DONE

by Tammy Whitehurst

There comes a time when we are done. Done with crying. Done with anger. Done with bitterness. We are done. Flat out…..DONE.

We cannot afford to waste our days. Life is short. Spinning our wheels and waking up every day to a new day, but never in a new way must cease. Yes, the unthinkable happened. It was understandable to grieve. To cry. To weep and wail.

I have walked in those shoes and slid on the slippery slope of falling flat on my face. Finally, one day I gave the situation to God because I could not handle it anymore. My heart and flesh cried out for God to rescue me from the heartbreak and broken relationship.

The moment we surrender it all, He can take control and begin to work things out like we never imagined. We may never understand why something happened, but we can understand that we have a MESSiah for every single one of life’s messes, for every heartbreak, and every time we have felt like we were finished. He will cover us in peace when we seek His face.

Here is what I had to learn. Time flies and it does not return. Years pass and we never get them back. Enough precious time has been wasted. We cannot wait all of our lives for something that might never happen.

We can prevail over setbacks and emotional pain. We can move past the disbelief. The distress.

I don’t know what you’re going through today, but I do know this: God has a plan to bring you above water again. You will not drown when He is the rescuer. It might not be what you expected, but it can be more than you ever imagined.

Begin to notice the beauty of sunsets again, the sound of laughter, the chirping of birds, and the fragrance of a rose. Hold up the white flag of surrender and worship while you wait for God to unravel the tangled-up mess. Surrender all the pain and live life again.

It’s past time to seek the sunshine, plan the vacation, a day with friends, or a trip to the coffee shop. Open the doors once again and invite people for dinner. Don’t just seize those moments, squeeze those moments!

If we wait for the perfect time to begin living again, we might wait so long we run out of time. It is never too soon for a new beginning.

Battered and wounded troops—it’s way past time–let’s roll. Forward, march!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NKJV

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

About the author: As an author, blogger, and full time speaker, Tammy Whitehurst encourages and challenges audiences to live life kicked up a notch. She has been described as a hoot with a capital H! She has written articles for Lifeway magazines, Woman’s World, Mature Living, Christianity Today and many other publications. Her devotional, High Heels and Hallelujahs is a hit with women in a fast paced world. However, to those who know her best she is simply Davis’s wife, a former middle school teacher, and a proud mom to four grown kids. She struggles like the rest of us with dust, dog hair, cellulite, junk drawers, and wrinkles. You can find her on youtube and Facebook.

Join the conversation: What do you need to surrender?

Concealed Weapon

by Cherrilynn Bisbano

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Luke 8:17 NIV

My son loved to play with toy guns.  One day, after much begging, I let him play with his toy pirate pistol at the bus stop. The bus arrived. I kissed his forehead, took the toy gun and walked the short distance home. High school lunch period had just begun. Students drove past me on their way to grab a bite to eat.

I’d better hide this toy under my sweater, so no one thinks it is a real pistol, I said to myself. Just as I hid it, a car drove by with teen girls.  The look on one girl’s face was utter horror. I shrugged it off.  I did not think she saw the toy. I concealed it.

I proceeded home where a wonderful lunch awaited, prepared by my husband. As I bit into my sandwich, we heard a knock at the door. There stood two of Hampton’s finest. “Have you seen someone carrying a gun?”

My knees buckled, and I almost burst into tears. “That would be me, it was a toy, I am so sorry!” I couldn’t get the words out fast enough. He seemed to relax a bit.

“Yes, a young girl reported that there was a woman carrying what she thought was a gun toward the school. May we see it?” I showed them the orange pirate gun and promised never to bring it to the bus stop again.

“We put the school on lock down because of that toy. Maybe you should not have tried to conceal it.” The officers left, and I cried.

Are you concealing anything?

 Hatred? Adultery?  Sexual sin?

Just as I hid that toy under my sweater, I concealed an unforgiving heart toward my abusive father for a long time, which manifested itself in bitterness and self-loathing. Others around me witnessed the effects through my complaining spirit and depression. They could not see the origin of my pain. I hid it so well, I didn’t know it had embedded itself into my soul like a bloodsucking tick burrows into a dog. I prayed and asked God to show me why I was filled with angst and depression.

 Our great God, in love, showed me I still had not forgiven my biological father for abusing me. I gripped my right to fight until I saw justice served. I wanted to witness his suffering and demise.

My healing took time. I gave my pain, anger, and depression to God daily as I put my heart on lock down from the lies the evil one. Concealed Sin is nothing to play with! Bring it to your Heavenly Father. He knew the sin before you committed it. He will never shoot you down. “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Proverbs 28:13 (ESV)

That afternoon, my son exited the bus with a big smile and a hug for me. “How was your afternoon, Mommy?”

Usually, if I had a difficult day, I hid it from him. But today was different. “Let’s go have a snack and I’ll tell you!”

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

About the author: Cherrilynn Bisbano is an award-winning writer in both fiction and non-fiction. She is a coach, ghostwriter, editor, and speaker. She is honored to be a member of AWSA.

Shine Don't Whine

You can find her published in several online magazines and blogs along with books.  Her latest book, Shine Don’t Whine, released in October 2020. Cherrilynn proudly served in the Navy and Air National Guard. She lives with her son, Michael, Jr., and husband of 22 years. Cherrilynn loves Christ, Chocolate, coffee, and Cats. You will often find her on the beach sea glass hunting.

Join the conversation: How has God helped you with concealed sin?

Ties That Bind

by Nan Corbitt Allen

 “…Lay aside every encumbrance…which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” Hebrews 12:1 NASB

Recently I felt encumbered. My jeans were digging into my waistline, my shoes were pinching my toes, and my face mask got tangled up in my reading glasses. And those are only the things I’m willing to share! As I was trying to disentangle myself, this Bible passage came to mind. I realize, of course, that this word is not about physical comfort; that kind of encumbrance will inevitably get worse as I get older! This admonition from the writer of Hebrews is a metaphor, using a physical race to make a point. 

I’m not a runner, never have been, and probably never will be, but I’ve watched many races in my time as the mother of sons who participated in sporting events. These events were often about speed and endurance; for those competing, being dressed in heavy clothing, carrying superfluous weight, or wearing shoes that were too tight were just not an option. 

Some of the burdens in our lives are from the past—failures and successes. Wearing our medals or carrying our trophies, like the winner of a race, can become a burden because it’s impossible to “rest upon” our laurels. 

Disappointments and bad decisions can anchor us to our past as well. As my friend, Derric Johnson, says: “My ‘I never could,’ becomes my ‘I could never.’” In other words, just because I failed in the past doesn’t dictate a lack of success in the future.

Paul also used the race metaphor several times. In his letter to the Ephesians, he writes… “lay aside the old self…” (Eph. 4:22) “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you…” (Eph. 4:31)

Bitterness and anger are things we can do without! Holding on to anger toward someone who has done us harm is a huge weight to lug around. Usually, we who hold the grudge are the ones most afflicted by it. Extra baggage.

These kinds of encumbrances affect not only our spiritual and mental well-being, but it can influence our physical health as well. A University of Minnesota study on how fear and anxiety can damage our physical health declares, “Fear [and anxiety] weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased fertility. It can lead to accelerated aging and even premature death.”[1]

How do we throw off the encumbrances? Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

Rick Warren, the renowned author and pastor, suggests this to help us to find peace when we feel encumbered:

R—Realize nobody’s perfect.

E—Enjoy God’s unconditional love.

L—Let God handle things.

A—Act in faith, not fear.

X—Exchange your perfectionism for God’s peace.[2]

[1] https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/impact-fear-and-anxiety

[2]  https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/daily-hope/read/devotionals/daily-hope-with-rick-warren/five-ways-to-relax-in-gods-grace-daily-hope-with-rick-warren-october-7-2018-11799282.html

Cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

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

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Ties That Bind – encouragement from author Nan Corbitt Allen on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 40 years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

Nan and Dennis live in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: What keeps you from running the race well?

Guarding our Hearts When Hurt

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 NASB

The heart is a fragile yet powerful organ. Nurture and feed it well, and life and health follows. Neglecting it allows hurts to sink deep and fester. Bitterness begins to invade, which strangles our joy and peace. Suppressing or denying our hurts only leads to decay.

Instead, we need to feel with Jesus.

Perhaps that’s the difference between those who find healing and those who remain stuck, not only in their wounds, but also the byproducts of unresolved, and often fed, hurts. 

A while back, after a powerful women’s event proclaiming the freedom of forgiveness and emotional release, I talked to a woman who’d been struggling for years. Someone hurt her deeply. They betrayed her trust, abandoned her, and treated her unjustly. She had every right to feel angry, and she was.

After nearly a decade, her anger was destroying her, imprisoning her, only it didn’t show up as anger. Instead, those deep wounds presented as anxiety, depression, sorrow, and distrust. I encouraged her to grieve with Jesus, following His lead in full surrender. But she couldn’t.

No. She wouldn’t. Her injustice felt too unjust for her to let go. I suppose she thought releasing the offense would absolve her offender of guilt. She couldn’t see how she was continuously allowing him to hurt her over and over again.

She was letting him snuff out her candle. Her inner spark. What made her her. She was robbing herself of the life Christ had died to give her.

Consider the converse. Years ago, a friend called me. “Pray for my heart,” she said, explaining how she’d been wounded pretty deeply. She didn’t tell me how or by whom, nor did she need to. Instead, she asked me to help guard her candle, her inner spark, with prayer. She grieved the hurt, absolutely. But because she invited Jesus into her pain, bitterness never took root.

Some say anger is often a secondary emotion, arising from fear or pain. It’s so easy to bypass the hurt, which can make us feel weak, and jump straight to the anger, which can give the illusion of strength. But Scripture tells us, “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord” (Psalm 4:4-5, ESV).

Before we react, God invites us to pause. To ponder. And trust.

What hurts lie beneath our anger? Why do those hurts hurt so deeply?

What lies have we attached to them? We almost always do this. We’re not simply hurt because someone snubs us. No. The hurt often comes when we assign motive—“they don’t value me.”—and then a falsehood—”I’m annoying.”

Pause to prayerfully consider how that’s been true for you. Invite God to unpack your anger, your hurts, to show you everything entangled in them. Then ask Him to replace every falsehood He reveals with truth.

This is how, in part, we guard our hearts above all else, so that the well springs of life might first fill them then flow from them (Proverbs 4:23).

Is there something you need to grieve? An offense you need to let go? Will you have the courage to release it? Will you guard your candle, your inner spark, knowing all God has for you is good?

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

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Guarding our Hearts When Hurt – insight from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer Slattery

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites.

In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.

Join the conversation: How do you guard your heart?

It’s Not Okay, and I Forgive You

by A.C. Williams @Free2BFearless

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Hebrews 12:15 NLT

When someone hurts me, and they apologize, I usually respond with the same phrase: “It’s okay.” That works, right?

I don’t like saying, “I forgive you” because it ends up sounding sanctimonious. I’m not a stained-glass sort of person, so I tend to steer away from churchy vernacular.

But here’s the problem: If someone hurt me, it’s not okay.

Maybe the hurt was unintentional, maybe it wasn’t. It doesn’t matter. Hurt is never okay, and the truth of the matter is “it’s okay” and “I forgive you” don’t mean the same thing. They shouldn’t be used interchangeably, but I fear that there is a generation of Christ-followers who haven’t learned to distinguish the difference. I’m among them.

I don’t like admitting when I’ve been hurt. It feels petty. Like I’m nit-picking or being too sensitive. I think: Surely I’m mature enough to absorb a few hurt feelings.

So instead of dealing with the hurt, I pretend it isn’t there. I tell myself that no hurt was intended, so I should be happy to carry on working with or being around whoever hurt me. God commands us to forgive. So that’s what I do. They hurt me, and it’s okay.

But that’s not forgiveness. That’s denial. And it’s dangerous.

Denying that you’ve been hurt never allows you to heal. The hurt just gets hidden, stamped down in the dark recesses of your heart. Maybe you’ll be functional for a while, but the hurt won’t stay there. It puts down roots. What started as legitimate hurt at being wronged may grow into bitterness. Your heart will eventually overflow, and what comes out won’t be pretty. 

Our hearts are the core of who we are. When we speak, we speak from whatever is stored in there. Jesus said, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fill his heart” (Luke 6:45 NASB). If what’s in our heart is mercy and grace, that’s what we communicate; if it’s damage and pain, that’s what we communicate. If you’ve spent a lifetime hiding your hurt rather than facing it, your heart will be cold and resentful and afraid, and that’s not a heart God can use.

So what do you do to heal a hurting heart?

Friend, you can’t do anything. But Jesus can.

The first step to take may seem obvious, but if you’ve made a habit of hiding your hurt, it won’t be obvious to you. Your first step toward healing is to admit that you were hurt. Name it. If the hurt is some fuzzy concept, you can’t do anything with it.

If you can’t identify how someone hurt you, you can’t really forgive them. Choosing to live your life in hurt and pain is choosing a life of bondage, and you’ve put the chains on yourself.

Acknowledge the hurt. Name the hurt. Then, you can give it to Jesus.

You may not be able to address it with the person who hurt you, but you can address it with the Lord. You can recognize that how you were hurt wasn’t okay, and you can choose to forgive.

That doesn’t mean you’ll forget what happened. It doesn’t mean you will be immediately able to move on. Honestly, it may be better that you don’t, especially if you’ve come from an abusive situation. Forgiveness and restoration aren’t the same either.

Our world is full of Jesus-followers who have concealed emotional trauma all their lives because denying it was easier than confronting it. Stop hiding from your hurt. Stop ignoring that it exists. It’s time to heal. Give yourself the opportunity to do that, and be brave enough to extend it to others.

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It’s Not Okay, and I Forgive You – insight & wisdom from A.C. Williams, @Free2BFearless on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

amy c williams

About the author: A.C. Williams is an author-preneur who weaves fantastic tales about #AmericanSamurai and #SpaceCowboys, and she’s passionate about helping writers master the art of storytelling. A quirky, coffee-

Finding Fireflies

drinking, cat-loving thirty-something, she’s on a mission to help authors overcome fear and live victorious. Join her adventures on social media (@free2bfearless) and visit her website, www.amycwilliams.com.

Join the conversation: Are there hurts festering in your heart today?

That Stinking Sin

by Dena Dyer @denajdyer

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.                                  Romans 3:23-24 NIV

“What is that horrible smell?” my husband asked me after climbing into the front seat of my car.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’ve looked under the seats but there’s nothing there. Maybe something spilled?”

A day later, the smell was even worse. Desperate to find the cause, we got our brightest flashlight and looked under the hood (thinking maybe a mouse had crawled up in the engine and died). We even searched the side pockets on the car’s doors to see if some bit of food had gotten trapped.

Finally, I looked in a box of clothes I had been planning to take to Goodwill, which had been behind my back seats for a couple of weeks. And I found a small grocery sack with—wait for it—a two-week old tube of ground turkey. It had expanded and looked ready to explode. Holding my nose, I put the gaseous tube, along with the donation box in a big garbage bag and deposited into our outdoor trash can.

The next morning, as I drove to work, God nudged me. That’s like sin, He pointed out. Even small sins can become a big problem over time. At first, our sin may seem like no big deal. But over time, it poisons more of the areas and relationships in our lives, until nothing remains unaffected.

I remember when bitterness over a friend who betrayed me turned sour, affecting my ability to trust in others and risk friendships. It stank up my words and thoughts, until my husband noticed and called me out. I had felt justified in my emotions and reaction, and so I had allowed myself to become blind to its insidious, creeping nature.

But here’s the good news: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9 NIV).

I did confess my bitterness and anger to the Lord. I rejoiced that Jesus paid for that sin, and that it would not stand between the Lord and I. But the Lord did more than forgive. Over time and with His help, I forgave the person who had hurt me, releasing her to God, and I felt the freedom to pray for her and (gasp!) even wish her well.

In the illustration above, the Holy Spirit is like the flashlight, helping us search out sin and convicting us of its presence so we can confess. God has already removed our sin by the blood of Jesus. We are clean and wear His righteousness. In His grace, he has set us free.

Today, ask God what sins–big or small–are “hiding” in your own life. Then confess the wrongdoing and thank God for His forgiveness and mercy.

This blog is excerpted from Dena’s book, Grace for the Race: Meditations for Busy Moms, which is available as an e-book from online retailers. 

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Only Cats Have Nine Lives – encouragement & insight from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Clic, to Tweet)

dena headshotAbout the author: Dena Dyer is an award-winning author, speaker, and non-profit leader. She loves encouraging hurting, harried women with humor and hope. You can find her on Instagram or Facebook, or at her website.

Dena’s book, Grace for the Race,  uses real-life stories, Scripture, and gentle humor to soothe the souls of frazzled females. By being honest and vulnerable about the ways God has shown Himself to her as she’s struggled with motherhood, Dena hopes to help moms realize that they’re not alone, and they’re not crazy!

Join the conversation: Have you nursed bitterness in your heart? How did God set you free?

Deck the Soul with Boughs of Forgiveness

by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio @DrMaryAnnDiorio

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will…give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins…”   Luke 1:76-77 NASB       

CHRISTMAS!  The word evokes many feelings, depending on our experiences. For some, Christmas is a happy time, filled with beautiful memories and joyful expectations. For others, Christmas is a depressing time, a season one wants “to get over with” as quickly as possible because of bad memories associated with this time of year.

Having ministered to people for many years, I have come to the conclusion that depressing memories at Christmas time are most often related to problems of refusing to forgive. Hurts from the past become more pronounced during the Christmas season, but the reason those hurts still affect us is that we have not let go of the bitterness associated with them. In short, we have not forgiven the people who have hurt us.

Why do most people have such a difficult time forgiving? I believe the main reason is that they do not understand what forgiveness really means. So, what is true forgiveness?

LET’S LOOK FIRST AT WHAT FORGIVENESS IS NOT:

  • Forgiveness is NOT letting someone off the hook.
  • Forgiveness is NOT condoning evil.
  • Forgiven is NOT being a doormat.
  • Forgiveness is NOT having to trust again the person who hurt us.
  • Forgiveness is NOT a feeling.
  • Forgiveness is NOT an option.

NOW LET’S LOOK AT WHAT FORGIVENESS IS:

  • Forgiveness IS taking the person who hurt us off of our hook and placing him on God’s hook, then praying that God will have mercy on him.
  • Forgiveness IS acknowledging that evil was done but choosing to bear the consequences of that evil without retaliation.
  • Forgiveness IS taking charge of our emotions.
  • Forgiveness IS setting boundaries with the person who hurt us, even refusing temporary or permanent interaction with that person, if necessary.  An example would be a wife who is being beaten by her husband.
  • Forgiveness IS a decision.
  • Forgiveness IS obedience to God’s commandment to forgive.

No matter how badly we have been hurt, we must choose to forgive. It’s the best thing we can do for our own well-being. Refusing to forgive is unhealthy for us. It chains us emotionally to the person who hurt us. Forgiveness breaks that chain and sets us free.

What better time is there than the Christmas season to forgive those who have hurt us? Paul wrote the Ephesians: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32 NASB). The very essence of Christmas is the truth that God forgave humanity through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Who are we not to forgive when God has forgiven us?

So this Christmas, let’s forgive! But not just forgive. Let’s ask those whom you have wronged to forgive you. As the Word of God tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV). As long as we are on this earth, it is never too late for the healing forgiveness brings.

May we all forge happy memories this Christmas as the power of forgiveness sets us free!

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Deck the Soul with Boughs of Forgiveness – @DrMaryAnnDiorio on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Marianne DiorioAbout the author: Dr. MaryAnn Diorio loves God, people, children, and dogs, in that order. She is passionate about story and its power to transform the human heart. Dr. MaryAnn, as she is affectionately called, writes compelling fiction that deals with the deepest issues of the human heart. She and her husband Dominic are the blessed parents of two wonderful daughters, a fantastic son-in-law, and five precious, rambunctious A Christmas Homecoming (Christmas Holiday Extravaganza) by [Diorio, MaryAnn]grandchildren. Find out more about MaryAnn at http://maryanndiorio.com/.

For a heartwarming, compelling story on the power of forgiveness, you may wish to read MaryAnn’s popular novella titled A Christmas Homecoming,  available in electronic format for your Kindle, Nook, or iPad.  To view the beautiful book trailer, click here.

Join the conversation: When has forgiveness set you free?

 

Time with the Master Gardener

by Elaine Helms

We had dinner in the new home of my cousin when she moved back to town. It was a lovely evening, during the course of which she showed us around her intriguing courtyard garden. Both of us were drawn to the excellent job she had done with laying stone for sitting areas and paths. My thoughts started whirling as I considered a favorite private spot in our own backyard, where we had a lone cement bench.

It wasn’t long after that visit that we headed to home improvement stores to shop for our own artistic masterpiece.  My recently retired husband happily engaged in our new project, and we spent many weekend hours digging, leveling, dreaming, and laying stone. We planted flowering shrubs along the curvy path, then blooming plants in pots next to and behind the bench. It all created just the right vibe fit for a secret garden.

We were so excited and thought how much it looked like something at many flower shows we had attended. What a delight to sit on the bench and savor the beauty, and to be inspired to worship our Creator who created everything for our enjoyment.

Eventually, a few rainy days kept us inside. When I finally walked back out to look at it, to my horror thousands of little green weeds had sprouted, filling part of the mulched path and in between plants. I marveled at how quickly my spotless, manicured garden had changed into a plot in need of a gardener on her knees.

Three parallels to my walk with our Lord suddenly struck me as I began to pull weeds.

First, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly a voracious weed can appear seemingly out of nowhere and spoil a beautiful scene. Just like when surprising negative thoughts suddenly appear without warning. Like those pesky weeds, when allowed to linger and be nurtured, those thoughts could develop into full-fledged sin. As my garden needs faithful attention, so do my thoughts and walk with my Lord.

A little time with Jesus, the Master Gardener, allows Him to point out those weeds in my heart. Selfish ambition, pride, arrogance, and hurt feelings allowed to fester can be detrimental to my spiritual growth; but I can confess and turn from them, and know I am forgiven. “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15, NASB).

Second, the healthiest, most productive plants are those that have been fertilized and get the appropriate amount of sun. In the same way, yielding to the Spirit and knowing God in ever-deepening ways are fertilizer, water, and sunshine to a healthy and productive heart. As Paul wrote: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB).

Third, the kind of flowers, fruit, or vegetables produced in my garden totally depend on the kind of seeds that were planted. This reminded me to take care in what I plant in my heart—Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12:34b NASB).

I feel close to God when I visit with Him in the garden; but even closer when I yield my heart to His Master Gardener’s touch.

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Time with the Master Gardener – insight from Eliane Helms on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Elaine HelmAbout the author: With her passion for God, humor, vulnerability, and spiritual strength, Elaine Helms encourages audiences and readers to draw closer to God and live the abundant life Jesus came to give His followers. Prayer Coordinator for the Southern Baptist Convention for 10 years, and Prayer Coordinator for My Hope America with Billy Graham 2012-2013, Elaine has over 28 years of experience in church, national, and interdenominational prayer leadership. www.ChurchPrayerMinistries.org

God is at work all around us, doing things that only He can do.  Prayer is His plan for accomplishing His Purposes, and He invites you to join Him.  Prayer 101, What Every Intercessor Needs to Know, is a comprehensive guidebook for discovering how to pray as God intends. You’ll journey through Scripture, find inspiration in the stories of others, and learn simple and effective principles for prayer. An ideal resource for groups, Prayer 101 includes review questions for each chapter and a prayer ministry guide for churches eager to put prayer into action.

Join the conversation: How has the Master Gardener been at work in you lately?

From Bitterness to Beauty

by Ashley Lauren McClain

I recently saw a quote going around social media. “God doesn’t always change our circumstances. He sometimes changes us.”

Have you ever prayed for something with such confidence that you just knew God would do it…that it was just a matter of time before He came through and answered your prayer? I have.

My husband and I had recently walked together through a really hard season at our church. I was ready to go, and he was determined to stay. Month after month I woke with the same prayer first thing on my mind.  “God, change his heart to go, or give me peace to stay.”

Of course, I was fully confident that the Lord was going to change my husband’s heart and waited with full anticipation for Him to do so. But He didn’t. He changed my heart instead. He did that by showing me that I had allowed unresolved conflict to become bitterness.

As the writer of Hebrews encouraged his readers to live lives in holiness and peace, he also warned them of things NOT to do. Living with a root of bitterness was on this list. “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many” (Hebrews 12:15 NLT).

If you have ever lived with a root of bitterness in your life, you know that poisonous is the perfect word to describe what it does to us. My hatefulness had affected every aspect of my life, just as literal poison spreads in the body. There was no peace… in any situation. And worse, I had allowed my anger to spread to others, causing corruption in them as well.

For a long time I felt totally justified, until the Lord began to reveal the extent of my issue. As He did, He proceeded to change me, unexpectedly softening my heart towards the situation. His grace and mercy completely amazed and overwhelmed me. Had I preemptively run away from the situation, I would never have experienced His healing power. I would have missed Him taking me from bitterness to beauty and freedom that ONLY the Lord could have done. Trust me. I was very determined I would not change my mind.

There is no way to even begin to explain the beauty that is on the other side of bitterness if we are just willing to walk through the process with the Lord.

He is so kind to not let us stay there, because He has so much more for us. I will be the first to raise my hand and say that this is not easy, but I will also be the first to raise both of my hands and say “Thank you Jesus for not letting me stay in camp bitterness. Thank you for loving me so much that you didn’t answer my prayer the way that I wanted you to. Thank you for wanting so much more for me than I could ever have imagined for myself. Thank you for being so good.”

I don’t know where you may find yourself today. But I do know if you find yourself in camp bitterness where I was living, the very best thing you can do is to give that burden to the Lord.

I encourage you to let Him change your heart, to willingly walk through that process with Him.

Let Him free your heart and show you what unspeakable beauty, freedom, and joy that is waiting for you. He wants so much more for us. Sometimes we just have to be willing to let Him change us, as hard and as humbling as that may be. It is so very worth it.

 “…giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”  Isaiah 61:3 NASB

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From Bitterness to Beauty – encouragement from Ashley Lauren McClain on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Ashley McClainAbout the author: Ashley McClain is a girl with big dreams and a blog to encourage women in their journey through this life we have been given by the greatest Gift Giver there is! She loves to read, write, drink coffee, and spend time with the hubby & puppies! Connect with Ashley on her website ashleymcclain.org. She would love to hear about your journey too!

Join the conversation: Has God ever healed you from the root of bitterness? Please share!

Breaking Free

by Doris Hoover

In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.  Psalm 118:5 NIV

Specks of color flutter across my field of vision, flitting from flower to flower, to tree and back. I glimpse masterful designs painted on tiny wings – mosaics, stripes, and polka dots. Beautiful winged creatures sail in the breeze, free and unfettered.

In contrast, their earthbound larvae creep along the ground or on tree trunks, caterpillars awaiting the day they’ll morph into spectacular butterflies. Caterpillars and butterflies may be the same creatures, but they live two very different lives.

I wonder if God created caterpillars to demonstrate the power he has to change lives. Metamorphosis isn’t just for butterflies — it’s for people, too. Through God’s power, we can be released from the bonds that keep us earthbound, the fleshly attitudes which impede our ability to fly.

The Lord can change the lives of broken, defeated people, those chained to addictions or childhood traumas, those shackled with the weight of bitter memories. Minds encased with wrong thinking can crack open like a cocoon, freeing us to think and live in a new way.

When circumstances knocked me to the ground, I wasted years groveling in the debris of bitterness, unable to rise above the resentment that kept me in the muck. “I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me” (Psalm 118:13 NIV). Jesus showed me how to rise above the sinful attitudes that kept me earthbound. He showed me the way of forgiveness.

It wasn’t easy to change the way my mind thought or the way my heart felt. The change could only happen through His Holy Spirit in me. The Lord opened my eyes to see that I was living a caterpillar life by crawling in the dirt of resentment. He showed me the truth about bitterness, that holding on to bitterness will keep me from fully living out God’s abundant grace for me (Hebrews 12:15). Through my bitter attitude, I was willingly shackling myself to the earth.

The Lord brought me to a point where I had to make a decision. I could continue to be miserable and creep in the dirt of resentment, or I could release my bitter memories and forgive the one who hurt me.

Just as a butterfly has to fight its way out of a cocoon, I had to fight my way out of bitterness. It took much prayer, confession, and repentance before my heart changed. It took God’s power working in me. “The Lord’s right hand is lifted high; the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!” (Psalm 118:16 NIV) When I chose to forgive, my cocoon cracked open and now could fly above my resentments. I was free!

The Lord wants each of us to fly. He didn’t create us to crawl through life, miserably dragged down by weights we don’t need to carry. We’re meant to live as butterflies, to be creatures of beauty, offering loveliness to the world.

We can leave our caterpillar existence. The Lord sees our hurts and wants us to break free from the bonds of our wrong thinking. He has power to heal the most aggrieved heart. By teaching us how to forgive, He shows us how to rise above what plagues us.

God envelopes us with his Spirit, encasing us in his power as he works in our hearts. The moment we choose forgiveness over bitterness, the Lord molds us into something new and beautiful. We break free from our cocoons as changed individuals with beautifully painted wings. Then He releases us from the palm of his hand, and we soar.

Thank you, Jesus, for the miracle of forgiveness that sets us free.

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Breaking Free – insight from Doris Hoover on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

doris HooverAbout the author: Doris Hoover lives in Florida, but she also spends time along the coast of Maine. Her passion is discovering God’s messages in nature and sharing them with others. You can visit Doris at captivatedbythecreator.com. 

Doris’ book, Quiet Moments in The Villages, A Treasure Hunt Devotional invites you to step outside to discover the treasures God places around you. She leads you to beautiful places in her home town. Her poetic descriptions and beautiful photography draw you into moments that will stir your heart.

Join the conversation: Have you struggled to forgive a hurt from the past? How did the Lord enable you to forgive? Please share your story!