-wrenching, honest feelings with my Father. I prayed over Scripture on what I was facing, and spent time being quiet to allow God time to work. Every day I sat quietly with God and waited on Him time to change my heart. I wanted Him to line my will up with His.

While that season was incredibly difficult, I wouldn’t change what I experienced and the resulting closeness I felt to God during that time. This time He chose to heal our family with another child, one who continues to bring laughter and joy; but I also know that whatever God chose to do would have been the perfect choice.

I’m truly grateful for our three blessings here on earth and can’t imagine life without them. I’m also excited to meet the one I’ve been patiently waiting to meet for 11 years now. What a reunion for our family of six that will be!

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Sitting in Silence with God – @CheriSwalwell on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

cheri swalwellAbout the author: Cheri Swalwell is a Christ follower who thoroughly enjoys her calling to be a wife, mother, and writer, in that order. She has the privilege to write regularly for Book Fun Magazine, her devotional book series, Spoken from the Heart, as well as two other books, Hope During Heartacheand Caring for the Caregiver . Cheri would love to connect with you through her website, www.cheriswalwell.com, through email: clSwalwell99@gmail.com, or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/cheri-Swalwell. 

Join the conversation: Do you have a desire that you are waiting on God to fulfill?

When I am Counting. . . One, Two, Three

by Edna Ellison @DrEdnaEllison

“Thirty-four, thirty-five. . . Lord, what are you doing with my life? This tedious counting feels like such a waste of time.”

Have you ever felt that way while you waited in a place where God had placed you?

While I taught English in our local high school, I served as the sponsor for the yearbook staff. When the teen staff didn’t finish their deadlines on time, I usually took a stack of their hand-written reports home with me after school. After dinner, with my two small children nestled in bed, I pulled out the stack of yearbook reports to finish shaping them into camera-ready pages. As my husband watched television, I counted characters to fit each line into proper columns for the yearbook. (Yes, those were the dark ages!)

One, two, three…thirty-four, thirty-five. One, two, three…thirty-four, thirty-five…

Ten years later, I was still counting characters during the school year, but one summer I visited a writers’ conference with a friend, Sandra, who wanted to publish a book. I slipped into a devotion writing workshop, just for fun, and to my surprise, I came out with a contract to write six devotions for a large Christian publishing house!

When I told Sandra, she said, “Edna, you can’t do that. I’ve tried it, and it’s complicated. I’ve written a nice devotion and then had to cut out so many words it took weeks to fit the words into an editor’s specifications!”

I believed her. After all, she was a book writer. I was an amateur who hadn’t planned to write anything! Much less the most complicated article of all, at least according to Sandra: a devotion.

When the specifications came in the next week’s mail, imagine my grin when I read the instructions: write 25 lines of 35 characters each! For over ten years, I had been writing for those exact specifications for our yearbook. I could write those specs in my sleep—had done it in my sleep on some occasions! That week I chose as my life’s verse Romans 8:28—“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (NIV).”

God had called me to teach in our town’s high school–and I knew every high school was a mission field–but God had also been preparing me all those years, through the word counts of the yearbook pages, to breeze through these devotions. The contract to write six devotions turned into renewed contracts for over 100 devotions, which were compiled later in a book. To date, I have written or co-written 40 Christian books, and have served for ten years as a national Christian women’s magazine editor, all based on the daily practice I received as a yearbook sponsor.

God always has a purpose for our lives. He doesn’t waste a minute, working in the background, laying the foundation through practice, habits, and training we need for future ways to serve Him.

When we are bored or weary from the tedious hum-drum of daily life, we can remember, He has no random acts in His plans for us. All things in our lives have an eternal purpose in God’s overarching plan. They work together as he calls us to share His love.

Join the conversation: What has God called you to speak about? To others? In your community? To your children/ grandchildren? Speak up! Please share with us. 

…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.   Psalm 139:16 NIV

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When I am counting. . . one, two, three – @DrEdnaEllison on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

edna ellisonAbout the author: Edna Ellison, an award-winning author, has written/co-written 40 books. Woman to Woman: Preparing Yourself to Mentor, (called the classic book for mentors by Publisher’s Weekly), is a best-seller for New Hope Publishing, which has published many of Edna’s books.

Edna loves to speak at women’s conferences. She’ll tickle your funny bone and then touch your heart with a personal message from God. Contact her (website above or at ednae9@aol.com,  Edna Martin Ellison on Facebook, or YouTube.)

Join the conversation: What has God called you to speak about? To others? In your community? To your children/ grandchildren? Speak up! Please share with us.

Loving the Unlovable

by Peggy Cunningham @inca_writer

If I gave everything I have to the poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever. I Corinthians 13:3 NIV

We all assume missionaries go to the field to love people into the Kingdom. But in reality, it is not as easy as it sounds. Let me tell you about one of my students who tested my love thermometer. In all my years on the mission field that I taught teen girls, only one made me think about suspending her from class––Maribelle.

My classes consist of Bible studies, memorizing scripture, and cooking or baking. Guess which part they look forward to the most? Yup, the cooking part. These Quechua girls speak Spanish and Quechua––mostly Spanish in public and Quechua in the home. I teach in Spanish, but I have a conversational level of the Quechua language. One day, as Maribelle again distracted the class with her sparkling personality but antagonistic remarks, I asked her (in Quechua) to recite her Bible verse––hoping to lasso her back into the classroom activities. She looked me in the eye and said, “That is my language and you have no right to speak it!” A gasp from the other girls ended in an eerie silence in the room.

How to respond? Emotions were high, and I replied slowly while carefully choosing each word.

“Yes, it is your language, and I have my first language too––English. But one day, we who are in the family of God, will all speak the same language––a new language in our new forever home. It will no longer be your language or my language but our language. There will be no foreigners, only family members. So why not begin now to enjoy our family? Then, I hugged her. That was the last time Maribelle disrupted the class. I spoke as Scripture teaches us, softly––words spoken in love and not judgment. That day, God gave me the exact right words to touch her scornful heart.

Whether on the field or the home front, we all serve the unwanted, the poor, and sometimes even the wealthy who have no material needs. And yes, those who disrupt our lives. If we’re honest, most of us know people who unnerve us. It may be a family member or even a friend, but they are there to stay–stuck in our lives. So what can we do about these unlovable ones?

Respond in love.

“If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 TLB

There you have it––without love, all of our efforts come across as clanging noise. But how do we love the unlovable? By loving God first. As we do, we begin to see them through His eyes. We choose to love them because HE loves them. Funny how the unlovable become lovable when God changes us.

Allow me to add one last thing to clarify how much missionaries love the people they serve. We know that we love them when we cry as much leaving them behind to go on furlough as we do when we leave our family and friends after furlough. We do love the people we serve.

It’s not always easy, but with God’s love, it is possible.

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Loving the unlovable – Peggy Cunningham, @Inca_Writer, on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Peggy CunninghamAbout the author: Peggy Cunningham and her husband have been missionaries in Bolivia, South America, since 1981. In 1999, they founded Rumi Rancho Ministries. Rumi Rancho is their ministry base and home outside the city of Cochabamba where they work with the Quechua people and have a children’s ministry. Peggy is also an author. Her children’s books and devotionals are available on Amazon.com, including her latest book Shape Your Soul, 31 Exercises of Faith that Move Mountains, a women’s devotional.

Join the conversation: What helps you love the unlovely?

 

How Not to Protect Yourself From Pain

by Debbie W. Wilson @DebbieWWilson

One summer, I found myself in a real-life Alfred Hitchcock-like drama. On my way to clean up after weeding, I yanked up a dead shrub and unearthed a yellow jacket nest. My stinging limbs alerted me to my peril. Yellow jackets clung to my shins. I wondered if I was going to die.

That experience left me reluctant to garden in shorts and a T-shirt. A ski mask and thick layers seemed safer. But heat and humidity changed my mind.

At one time I thought mature faith would protect us from emotional pain. That hurts, insults, and disappointments would ping off those full of faith. While God provides spiritual armor, I don’t believe the insulated Christian is biblical—or desirable.

When my mother lay dying of cancer, I was in high school. Our family put on a strong face. No one mentioned her prognosis. We acted as though she would get better. Years later, I realized how lonely that must have been for her. Instead of shielding us, our layers of pretense only added regret to our sorrow.

When we learned Daddy had terminal cancer, I prayed it would be different. I’d learned that masks, whether of pretense, humor, or strength, didn’t suit such times.

On his deathbed, Daddy spoke of his pending death. We said our good-byes and talked about the promised reunion we’ll have with our loved ones in heaven. We named different ones we looked forward to seeing again. We laughed through our tears as we anticipated what we hoped to do in heaven. That open exchange of grief and hope was one of the sweetest times in my life. And though I still grieved losing my daddy, sharing our pain sweetened the bitterness of my loss.

A man whose child was hospitalized with leukemia spoke at our church. He boasted, that while the medical staff expressed concern for his lack of grief, his faith made him impervious to pain. Denial is certainly a part of grief, but as I listened and observed this stoic father, I thought how lonely his wife and family must feel in the sorrow his daughter’s suffering surely brought.

The Apostle Paul didn’t wear masks. His faith gave him the courage to open his heart and receive God’s comfort. His experience qualified him to speak about the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3).

He told the Corinthians about the great pressure that caused him to “despair even of life” (2 Cor. 1:8 NASB). “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced” (2 Cor. 2:8 NIV). He even cataloged some of his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11 and 12.

It’s wise to beware of yellow jacket nests. And long sleeves and gloves are appropriate for gardening, especially around thorny roses. But, ski masks and thick clothing aren’t practical for warm weather yard work.

In the same way, being honest with God, myself, and some trusted friends is healing and a lot healthier than suffocating under layers of self-protection.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matt. 5:4 NIV

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debbie wilsonBio: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog. debbieWwilson.com

Join the conversation: Is there a grief or a pending loss that you’ve avoided facing?

In the Lap of God

by Cheri Cowell @CheriCowell

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”                                                                                                  Luke 18:1-8 NIV

This morning as I watched the news, I found myself turning the volume up louder and louder. Finally, I realized what the problem was. I was competing with a baby bird whose cries were so loud they drowned out the television. Laughing at my discovery, I turned the volume down and watched the chick and its attentive and faithful mother.

It made me think of how God, over and over again, heard the cries of His people. Do our persistent cries matter to God today? Yes they do, but maybe not in the way we think.

Sometimes the above Scripture is used to support the idea that our persistent prayers persuade God. That somehow God needs us to beg him, so He changes His mind and gives us what we need. But Jesus did not tell this parable to paint a picture of a God who is swayed by our prayers; rather it is a story to help us to not lose heart when He delays an answer. From other scriptures we understand that God already knows our needs and answers our prayers the first time we utter them. It’s wonderful when we quickly see the answers to those prayers, but what do we do when God is silent?

This parable is actually about us and our need to come before the only One who has answers, the only One who can hear and make things right for us in due time.

Recently, in the midst of a day filled with more things to do than humanly possible, I came across an African Proverb that paused me: “Lord Jesus, make my heart sit down.” Being persistent in prayer is not about God, but about our need to continually seek Him for all our needs, trusting God to work on our behalf. When we acknowledge God as the only source for meeting those needs, our hearts sit down. We are at rest.

What I’ve learned from my own prayer life is that often the first few times I ask God for something, I am asking with one hand folded in prayer and the other hand working to solve my own problem. Eventually, I concede I am making more of a mess trying to fix my problems and so I ask God to fix things. But if I’m honest, I’m only asking because I can’t solve my own problem. Bill Hybels, wrote in Too Busy Not to Pray, Slowing Down and Being With God, says that when we work, we work; but when we pray, God works.

Finally, as I keep asking, my heart sits before a Loving Father, an Almighty God, a Holy One. Slowly I crawl up into God’s lap and beg Him to forgive me of my pride. I ask Him to help me in my time of need because I acknowledge He alone is the One True God. Has God changed? No. But I have. I think that African Proverb sums up this parable well. “Lord Jesus, make my heart sit down.”

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In the Lap of God – @CheriCowell on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

cheri cowellAbout the author: Cheri Cowell is the author of 365 Devotions for Peace. To learn more about Cheri visit her website http://www.chericowell.com or follow her on social media https://www.facebook.com/authorchericowell/

Join the conversation: When is the last time you have crawled up into the Father’s lap?