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?

Depression: You are Not Alone

by Monica Schmelter

For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin. Hebrews 4:15 AMP

For 25 years I’ve had the honor of hosting the Bridges television program. My guests have ranged from the famous to the girl next door. No topic is off limits – and the Bible is our guide. I’ve been intentional about discussing mental health on a regular basis.

Why then was I surprised to find myself struggling with depression? I tried to shake it off. I stepped up my daily Bible reading and prayer. I followed the experts’ suggestions like frequent exercise, proper rest, and nutrition. I visited a Christian counselor. I counted my blessings. None of my efforts seemed to make a lasting difference.

When I spoke with a friend she mentioned talking to my doctor about an anti-depressant. Since nothing else seemed to be working, I followed up on her suggestion. Thankfully, my Dr. recognized that I needed help and wrote a prescription.

As I journeyed forward, Hebrews 4:15 AMP spoke volumes to me. I am not alone, and neither are you. I am grateful that our High Priest, Jesus Christ, is well acquainted with what it’s like to be human. Whether it’s the pain of betrayal or false accusations or any other human trial, He’s been there, and He understands. My depression didn’t catch Him by surprise or disqualify me from being His daughter. He saw the trauma I experienced, the betrayal I encountered, and He heard my every single prayer for relief.

As I committed this Scripture to memory, I began to appreciate more fully how His sinless life gives us endless hope. He is our High priest, our Advocate, and our example. This means whether it’s a sunny day, or a dark season, He is there with compassion and the power to rise above it all.

The power to rise above it all didn’t make my bout with depression dissipate immediately. What it does provide me is the comfort of knowing I am never alone and never without hope. The same is true for all who put their trust in Jesus Christ.

In our culture we celebrate instant results and quick fixes. If given the choice, I’ll take a suddenly over a slowly any day of the week. I would love to tell you my season of depression is over – but it’s not. I still have hard days, and sometimes I cry at the most awkward moments.

What I can share with you is that I am growing closer to our Savior. You can too. As we see Him as our compassionate Savior, we can open our hearts to Him with complete honesty and zero shame.

As I have opened my heart to Him more fully, He has  blessed me with a deeper sense of His presence. He is healing my hurting heart over time. He has been so patient, and He has graced me with the ability to continue to love and serve my family and work in Christian Television.

Since He is no respecter of persons, He will do the same for you. Whether it’s depression or some other malady, He stands ready as our Compassionate High Priest to receive you. You don’t have to justify or explain your humanity. He understands. Will you call on Him today?

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

About the author: Monica Schmelter is the General Manager of WHTN, Christian Television Network and host of daily television show Bridges. When people ask her why she smiles and nods so much while she’s interviewing guests she replies, “Oh that’s simple I am trying to think of what to say next”. You can watch Bridges on demand at monicaschmelter.com

Join the conversation: Have you struggled with depression? What has God taught you in that hard place?

Humbugs to Hallelujahs

by Tina Yeager @tyeagerwrites

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world … and everyone went to their own town to register.  So Joseph also went … to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.                                                                                                                               Luke 2:1, 3-5 NIV

A shopping cart brushed past me in the holiday décor aisle. I stepped aside to avoid a collision, flattening myself against the shelves. As overhead speakers crackled into a whiny version of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” I couldn’t have agreed less.

Rather than humming along with the music, my heart’s refrain leaned more toward “humbug.” I couldn’t stop thinking the phrase which had repeated in my head since moving to this rural town.

I don’t belong here.

I still had no church family. This Christmas season promised no neighborhood gatherings. No familiar shop clerks or community sights. Instead of heading off to volunteer, I would stay home to work. All alone in my little humbug hole.

As I faced working the hours formerly spent on celebrations in years past, I felt bustled. Displaced. Distracted and pushed. And not so much merry this season.

I struggled to focus on writing. Fatigue was crashing into me like the oblivious shopper’s cart. Yet an overwhelming pile of work loomed unfinished.

Retail therapy had failed to serve as respite, so I switched on the television. News channels raged with political drama. A cyclone of negativity whirled around me. I grumbled about how the holiday season ought to begin on a cheerier note. Yet a closer look at the first Christmas revealed eerie similarities between my modern distractions and those swirling around the ancient children of God.

Political, emotional, and work stressors riddled first century Israel, too. The government compelled all citizens to register for a census, regardless of the strain the requirement imposed on its subjects. It had sent the nation into a frenzy of stress.

The original Christmas saw Joseph and Mary on a journey beleaguered with isolation, tension, and discomfort. The scandal of Mary’s pregnancy had frayed extended relationships at home, and no warm welcome awaited them in Bethlehem, either. Much like our family having to leave our home place and face isolation on this Christmas.

They arrived in a town stirred to overflowing with stressors. Bethlehem had no room for a new arrival. I wonder if Mary or Joseph considered my not-so-merry refrain of I don’t belong here.

In truth, with Mary about to give birth, their journey was far more difficult than any other young couple seeking the earthly comforts of a community. Rejection and displacement plagued their steps. God chose an isolated stable as the humble venue for this first Christmas.

Even if humbugs tempted Mary and Joseph, they remained faithful to their calling. They served the Son of God, who belonged to a heavenly Kingdom. Amid national tension and community bustle, Mary focused on the birth of hope. The first to carry the gospel surrendered the distress over troubled circumstances and embraced the most glorious gift exchange of all.

I had forgotten my true home place and allowed the world’s stressors to sell me misery at the expense of joy.

I want to exchange my humbugs for hallelujahs for the rest of my days, no matter where the journey takes me. I might remain set apart at times while carrying his message. But this Christmas, I want to enter a quiet and humble place with Jesus and lay my burdens before him. May praise for the gift of my Savior remain the song of my heart for the rest of my days.

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Humbugs to Hallelujahs – thoughts on the season from Tina Yeager @TYeagerWrites on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Tina YeagerAbout the author: Award-winning author, speaker, licensed counselor, and life coach, Tina Yeager encourages audiences to fulfill their potential. She offers writing workshops through Serious Writer Academy, hosts the Flourish-Meant podcast, and is a mentor with Word Weavers International.

Tina’s book, Beautiful Warrior, empowers you to break free from the insecurity that has you trapped. Pick up your shield―the Word of God, your identity in Christ, and healthy thought patterns―and become the divine heroine you were destined to be.

Join the conversation: What do you do when the humbugs try to steal your joy?

 

Finding Forgiveness—Just in Time for Thanksgiving

by Patti Richter

A depressed soul and a holiday make a poor pair. So, I sat down to pray about my unhappy condition one morning in November.

I could have written a turkey-size list of things to be thankful for, including: good health; loving family; beautiful home. Instead, complaints ran through my mind like newsfeed in bold type, obstructing the bigger picture.

We had recently moved to another state for my husband’s job. Throughout this adventure, I sensed God’s help in all of the challenges: selling our house, getting our daughter off to college, resettling our sons into school, and house-hunting. But my confidence in God suffered a blow on the day we moved in to our new home. My wallet disappeared.

Such a loss on this big day left me reeling. I’d stuffed the oversized wallet with move-related receipts, cash, credit cards, and my wedding ring—tucked inside an envelope until I could find a jeweler to fix the loose diamond. A thief would have my driver license too, perhaps to steal my identity!

Two men had arrived unexpectedly to finish electrical work on the house while my husband and I directed the incoming boxes and furniture. I noticed one of the two had a strange look on his face as they left. When I reached into an empty kitchen cabinet to retrieve my purse and discovered my wallet was gone, I abandoned the move-in effort to head back to our hotel, in case I’d left it there. Disappointed and exhausted, I sat down to make phone calls to cancel credit cards.

Unpacking in the following days kept me too busy to let anger take over. But at night my bitterness came out like air from a pin-pricked balloon, and I woke up deflated each morning. I began second-guessing our decision to move, and I worried about everything. After too many sleepless nights, I fell into depression.

With Thanksgiving coming, I anticipated our daughter’s first time with us in our new home, but I needed the Lord to revive me. When I sat down that morning to ask for his help, those angry thoughts sprang up instead. And I blamed my poor outlook on the man I believed had robbed me.

Such bitter meditations made me realize I’d lost more than a wallet. I could live without getting all those items back, but I couldn’t go on without joy and peace. Paul warns against refusing to forgive in Ephesians 4:31: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice…” (NASB) Holding on to bitterness was stealing my joy and peace. I realized what I needed to do: ask the Lord to help me forgive, and pray that He would help the thief see his need for a Savior.

By the time I finished praying, I felt sincere forgiveness toward the man. As the day went by, I realized my anger had somehow dissolved in the transaction. That night, my sleep returned to normal—just in time for Thanksgiving.

When the holiday arrived, I relished having my family together again. After dinner, while washing dishes with my daughter beside me, I noticed my husband stretched out on the floor of the guest bathroom. He wanted to examine the plumbing beneath the pedestal sink. Suddenly, with a smile on his face, he held out my wallet—as thick as the day it went missing. Except for thirty dollars of cash missing, everything remained inside, including my wedding ring!

Though I felt so thankful to have my wallet restored, I realized the Lord had allowed it to stay hidden for weeks. Perhaps he wanted me to discover something more valuable first.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matthew 6:14 NIV

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Finding Forgiveness—Just in Time for Thanksgiving – Patti Richter on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Patti Richter headshot 2017-1n (2)About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She writes and edits global resourcing stories for The Gospel Coalition, and her Good Faith column appears at BlueRibbonNews.com. She is the co-author of Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering (2019).

Luann Mire faced overwhelming circumstances when her godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Signs of His Presence is the story of her experiences, as God proved Himself faithful to His promises. Signs of His presence came at timely moments–often in astonishing ways.

Join the conversation: Have you ever felt the relief of finally forgiving?

Welcome to Desolation

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

Jesus often surprises us in times of desolation.

Desolation sometimes comes through external circumstances that others can see and validate. In the weeks leading up to and following my father’s death, I experienced grief, but also distress over ensuing family turmoil. The emptiness I experienced carved a crater of desolation in my heart.

There are times, however, when externally, life appears to be going our way, and others even envy our success. But in reality, the success does nothing to reach the empty pit in our hearts. Desolation of the soul is marked by a profound emptiness that can’t be cured by achievement or accolade. I once read an interview with an actress who won her first Oscar at a time when her marriage was quietly, privately crumbling. She had beauty, riches, and fame, but her heart was desolate.

Jesus knew desolation, but rather than resist it, He sought it out.

He withdrew to desolate places to pray. He preached and ministered in desolate places when the crowds became too overwhelming for Him in the cities. He invited His disciples to follow Him to desolate places at the height of their popularity. And He fed the thousands with loaves and fishes when they came to listen to Him in a place so desolate, the disciples couldn’t imagine where they would find food.

I’ve often rejected desolation in my life as a detour from God’s plan for me: a wrong turn, something to be ashamed of, hidden, or avoided. I don’t imagine the disciples were too excited to follow Jesus to desolation. These were men accustomed to the obscurity of fishing boats at sea and suddenly they were rock stars of the ancient world. Maybe a couple of them breathed relief at pulling back, but I bet more than one chafed at the notion of leaving the crowds at the height of their ministry.

God is unafraid of desolate places. In fact, He seeks it and invites us to join Him there.

It is where He feeds us. It’s where He multiplies what little we bring. It’s in desolation He reminds us that our value with Him doesn’t lie in what we accomplish but simply in being with Him. It’s in desolation that He weans us from the applause and approval of the crowd, teaching us to measure our lives more through our “To Love” list than our “To Do” list.

It’s in desolation that we remember our limitations, our fragility, and our child-like nature. Where we re-establish our complete dependence on Him. And it is there He supplies what we need from nothing. He takes the meager meals we’ve prepared for ourselves and demonstrates how, in His hands, this offering can serve thousands

Desolation is not a place to be endured, but a place of wonder: an opportunity to locate God’s secret workshop. A visit to desolation is where we discover what all the great biblical men and women have found when they entered their desolation – that He is God and there is no other.

God whispered a secret to us about desolation through the prophet Ezekiel and we can heed that whisper now. Is God calling you out to a desolate place, loved ones? Follow Him there and see what He is about.

And they will say, “This land that was desolate has become like the garden of oasis Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.”  Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.                                                                                                                           Ezekiel 36:35-36 ESV

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Welcome to Desolation – encouragement from @LoriSRoeleveld on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

lori Roeleveld Headshot 2015About the author: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

Lori’s latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. The dialogues everyday Christians delay are often the very channels God wants to use to deepen relationships and transform lives. Through funny, vulnerable personal stories and sound biblical teaching, the principles here are guaranteed to increase the confidence and competence of Christians in discussing sensitive topics of every kind.

Join the conversation: What has God taught you in a place of desolation?

How Jesus Responds to Our Doubts

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

What happens when God doesn’t intervene? When circumstances grow worse, doors close, and illness lingers?

Is He still good? Does He still love us?

Intellectually, we know sometimes bad things happen to good people, but sitting in the middle of chaos and catastrophe, doubts take hold.

A couple years ago, while on her first college coop, our daughter’s depression spiked. She did all the appropriate churchy things. She went to church, read her Bible, meditated on Scripture, and prayed. She prayed and prayed and prayed. And yet, her depression remained. And although she knew they were lies, comments she heard tore at her hope.

Just have faith, then your depression will go away.

Mental illness is a spiritual issue. If you’re close to Jesus, you’ll be happy.

Have Jesus, have joy.

 It got to where going to church, the one place she was supposed to feel safe and find healing, only increased her pain. Made her feel less than. Insufficient. Unseen and unloved by her Creator.

But still she went, and one lonely Sunday morning, God met her there and gave her hope. Not that she’d get better, although with self-care she has. In fact, the sermon talked about times when God, for whatever reason, doesn’t intervene or heal. But whether we see His hand or not, He remains.

His love is unshakable.

That Sunday morning, in the middle of her depression, God let her know that she was okay. That their relationship was okay. That He held her and wouldn’t let go.

We all need to know that, especially when life feels hard. We need to know that the One who formed galaxies by a mere command sees us and is alert to our suffering.

God doesn’t always act as we expect or even desire.  Imagine having given your entire life to serve Him, only to find yourself imprisoned and awaiting execution. Imagine the questions, the doubt, the intense inner wrestling.

The bursts of hope followed by crushing defeat and despair.

Just over two thousand years ago, a faithful prophet sat in a dark, dank dungeon. The stench of unwashed bodies and the cold that ate at his bones wore down his courage and faith.

He had first encountered Jesus while still a fetus in his mothers’ womb, leaping at the sound of Mary’s voice. As a grown man he decades later had proclaimed that Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” The one who’d witnessed the Spirit landing upon Him as he baptized Him and heard the voice of the Father calling Jesus His Son.

But his horrible present situation had stripped away his certainty and trust. Could it be Jesus wasn’t the long-promised Savior?

For surely, after all John had done, all he’d given for the sake of Christ, God wouldn’t leave him in a dungeon to die, would He? But as each day dragged into the next, without so much as a glimmer of light to distinguish them, John the Baptist’s certainty turned to doubt. In the confusion that can only come from deep pain, he sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

John knew all about what Christ had been doing. But he also knew what He hadn’t done, and in that moment, the one unanswered prayer drowned out every miracle proclaimed.

But Jesus reassured him, not by promising his rescue, but instead, by reminding him of who He was.  “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen,” Jesus told John’s disciples. “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good news is preached to the poor.”

In other words, “I’m the promised Messiah. I’m doing exactly what the prophets said I would do. I’m still good, powerful, present, and in control.”

Then, as John’s disciples turned to carry the message back to John, Jesus spoke to the crowds. “I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist.” This was how Jesus addressed John’s doubt. Not with anger or disgust or rebuke. But with reminders of His power and affirmation of His love.

He responds to us in our doubt in the same way. God may not answer our prayers as we’d like. He may not rescue us from that difficult situation or bring long-desired healing. But when we come to Him honestly with our doubt and despair, He’ll center us in who He is and His love for us.

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15 NIV

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How Jesus Responds to Our Doubts – insight from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. a Crosswalk featured blogger and maintains a devotional blog found at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events that help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. (They just released their first Bible study, Becoming His Princess, which you can grab for free HERE.) When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Join the conversation: How might remembering those truths strengthen you for difficult situations? How can focusing on who God is and His heart for you bring hope in the middle of despair?

 

On Things Above

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth.   Colossians 3:2 CSB

Do you ever have those days when you just want to get out of here? When life seems too disappointing and you long for heaven?

When my cousin, Mark, slipped into a coma and then slipped away from this earth, I realized how much I longed to be “home.” In that place where there will be no more death or crying or pain. Where every tear will be wiped away and every fear removed. Where there will be eternal joy in God’s presence.

My memories, from childhood through adulthood, of life with Mark remain only memories now. I won’t see him again until my life on this earth is over. But the sense of loss leads to a longing for the place where we will never have to experience any kind of loss again.

I’m sure we all have days when we don’t want to be here anymore. And for many reasons: The loss of a loved one. Divorce. Unmanageable debt. Deteriorating health. Unbearable pain. Crushed dreams. The effects of aging. The list goes on.

But there is a hope instilled in those of us who know Jesus, personally. This life is not the end-all. Something far better awaits.

When life gets rough we must remember we are simply passing through. This world is not our home. We are strangers, aliens to this world. Citizens of heaven. Heirs of all eternity.

When I remember that everything I have here on earth is temporary –  my possessions, my positions, my pain – and my permanent address is Paradise, I am able to loosen my grip on the things of this world. I can part with possessions more easily. And I can blow off irritating situations that really don’t matter in the scope of eternity. I guess you could say that when I remember the heavenly deed written in my name, it causes me to walk on this planet differently.

Do you want to walk on this planet differently? Confidently? With hope and expectation? Then take Paul’s advice in Colossians 3:2 and let heaven fill your thoughts.

If I walked around with heaven filling my thoughts, I’d be more careful how I treated others, more intentional in how I loved others, more forgiving of how I was treated by others, and more hopeful of the day I will finally be with Christ.

 Lord, thank You that this life is not all there is and that Your Word tells me I will someday walk on streets of gold in a city more beautiful than my mind can imagine. Fill my mind with thoughts of heaven to keep me focused on what truly matters in this life. And thank You that Your promise to never let me walk alone is already in effect.

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Thinking on things above – insight from @CindiMcMenamin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 16 books including Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs, God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart, and Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her God's Whispers to a Woman's Heart by [McMenamin, Cindi]books and resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, or for more information on her coaching services to help you write the book on your heart, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Join the conversation: What helps you to focus your thoughts on heavenly things?

A Hallmark Christmas

by Louise Tucker Jones

I know Christmas is around the corner when I see those heart-tugging, tear-jerking Hallmark card commercials on TV. I almost had one of those Hallmark moments several years ago. At least, I thought I was going to have one. My prodigal daughter had come home for the holiday, and as I watched her stroll through the living room, lingering at the Christmas tree and touching ornaments her little hands had made, I hoped she was remembering good times. Special times.

Then suddenly, she walked into the kitchen.

I stopped what I was doing and turned toward her, noting the look of remembrance on her face. “Mom, do you remember…” I held my breath, certain this was the moment I had been waiting for. That priceless connection. Then she finished. “Mom, do you remember when you swatted that huge, weird-looking spider and baby spiders flew all over the place?” Did she really ask that? Yes, she did! It caught me off-guard. I was stunned. Shocked, in fact. And yes, I remembered the incident, but certainly not with fondness. A Hallmark moment it wasn’t!

The truth is, most of our lives are not made up of Hallmark moments. Most of our lives are a mix of the ordinary—the good, the bad, and everything in between. People are out there experiencing one thing or another. For every death being grieved there is a birth being celebrated. While one household is deafeningly empty and lonely, another is bursting at the seams with generations of family.

Being a person who ponders things, I find myself asking God the big question. Why? Why does He seem to bless one person, family or country and not another? Why does one person die from cancer while another survives? Why is one couple blessed with half dozen children and another remains childless? Why is a teenager cut down in the prime of life by a drunken driver? Why do evil people make shooting galleries of our schools? I have no answer to these questions or a thousand more.

The Christmas season can be a real trigger of past painful events. We miss loved ones who are no longer with us. We remember Christmases gone by and regret that our present is not nearly as happy as our past.

I know those feelings all too well. But I also know there is a God in heaven who has not forgotten us. He sent his Son to this earth that first Christmas, over 2,000 years ago. Jesus came so that we might have life and love, even in our most difficult times. Life in Him—not in a Holiday. Love in Christ—not in Christmas.

God’s love is not conditional on our emotions. Our circumstances will never predict or dictate God’s character. His eternal love, mercy and grace can invade our hearts and penetrate our souls, no matter what phase of life we might be experiencing. His presence reaches beyond the holidays.

The popular saying, “Jesus is the reason for the season” actually holds true. And the best news of all—Jesus promises to be with us forever. Not just at Christmas but for eternity. What an amazing gift!

“And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20 (KJV)

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A Hallmark Christmas isn’t Realistic – Louise Tucker Jones on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Louise Tucker JonesAbout the author: Louise Tucker Jones is a speaker, columnist, and author of four books, including The Gift of Christmas. Her poignant life stories will touch your heart or tickle your funny bone. Having a son with Down Syndrome, Louise writes extensively concerning people with special needs, co-authoring the Gold Medallion award-winning book, Extraordinary Kids, with Cheri Fuller. Married to Carl for 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands.

Join the conversation: For what gift of God are you most thankful?

 

Hope for the Holidays

by A.C. Williams @Free2BFearless

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

This has been a tough year for a lot of reasons, and Thanksgiving only made it tougher. My grandpa died in March, and for the first time in my life, he wasn’t sitting in his place at our table. I cried as I made his favorite pumpkin pie and remembered he wouldn’t get to eat it.

The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is supposed to be a joyful time of celebration. It’s Jesus’ birthday, for crying out loud. Light the candles and drink some eggnog, right? But it’s not so joyful for everyone. Depression is often at its highest during the Christmas season. Some days are just a battlefield.

It’s difficult to be joyful when I miss people who aren’t here anymore. It’s a challenge to keep moving forward when all of my dreams are still on hold. It’s hard to hope when my circumstances tell me that nothing is going to change.

Then I remember Jeremiah 29:11.

Many believers know the verse, but it’s really powerful when we remember to whom it was written: God’s people while they were in captivity. Let me tell you, I don’t think Americans understand that level of loss and hopelessness. How could we? We’ve never been in captivity. We’ve never even been invaded.

But Israel was. They were invaded and captured and carted away into slavery and obscurity. And then God sends the prophet Jeremiah to give them this news: “I’ve got a plan. It’s a good plan too.” If I were them, I’d laugh in Jeremiah’s face (actually, I think they probably did, and then they threw him in jail, but that’s another story).

I mean, there they were, enslaved and terrified and grieving the loss of their home, and God has the nerve to tell them that He’s got a plan?

The word our English Bible uses for know actually means to see, as in God knows what’s coming because He’s already seen it. He lives outside the confinements of time. The word we translate as plans is almost like the word engineer. It’s complex. It has lots of moving pieces. And it’s always in motion.

When you read it that way, this isn’t God spouting platitudes. He didn’t send His prophet with empty words to bring temporary comfort to anyone who’d listen. This is God making a promise—that He knows the future, because He’s seen it, and it’s a good future. This is God telling His people that’s He’s got this. They may be in captivity now, but they aren’t going to stay there. He’s got a plan, He’s working it out, so His people should have hope.

And if captive Israel could have hope, so can I.

I miss my grandpa, but I know where he is, because my grandpa knows Jesus. My dreams may be on hold, but God will finish what He started in me. And through God’s power, I am an overcomer, so my circumstances can’t dictate my success.

Those are God’s promises, and He always keeps His promises. So no matter what happens, I can choose to hope, because God has a future for me. He’s seen it. And it’s so good.

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Hope for the Holidays When Sadness Settles in – A.C. Williams @Free2BFearless on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

amy c williamsAbout 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-drinking, cat-loving thirty-something, she’s on Finding Firefliesa 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: What are your hopes for the holiday season?

The Fog in Our Lives

by Ginger Sanders

Sitting out on our back porch, early before daybreak, coffee in hand, I watched as the silent fog crept across the waters. It started out on the main river, at the base of the mountain, then crawled into the lagoon by our home.   As I watched, the docks across the way quietly disappeared. It was almost smoky at first, then cloudy, then became a heavy mist and finally a total whiteout.

As I looked around, the lightness of the fog encircled the very place I was sitting. The screens on the porch dripped rivulets of water. The stillness of the moment was overwhelming. I was so reluctant to somehow break the beauty, I barely breathed.

I am not sure how much time passed as I sat, watching and waiting. It was then I noticed the dock across the lagoon was slowly reappearing. The fog’s lifting was just as subtle as it had descended, slow and quiet. Finally, the sun broke through the trees as the birds started to chirp.

The day had awakened, offering a new start, a new beginning for everyone.

I was reminded, as I sat in the stillness, of things that can gradually surround our being and soul, things like sin or depression. The takeover begins quietly, but eventually isolates us and makes clear vision nearly impossible.

The only sure remedy for things of that nature start creeping into our lives, is to give it to God. Jesus called Himself the Light of the World. He brings light to our spiritual darkness. When we bring Him what is overwhelming us, He will guide us through it. He is more than just a friend, He died for you and would do it again. He loves you that much. Be still, listen, let Him be the SON that comes upon your life and push away the fog of sin or depression.

Do you feel the call of God to give it all to Him? Don’t waste another minute sitting in the fog! It is time to let Him shine into your life and let your heart start singing to Him. He is waiting on you and has a plan for your life. Respond to His call today!

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 ESV

Step out of your own fog and find Jesus. If you need help doing this, please contact me at gingersanders0@gmail.com. If you have a praise or make a decision, please comment or let me hear from you so I can pray for you. In the meantime, I am already praying for YOU!! 

Ginger SandersAbout the author: Ginger Sanders has been a Chaplain Coordinator with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team since 2008. Ginger and her husband, Denny, have responded to many disasters such as tornadoes, floods, and storms, as well as the Aurora and Sandy Hook shootings. She has authored He Goes Before Us, which features chaplains’ stories of God at work in disaster, and two children’s books: Round Eyes: An Adopted Child’s View of Love, and the award-winning Fireflies, which explains death to children with hope and love. Ginger also co-hosts a Christian television show and has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows. She and her husband of 50 years have four children and eleven beautiful grandchildren.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a51DSWZH5AcL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_ winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Ginger’s book, He Goes Before Us,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win! If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: What are the things that are “fogging up” your life?