Can You Distinguish the Voice of God?

by Lee Ann Mancini

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 NIV

“What do I do, Lord?” “Can you hear me, Lord?” “God, is that your voice?” “When will you answer me, Father?” I’ve asked these questions at many points during my Christian walk. Certainly, my desire is always to follow the will of God. But sometimes when I am faced with a major decision, I struggle to identify how the Lord is leading me. I ask Him for an audible command or a clear sign regarding which way to proceed, but instead, all I get is silence. Can you relate?

God isn’t always so hard to read. In the Old Testament, God led the Israelites through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). He spoke directly to the heroes of our faith like Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, giving them clear and audible instructions as to His perfect will. They did not have to wonder what God’s will for them was.

But even hearing from God directly, they did not always respond with obedience. God instructed Adam very clearly, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17 NIV). We all know what happened next! When God told Moses that He had chosen him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses was reluctant to follow God’s instructions, saying, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11 NIV). Even Abraham proved disobedient to the Lord.  He put the covenant seed in jeopardy when he lied to the king concerning Sarah, “She is my sister” (Genesis 20:2). The patriarchs’ behavior demonstrates that even an audible command from God is not enough to ensure the obedience of His people.

God still communicates with those He loves. He reveals Himself to us through the revelation of the natural world around us and through the special revelation of His Holy Word. He comes to us in dreams and visions. He speaks to us in times of joy and in times of sadness, such as the birth of a newborn baby or the death of a loved one. He impresses thoughts on us as we pray in His presence.

Jesus spent a great deal of time in the presence of His Father to hear from Him. This was imperative to His mission here on earth: “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30 NASB). His humble obedience led to His death on the cross (Philippians 2:8) and resulted in salvation for all humankind.

Part of communication with God is taking the time to listen. If you believe in Jesus, His Spirit dwells within you. He is in your heart, mind, and soul. He is there to guide, teach, and convict. Paul tells us to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). He is already present. We just need to remain sensitive to His leading. To be filled is to be fully submitted to His voice.

Pray daily that you will be yielded to the Holy Spirit. I like to say the following prayer every day: “Thank you, Holy Spirit, for dwelling within me. Let every thought I have, every word I speak, and every decision I make be according to your will and not my own.”

In the busyness of this world, we need to be proactive about asking the Lord for guidance. Sometimes we aren’t given the time to wait for as clear an answer from the Lord as we’d like to have. Nevertheless, we must trust that God will be faithful to show us His will in our lives—if we seek Him daily and choose to listen closely.

As God told Isaiah and the people: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3 NIV).

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Can You Distinguish the Voice of God? – encouragement from Lee Ann Mancini on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lee Ann Bio PictureAbout the author: Lee Ann Mancini is an adjunct professor at South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary. She is the author of the Sea Kids book series and an executive producer of the new Sea Kids animation series.

Lee Ann’s book, Forever with Jesus, teaches children how wonderful heaven is: no more tears, pain, or suffering. When their neighbor passes away, the children in the story learn that they do not have to fear death, because their belief in Jesus guarantees they will live forever with Him.

Join the conversation: Have you heard from God lately?

Love Songs

by Christina Rose

For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

Spring is here, heralding in blossoming trees, blooming flowers, new babies, sunny skies, spring showers, and fresh hope for the new year. As a tiny child, I watched my mother spend hours on a cold autumn day digging holes to bury bulbs in the ground. When spring arrived, those little bulbs would burst forth with a spectacular colorful display of daffodils, tulips, and crocus. In the early spring mornings, the robins would perch on the fence by my mother’s flowers, bursting with love songs of God’s glory and giving voice to the joy it is to be alive.

We sang as well: my father sang in the choir, while my mother sang with us children in the pews. As we grew older, we were introduced to love songs at dances and weddings, where beautiful melodies would inspire people to fall in love. New parents are so filled with love they can’t help but sing over their babies with joy. I cherish memories of the many hours I sang my babies to sleep as I rocked them by my window that overlooked San Francisco bay.

As my daughters grew up, my songs became less frequent as they became busy with their own lives. Then my songs were suddenly silenced by my father’s suicide. While I never lost my faith, I did lose my joy. The days felt long and my sleep was constantly interrupted by bouts of anxiety attacks, wondering when the next unexpected tragedy might strike. My marriage then ended, I imagine partly because if I couldn’t find peace within, how could I find it with someone else?  Now the anxiety in caring solo for two young daughters increased my already overloaded night watch of keeping the darkness at bay.

My daughters grew up to be successful and independent. As I grew in faith, I was called to write. That process included many trials, like making seven moves in seven years. One daughter joined me, which was a great comfort, but recently she chose to move far away.

I felt lost. I couldn’t understand what God was up to. As I sat looking at the Rockies, I called out, “God, I’ve done everything you wanted me to, what do you want me to do now?”

A soft whisper answered, “Go to church”.

As I entered Cherry Hills Community Church for the first time, the amazing worship band was leading everyone in song. Thousands were on their feet, with hands in the air, singing passionate songs of praise. Before long, I was singing along with them like a wannabe Christian Rockstar.

And then an amazing thing happened – my nightly anxiety attacks left me. The fear had gone, and instead I was awakened by beautiful worship songs. One of my favorites is “Raise a Hallelujah” by Bethel Music. It expresses the idea that our praise can actually be a weapon against the things that cause us anxiety. Praise is an act of trust in the character and power of God.

Like the little bulbs that spend the winter under the pressure of the dark earth, God can help us burst out of the heavy darkness to sing for joy and bloom for His glory. He gives the gift of song to all creatures of the earth– so we can praise Him and sing love songs to one another.

God’s love endures forever. If you have lost your song, pray that God will lead you to others who can help you sing again.

“But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge,  the God who shows me unfailing love.” (Psalm 59:16-17 NLT)

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Love Songs – encouragement from Christian Rose on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

christina roseAbout 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. A devoted mom of two daughters and great aunt to over 40 nieces and nephews, Christina loves spending time in nature and hosting gatherings for family and friends.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story. Her marriage in shambles, 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 that is available to us all, especially those who are in need of hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: What songs help you sing for joy in this dark time?

To the Mother of the Would-Be Graduate

by Patti Richter

Out for a morning walk last week, I stopped to greet a neighbor from a safe, COVID-19-inspired distance. When I inquired about her well-being during these trying days, she burst into tears. Her daughter, she explained, is a high-school senior—was a high-school senior. Everything is upended in their world. And a graduation celebration is nowhere to be seen in the blurry picture.

Though it’s been ten years since my youngest child’s graduation, I totally understood. These commencement ceremonies mark a new beginning for our children, and they may further serve as an invisible book-end to Volume I of motherhood. The parenting journey that began with a stack of diapers and swaddling blankets reaches a pinnacle at the toss of a tassel.

When my son donned a satin robe and mortarboard to receive his college diploma, he thought it was no big deal, just a necessary bit of pageantry. I, however, considered it monumental, a milestone for both of us. I wanted to see his tassel swing with each of his long-legged strides across the stage. And I’d begun celebrating weeks ahead of the event while I addressed linen envelopes. Before sliding the announcements inside them, I rubbed my index finger across the gold-embellished emblem atop each one.

Motherhood usually begins with celebration, as it should. Friends and family come together to shower the mother-to-be with things she will need—about a dozen pages of store registry items these days. But when the baby arrives, the new mother may soon realize the astounding array of items filling the nursery has given her a false sense of confidence. The room is equipped, but is she?

Children have the power to turn their parents into desperate creatures. At first, we’re sleep-deprived. Then we move from that phase to a long succession of others, as if jumping from one stone to the next across an incredibly wide creek. But desperation drives prayer, which means that raising children may compel us to pray more earnestly and more often.

Mothers are well-acquainted with fear and trembling brought on by children and their circumstances, whether real or imagined. Seeking God in prayer will keep our hearts from fainting over any offspring-induced distress. And reading His Word relieves our fears and anxieties as we ingest His wisdom and promises.

The last chapter of Proverbs includes a long passage praising the qualities of a godly woman. It further suggests the attire she needs to run well in this long-distance marathon of motherhood: “strength and dignity,” which help her to “laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25 NIV).

In the future, if not now, “Her children arise and call her blessed” (Prverbs 31:28 NIV). However, it’s the next verse that likely holds the key to her success: “A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30 NIV).

For the mother with a heavy heart over postponed or canceled plans that would have celebrated your child’s milestone (graduations, weddings, etc.), may you experience God’s comfort in your loss. Psalm 94:19 NIV says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”

Meanwhile, please remember the closing verse of Proverbs, which may indeed include another kind of graduation ceremony:

Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.                                                                                                                                     Proverbs 31:31 NIV  

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To the Mother of the Would-Be Graduate – Patti Richter on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Patti Richter headshot 2017-1nAbout the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She writes and edits global mission stories for The Gospel Coalition and her faith essays appears at BlueRibbonNews.com.

Patti is the co-author of Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of SufferingIt is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: Have important milestone events been canceled in your family this spring? How are you managing the loss?

The Card with a Cross

by Louise Tucker Jones

 “I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand…” Isaiah 51:16 (NIV)

 It was my first time to speak at a Christian Women’s Club and I was a little nervous. I had never shared my testimony in such a format—telling about the difficulties in my life and how God brought me through them. Nor had I ever given a public message of salvation or offered a prayer to pray and become a Christian. I was a novice and it was a little scary.

I wondered how the story of how I coped with my middle son’s death, my youngest son’s disability and heart disease, and my own experience with clinical depression could touch someone’s heart. I thought they would walk out and say, “Whoa, glad that wasn’t me!” But it didn’t happen that way.

At the end of my testimony, I held up a card that each woman had been given when she arrived. As instructed, I asked them to fill out the card then hand it to me on their way out the door. I also asked if they would draw a cross in the corner if they asked Jesus to come into their heart that very day.

Many women stopped on their way out to chat, compliment, or even sympathize as I smiled bravely, thankful the talk was over. Then it happened. A lady placed a card in my hand with a small cross sketched in the upper corner. I couldn’t believe it! God had actually used my words to draw someone to Himself. I had never felt such an awesome experience.

I have spoken at many public venues since that day. But it still amazes me when I find that my message at a retreat or conference or my words on paper have been used by God to draw someone to Him. Each decision is like a love message from God, telling me over and over that He can use any happening in my life to help others.

Though I would never compare myself to the apostle, Paul, his life is a perfect example of this. He was shipwrecked, imprisoned, beaten, and more, yet he kept preaching and speaking for the Lord, even writing letters to Christians from a prison cell. He never quit proclaiming Christ’s love or telling about the difficult things in his life that God used for others’ good.

Some of us have heart-breaking stories to share, yet we are often tempted to tell only the good things, being fearful that we will make God appear unfaithful through turbulent trials. But in truth, everyone is going through something difficult, and they need to know there is a God who will trudge through that deep valley with them. That He will bring them through the pain, the heartache, and even tragic events in life.

I am honored that God chose me to shine a light for someone walking through a dark tunnel that I once traveled. And in spite of the loneliness or pain that comes my way, I can know that God will bring good from it. Not that the incident was good. But God can and will use it for His glory.

Then, like Paul, we can proclaim: “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NIV).

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The Card with a Cross – encouragement from Louise Tucker Jones on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Louise Tucker JonesLouise Tucker Jones is an author, speaker and columnist. Her poignant life stories will touch your heart or tickle your funny bone. Having a son with Down syndrome, Louise coauthored the Gold Medallion award-winning book, Extraordinary Kids. Married to Carl 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands.

Extraordinary Kids: Nurturing and Championing Your Child with Special Needs, provides parents with vital information to help celebrate, nurture, and prayerfully champion their special-needs children.

Join the conversation: How has God used you to shine light into the lives of others?

 

 

Our Refuge And Strength

by Sheri Schofield

“Um, what is this?” I wondered. I had just walked into my office. There, in the middle of the room, stood a tacky old stroller that looked like it was from the 1950s. Its dull metal and frayed fabric stood in sharp contrast to my lovely peach and burnt orange office sanctuary.

Was my husband, Tim, trying to hint at something? Were two grown children, plus three grandchildren not enough? My thoughts went to Abraham and Sarah who had Isaac when they were in their nineties. No. That couldn’t be it! But what was he up to?

That’s when Tim brought the chameleon home. A chameleon is a kind of lizard that changes colors, kind of like the GEICO gecko, only bigger – but it doesn’t do commercials. I was okay with that. Tim put it in a small terrarium. It seemed harmless enough . . . unless . . .

“Honey, why is there a stroller in my office?” I asked with suspicion.

“Oh, it’s for the chameleon,” he said. “It has to get some sunshine every day so that it won’t get a vitamin D deficiency, and I can’t carry the terrarium easily. So I am going to put the chameleon in the stroller and take it along with me when we go for walks.”

Uh-huh. I could just see it now. Tim and I walking along our mountain road and some neighbors jog by.

“Oh! Let me see!” they say, smiling and coming over to check if we have a new grandchild.

The chameleon starts to turn brown and fades into the dirt in the terrarium.

The neighbors’ eyebrows go up. “Uhhhhh… It’s a lizard!” The neighbors look at us peculiarly and hurry away. Now we have a reputation! We’re The Lizard People.

I called my daughter, Christy, who immediately sided with her dad. “Mom, we’re moving back to Montana next year. My dog and I will go on walks with Dad and his chameleon!”

Great. She was no help at all!

I love being a mother. But not to a lizard! My maternal instincts are reserved for my human children and grandchildren. For them, my love is wider than the ocean, higher than the sky, and, as Randy Travis puts it, “deeper than the holler”.

As I write, our nation is being swept with a pandemic. My heart is sharply focused on my own children and grandchildren. Our son, Drew, is a nurse manager at a large hospital, where they are treating growing numbers of virus victims with inadequate equipment and supplies. My prayers focus first on Drew and his nursing staff each day, our front-line warriors.

Many mothers around this country are also praying non-stop for their children during this crisis. Many are wondering, “Where is God?”

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Our Refuge And Strength – encouragement from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Israel was about to go through a time of suffering. The prophet Isaiah received this word from the Lord: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior”(Isaiah 43:2-3 NIV).

God does not promise we will not suffer. But He is with us in the suffering, holding us close to His heart of love, comforting us. He hears our prayers. So I am storming heaven for my children daily, trusting that God is in control, whether I see it or not. I can feel His presence. Emmanuel – God with us.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. The LORD Almighty is with us. Psalm 46:1-3,7 NIV

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: How has God revealed Himself to you in these dark days?

A Deeper Romance

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone.”              Song of Solomon 2:10-11 ESV

Hollywood is rife with romantic notions and many of us have taken our cue from Tinseltown as to what qualifies.

It’s usually a flashy ordeal with diamonds, dancing and beautiful people in beautiful clothes. Romance, the movies tell us, is about gifts and musicians, flowers and fireplaces, fancy foods and fantastic footwork.

As our anniversary approaches every spring, my husband grumbles that I’m not a normal woman. If only my idea of romance lined up with Hollywood, it would be easier to woo and wow me!

On the one hand, I’m not that hard to please. On the other hand, it takes everything he has.

I don’t wish for diamonds or pearls; in fact, I’d prefer he not spend any money at all. What I want is his attention, a long walk, and a real conversation.

For me, it’s the relationship that creates the romance. Romance that works begins when we say, “good morning” and builds as we work through the daily challenges of paying bills and living life. It’s the together part that makes the romance happen. If we haven’t been together in overcoming the obstacles of the day, it’s impossible to impress me with a rose and cheesecake.

God is a romantic. You can tell by His extravagance and the lengths to which He goes to get our attention.

As I sat stewing once over my prayer time, frustrated that certain situations had not worked out to my desiring, I was determined to fret and scowl. As I read His Word, however, He whispered to me again about the depth of His love and reminded me of His unchanging character.

As I prayed, I looked out through the doors of my deck at the muted greens of the spring forest against the gray sky of a rainy day and marveled at His handiwork and the gift of this view. The greens and browns of the freshly budded woods were interrupted with flashes of blue or red or yellow as birds alighted on the feeders before returning to nests hidden in the trees. Their songs warbled and whistled to me as they grew bold through the camouflage of their platforms.

Ever so slowly, the romance of creation quieted my heart and spoke to my soul of a deeper relationship, wooing me to see beyond the transient troubles of the day to the great heart of God, to begin to ask for greater gifts than quick answers.

The God of Creation desires my attention, my attendance, my full focus. He crossed the greatest of divides and gave His only Son to bring me safely into His fold. Because He created me, He knows the secrets of my own soul better than I.

Just as Hollywood has many plastic notions of romance, so the world has many misconceptions about a relationship with God and often these ideas pollute my own thinking. He’s not a genie in a bottle. He’s not the great wish-granter in the sky. He’s not about making my life easier or taking orders for my best life now.

He is about a deeper story, a greater adventure, an eternal romance that began before I was born and will continue into a place where there will be no more false notions, no Hollywood hoaxes, no cheap imitations of grace. And He wants me beside Him on this adventure.

On the one hand, it’s not that hard. On the other hand, it takes everything I have.

The romance of God calls to me and I will follow into the deep, deep heart of the greatest story ever told.

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A Deeper Romance – thoughts on #GodsLove 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: How has God romanced you lately?

Parenting Can Have Its Moments

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

One Sunday afternoon, as I tackled the pile of dishes in the kitchen, I heard a distinct dripping sound coming from the foyer. Upon investigation, I found a large puddle on the tile floor. The ceiling above it was bowed with water. Where was all that water coming from?

I dashed up the stairs to find the hallway bathroom sink running full-force, plug down, water cascading over the edge like Niagara Falls. The bathtub was also plugged up and nearly filled to capacity. I shut the faucets off but could still hear water running. A quick check revealed the master bathroom had been rigged to overflow as well.

I knew there could be only one culprit—make that two—THE TWINS. I marched into their room to find them up on the top bunk surrounded by every stuffed animal in the house. “Hi Mommy!” my four-year old daughter cheerfully greeted me. “We’re playing Noah’s ark! Joseph is Noah, and I’m his wife!”

Apparently, with the animals safely aboard, they were just sitting back, waiting for the flood.

Motherhood has its moments, right? We had four children in the space of 3 ½ years. I could curl your hair with stories from those early days. Someday I’ll write a book.

Whenever I read James, I have to wonder if he was a parent. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4 NASB).

This verse should be stamped on the forehead of anyone attempting to raise a family. Experiencing trials? It’s not a question of if, but when.

Consider it all joy, my brethren…

How much joy did I experience as I mopped the floors that day? There was no cheerful whistling nor a single happy thought as I repeatedly wrung out my mop, I can assure you. But is that what James meant by joy?

A look into the grammar of the original language reveals that James was identifying the type of joy a person should have. It is a state of being, not an emotion. If it were, we could equate joy with happiness. But seriously—who could possibly be happy about spending time reserved for a Sunday afternoon nap soaking up gallons of water? Not this girl.

Joy is something deeper, more consistent than what certain circumstances would allow. It can be had in any situation, because it is a steady, thankful trust in a God who uses even the hard things for His glory. It is not so much of an emotion, but rather a way of thinking. It is the lens through which we should view everything this world throws at us.

Trials are an opportunity for us to put the viewpoint of joy into practice.

The testing of your faith produces endurance…

There’s something else in James’ exhortation worth noting: “…the testing of your faith produces endurance…” How do trials like water dripping out of a ceiling test our faith?

What we believe about Him is the content of our faith. In His kindness, God allows trials for the purpose of testing those ideas and revealing what we need to reevaluate—in a good way! Trials grow our understanding of Him.

So, next time a trial comes down the pike, think: how is God revealing Himself? What He may be showing you can produce endurance in your ability to trust Him. Even the little challenging moments of parenting can have a real impact on our spiritual well-being.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.                                                                                             2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NASB

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Parenting Can Have Its Moments – 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: Do you have a parenting trial story? Please share! (Surely I’m not the only one!!)

 

 

What Do Our Kids See in Us?

by Janet Perez Eckles

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.             Philippians 4:6 NASB

I sat at the kitchen counter, wrinkled tissue in hand. I thought I had no more tears to cry. But still, they flowed. With no warning, an incurable retinal disease had robbed my eyesight. I had sunk into a dark pit of gloom and desperation. With no treatment surgery or medication available, my hope had vanished along with the motivation to continue with life.

At 31, everything had turned upside down. Tormenting thoughts about my inability to care for my three-, five-, and seven-year-old sons kept me awake at night.

I dabbed my tears with the edge of my pillow case, and asked God for answers. I begged Him to heal my blindness and for a hint of hope to return.

He answered. He granted what was important. And He did so in an unexpected and a beautiful way.

One morning, I ran my fingertips along the side of the bed to find my way out of my bedroom. I followed the wall toward my three-year-old’s room. His whimper echoed in the hallway. I can’t find my puppy,” he said.

Once in his room, I extended my arms toward him, and kissed his chubby cheek. “We’ll find him.” I lifted his blanket and my fingers found the soft stuffed animal.

But finding a simple item didn’t compare to the needs my sons would have as they grew up. They needed a Mom who could see.

Lord, help us, I prayed.

God heard my cry. The day after that incident, Mom came to visit. She sat beside me on the couch. “This is what we’ll do,” she said. “I’ll move in with you.” She squeezed my hand with her thin fingers. “I’ll be your eyes,”

Her words caressed my aching heart, filling it with gratitude.

She left her comfortable condo and moved in a room in our home. With her loving flexibility, we established a routine. Years swept by. Her hair is now snow white, and at 90 lbs. and 4’9”, her love is as big as the city in which we live.

More than taking on some chores for the family, she taught me the value of selfless love.

She recently turned 91 and hasn’t lost the spark in her voice that exudes confidence in the Lord. It’s even more evident now, as we face the current circumstances that have shaken our world. Her mind is sharp, and her faith is strong. Her trust, peace and joy remain.

And what remains in my heart is the desire to give that same gift to my own sons. In the midst of adversity, I want to imitate my Mom, living out Philippians 4:6 (NASB) before them: “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.”

My prayer has changed. Asking for a healing of my blindness isn’t my main priority anymore. I place these requests before the Lord instead:

Lord, grant me enough faith so my sons can see me praising God even when all falls apart. Help me to express gratitude for big and small things. Show me, Lord, how to erase fear and worry with my words that echo Your promises. Even when I cannot see tomorrow, will you show me how to embrace Your peace for today? And as my sons grow up and lead their own families, will You remind them life is not about seeing our surroundings, but about allowing others to see your love in us.

TWEETABLE
What Do Our Kids See in Us? – encouragement from Janet Perez Eckles on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

janet perez ecklesAbout the author: Janet Perez Eckles is an international speaker, author and founder of J.C. Empowerment Ministries. Through her books and conference messages, she empowers thousands to overcome fear, conquer worry and live triumphantly.

Janet’s book,  Hola, Happiness: Finding Joy by Dancing to the Melody of God’s Word is a brief Bible study to nudge you to the next level of triumph and joy. It is packed with deep reflections and answers from God’s Word. No matter what you face–disappointment, fear, heartache, shame, insecurity, sorrow–you will say “Hola” to happiness, peace, and the joy for which God created you.

Join the conversation: Is there someone in your life who has expressed love through their service?

 

Choose Hope!

by Stacy Sanchez

Blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.”                                                                                                      Jeremiah 17:7 NLT

Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.                                                                                                                                                         ~Helen Keller

“Hope Ashley will be her name!” I decided right then and there, lying on the table as the sonogram tech wiped the gel off of my pregnant belly. She had just revealed that I was having a girl. The tech was so certain of the babies’ gender that she bet me a trip to Hawaii on it. (I should have taken that bet.)

At nineteen, I was not ready to be a mother. I was living at home with my parents without a way to support a baby. The father of my child – who had just pledged his undying love to me the week before – decided he didn’t want any part of this and left me to figure it out on my own.

“I choose hope,” I repeated over and over to myself. Probably to make sure that I believed it. “Please, God, bring hope from these ashes.”

Four months before the sonogram appointment, I sat in a doctor’s office waiting to hear the results of my pregnancy test. As the doctor walked into the room, I could tell by the look on his face the answer. Emotionless, he announced, “You’re pregnant. Don’t make this into a bigger problem. Get an abortion and get on with your life. Schedule it at the front desk.” I didn’t know how to respond, so I didn’t. Silently, I hung my head in shame. Across my chart the doctor wrote in large letters: ABORTION, and exited the room, leaving me alone to dress.

There was no sleep to be had that night. I didn’t want to have an abortion. I believed abortion to be wrong. But I didn’t know what else to do. As I tossed and turned under the embellished sheets that expressed my youth, my mind raced with what people would think of me. I was a “good girl”. It would be shocking to learn that I was pregnant. (Thirty-three years ago, there was a stigma placed on a teenage, unwed mother – especially among Christians.) And, now, I had an abortion scheduled?

Although I may have been too young to be a mother, I made up my mind that I was going to have my baby. Thankfully, I had a supportive mother and church that rallied around me. They became “Jesus with skin on” for me. They loved me through this and helped me learn to love myself again.

“It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me” (Philippians 3:12-14 CEB).

God uses our mistakes and hard times to grab hold of us and not let go. He wants us to grow up into Him for his glorious purposes. I held on tight and chose to hope. Everyday? No. Was it easy? Heck no! It was crazy hard. But, I chose, very purposefully, to be hopeful. Not a Pollyanna type of hope, but one that balanced realism with optimism. A hope that recognized my present difficulty and believed that somehow, someway, God would bring good from this. And, he did!

Just like the many redemption stories in the Bible, God resurrected the ashes of my life for his glory. I not only gave birth to a precious baby BOY!—yes, boy!—but when I was eight months pregnant, God brought my husband into my life. Together, we went on to become a family of seven.

I wish that I could say that I learned all that needed to know about God’s faithfulness in those hard days. Instead, I have given God more opportunities to prove himself faithful than I want to admit. But, in turn, He has given me many more reasons to be hopeful and to pursue it.

Lord God, when we are experiencing hard times, please help us to choose hope, even when everything seems bleak and utterly hopeless. Only you can take our mistakes and turn them into something beautiful. You bring hope from ashes and turn sadness into exceeding joy. Father, you have proven yourself faithful over and over. Thank you! Help us to put our trust in you – again. Amen.

TWEETABLE
Choose Hope! – #Encouragement from Stacy Sanchez on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

stacy sanchezAbout the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: How has God proved Himself faithful to you?

Teach a Mom to List

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

Teach a man to fish, it’s all good. But teach a kid a card trick and be prepared to watch it nonstop for like 12 years.

Like, “Is this your card?”…until college.

Understand, you have to make time for that. It’s one of the reasons schedule-juggling is trickier with kids. I’m not a structured person by nature, so in those years of raising mine, to-do lists became my friends. And enemies.

On any given day, I made a gargantuan list, then had to quick-plan for a dozen things that weren’t on it. Weren’t on any list. Ever. Who can plan, for instance, for an away-from-home potty-training disaster you’re forced to clean up with three Wal-Mart receipts, last week’s church bulletin and a Kit Kat wrapper (give me a break).

Our time raising children is short. I can get philosophical about it, for sure. I’ve long said, when one door opens, another door opens. And then also a side door. All the doors. And they never close. Because you have kids.

I wonder how many months of my life I spent closing doors behind this or that kid running in or out. I had five babies in seven years. That means in a 12-year span I probably slept four hours. Total. Essentially, I traded sleep for door-closing. It’s a thought that makes me smile. And it makes me want a nap.

Ever feel like your soul needs a nap? Jesus knew you would. He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:28-30, CSB).

Rest for our bodies? We do have to make time for that. But soul rest is at least as vital. Anytime we find ourselves feeling burned out, weary, burdened—heavy—it’s time to step back and listen to Jesus’ call to “Come to me.” It’s an open door. And to our delight, it stays open.

When you’re frantically sorting one to-do list from another (is this your card?), and when your mind feels cluttered and weighted down with challenges and stresses, remember your Savior’s reminder that He waits for you. He will be your respite, your comfort, your encouragement. All you have to do is come.

Come to Him in prayer. Come to Him in worship. Come to Him through His Word. Give Him the first-fruits of your time and you’ll find the perspective you’re looking for. So often all the urgent to-dos sort themselves out as we remember His call to come, to lay down a heavy, burdensome yoke we’ve placed on ourselves, and exchange our plan for the just-fits comfort of His will. Would you believe, even when an unexpected disaster thrusts itself upon your list, you can still smile. His easy yoke comes with grace, joy, peace—everything you need for a genuine “successful existence.”

Responding to His “come to me” should top my every list. Relief from my own exhausting yoke. Strength and renewal under His.

As for my other lists, however, I’m still fishing through those. Guess I’m a work in progress. The other day I went to the store without my list and was proud of myself when I only took twelve thousand laps around the grocery section looking for something that wasn’t even on it.

“I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord.   Ezekiel 34:17 NASB

TWEETABLE
Teach a Mom to List – encouragement with a touch of humor from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novel, Turtles in the Road, co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: What is weighing you down today?