God Sees You

by Dena Dyer

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13 NIV

Do you ever feel invisible–like no one notices or appreciates you? Are you walking through a dry or difficult wilderness season? If so, let the story of Hagar encourage you.

I had heard of Hagar, the slave of Sarah and Abraham who became the mother of Abraham’s son, Ishmael, when Sarah “gave” her to Abraham, but I never dug into her story until a few years ago, when I was writing a book about wounded women of the Bible.

Hagar was property, a person whose job was to serve Abraham and Sarah. This slave woman had no rights or freedom of her own.

And yet God saw Hagar. Her whole story is in Genesis 16 and 21, but I want to focus on a couple of verses. Hagar got pregnant by Abraham and mocked Sarah (presumably for her barrenness), so Hagar ran away towards her home in Egypt, into the desert.

In Genesis 16, we are told, “The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And He said, ‘Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?’

“‘I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,’ she answered.

“Then the angel of the Lord told her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’ The angel added, ‘I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.’

…“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’ That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered” (Genesis 16:7-10, 13-14 NIV).

God gave Hagar a magnificent promise, especially for a slave woman (the lowest of the low in that society). And Hagar’s response wasn’t, “Why are you asking me to go back?” or “I won’t do it!”

Instead, she praised the One who met her in the desert–and she ended up being the only woman in Scripture to give God a name. How awesome is that?!

The name she gave God is “El Roi,” or “The God who sees me.”

Hagar went back and submitted to Sarah, though that must have been difficult. God blessed her for her obedience, though, because a few years later, Sarah and Abraham sent her packing, back to her people. Once again, she went through the desert, carrying her child with her. Only this time, she ran out of water, and believed she and her son were going to die. But once again, God met her in the wilderness. He showed her where a well was and saved their lives. Not only that, but the second time Hagar went through the wilderness, she was free. No longer would she be a slave!

Friends, you are freed by the blood of Jesus when you call on His name. You are seen just as Hagar was, no matter how invisible or overlooked you feel. You are loved by an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-merciful God.  No matter what your past, your status, your circumstances, or how dry and lonely the wilderness is, God is with you and for you. He loves you more than you can even comprehend.

Let that truth sink deep into your soul…and be encouraged.

Prayer: Thank you, most Holy God, that you see me and love me. Help me to see You more clearly and love you more fervently. Amen.

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

About 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.

Book Cover

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

Join the conversation: Do you relate to Hagar’s story?

Holding Onto Hope

by Dena Dyer

[Anna] never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:38 NIV

Waiting is hard. Can I get an amen? Whether we’re waiting for a job, mate, child, cure, or answered prayer, I think all of us find it difficult to be patient. That’s why I appreciate the story of Anna, the prophetess, and what it says to us about waiting. Her story is told in Luke 2:36-38. This is right after Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the temple for Jewish purification rites, when Simeon the priest blessed them:

“There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38 NIV).

Anna’s name means “favor” or “grace.” She was married but widowed after a short seven years with her husband. Her position of prophetess was one of honor, and she took it seriously. She had found in her singleness a singleness of purpose–praising and praying to the Lord.

Her story challenges me.

First, because she didn’t let her loss of a husband take her focus from God. It’s so easy to let our grief turn us away from the One who made us and can help us the most. Anna kept her eyes on the Lord and made the temple Her place of worship and even residence. You and I can do the same thing: praising God in the midst of our waiting. It’s not easy, but for believers, the Holy Spirit is our promised, indwelling helper, and He will come alongside us and give us the faith we need.

Second, because although the angels announced Jesus’ birth to Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, and the shepherds, “Anna made the proclamation of who Jesus was to the pious of the Holy City” according to the IVP Women’s Commentary. She didn’t think she was too old to tell people about Jesus or to fulfill the calling He had given her. She didn’t believe she was “washed up” or that God wasn’t going to come through for her. She not only kept the faith; she also boldly shared her faith.

Anna exemplifies what Paul wrote: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And weboast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but wealso glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5 NIV)

Anna didn’t boast about her longevity as a prophetess. Instead, she boasted about God. She didn’t let suffering take her away from God but allowed the Heavenly Father to work in her life and give her perseverance, character, and hope.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if when people talked about us, they said: “She’s always worshipping God” or “He’s always praising God.” That would be an incredible legacy.

Let’s emulate Anna’s life and hold onto hope together.

Prayer: Father, thank you for always coming through for me. Forgive me for my impatience when answered prayers don’t come quickly. Help me to hold onto You and the hope You give me in Christ Jesus. Amen.


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

About 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.

Book Cover

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

Join the conversation: What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

Don’t Let the Grinch Steal Your Christmas

by Dena Dyer

They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. Psalm 145:7

What does the word “Christmas” bring to your mind? Caroling and joyful family reunions, or last-minute gift searches and fights with your teenagers? Maybe in 2020, you feel anxiety over the restrictions a pandemic has placed on us, or you’re grieving (and rightfully so) about not being able to gather with friends or relatives this December.

As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve had many celebrations that fell short of my expectations. That led to disappointment, discontent, and sometimes even depression. Not a great way to start the New Year!

However, I now realize that perfectionism is a dangerous adversary–a Grinch who can only steal my joy if I let him. Really, what’s the worst that can happen if I don’t have a perfect tree, a ten-course meal for all my relatives, or a stunning Christmas card (that I got in the mail by Thanksgiving) to 500 of my closest friends?

Most of the burdens we place on ourselves don’t come from the people who love us and want to spend time with us around the holidays. They come from scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest, comparing ourselves to other women who seem to do everything better than we do.

Here’s a question: what if God could use the chaos and uncertainty of 2020 to help us release the burden of having a “perfect Christmas”? What if He’s asking us to look at our weirdly empty calendar as a blessing, not a curse…to see the restraints COVID-19 has placed on us as calls to creativity and not despair?

What if we asked Him to show us how to lean into, and not fight against, the strangeness of this year? If we do, we might find ourselves empathizing more with shepherds who heard angels singing, a virgin who was asked to bear God’s son, and a promised Messiah born as an infant.

Let’s pray to have God’s perspective on the holidays. What an amazing gift we could give ourselves and others this year if we could see with His eyes and give ourselves (and others) grace. After all, that’s what God gave to us when He sent His son.

In Lion and Lamb, Brennan Manning says it so well: “Christmas means that God has given us nothing less than Himself and His name is Jesus Christ. Be unwilling to settle for anything less . . . Don’t come with a thimble when God has nothing less to give you than the ocean of Himself. Don’t be contented with a nice Christmas . . . Pray, go to work, play Trivial Pursuit, eat banana bread, exchange presents…feed the hungry, comfort the lonely, and do all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

God, give me your perspective this year as the holidays approach. Forgive me for putting unrealistic expectations and burdens on myself. Thank you for your grace and mercy, and most of all, for the greatest gift of all, Your Son. Help me to honor Him with the way I celebrate and serve this Christmas.

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

About 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.

Book Cover

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

Join the conversation: How has God given you perspective this holiday season?

Waiting with Hope

by Dena Dyer

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Psalm 105:4 ESV

The people of Israel had not heard from their prophets in over 400 years. In the midst of cruel taxation laws and heavy religious burdens, the long-awaited Messiah became a distant hope, a flicker of promise almost extinguished by doubt and fatigue.

Then a star appeared over a smelly manger in Bethlehem, and rumors began to surface about a child-king who’d been born to a poor man from Nazareth and his young bride. Angels sang to sweaty shepherds, who bowed in worship at a trough housing a promise kept. Some Jews—such as Anna, Simeon, and Elizabeth–worshipped; others stayed mired in confusion.

Thirty long years passed before Jesus began his public ministry. He healed the infirm, emptied graves, and forgave sins. And still, doubts persisted. After a very public trial, crucifixion, and resurrection, thousands of skeptics believed.

Even so, many people still await the Messiah.

Because we as humans are temporal beings in an ever-decaying world, we have a hard time waiting. We have an even more difficult time believing in promises.

My youngest son prayed like this for years: “God, I hope that Dad has a good day at work. I hope I can go to Morgan’s this weekend. I hope Uncle Marty’s cancer gets better.”

I wondered whether I should correct him when he said “hope,” because I was only familiar with the Webster’s Dictionary definition: “to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true.”

Then I learned the biblical definition of hope. In the Old Testament, hope is often translated from the Hebrew word yachal meaning “trust.” In the New Testament, the word hope is used for elpis, which can be translated “to expect or anticipate with pleasure.”

Therefore, hope–in the biblical sense–equals trust and faith. Paul wrote in Romans 8:24-25 (ESV), “In this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

As our world groans from a pandemic, political division, injustice, and terrorism; as we slog through financial and familial stress, job changes, and health crises; as our children face temptations we could have never imagined—let’s not forget that we trust in what we do not see.

Let’s wait for Jesus with patience, encouraging one another to expect and anticipate with pleasure his second Advent, when he will set all things right.

Let’s wait in peace.

Lord, my spirit grows weak at the thought of my children inheriting a world that we haven’t stewarded well…a faith that we haven’t lived out the way we should. Father, you’re our hope and peace. You can comfort us with your presence and your Word. Let us not neglect it, or you, when we are afraid, but instead run to you with open minds and hearts. And Jesus? Thank you for your ridiculous love. Give me assurance that you are still at work in this world

*This devotional was originally posted as a part of The High Calling devotional series.

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

About 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.

Book Cover

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

Join the conversation: For what do you hope during this difficult season of uncertainty?

Put On Your Shield of Faith

by Dena Dyer @DenaJDyer

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Ephesians 6:13-16 NIV

Do you feel as if your faith is faltering? To be honest, sometimes I do. I look at the uncertainties and tragedies in our world and I wonder if things will ever get better. Then I look at my own circumstances and feel impatient that some of my most-spoken prayers haven’t been answered…at least not in the way I hoped.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul urges the church at Ephesus to recognize that our spiritual life is a battle, and we have been given weapons which protect us and help us defeat our enemy, the devil. One of those weapons is a shield–but it will only help us if we use it (“take it up”). In other words, we need to be aware of Satan’s lies–pictured as fiery darts– (such as “things will always be this way” or “God doesn’t really care about me”), so we can defend ourselves with God’s truth.

The Greek word Paul used for shield is thureos, from a root word that means door or gate. During the days of the early Church, a Roman soldier’s shield was an oblong as large as a door; it completely covered the person wielding them. How awesome is that?! Our spiritual shield is not some dinky little facsimile, either. We believe in a God who is far bigger than anything the enemy can hurl at us. We can trust He can overcome any circumstance we will ever face.

And get this: Roman soldiers’ shields were woven from leather strips. Every morning, they oiled their shield. If it wasn’t oiled, the strips on the shield would become brittle and thus vulnerable to an opponent’s spear. 

What a terrific metaphor! As believers, we need to daily oil our shield of faith by reading and studying the Word of God. As we do, we learn more about Him. The better we know Him, the more we can trust Him. And that’s what faith is: the ability to trust in God.

One final nugget of truth: Roman soldiers would kneel down and link their shields to make their front line impenetrable to enemies. As believers, we too can link our shields by encouraging each other’s faith, and in this way work together to fight our enemy. Aren’t you thankful that even in 2020, with its social distancing challenges, we can have community with one another by phone, text, email, Zoom or Skype calls, social media)? I sure am.

Today, let’s encourage ourselves and each other by meditating on God’s promises and meeting together in whatever ways we are able. We are meant to go into battle together.

Prayer: Lord, forgive me for the times I don’t seek your word and truth. Help me to “oil” my shield of faith daily by studying and trusting in Your word. Give me faith that moves mountains and causes the enemy to flee. Thank you for the spiritual armor you provide. Amen.

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

TWEETABLE
Put On Your Shield of Faith – encouragement to stand strong from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Dena Dyer is the author or co-author of ten books for women and hundreds of articles in magazines, newspapers, and websites. She lives in Texas with Carey and their sons Jordan and Jackson. She loves bargain shopping, decorating, and traveling. Find Dena on Instagram and Facebook, or at her website.

Dena and Carey’s book, Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples (Barbour) will give your marriage encouragement and hope when you find that the once endearing, charming, and distinct qualities that once attracted you to your spouse are now a source of stress and conflict.

Join the conversation: What do you do to increase your faith?

Waiting on My Turn to Shine

by Dena Dyer @DenaJDyer

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”  Philippians 2:14-15 NIV

In the spring after we married, my husband Carey and I auditioned for a professional Christian musical production on the life of Christ. The director spoke so highly of both Carey and me after we sang, we felt confident he’d offer us roles.

Indeed, Carey was cast in a leading part–but I was chosen for the large chorus and as an understudy for one of the leading ladies.

Understudy again?
I thought. I am so tired of this! Since high school, it seemed I was always the alternate or the understudy. Though I’m ashamed to admit it now, I became jealous of Carey. I was also envious of the woman cast in the role I had to learn–but not perform.

Sinful much? Sigh. Even though I’d been a Christian since I was seven years old, I still had a long way to go in order to be Christlike. I questioned my appearance, talent, and personality. And I felt sorry for myself. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride

It’s clear now: God wanted more for me than applause and accolades. Throughout my teens and twenties, I set loftier and loftier goals for myself and was never satisfied. Instead of working on things I could control—by reading the Bible, honing my talents, and praying for God to use me as He thought best—I worked against myself. By focusing on accomplishments rather than obedience, I robbed myself of contentment.

Thankfully, God broke me of my perfectionism a few years later. It wasn’t fun, and it didn’t happen overnight. But I’m unspeakably grateful that He didn’t give up on me.

In Philippians 2, Paul encourages the church at Philippi to not complain or argue, and to hold firmly to the word of God. Jesus is known as “the Word made flesh,” and when we hold onto Him, we become blameless and pure–by His grace and mercy and not by our efforts. Then we can be a shining light in a dark world.

Our Heavenly Father is so immeasurably good to us. Like a master craftsman, He hones and perfects our rough edges. His goal is to make us more like Jesus, and He is a patient, loving artist who sees the women we were created to be and isn’t content until we’re fully transformed.

A few years after my temper tantrum over being cast as the understudy, God gave my husband and me the unique opportunity to be one of six lead singers in a Christian-owned professional music theater company in our town. We served with that cast for a total of eleven years, raising our children and getting to tuck them into bed nightly (a rarity in entertainment). The owners of the theater even paid our health insurance.

God is faithful, friends. He knows our desires, and He knows our secret thoughts. And when we align ourselves with His will instead of insisting on our own timetable, He gives us far more than we expect or even deserve.

I want to be a content and grateful woman of God who seeks His face and approval, not the applause of men or the accolades of our culture.

Won’t you join me in praying for God to transform us, so we can shine for Him?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me when I complain or argue about my circumstances. Instead, help me focus on your goodness and grace. Make me more like Jesus so I can shine His light in this dark world. Amen.

TWEETABLE
Waiting on My Turn to Shine – encouragement on #FollowingGod from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Dena Dyer is the author or co-author of ten books for women and hundreds of articles in magazines, newspapers, and websites. She lives in Texas with Carey and their sons Jordan and Jackson. She loves bargain shopping, decorating, and traveling. Find Dena on Instagram and Facebook, or at her website.

Dena and Carey’s book, Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples (Barbour) will give your marriage encouragement and hope when you find that the once endearing, charming, and distinct qualities that once attracted you to your spouse are now a source of stress and conflict.

Join the conversation: How do you find contentment?

Lord, Give me Patience—and Hurry!

By Dena Dyer @DenaJDyer     

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her. Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. Genesis 16:1-4 NIV

While driving around town, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. If I take more than one second to hit the gas pedal after a light turns green, the driver behind me inevitably honks at me.

Maybe I’m getting slower, but I think the problem runs deeper. As a society, we are growing more impatient. Think about it: if our fast food doesn’t come out fast enough, we complain. When an event or speaker goes long, we squirm and look at our phones. If our favorite show gets interrupted while we’re streaming it, we groan. Technology has made our lives easier in some ways, but it has also made us feel entitled to have things instantly.

Or maybe that’s just me.

During my fifty years of life, I’ve waited on more significant things, too. When I met my husband, I’d dated enough not-quite-right guys to realize Carey was “the one.” But we remained in the friend zone for eleven long months before he realized I was the one for him. Then, as a young newlywed, I waited to conceive, then suffered an early miscarriage. I also waited and worked for five years—garnering fifty rejections–before becoming a published author.

God used each of these waiting seasons to teach me about Himself and reveal areas where He needed to work on me. He patiently and tenderly carved away my pride, self-sufficiency, and tendency to be driven instead of led.

Sarah knew impatience, too. In fact, she waited not for minutes or months, but decades to see a promise fulfilled. God had told Abraham that He would make him into a great nation, with descendants too numerous to count. But He didn’t reveal the “when” or the “how.” In fact, until Genesis 17, Sarah wasn’t mentioned at all, and she may have wondered how she fit with it all.

Most likely, the first few post-promise years were filled with hope and anticipation. As time sped by, though, and her body began to change and slow down, Sarah surely entertained doubts. Had Abraham heard God correctly? What if she or Abraham done something to prevent the promise from being fulfilled? And most important–would the promised child have to come from her own womb?

Like many of us, Sarah saw an opportunity to “help God out” when she looked at her young slave, Hagar. She offered Hagar to her husband, justifying it in her humanness. Abraham, too, rationalized the action instead of seeking God’s will on the matter.

I wonder if I’d have done the same.

However, God didn’t decide to cancel his promise to Sarah because of her impatience and willfulness. He still made her the mother of Isaac, and he made Abraham the father of the great nation of Israel.

Sarah and Abraham are even mentioned in the “Faith Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11.

That’s good news for me—and for you. Our lack of faith and patience won’t keep God from fulfilling His work in our lives.

Hallelujah!

Lord, forgive me for the times I’ve jumped ahead and tried to help you out. Keep me content and patient, with my ears tuned to your Spirit. May I be faithful, not faith-less. Amen.

TWEETABLE
Lord, Give me Patience—and Hurry! – encouragement from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: This article was adapted from Dena and Carey’s book, Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples (Barbour). Dena Dyer is the author or co-author of ten books for women and hundreds of articles in magazines, newspapers, and websites. She lives in Texas with Carey and their sons Jordan and Jackson. She loves bargain shopping, decorating, and traveling. Find her on Instagram and Facebook, or at her website.

Join the conversation: Have you ever tried to “help” God? What happened?

True Communion

by Dena Dyer @DenaJDyer

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” 1 Corinthians 10:16 NIV

Ten years ago, I took Communion with my almost-six-year-old son. It was his first experience with the bread and the cup after surrendering his young heart to Jesus. And it’s something I’ll never forget.

Jackson fidgeted as we waited to receive the elements. He cuddled up next to me and looked up at me with big, blue eyes. “Is it our turn yet?” he whispered.

“Almost,” I replied. When our turn came, Jackson and I followed our friends up the aisle. As we reached the pastor, Jackson looked at me to see what to do. I smiled at him and took the bread, then dipped it in the cup. Of course, Jackson did exactly what I did—a humbling reminder of the weight of my responsibility as a mom to two sons. As we made our way back to our pew, he took my hand and squeezed it. Happy tears filled my eyes.

In contrast, I remembered how Communion (or “The Lord’s Supper”) used to feel in the church I grew up in. We only took part in the tradition every few months. It seemed as flat and tasteless as the pasty-white wafers we chased with mini plastic shot glasses of grape juice.

However, about thirteen years ago, smack-dab in the middle of a crisis of faith, I went on a “Walk to Emmaus” retreat. When we took the elements, it was reverent. We didn’t rush through it, and it wasn’t an afterthought or something we did by rote. Rather, it was both an invitation and a response; one I finally understood. Obeying the Word, we came together to remember Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. And as we invited Him to join us, He invited us to share in His suffering…and His joy.

I had suffered a lot over several years prior to that retreat, and I was holding the losses I’d felt against the only One who could heal me. My faith was shaky, my marriage lonely, and my churchgoing spotty. But during the weekend, God reminded me that Jesus hadn’t suffered so I could be miserable. He had suffered so I could know the joy of overcoming. Each time I took the bread and the cup, the realization that Jesus died for even me overwhelmed me. I felt pure and clean, as if all the tears I cried over the weekend had washed not just my face, but also my insides.

I guess I’m a slow learner; after all, it took me about three decades of churchgoing to really understand Communion! Still, I’m glad I grew up the way I did. I don’t take it for granted now. It’s sacred to me—and that might not be the case if I had grown up differently.

As my sons have grown up, they’ve known their own share of suffering. But I’ve watched them also know the joy of the resurrected Christ, the hope of eternity with Him, and the truth of His mercy.

I pray they continue to serve Jesus, and I am grateful that we are not only family, but also brothers and sisters in Christ. As I Corinthians 10:16 states, the cup we drink is a cup of thanksgiving. There are many things I am thankful for—most of all, Jesus’ sacrificial death and His resurrection.

Before we entered the church that memorable morning a decade ago, I had reminded Jackson that we should pause for a moment before Communion to thank God for sending Jesus to die on the cross for us. “But Mom, we should do that every day,” Jackson said.

Communion, indeed.

This article first appeared on The Theology of Work website. Used by permission.

TWEETABLE
True Communion – insight and encouragement from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Dena Dyer is the author or co-author of ten books for women and hundreds of articles in magazines, newspapers, and websites. She lives in Texas with Carey and their sons Jordan and Jackson. She loves bargain shopping, decorating, and traveling. Find Dena on Instagram and Facebook, or at her website.

Dena and Carey’s book, Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples (Barbour) will give your marriage encouragement and hope when you find that the once endearing, charming, and distinct qualities that once attracted you to your spouse are now a source of stress and conflict.

Join the conversation: What does Communion mean to you?

Don’t Forget to Play

by Dena Dyer @DenaJDyer

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. Proverbs 17:22 NLT

Carey, my husband of 25 years, is a comedian—in both the best and worst sense of the word. He makes me laugh so hard I snort; this is a good quality. However, he also has favorite jokes he has repeated—ad nauseum—for two decades.

Two. Decades.

For instance, if one of us is eating a Caesar salad, this man of mine can’t help himself from grinning and quipping, “This salad is so good, I could et tu” (as in “Et tu, Brute?”). See how funny that isn’t? I do appreciate a good joke, but not when it’s repeated hundreds (maybe even thousands!) of times.

That said, I am grateful for a mate with a sense of humor. Laughter keeps us bonded in fun ways. It has also provided us with countless, priceless memories. (Even doctors say laughter is good for your body. It increases blood and oxygen flow and even works your abdominal muscles. Score!)

While pondering this topic, my friends and I came up with some ideas about ways to keep the laughs coming in a relationship:

–Play miniature golf, arcade games, or bocce ball (or just do some old-fashioned bowling).

–Do a “Goodwill” date. Each of you takes $20 and finds the other person an outfit. Then you both must wear what the other picked out while you go to dinner.

–Send each other funny memes, texts, videos, or gifs.

–Play pranks on each other (but ONLY if you know the other person is okay with it. Some people hate to be pranked!)

–Buy your partner a funny gift. For Valentine’s Day last year, I got Carey chattering teeth. He loved them and keeps them in his office!

–Be spontaneous once in a while…and not just in the bedroom. Take a road trip with no map—just drive and see where you end up.

–Watch funny movies, comedy specials, or favorite sitcoms together.

–Try not to take yourselves too seriously.

–Tease one another…up to a point. Have a code word or “look” when things get to be too personal or annoying, so you don’t upset the other person.

–Buy “googly eyes” or other fun cheap items and put them in strange places.  Jackson, my 15-year old, put a pair of stick-on eyes on our coffee maker, and it makes me smile every morning.

Truly, laughter lightens the heaviest load. In fact, Proverbs 17:22 (NLT) says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” God designed us to benefit from laughter! It’s like medicine to the soul. Both Carey and I are in ministry jobs, and we sometimes come home burdened. It’s a real blessing to have a fun atmosphere around the house.

Our sons are young adults now, but when we do sit around the dinner table, it’s a lively place, full of puns and wordplay. I hope the boys will continue to bring laughter into their own homes when they marry and have kids. I also think they’ve learned that it’s dangerous to go too far when you’re ribbing a family member. It’s all good fun, until someone gets hurt–so it’s wise to know when to quit.

And while it can be infuriating at times that Carey is young-at-heart, I wouldn’t trade his optimism and good humor for anything. I can tend towards negative thoughts and worrying. If left to my own devices, I’d probably drown my sorrows in tortilla chips and the latest sad movie too often, and he is good about pulling me out of my seriousness when I need it.

So I’ll quote him to end my encouragement to you about playing together: getting older is inevitable; growing up isn’t.

TWEETABLE
Don’t Forget to Play – encouragement from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: This article was adapted from Dena and Carey’s book, Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples (Barbour). Dena Dyer is the author or co-author of ten books for women and hundreds of articles in magazines, newspapers, and websites. She lives in Texas with Carey and their sons Jordan and Jackson. She loves bargain shopping, decorating, and traveling. Find her on Instagram and Facebook, or at her website.

Join the conversation: What do you do to keep humor in your relationships?

Citizens of Heaven

by Dena Dyer @DenaJDyer

“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.” Philippians 1:27 NLT

Katie Davis, a vivacious, passionate young woman, was just eighteen years old when she first went to Uganda on a mission trip. While she was there, God called her to go back. Forsaking college, her parents’ plans for her, a long-time boyfriend, and friends who thought she was crazy, Katie settled in Uganda and began a ministry. She also adopted thirteen Ugandan orphans.

Katie told her story in the 2011 bestseller Kisses from Katie, a book which continues to inspire millions of people to say “yes” to God, just as Katie did–wherever it leads. She writes, “Human beings long for a place to call home, a nest, a sanctuary of their own. I have many and none…But God whispers to me that I really have only one home, and that is with Him. I will never be content on this earth. I will always be a nomad. It was meant to be that way. My heart was created with a desire for a home, a nest, a sanctuary, and that can only be found with Him in heaven.”

Katie’s dedication to follow God wholeheartedly makes me wonder if am too comfortable. Have I forgotten that my permanent citizenship is in heaven, and not in any particular country? And what would my life look like if I took that to heart, every single day? I bet I wouldn’t feel as anxious about my paycheck (or lack of it). Certainly, the small frustrations I encounter would be put into an eternal perspective.

Paul urges the Philippian church—and today’s believers—to conduct themselves as citizens of heaven; to stand together with one purpose; to war together for the faith. When we forget that God deserves our first allegiance, we let all sorts of opportunities slip by us, and we begin to focus on unimportant details instead of the big picture.

Our purpose is to live out our faith in such a way that glorifies the Father and draws others to a relationship with him. It surely grieves God to see Christians fighting with one another instead of together. He must shake his head in frustration when we let small problems rule our thoughts, instead of focusing on his grace and love.

I want to be more like Katie—and the Apostle Paul. How about you?

PRAYER: Lord, give me the perspective shift I need to remember that I am a citizen of heaven. Remind me continually, Lord, of your truth and majesty. And help me to conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel—not on my own strength, but through yours. Thank you for the beauty of the earth and the joy that you give me through my family, friends, purpose, and accomplishments. But let me never forget that all of it is temporary. Creator of all things, I so earnestly desire to be more like you. But my humanity gets in the way. Forgive me for putting too much stock in earthly treasures, relationships, and status. And thank you for the forgiveness you offer, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

TWEETABLE
Citizens of Heaven – encouragement from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

dena headshot


About 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: How does being a citizen of heaven impact your life here on earth?