First Things First

by Deborah McCormick Maxey

But before you do anything, ask God for guidance. 2 Kings 22:5 MSG

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 NIV

It was the 4th of July. The lake we live on was packed with visitors and families happily celebrating together. We welcomed our son’s family and three grand dogs, one of which was a new rescue. As I pulled out boxes of lights, flags, banners, buntings, windsocks, and pinwheels, our three granddaughters were determined to use everything we had collected over the years on our pontoon boat. We were having a “Tacky Boat” party!

That is, until the twelve-year-old realized that Bubbie, the new rescue dog, was missing. Instantly everything changed. Their dad, shouting over his children’s hysterics, dividing us with separate routes with the reminder that Bubbie wore a harness with a tag. If someone found him, they would call his cell.

I was given the road route. As I ran to my car, our panic stricken twelve-year-old followed me. Windows down, we searched and called, even though Bubbie didn’t yet know his name.

When we reached the limits of where I felt a small terrier might have gone, we returned home. The indoor search crew was now outside, and we could hear their frantic voices. My granddaughter stopped me at the door, devastated. “Grammy, Bubbie’s gone. We’ll never get him back.”

“We don’t know that. He has a tag.”

“But Grammy…” She sobbed, “I shampooed him before we left so he would smell good for you. I didn’t put his harness back on because I didn’t want it to get wet.” With huge tears, and shaking hands, she turned and showed me his harness in her backpack.

“Sweetheart, God knows exactly where Bubbie is. And He knows how much we need His help.”

Before I could say another word, she dropped to her knees, clasped hands under her chin and sobbed as I prayed aloud, thanking God for hearing us and praising Him for being the Master of every situation.

He reminded me; this was a teachable moment. “Now we’ll just be still for a moment and let God speak to us about where to look. Instead of fear, we’ll say to ourselves, ‘God’s got this’.” After a few moments I said, “Let’s start where we are. Inside.”

We searched upstairs. Then down. “Grammy, I found him!”  Bubbie was curled in a tiny corner under the stairs. She called him and he still didn’t budge. Because Bubbie didn’t know his name. She scooped him up, and with a huge smile said, “Next time, Grammy, I’m praying first.”

Bingo. “Me too.”

I had prayed inwardly as I ran up the driveway. But why didn’t I think to teach her that the moment the dog went missing?

Recently our elderly, hard of hearing, dog did something he’s never done. Doc pushed open the gate. Yorkies are known for not being able to find their way home. Doc wouldn’t hear us calling. While hubby headed to the lakeshore, I went to my car. But this time instead of on the run prayers, I stopped and prayed. Eight minutes later hubby texted that Doc had treed a tempting squirrel.

That July 4th with Bubbie, I was taught, and got to teach, a freedom that is not celebrated with flags, decorations, or barbeques. I celebrate that God has given us freedom from control and panic. Freedom from anxiety.

Both times the dogs could not recognize my calls. And my heart is so grateful that God always does.

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

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

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

Join the conversation: Have you ever felt peace in the midst of a crisis?

Stillness in the Storms of Life

by Darlene L. Turner

 Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 NIV

The waves slapped the side of the boat, rocking it gently. My sister and I listened to our surroundings. Silence. Stillness. Serenity. I wondered if this is what it felt like when Jesus calmed this same sea over two thousand years ago.

It was a beautiful evening. The captain had cut the engine, and we marveled at being out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. The stars shone brightly and the lights of Tiberias, Capernaum, Tabgha and the other Galilean towns flickered in the background. Stillness.

Tears formed in my eyes as I thought about my mother and how she had planned to take this trip. It had been her dream to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. She had booked her tour and anticipated the adventure of visiting Israel’s sites. Little did she realize, it would be done through her daughters’ eyes. She would take a journey, just not the one she expected.

I held my sister’s hand as a verse popped into my head. “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s such a simple command, yet so complex.

Many times Jesus withdrew from the crowds to be still and listen to His Father. He encouraged His disciples by His example to do the same. He rebuked the wind and commanded stillness in nature. He encouraged busy Mary to be like her sister, who sat at Jesus’ feet.

This raises a question. How do we “be still” and “know God” in an age where everything moves so quickly around us? Fast-food restaurants, cell phones, text messaging, internet, credit cards, and on-line shopping all vie for our attention. We are constantly trying to keep up with the pace of everyone around us. We are over-involved in the church, our children’s school activities, sports, computer games and television. We work extremely hard to afford the biggest houses, but we’re never home to enjoy them. When will it stop?

Sometimes God allows circumstances in our lives that cause us to be still. For me, it was when our mother was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Then years later, our brother discovered he had bone marrow cancer. It was like someone had punched us in the stomach. How could this be happening twice in our family?

I wrestled with God and asked Him why He would allow this to happen to individuals who only wanted to serve Him. But while I may have struggled, my mother and brother handled it entirely differently. They both chose joy through their trials. Peace radiated on their faces.

Through those hard journeys, God taught me to wait upon Him. I realized I couldn’t control what happened, and after a heart-wrenching conversation with Him, I finally gave in. He loved them more than I did. He taught me to savor every moment.

I also realized I had neglected spending the time with God I should be. I wasn’t being still. I was so busy trying to get things done, I forgot about Him. He wanted my attention. It was time for me to give it to Him.

Just like the captain cut the engine on the boat that night, and we swayed back and forth before feeling tranquility, God uses circumstances in our lives to rock us before we can learn to be still. But when we do, He gives us a peace that passes all understanding. Even in a storm.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Isaiah 26:3 KJV

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

Abducted in Alaska (Love Inspired Suspense) by [Darlene L. Turner]

About the author: Darlene L. Turner is an award-winning and best-selling author. She lives with her husband, Jeff, in Ontario, Canada. Her love of suspense began when she read her first Nancy Drew book. She’s turned that passion into writing and believes readers will be captured by her plots, inspired by her strong characters, and moved by her inspirational message. Her debut book, Border Breach, released in April 2020 with Love Inspired Suspense. She has two books releasing in 2021: Abducted in Alaska and Lethal Cover-Up. You can connect with Darlene at http://www.darlenelturner.com where there’s suspense beyond borders

Join the conversation: Has God ever rocked you into being still?

Stop, Look, and Listen

by Sandra Julian Barker

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 NIV

People often call the traffic signal in the middle of the intersection a “stoplight.” Even though the green for “go” light and the amber for “slow and be prepared to stop” are important lights, the red for “stop” is the most important of the three. If we don’t stop when the light is red, we run the danger of a deadly crash with harm to ourselves and those around us. I guess that’s why we so often call it a stoplight.

I’m reminded of a verse in Job where Elihu says to his friend, “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders…God comes in awesome majesty” (Job 37:14, 22 NIV). Elihu was basically saying, “Job, you need to stop, look and listen — consider all the wonders God has created. He’s so awesome!”

Too often, we tend to zip through life without stopping to appreciate the beauty God has placed in the world around us. Stopping to smell the roses is not just an indulgence, it makes life more beautiful, enjoyable and worthwhile.

Then there are times we need to stop what we’re doing and reassess our lives. Does God want you to continue on this road, or does He want you to go in another direction? In the book of Jeremiah, God told His people to “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16 IV). Don’t we all want rest for our souls? A soul at rest is able to think more clearly – to see the path in front of her and examine what the next step should be.

It’s easy to get caught up in everyday life – do what has to be done and then push on to the next thing, because if you don’t do it, no one else will.

But sometimes, we need to stop and peek around the corner before we plunge ahead. Be still and whisper a prayer before taking that next step. You may need an extra dose of God’s guidance and strength to face whatever lies beyond that corner.

In Matthew 20:32-33 NIV, there’s a story of two blind men who called out to Jesus. Scripture tells us, “Jesus stopped…” and asked, “What do you want Me to do for you?” I love that question, because I believe He stands at our heart’s door and asks us that same question: “What do you want Me to do for you?”

The two blind men answered, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.” And what did Jesus do? Of course He had compassion on the men and healed them – He opened their eyes so that they could see.

What better answer can we give to Jesus when He asks what we want than to answer, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened!” I’m reminded of the first line of an old hymn, “Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me” (written by Clara H. Scott in 1895). 

Oh, to have our eyes opened to the love of Jesus, the wonder of who He is, the good ways He wants to show us and help us walk, and the joy, peace and rest He offers us along the way.

Lord, help us to stop, look and listen. Help us be still and know that you are wonderful God!

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

About the author: Sandra Julian Barker is the author of more than a dozen books, numerous magazine articles and a story in the best-selling “Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul.” She has a passion for sharing the love of Christ, encouraging hope and helping others seek God’s path of purpose in their lives.

Sandra’s latest book includes her own story of God’s grace in the face of great tragedy. She blogs at sandra-ramblingrose.blogspot.com/ and is in ministry with womenvictorious.com.

Join the conversation: What have you noticed lately when you took the time to stop, look, and listen?

Stop and Go: The Rhythm of Walking with God

by Peggy Cunningham @Inca_Writer

“… Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10 NIV

In the distance, birds chirped their morning concert. Gazing at the clock, I debated––crawl out of my cozy, warm bed or watch the sunrise through the lacy curtains. Too late to pull the covers over my head and drift back to sleep. My brain was already racing with the daily tasks at hand. And I knew rising early usually ushers me into a quiet time with the Lord––at least I hoped.

I’m not a morning person. I prefer to be quiet in the morning except for talking to the Lord. You won’t find me exercising, enjoying a morning conversation on the phone, or turning on the TV. Unless the calendar has me going out the door for an appointment, meeting, or class, I’ll relish the time at home. Now don’t misunderstand, you won’t find me on the couch. I’ll be chomping at the bit to get things done. Cleaning and laundry will most likely steal my attention from the computer that beckons me to catch up on correspondence and my writing schedule.

My friends ask how I juggle ministry, writing, and life––as a senior. A mystery to me also, but I do have help––supernatural help. I tap into that supply when I pick up my Bible and head to a cozy spot in the corner of my house. But, why don’t I rush more often to that special place?

The word “still” isn’t naturally a part of my agenda. Do you go on a guilt trip when you see a photo or article beckoning you to Be Still? I do.

In my busyness, it’s very hard for me to make the time to be still. But I need to make time to stop and focus on the One who stopped His life: leaving heaven to come to earth to die for us. As He stopped and chose us, we can stop and choose Him.

Then we are still. Then our soul finds rest. “My soul finds rest in God alone” (Psalm 62:1 NIV).

For many of us, slowing down is work. It’s natural for us to run, move, go, but it’s unnatural for us to slow down, stop, breathe. However, it’s possible to find that cozy nook anywhere–anytime and for any amount of time if we focus on God and nothing else.

There’s nothing wrong with being busy, being active, being on the go––except, if we forget to keep our passion for Him fueled, it will be all too easy to burn out and collapse.

Where I grew up, we had Stop and Go stores. We stopped, got what food we needed, filled up our tank with gas, then continued on our way.

Stop. It seems simple, but yet it’s the hardest thing to do.

We can practice these steps: Stop. Look. Listen. Breathe. Go. Stop for a few minutes or an hour, look into His face, listen to His voice, breathe in His majesty, and then go, knowing He is God.

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Stop & Go: The Rhythm of Walking with God – @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: How do you spend time with the Lord?