Woman Makes Plans . . . and God . . .

by Terri Gillespie

The heart of man plans his course, but ADONAI [the Lord] directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9,TLV

Are our plans wholly committed to the LORD? Or are we wholly committed to the LORD for our plans?

My husband and I stared at one another in confusion. You could practically see questions marks bouncing on top of our heads. We were sure we had heard from the LORD. As we had stood in faith, the doors of favor opened for us in supernatural ways. Why had everything fallen apart?

The job my husband loved for thirty years had become extremely stressful. Multiple layoffs meant additional workload was piled on him. Most likely all this stress contributed to a heart attack and a subsequent triple bypass. It was time for him to retire—early. I prayed for several years that God would make a way, even though there was no way.

God did it.

One thing He made clear, we had to move from our beautiful home and the people we loved in Philadelphia. That was a “Gulp Moment.” But the cost of living and the inclement weather were a deadly combo for my husband.

An opportunity arose for us in Georgia. Friends asked us to help them build a ministry in a small town. God seemed to shine a ray of sunshine on the opening.

The move was successful, and we began working the plan God showed us. But then, little by little the work seemed to change. Still, we pressed in and prayed through the challenges and hurdles confident this was God’s will.

Finally, it all fell apart for us. We needed to resign from the work and those with whom we worked. We were devastated. And confused. Hence the question marks bouncing off our noggins.

Through much prayer and wise counsel, we learned a valuable lesson. Many times, the plans the Lord gives us are merely the means to another plan He has in the works—one we might never have anticipated had we not followed the original plan.

But because, in our case, we were so committed to the plan, we didn’t listen for His new direction. The original plan became a mess and we kept trying to fix what was unfixable.

Sometimes our commitment to our plans become the obstacle to keep us from hearing from the LORD for the next leg of our journey.

Initially, these plans may have been dedicated to the LORD–or we believed God had called us to the task. However, over time we focused on the plans and missed pivotal moments when the LORD was guiding us to alter or complete them. We ceased to commit ourselves to God and His full plan and were only committed to the original plan—which had been merely a part of the total plan.

Are you struggling with circumstances that seem unfixable? Perhaps, it’s time to go to our Heavenly Father and seek whether a step or a turn was missed in the journey. He will let you know—He will let us all know. No matter how noble or Godly our plans are, we need to remember to make sure we are paying attention to His direction for His plan.

Heavenly Father, I was so sure you wanted me to do this. I was wholly committed to it. But now things seem wrong, and I cannot fix it. I want to be wholly dedicated to You and not the plan. If I have missed a turn in this journey, please show me. Then show me how to get back on the path You have called me to. I love You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

About the author: Award-winning author and beloved speaker, Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus. Her newest novel, Sweet Rivalry, releases later this year. 

Cut it Out! (The Hair Mavens Book 2) by [Terri Gillespie]

Join the conversation: Has God ever taken you on a less-than-straight route to where you ended up?

First Things First

by Linda W. Rooks

When the world thrusts a new challenge of monumental proportions in our path, and we feel unprepared to deal with it, what is your first inclination? Usually for me, it’s to try to figure out all the angles, so I can understand it better. But if we’re in crisis, with no prospects for immediate solutions, our minds spin in confusion. How do we make wise choices when we can’t understand what’s happening? Where do we go? How do we start?

Do we do a Google search? Call a friend? Visit the gym to work off our anxiety? Go to bed and sleep, hoping it will all go away?  Try to numb our minds through alcohol or drugs?

What do we do? Where do we start?

In our marriage classes, I often sit with women whose marriages have spiraled out of control. They have no idea how to even begin to make good decisions. As I’ve gone through the lessons with different groups through the years, surprisingly, many of these women have landed on the same verse to help them start to find direction:

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalms 46:10 (NIV)

Yes, the first thing that helps to steer them in a new direction is stopping to look up to the Living God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Once they grasp hold of the one thing they know to be true and real and lasting, they can move forward, because they know our loving Father God is near.

This revelation was given to me one morning long ago while still a teenager, and it changed my life. I was experiencing a time of heartache, and as I opened my Bible and read Matthew 6:33, God revealed the answer to my yearning and the secret to the new beginnings I needed. “Seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and ALL THESE THINGS shall be added to you” (NKJV). The words jumped out at me and came alive in my spirit. I knew God was speaking to me, telling me to seek Him first, to come close to Him, and then I would find what I was looking for. That scripture became engraved on my heart. From that day forward, I began to see Him unfold good things in my life as long as seeking Him has remained my priority.

If we first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, these other things come to us in His timing and His sovereignty. We might be surprised at the good things He has in store for us when we let Him direct our paths.

Our Father God is the ultimate reality, the only truth we can always depend on. When we start with Him—when we are “still” and acknowledge that He is God—He will lead us along paths of victory.

If you are struggling for answers and need direction, grab hold of Jesus’ hand, so He can lift you up. Let your mind be taken captive by the Word of God. Seek His wisdom and ask Him to show you the next best step and then the next. He will show you the direction to take. He is your loving Father. And He knows the way. Acknowledge Him as your Lord and Savior who saves you out of all your worries.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Psalm 46:1-3 NIV

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

linda rooks

About the author: Linda W. Rooks has a ministry of hope for those in broken marriages. Her award winning book, Fighting for Your Marriage while Separated, and her (life-changing) earlier book, Broken Heart on Hold, Surviving Separation walk with those in the midst of marital breakdown to bring hope and practical guidance to those desiring reconciliation. Linda writes for both adults and children, and her stories and articles have appeared in numerous publications including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Focus on the Family and Today’s Christian Woman. She and her husband reside in Central Florida and thank God for the many reconciled marriages they witness through their ministry and the classes they lead.

Join the conversation: How has God directed you out of a challenging situation?

Season’s Meatings

by Rhonda Rhea

You know how I can tell we’re approaching the Christmas season? I find myself thumbing through a catalog. A catalog. Of. Meat.

Potted meat. Pickled meat. Fried and dried and—maybe even poached meat. That just takes us to about page five. Then there’s meat by the log. Meat in a bar. Meat on a stick. Meat in a jar. And okay, that might sound a little Dr. Seuess-y-cutesy, but I get halfway through the catalog and I have to tell you, I’m pretty much meated out.

So here we are, heading into the season in which we really can end up meeting ourselves coming and going. And clearly we can also end up meating ourselves coming and going. More and more calories. More and more busyness. More.

There’s wisdom in keeping an eye out for the “more.” Sneaky clutter can fill our stomachs, our schedules—our lives. It’s the kind of “more” that can steal our focus from what’s important. It does it by rushing us to the busyness of what’s immediate instead of waiting for the blessedness of what’s vital.

We tend to think of ourselves as mature followers of Christ as long as we’re not throwing big-baby fits. But maturity includes so much more than that. It includes making wise choices—with our resources, with our time, with our focus. Let’s face it, some of us make more big-baby-choices during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season than any other time of the year.

How can we be grown up about our “more”? Jesus. Eyes off our own schedules and wants and everything fleshly. Eyes on Christ. It was because of selfish fleshliness that Paul said the Christians in Corinth couldn’t have solid spiritual food. “I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ…because you are still fleshly” (1 Corinthians 3:1, 3, HCSB). He said in verse 2, “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food.” Put away the catalogs. No meat for these people.

Paul warns later in that same passage that, “No one should deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this age, he must become foolish so that he can become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:18-19, HCSB).

It’s sad to get caught up in the busyness, thinking we’re accomplishing works of value, then discover we’ve been foolishly lying to ourselves about what’s important the whole time.

The wisdom we need is only found in Jesus. Time to put away that self-deceived baby stuff and sink our teeth into some meat. As we seek the Lord, He will give us the wisdom and direction we need to sort out our to-do’s. It’s only in Him that our choices can count. It’s only in Him that we’re able to identify the foolish temporary and then trade it for the will of God. We don’t need that other kind of “more.” We only need more Jesus.

That’s exactly what will make our season…well…more. But more in every good way—in ways we can see and ways we can’t. It’s more than meets the eye, as it were. You might even say, it’s more than “meats” the eye.

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

rhonda rhea

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: Are you settling for milk?

Which way?

by Nancy Kay Grace @NancyKayGrace

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:4-5 NIV

Have you ever gotten to the wrong destination when using a GPS? Occasionally I’ve been sent astray while trusting the voice of an unknown person dictating directions from the car’s GPS.

Like the time when I traveled to speak to a women’s group at a church, and ended up on a steep, rocky, hilly road. At the end of the wooded road were two signs: “No Trespassing” and “Beware of Guard Dog.” The voice informed me, “You have arrived at your destination.”

Hmm, this was not the church I looked for.

And then there was the time when my husband and I were looking for an address in a suburban area. We expected to make a turn onto another street, but instead we were guided to a cul-de-sac with no outlet. We listened for the next direction.

The voice stated: “Park your car and walk to the destination.” The map indicated the destination was in nearby trees. We laughed and were confused. No, we didn’t get out and walk. After reloading the same address, we were directed to the correct house several blocks away.

In both of those scenarios, I eventually got to my desired destination, although I felt frustrated and the travel took longer.

It is easy to get off track when we listen to the wrong voice. Even when that voice sounds convincing, sometimes it leads us astray. With so much noise in today’s culture, it is harder to hear and heed God’s voice.

I desire God to direct me, especially in such uncertain times. I can easily fall in discontentment or discouragement. In order to be open to God’s ways, I have to intentionally quiet my mind and tune my heart to the Word of God. Thankfully, the Spirit nudges me to seek the Lord for guidance.

King David wrote, “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 25:4-5 NIV).

When I turn to the Lord, he settles my heart with true hope.

“He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (Psalm 25:9 NIV). To become humble, I need to look in my heart to see if anything is hindering me from hearing the Lord, and confess it to God.

Is there discontentment? Bitterness? Hurt feelings? I am reminded to confess those hindrances of spirit to God, allowing Him clear the way for His guidance.

“For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. Who, then, is the one that fears the Lord: He will instruct him in the way chosen for him” (Psalm 25: 11-12 NIV). The Lord promises guidance for us when we seek him with our whole heart.

We won’t be lead astray when we tune our heart to hear Him, not the voice of the culture. The journey may take longer because of God’s timing, and there may valuable faith lessons for us to learn along the way. But God leads us when we seek Him.

Will we listen, watch, and follow?

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

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Which way? – insight & encouragement on #FollowingGod from @NancyKayGrace on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Nancy Kay Grace is a redeemed perfectionist who is learning to trust God’s voice more, and the GPS less. She is a speaker and award-winning author of The Grace Impact, a devotional about the touch of God’s grace in our lives. Please visit https://www.nancykaygrace.com to sign up for the monthly GraceNotes devotional newsletter.

Join the conversation: How has the Lord directed you in the past?

Follow the Road

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8 NIV

I have never understood why the very first thing my vehicle’s navigation system feels compelled to tell me is “Follow the road.” Is it worried I might drive through the neighbor’s front yard instead? I think perhaps my GPS has control issues. And if you know me, you know how I feel about control issues.

Of course, there is a time to admit our weaknesses and seek dependable guidance.

Recently I found myself driving home from a writing conference in Oklahoma City on Labor Day. Since the trip would take me through the holiday weekend traffic of Fort Worth, I decided to program my navigation to direct me home by a different route through the country. A friend recommended an app for my phone that would not only direct me but warn me of things like cars parked on the side of the road or dangerous debris in my lane. This app told me everything—to the point of being annoying.

I reached the last major turn I was unfamiliar with and knew it was a straight shot down to the next town about thirty miles away. From there I easily knew my way home. Finally, I felt confident in turning off the pesky voice that kept interrupting my music. What could possibly go wrong?

Well let’s review a few things that could possibly go wrong. For starters, I have terrible night vision, and it was almost dark. And while I was currently on the correct road, I failed to notice that there were two highways joined here. The one I needed to continue taking would split off in a few miles. And we can’t leave out the fact that I have a terrible sense of direction.

To make a long story short, I made a long trip even longer. I missed my turn and ended up driving in the exact opposite direction I needed to go. I was headed right toward the place I had gone out of my way to avoid.

I now had plenty of driving time to consider the error of my ways. I thought about all the times I do this with God. He is my perfect guide. He alone knows the path I’m meant to take and what lies ahead.

But sometimes I let a few miles of smooth travel make me overconfident. This directly impacts my decisions. Maybe it’s a situation I’ve faced many times before. I think I’ve got it handled—no need to pray about it this time.

How about when I am reading a devotion or Bible study and I skim over or even skip reading the Scripture because I already know that one, and, well…I’m in a hurry? In my overconfidence, I stop listening to the only voice that sees the path before me and can guide me safely home.

Before I know it, suddenly I’ve missed a turn and find myself careening into trouble that could have been avoided.

Thankfully when this happens, if I seek His leading, God will always guide me back to the right path. First, I repent—I stop going in the direction I’m headed. Then I turn the GPS—God Positioning System—back on through prayer and Bible reading.

God’s Word isn’t meant to bore us with trivial observations or repetitions. If He says it, then it is significant.

There is no way we can go, no path so familiar, that God’s direction isn’t still needed. He alone knows what lies ahead.

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Follow the Road – insight from @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: What is the best “direction” you have received from the Lord lately?

Staying Focused on True North

by Katy Kauffman @KatyKauffman28

I kept losing North. It was twenty-seven degrees outside, and although I was wearing five layers, I started to lose feeling in my fingertips. Cars kept crossing our intersection, and I was struggling to keep up with where North was. A few years ago, I worked with my dad, an engineer who tested light levels in a downtown area. I was in charge of the grid map and responsible to show him and his team which spot to test next.

The red building, I thought. That’s it.

There in the middle of a cluster of buildings, I found a mini sky scraper glowing with red lights to serve as my compass, marking true north. Whenever I lost my sense of direction, I looked for my red marker. It remained a steady and immovable indicator of direction as we tested twenty-four spots in the intersection.

As we travel through life, our road doesn’t keep to a straight line. Sometimes we have to meander on an curving descent into a valley or hustle up a steep, rugged ascent to a mountaintop. It can be easy to lose our sense of direction, and we wonder which way to go. Which way is North?

There’s a red marker that brings us hope. When life’s circumstances threaten to steal our sense of direction, we can look to the cross that always shines with hope, comfort, and reassurance, and to the One who gave His life’s blood for us. Jesus bore the weight of the world’s sin on the cross. The cross for Him was torture and anguish. The cross for us is peace and life.

When we are uncertain how to proceed in life, we can look to Jesus and reorient our heart’s focus. The Lord who conquered sin and death can handle any storm, every obstacle and bump in the road. His perfect love, power, and wisdom guide us on our journey. Because He gave His life for us, we can have the life God wants for us—a life filled with victory, courage, and faith.

In our ministries, we share about this “red marker” and the Savior who promises to be with us and guide us through life. We may meet people who don’t see the value of the cross or the benefit of following Someone they can’t see. But we will also be led to those who accept the cross’ message and choose to follow God and depend on His wisdom to guide. After all, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 NKJV).

As you seek to share about the cross and life with God in your ministry, don’t forget that you never share or walk alone. We never have to serve God in our own strength or in our own wisdom. We don’t have to search for something or someone to be our “true North.” He’s with us all along the way.

I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Matthew 28:20 NKJV

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Staying focused on true north – @KatyKauffman28 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

headshot_katykauffmanAbout the author: Katy Kauffman is a Bible study author, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. Her writing tends to focus on winning life’s spiritual battles, and she loves connecting with writers and creating compilations such as Breaking the Chains: Strategies for Overcoming Spiritual Bondage and Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character. Katy makes her home in a cozy suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

Join the conversation: How has Jesus served as your true north?