Beauty Born of Fire

by Maureen Miller

You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials, so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” I Peter 1:6- 7 CSB

As far as my eyes could see… skeletons.

The lodgepole pines poked heavenward, naked and marred—their lifeless forms telling a harrowing tale. Compared to the majesty of the Grand Tetons, these were a stark contrast. Nothing appeared beautiful to me—at least not until I observed more closely, leaned in to listen more carefully.

Right on cue, our guide, perhaps sensing my horror, continued. “See the wildflowers dotting the forest floor? And among them, the saplings—infant lodgepoles pushing toward the sun? These are just some of the results born of fire, because life is resilient and returns in extraordinary ways after the purging caused by destruction.”

And indeed, as I looked more intently, I saw them—signs of new life, and I sighed relief. After all, our guide knew so much more than me, shedding fresh light on my previous and limited perspective.

In reality, these unique coniferous trees possess a powerful life-preserving quality. Wildfires are not uncommon in the arid environment of the northwest, sometimes raging for weeks, destroying hundreds, even thousands, of acres of land.

Lodgepole pines, however, produce serotinous cones. Unlike other conifers, their cones must be exposed to intense heat in order for their outer coverings to open, releasing the seeds inside. In this manner, life continues, and beauty is born anew, even after the devastation of forest fires.

Beauty from literal ashes. New life from a refining fire.

With this broadened understanding, I observed differently—marveling at God’s creative hand even in the stark contrasts. The charred, lifeless lodgepoles no longer appeared to me mere skeletal remains but, rather, a source of rebirth—with wildflowers and saplings dancing joy among them.

And such is true for the child of God. Beauty is born when we endure the Refiner’s fire. Though one faces hardship in sickness and earthly sorrows, as she looks to God’s Son, her suffering and resurrected Savior, she can endure. More, she blossoms with fruitfulness that comes from abiding in the Holy Spirit—including love, joy, peace, and patience (Galatians 5:22, 23).

As we lean in, listening to God and applying His Word, our perfect Guide, our limited and narrow perspective is transformed, no matter the suffering we endure. We recognize that, despite what may have at first seemed destructive, God works through hardships, turning even the most harrowing life situation into a true tale of His interceding and gracious goodness.

And remember—others are observing our lives. As they hear our stories of endurance despite suffering, marred though we may be, they, too, will witness much more than sorrow and pain. After all, an abiding life in Christ is a stark contrast to one apart from Him, and a Christian’s testimony is proof that, while we yet dwell in an imperfect world stained with sin, God is faithful. Not only is He present with us in our suffering, but He suffered Himself that all might receive new life.

Because beauty born of hardship shines forth as pure gold, pointing others heavenward to the saving power of Jesus, resulting in praise, glory, and honor to His name.

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

About the author: Maureen Miller has a heart to convey God’s faithfulness and love to a world in need. She blogs regularly at www.penningpansies.com and is finishing her debut novel The Bible by the Bed, under contract with Redemption Press. She can be found picking wildflowers in western North Carolina or playing with grandchildren and her dogs in dancing pastures, the dwelling place for her family’s Scottish Highlanders.  

Join the conversation: Has God brought gold from the ashes in your life?

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What Good Can Come from Bad News?

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

“The vet called. The tests on Max came back positive.” My husband’s words punched me in the stomach. Have you ever felt slugged by unwelcome news?

Max is our standard poodle. If I could use only one word to describe him, it would be magnificent. Max’s beautiful tail waves like a banner when he glides down the sidewalk. His coat is as thick as lamb’s fleece. When he was a puppy, we marveled the first time he watched a distant plane cross the sky. His sensitive spirit knows when to be gentle and when to play hard.

Max also impresses strangers. One man ran out of his house to get a closer look. Another pulled his truck over to ask about him. Perfect strangers want to have their pictures taken with him.

The vet had tested Max for Masticatory Muscle Myositis (MMM). I’d hoped Max’s issues were a side effect of Addison’s disease. The descriptions of MMM are too horrible to fathom.

Knowing Max’s challenging health issues, you might think we wish we’d chosen another puppy. Not at all.

As my daughter said, even if MMM takes Max, it has been worth it to have him. We wouldn’t trade a few years with Max and all of his problems for decades with another healthy dog. A day doesn’t pass without him making us laugh. He has taught us much about love, life, and faith.

Our son Brant expressed how Max’s challenges have refined his faith. “I had to ask myself if I’ve really trusted God with my eternity,” he said. “Because if I can trust Him with something that big, shouldn’t I be able to trust Him with Max?”

Brant was expressing the truth of 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NASB): “…you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Fire purifies gold so that it will gleam for a little while on earth. Trials purify faith so it will sparkle for eternity. Watching Brant’s faith shine has filled me with joy. We have great hope God will transform Magnificent Max into our Miracle Max. But, no matter how this turns out, Max has been worth it!

If we can say that about Max now, imagine how we will respond when we are finally able to see how God used our temporal pain to bring us eternal joy. Grieving a loss, a beloved family member, friend, or even a pet, is not wasted when it polishes our faith. With the Psalmist, we learn to say “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25, NIV).

God cares about our challenges and uses them to polish our faith. One day, we will see the result and gasp—it was worth it!

Max was only two when we learned his diagnosis. He is eight now and though he has experienced some setbacks, he continues to fill our lives with joy. He is indeed our Miracle Max.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT).

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What Good Can Come from Bad News? – encouragement 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: What trials have you experienced that ultimately grew your faith?

“Have a Nice Thanksgiving Life”

by Christina Rose

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.                                                                                         Psalm 100:4 NIV

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.  For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.                       Psalm 95:2-3 NIV

 My dad was a dreamer and had big plans for his family.  While working for the government in Washington, DC, one day he noticed a job posting to enlist in the foreign service.  I had just finished sixth grade when he came home from work and announced that we would be moving to Bogota, Colombia. Our family of six was so excited. Within a few short months we were embarking on a life-changing adventure.

We spent six exciting years traveling throughout South America. Our three years living in Rio de Janeiro were the most memorable. We lived in a beautiful home on the water and went to the International School, where we met students from all over the world. Rio has many spectacular beaches; surfing after school was our favorite pastime.

After graduation, we returned to the United States, but my brother Chuck could not forget Karla, his high school sweetheart from Rio. He drove an ice cream truck for countless hours and saved every penny to join her in Colorado where she attended college.  They were married shortly thereafter. Then an unthinkable tragedy struck.  Karla’s brother Brek, who had recently married, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Brek was a handsome, blond, blue-eyed soccer star who was loaded with optimism and love for Christ. Shortly after the diagnosis, it was discovered that Brek’s wife was pregnant with what would be their only child. As Brek’s condition worsened, his daughter was being formed in her mother’s womb. Beautiful little Keah came into the world nine months later.

For more than 15 years Brek’s wife Kim devotedly assisted her husband as his body deteriorated. By the end of his life, he was confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak, walk, talk, feed or bathe himself. He was fed with a syringe of blended food through his stomach, yet through it all he never complained. His unwavering faith inspired all around him.

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day”  (2 Corinthians 4:15-16 NIV). 

A friend rigged a keyboard so that he was able to use his computer with a muscle in his left leg. “Brek’s Briefs” were newsletters about his life. When I consider the many hours that it required to painstakingly type each brief, I am in awe of his perseverance.  Every brief was insightful and encouraging. They reminded us to approach every day with gratitude, knowing himself that any day could be his last.  He closed each brief with “Have a nice Thanksgiving life.”

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).

The last time I saw Brek was a few years before he passed. We both attended a large family wedding full of dancing and celebrating.  Brek could only look on in silence with his devoted wife by his wheelchair. He glanced at me for a moment and instantly I could see that sunny, blond kid with the big grin from my childhood days in Rio. He seemed to smile at me while the steadfast light of devotion streamed from his eyes.

In his memory, I pray that all of you will “Have a nice Thanksgiving life.”

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV

TWEETABLE
“Have a Nice Thanksgiving Life” – insight from Christina 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: How had God refined your faith lately?

Getting Out of God’s Way

by Kathy Howard

Our great God never wastes anything. No struggle is fruitless. No pain futile. No challenge in vain. God can work in and through every situation He allows into our lives – even the worst of circumstances – to bring about our good and His glory.

My caregiving journey was still fairly new when I realized God wanted to use the experience to do something in me. If I would cooperate, my relationship with my father-in-law would be a tool in His hand to shape my character and refine my faith.

When Wayne’s dad first moved in with us, he was fairly independent. But as time passed, he needed us more and more. With Wayne commuting a long distance to work, much of the responsibility logically fell to me. But Pappaw’s growing dependence exposed the rough places in my character and areas of spiritual immaturity.

So many things bubbled to the surface – like selfishness, impatience, and shallowness. Every day seemed to reveal another layer of my sinful flesh. Irritation quickly rose up when a last-minute doctor’s appointment meant I had to cancel a lunch date. And instead of responding to his occasional harsh words with gentleness and grace, I sometimes uttered sharp words of frustration.

The demands and pressures of parenting my father-in-law did not cause these sinful attitudes and actions. The relationship merely jostled my heart, causing what was already there to spill out (Matthew 12:34).

In our human weakness, we ache for our struggles to end. We long for the hardness of life to ease. Yet God wants much more for us than an easy life in this world. He wants to make us like His Son (Romans 8:28-30). He wants our lives to bring Him glory and point others to Jesus.

God will use every possible means to rid our lives of sin and shape us into the likeness of Christ. One of His primary shaping tools is trials (1 Peter 1:6-7). In God’s skillful hands, life’s difficulties and challenges perform like a chisel on our hearts and souls, shaving off sinful rough spots, cutting notches, creating gentle curves, and forming smooth bevels.

Yet, sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. Rather than submitting myself to the Master Craftsman and trusting His refining process, I fight God’s purposeful work. I doubt God’s goodness and faithfulness. I complain that He isn’t working. That He doesn’t care. That surely, He doesn’t see our plight.

Do you ever feel the same way? Too often, God’s children walk through our days near-sighted. We only see the struggles, challenges, and trials at hand, forgetting that the eternal glory awaiting us far outshines these light and momentary troubles (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Be assured, God knows your every physical need and struggle. He sees your sleepless nights, your tired muscles, and your frayed emotions. He hears your groans, your sighs, and your prayers. He is keenly aware that you are often overworked, overstressed, and overlooked. He not only knows it all, He cares. He cares that you hurt and grieve for yourself and your parents.

This temporary struggle – no matter how difficult – cannot compare to God’s eternal purposes for you and your loved ones. Keep your eyes on the prize of God’s glorious salvation (1 Peter 1:9). Rest in the assurance that God will not waste a single tear. And embrace the joy of Christ. It’s yours today.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

 Kathy HowardAbout the author: Kathy Howard‘s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents releases TODAY!! Struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? This new devotional book explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions30DaysHope_AgingParentsCover 300RGB for reflection.

You can find a sample of 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents here.

 Join the conversation: Can you see God working in the midst of your trials? In what ways have you fought God’s refining process?

Photo by Richard Jaimes on Unsplash