Arise Under the Sun

by Christina Rose

“I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity, a futile grasping and chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:14 AMP

King Solomon asked God for wisdom when he ascended to the throne, so that he could rule the people justly. God favored Solomon by giving him more wisdom and wealth than any other king of the earth. During his 40-year reign, Solomon wrote many proverbs and songs, amassed tons of gold, completed many building projects, including the Jewish temple, and built a fleet of ships.  Unfortunately, among the 700 wives and 300 concubines he had were many foreigners who led him into idolatry in his old age. This became a diversion that he reflected upon as he neared the end of his life.

Solomon considered his many accomplishments and the years of earthly striving. “But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere” (Ecclesiastes 2:11 NLT).  He had finally realized that after a lifetime of chasing everything the world had to offer, obeying God and fearing his word was the only thing that made sense. Once we put God first, we are free to enjoy the gifts of life he has bestowed upon us.

“So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15 NLT

In the early years of my career, I enjoyed a glamorous life in San Francisco. I worked in one of the most prestigious offices in the city and was treated to extravagant restaurants, parties, and events. One evening on a dinner cruise under the Golden Gate, I noticed the colorful sails of windsurfers racing back and forth. Within weeks I had signed up for lessons, and before long, I was flying across the waves under “The Gate,” where I met and married another surfer. We were addicted to the thrill of chasing the wind under the sun until we learned we were expecting our first baby. My carefree life changed instantly when I was confined to bedrest out of concern for her. I was now slowly turning into a baby whale while I laid in bed, often alone, praying for my baby’s safe arrival. In the silence, I relentlessly searched for God and asked for his help.

Labor completely humbled me. I thought I had been so fearless surfing the waves, but as Solomon points out, there was a vanity in chasing the wind. It was easy to be fit and strong for all to see, but now I was a vulnerable, young mom in labor, hooked up to a monitor, dependent on those around me to help me give birth. Hours later when I laid eyes on my new daughter was the moment that I knew God was real.  There was no other explanation for such an exquisite miracle. Her birth was the beginning of learning to understand the greatness of God which continues to be an amazing journey each day, many years later.

Over time, many of my windsurfing friends stopped windsurfing.We came to see that we were just going back and forth across the waves but not accomplishing anything of significance.  Those years long ago of youth and adventure are glorious to remember, but having that life ripped out of my hands and confined to bedrest made me rethink everything. It was during those times of darkness and doubt that I searched for God and prayed for his help. He answered me with a perfect baby daughter that was a blessing far greater than the life I had been living.  

During this time of the Pandemic many, lives are being drastically altered. People are searching for answers in darkness and doubt, just as I did many years ago. They may be wondering if God is real and if he hears them. For those of us who know that he is real and hears our every cry, we are being called to arise to be a light to help others walk through this time of uncertainty.  In the process, God will birth something new and wonderful that one cannot see in the darkness as he draws us into his light.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Isaiah 60:1-3 NIV

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

About the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer and speaker certified by the John Maxwell Team of Leadership.  She is a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. She is a world traveler, surfer, foodie, cappuccino loving chocoholic and a devoted mom to kids and dogs and auntie to many nieces and nephews who live around the world.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story. With her young family on the verge of falling apart, Christina finds herself in a desperate situation with no resources other than herself.  After appealing to heaven, the Lord takes her on a journey of awakening and miraculous empowerment. That power is available to us all, especially those who need hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: For what answers are you searching in this season of darkness?

Holding on to Hope

by Grace Fox

Last year at this time, my husband and I held high hopes for the future. As co-directors of a missionary sending organization, we looked forward to seeing how God would raise up more workers for the harvest at home and abroad. We anticipated attending our annual staff conference in Poland, leading short-term teams to Eastern Europe, and training Middle Eastern nationals for career ministry. As a Bible teacher, I busied myself writing materials for upcoming women’s retreats. We’d booked our calendar and bought airline tickets.

Then the pandemic struck. Countries closed their borders, airlines grounded their flights, and authorities banned public gatherings.

Saying that 2020 propelled us into unfamiliar territory is an understatement. It stretched and tested us, and it brought Isaiah 42:16 to life. “And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.”  (ESV)

As our usual ministry doors closed, we asked God to guide us in a new direction. He led us down the Zoom road to stay connected with our international staff. Becoming more comfortable with virtual communication paved the way for us to host an evangelistic outreach to Poland, complete with translators and breakout rooms for Bible study. After my speaking events were canceled, He directed me to develop and host two online Bible studies—truly a modern-day miracle for a techie-challenged person like me.

God shone light into our darkness and leveled rough ground before us within the context of ministry.

He did the same for our family when my 88-year-old mother’s health failed. She’d always been strong and independent. One morning, an unexpected diagnosis propelled us into foreign territory. Suddenly we were sitting vigil by Mom’s bedside in a hospital with relaxed but confusing COVID restrictions. But God once again fulfilled His promise to lead us along a path new to us. He guided our decisions about Mom’s care until she passed from our presence into His, and He continues to walk with us as we journey this road called grief.  

Here we are, my friend, at the beginning of 2021. Last year at this time, we may have looked forward to the unknown with eager anticipation. This year, skepticism or fear might cloud our perspective. Vaccines can end the pandemic but they can’t fix political strife, restore lost income, or bring back those whom we loved and lost. They can’t heal the hurt that 2020 inflicted on our hearts in so many ways. A little voice in our head warns us not to hold high hopes lest circumstances beyond our control dash them again.

Let’s silence that voice.

You and I don’t have a clue about what this year holds. But this we do know—God promises to lead us on paths we have not yet known. This One who sees everything from beginning to end will guide us. The Light of the world will illumine our darkness. Almighty God for whom nothing is impossible will level the rough places before us. Therein lies our reason for hope.

Let’s face 2021 with confident expectation of a good outcome. That’s not to say everything will turn out as we wish or expect. It’s saying that, whatever happens, God is still in control. We hang onto hope because we’re in the hands of almighty God who loves us more than words can say. And there’s no better place to be.

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7

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

About the author: Grace Fox is a career global worker and the author of ten books. She’s a regular contributor to Mornings with Jesus (Guideposts) and a member of the First 5 writing team (P31 Ministries). She and her husband of 39 years live on a sailboat. Together they celebrate three married kids and nine grandchildren. Her new book, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos (Rose Publishing) offers bite-sized nuggets of encouragement for those whose minds are on overload.

Learn more about Grace and her books at gracefox.com.

Join the conversation: How have you been staying positive in these difficult times?

My Christmas Companion

by Janet Perez Eckles 

You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11 NASB

“Christmas?” a friend asked, “Who feels like celebrating anything these days? There may not even be any Christmas this year.” You and I don’t have to share in this pessimism. We don’t, because hope shines bright when we consider this:

The bush that Moses encountered was just an ordinary bush until it burned without consuming it. The staff was just a staff until it turned into a snake. The rock was one of many, until Moses struck and water gushed out. The Red Sea was just a body of water until God parted it for His people to cross on dry land. David’s rocks were simple stones, until he used one to defeat Goliath. Mary was a humble peasant girl, until God touched her with a miracle.

See? That’s how it works. Our life might seem impossible, needy, and desperate for a miracle…until something happens. We encounter the wonder of God’s power. Our future might be a series of unknown tomorrows, until the horizon of His riches appears. Our dreams might seem elusive, until we believe God’s love conquers all.

And this is how His conquering power works: “The virgin will conceive and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means, ‘God with us” (Matthew 1:23 NIV).

He worked it out. Through Jesus, He’s with us. That’s why all worry, fear and stress must go out the window because He’s with us. And because He is, we have His company through the darkness. Because He is with us, we know for tomorrow, victory awaits.

We know it will come. All we have to do is glance back and remember what He has done through the ages: an ordinary bush burned with a message, because God was there. A simple rock produced gushes of water, because God was there. A virgin gave birth, because God was there. A sea of water created a barrier, but it opened up because God was there.

Today is no different. He’ll put something in our path that may burn to get our attention, so we will listen. He will make living water flow to quench the thirsty soul. He will make the impossible possible. And He will give us the stones of courage to defeat the giants we face.

He did the same with Joshua, as he faced a giant too. It was called fear and insecurity. God knew. So, He spoke to Joshua’s fear: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NIV).

Wherever we go? Yes. That promise came alive for Joshua. And it’s alive for us, too. God ushered he and His people across the Jordan river to the other side, where the promised land waited for them.

As we cross our own river of pain, He will be with us too, ushering us to the other side where His richness awaits.

That’s why this Christmas, with open arms and grateful hearts, we can accept the gift of His constant presence. That gift is wrapped in His love, held with the ribbon of His faithfulness, and adorned with the seal of His promise.

Lord, this Christmas will be different for me because my joy will not come from circumstances, decorations, presents or gatherings. My genuine joy is found in You, and in the reassurance that no matter what surrounds me, you are with me. In Jesus name.

janet perez eckles

About the author: Janet Perez Eckles helps thousands to look beyond circumstances and overcome fear. She is a best-selling author and international speaker. Her writing and virtual  presentations help thousands turn their trials to successful, joy-filled lives. 

Janet’s book,  Hola, Happiness: Finding Joy by Dancing to the Melody of God’s Word is a brief Bible study to nudge you to the next level of triumph and joy. It is packed with deep reflections and answers from God’s Word. No matter what you face–disappointment, fear, heartache, shame, insecurity, sorrow–you will say “Hola” to happiness, peace, and the joy for which God created you.

Join the conversation: How does knowing that God is with you and for you (Romans 8:31) make a difference in your life?

Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men

by Christina Rose

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:13-14 KJV

It was a peaceful night in Bethlehem long ago where shepherds kept watch over their flocks.  An angel of the Lord appeared in the sky and told them that she had come to bring great tidings of joy. She announced that on that day the Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in the city of David. Suddenly a heavenly host joined the angel, and the sky was filled with praises glorifying God, declaring peace on earth and good will to men. When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds left the fields and found Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in the manger.

“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those  things which were told them by the shepherds.” Luke 2:17-28 KJV

It was a peaceful night, many years ago, on Christmas Eve at our quaint little church in rural Massachusetts. I snuggled up to my mother’s soft blue coat with a silver fur collar that smelled of her perfume. The snow was gently falling outside while the church was filled with the glorious sound of the congregation singing Christmas carols. At the end of the service, lit candles were passed around as we sang “Silent Night.” This moment is etched in my memory of the perfect peace I felt as a child. I felt loved, safe, and protected.

As we approach this holiday season, many have forgotten the peace that Jesus died to give us. The heated Presidential election has incited riots, destruction, killing and anger. Our news and social media are filled with hate and attacks on our President, police, and anyone with opposing beliefs. Businesses and properties have been destroyed. Jobs and income have been obliterated by the Pandemic that has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Our children are living in isolation and fear. They have been born into a time where they do not know the peace I felt as a child long ago in rural Massachusetts. Those of us who have been privileged to know this peace have a duty to stand firm and remind all around us that peace is our birthright and to trust in God’s word.

It is significant to note that the angel who announced Christ’s birth appeared to shepherds who were located on the lower rungs of the social ladder, and that Jesus was born in a manger emphasizing how God lifts up the humble. Rather than be fearful and angry at this time, we must be humble and trust that God is in control and has a great plan for the world.

When I worked in San Francisco a few years ago, we often ate lunch outside on sunny days. Many homeless people would wait on the sidelines for leftovers. One day someone handed an unkempt woman in rags a bowl of hot noodles. She broke into laughter and started singing. She held each noodle up and sang to it as she slurped it down, laughing and giggling at the sky. She had no home, no job and walked in rags, but she blessed us all with her delight in unexpected noodles. Her humility and gratitude exemplified the peace that Christ died to give us.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 NIV

With all the unrest that is happening in our world today, we must model Christlike love to encourage those around us. We must give faith and hope to our children. We must trust that the peace Christ gave us is greater than any unrest that may be raging about us. We must think back to that perfect holy night in Bethlehem when Christ was born to give us a peace that surpasses all earthly understanding.   

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 NIV

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

About the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer and speaker certified by the John Maxwell Team of Leadership.  She is a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. She is a world traveler, surfer, foodie, cappuccino loving chocoholic and a devoted mom to kids and dogs and auntie to many nieces and nephews who live around the world.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story.  With her young family on the verge of falling apart, Christina finds herself in a desperate situation with no resources other than herself.  After appealing to heaven, the Lord takes her on a journey of awakening and miraculous empowerment. That power is available to us all, especially those who need hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: What thoughts of God bring you peace?

Seven Ways to Know God is Watching Out for Us

by Janet Perez Eckles

The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. Psalm 121:5 NIV

Fall is almost here. We go into it with memories of hot summer days, walking on the sand and splashing in the water. This not-so-silly episode in one of Florida’s beach stands out…

“C’mon, Nana.” My granddaughter impatiently pulled my hand. Even at four years old, she knew to lead her blind Nana.

“Don’t go too far,” hubby said, from where he relaxed on a lounger.

With her small hand tight in mine, our feet sunk into the hot sand as we drew closer to the water. We jumped over the waves, giggled, collected shells, and giggled some more.

After a long while I realized I had no idea where we were—maybe too far from hubby. Was he still watching us?

I got on one knee and held my granddaughter’s wet cheeks between my hands. “Sweet baby, look at me, do you see Papa anywhere?”

“Nope. C’mon Nana, let’s jump.”

Suppressing the panic that cramped my stomach, I said silent prayers, the kind that blurts out from the heart. The kind you want to word just right so God would be quick to answer. And my silent pleas were those that bordered on self-pity. “Oh, if I could only see a little bit, this wouldn’t happen.”

With all traces of patience tossed into the sea, I quickly drew closer to a group of folks talking. “Excuse me,” I waved in the direction of their voices. Would you have a cell phone?” I said. “I think I lost my husband.”

As I gave the first few numbers for them to dial, I heard a familiar voice right behind me. “Honey, what’s wrong?”

“Oh, there you are.” I grinned with relief at my hubby.

“I was watching you both the whole time,” he said.

A little shame swept over me. Not because of what had just happened. But I remembered how often, during tough times in my life, I doubted, I panicked, I feared that God took His eyes off me. I worried I had drifted too far from His love, His provision, and His care.

We all do that sometimes, don’t we? We listen to the news; fear grips us. We learn of the growing statistics of the virus; anxiety invades our peace. And the whole time, we wonder is God there? Is He watching? Does He care?

Even in the midst of our well-meaning prayer, doubt creeps in, because we’re still walking on the hot sand of uncertainty. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Fear leaves, doubt ends, and faith comes. They do when we follow these seven steps:

1. Readjust our priorities. Do we seek the answer to our prayer with more passion than we seek God Himself? Some seek answers first, but here’s God’s order of priorities: “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

2. Resist the temptation to recite memorized, perfect prayers, with lovely words and deep insights. God simply wants the genuine expression of our heart. He’s listening. He even knows what we need before we ask Him, “…when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7 NIV).

3. Recognize that sometimes we don’t know how to pray or what our requests should be. So, we can freely ask for Him to show us what to pray for. Confident that He’s aware of every detail, we whisper to Him, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV).

4. Remember that His answer is always in His timing, not ours because a thousand years in God’s sight are like a day that has just gone by (Psalm 90 NIV).

5.Relax and relish in the fact that while we wait, He’s at work in us, in our heart, in our situation because, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).

6. Remove anxious thoughts. In the silence of the moment and in the power of His presence, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6 NIV).

7. Embrace profound confidence, not in the world or government, but in the power of God because “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14–15 NIV).

Father, we praise You because You have Your watchful eye on us and You observe our anxious moments. Knowing that each tomorrow is in Your hands, peace fills us. In Jesus name we thank You.

TWEETABLE
Seven Ways to Know God is Watching Out for Us – insight from author Janet Perez Eckles on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

janet perez eckles

About the author: Janet Perez Eckles is an international speaker, author and founder of J.C. Empowerment Ministries. Through her books and conference messages, she empowers thousands to overcome fear, conquer worry and live triumphantly. Janet’s book,  Hola, Happiness: Finding Joy by Dancing to the Melody of God’s Word is a brief Bible study to nudge you to the next level of triumph and joy. It is packed with deep reflections and answers from God’s Word. No matter what you face–disappointment, fear, heartache, shame, insecurity, sorrow–you will say “Hola” to happiness, peace, and the joy for which God created you.

Join the conversation: What is your favorite go-to verse when you struggle with doubt or fear?

Let Go

by Terri Gillespie @TerriGMavens

For the earth will be filled with knowing the glory of ADONAI [the LORD], as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14, TLV

We thought it was safe. The Missouri River had a long sandbar that was invisible from the shore. A group of people ran over it making them appear to be walking on water. Of course, we wanted to do it, too. So, my daughter, three of my nieces, and my sister-in-law and I skipped and laughed all the way to the end—which dropped off suddenly, in the middle of the rushing river current!

I was the last person to hit the undertow. I tried to swim back to the shallows but went nowhere. All I could do was keep myself from being dragged under the water. Within seconds I was exhausted from fighting to stay afloat. Part of me wanted to just give up—until I watched in horror as my daughter and nieces frantically tried to keep from going under.

Finally, I screamed for my brother on the shore. He ran in and stopped at the edge of the sandbar. Since I was the closest, he grabbed for me.

Have you ever heard the stories of rescuers being drowned by the victims they tried to save? I had. Still, I panicked and nearly pulled my brother in. He rebuked me—yelled at me to stop or I would drown us both.

In seconds I did the most counterintuitive thing I could do given my fear—I let go. I chose to trust that my brother would help me.

Once I did this, he was able to easily pull me to safety. Then, we both rescued the rest of our family. Had I not let go, the outcome could have been tragic.

One of the greatest lessons I learned from that experience had nothing to do with water safety. I learned what it felt like to want to give up, and how that is different from letting go.

Today’s passage is a prophecy. The prophet Habakkuk had witnessed another round of disappointing behaviors by Israel. Discouraged, he questioned why God had allowed all this. Amid this whirlpool of despair, Habakkuk proclaims that one day the earth would be filled with knowing the glory of the LORD.

The prophet continues with one of the most beautiful psalms of letting go—letting go because he trusted in the Most High God:

Though the fig tree does not blossom,
and there is no yield on the vines,
Though the olive crop fail,
and the fields produce no food,
the flock is cut off from the fold,
and there is no cattle in the stalls.
Yet will I triumph in Adonai,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!
Adonai my Lord, is my strength.
He has made my feet like a deer’s,
and will make me walk on my high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19, TLV

Giving up is wrapped in despair. Letting go is supported by faith and trust.

It can be discouraging to see the disappointing behavior all around us—sometimes within our own families. We may want to give up—to not be engaged in our calling. We wonder how we can let go of our fear, anger, disappointment, and choose to rejoice and speak words of faith: that one day all the earth will recognize the glory of our Heavenly Father, and acknowledge the hard-won salvation by His Son, Jesus.

We may wonder, but it is possible. All we need to do is let go.

TWEETABLE
Let Go – insight on #FollowingGod from Terri Gillespie, @TerriGMavens on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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.

Making Eye Contact with God is a women’s devotional that will enable you to really see God in a new and fresh way. Using real life anecdotes, combined with Scripture, author Terri Gillespie reveals God’s heart for women everywhere, as she softly speaks of the ways in which women see Him.

Join the conversation: Do you need to let go?

This May Be the Strangest Question Jesus Ever Asked

by Kathy Collard Miller  @KathyCMiller

“Do you want to be healed?” John 5:6 ESV

Jesus may be asking the most intriguing question ever as he talks to a man waiting to be healed. Our initial reaction is, “Of course he does. Jesus, what are you thinking? Who wouldn’t?”

But the man responds, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going, another steps down before me” (John 5:7 ESV).

The crippled man doesn’t say, “Of course. Can you help?” He gives an explanation. Or is it an excuse?

After thirty-eight years of a debilitating disease, is he comfortable in his situation? What would it mean to be healthy again? Maybe he fears handling the responsibilities of normal life.

I wonder how often Jesus asks us a similar kind of question.

  • By allowing frustrating circumstances, he might be asking: “Do you want to give up your disability of discontent?”
  • When someone hurts us, is he asking, “Do you want to be emotionally healed by relinquishing your bitterness?”
  • If someone takes advantage of us, is he asking, “Will you give up your victim mentality?”

Do we have standard reasons—or are they excuses—for our discontent, anger, and powerlessness? The waters of healing are right before us. Why don’t we jump in?

Jesus is a wise counselor. He knows how to prod the handicapped man’s heart and our own. Our hearts are an open book to him and a mystery novel to us. But he desires to reveal the pages which are stuck together with the glue of sin or fear.

Jesus is prying two pages apart as he gives the man an assignment he can refuse. “Jesus says to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk.’ And at once the man is healed, and he takes up his bed and walk[s]” (5:8-9 ESV).

We are cheering as he is healed and obeys with no explanations or excuses. Interestingly, Jesus tells him to “take up your bed.” The man couldn’t leave it there as his safety blanket in case he felt bad again.

Many years ago, I didn’t know releasing my unrealistic expectations of my husband, Larry, would be Jesus’s way of asking me to burn my “bed” of bitterness. In our early marriage, Larry worked two jobs and had a flying hobby. He was rarely home and gave little help with our two children, a new-born and a toddler. I wrapped myself in my mat of resentment as a way to protect myself from the pain of his rejection.

My husband says now, “I wrapped myself in my mat of controlling pride thinking Kathy had the problem, not me. In my view Kathy never appreciated my efforts, so I gave up even trying.”

We both at different times and in different ways heard Jesus ask, “Do you want to be healed?” The process of restoration began when we each stopped giving explanations and instead acknowledged our own self-centered spiritual sickness.

We will soon celebrate our 50th anniversary and are more in love with each other and Jesus than ever before.

Although we each will sometimes try to pick up another mat, God persists saying, “Do you want to stay well?”

Adapted from God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature, copyright 2020, Kathy Collard Miller

TWEETABLE
This May Be the Strangest Question Jesus Ever Asked – insight from @KathyCMiller on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Kathy Collard Miller loves to study God’s attributes. As a result, her latest two books are devotional books about God’s nature: God’s Intriguing Questions: 40 Old Testament Devotions Revealing God’s Nature and God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature.

These are co-authored with her husband, Larry, and make a wonderful couples’ devotional study. Kathy is also the author of 55 other books and has spoken in 9 foreign countries and over 35 US states. Check out her website: www.KathyCollardMiller.com and YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2SwiL03

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KathyCollardMillerAuthor

Join the conversation: Can you identify a time you were clueless to your motives and God prodded your heart to show you?

LIFE

by Tammy Whitehurst @TammyWhitehurst

 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.                                                                           Psalm 34:18 NIV 

Everything was going fine, then it suddenly feels as if we’ve stepped in front of an oncoming train or just walked face forward into a brick wall. We never saw it coming. It stopped us cold in our tracks.

LIFE: a hit of some kind to the home and heart. Most of us have felt deserted either emotionally or spiritually at some point. The pain can either derail us or propel us into the arms of Jesus.

A few years ago, I found myself in a dance with depression. Without Scripture guiding me out of the dark and back into the light, I would still be in the pit. Even as I clawed myself up and out, I knew Jesus had me in the palm of His hand.

During those dark days, I always believed the dark cloud would one day give way to sunshine. It is true when God tells us weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:1-5).

The key is to keep digging through the darkness until it bleeds light. It will….. because God says it will.

As Christians, we keep moving forward even if we have to drag ourselves. Even if we must claw our way into the next day….. and the next. God sees, hears, and cares. Because of that we have hope. God is good even when life is bad.

I can’t answer why we must walk through a crisis or how long we have to stay.

I can’t tell you when it all will change.

BUT…..

I CAN tell you where our help comes from. His name is Jesus and He won’t bend nor will he break. Even when our future is uncertain, he walks ahead of us to show the way.

When fear is overwhelming and questions have no answers, rely on the peace that surpasses all understanding. He is strong enough to rescue, to save….expect the unexpected when it comes to unleashing and bombarding Heaven with our prayers.

When it comes to life, the older we get the more we realize that “sometimes” is a real word that requires real faith.

Sometimes we get answers quickly.
Sometimes we don’t.
Sometimes people are healed.
Sometimes they aren’t.
Sometimes marriages last 50 plus years.
Sometimes not.
Sometimes relationships are mended and forgiveness comes full circle.
Sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes people realize true peace is found when we cross the line in the sand and step out on faith.
Sometimes the line is never crossed.

But even in uncertainty, as believers we can stand with our heads held high. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can march forward, not backward, eventually regaining the hope we might have lost.

Rough waters make smooth stones. Smooth stones bring down giants. Armor up. It’s time to report for duty!

TWEETABLE
LIFE – insight and encouragement from @TammyWhitehurst on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

tammy whitehurstAbout the author: Tammy was a middle school teacher before graduating from New Orleans Theological Seminary in 2010. Now speaking full-time, she has been interviewed on radio stations including Moody Christian Broadcasting and has authored three devotionals. She is also the co-director of Christian Communicators Conference, training speakers across the country. She has been described as a hoot with a capital “H” and she struggles like the rest of us with dust, dishes, cellulite, junk drawers, and wrinkles. Find out more about her at TammyWhitehurst.com

Join the conversation: When is the last time life knocked you off the tracks? What gave you hope?

Counterintuitive Peace

by Deborah McCormick Maxey, PhD @DeborahMaxey2

…he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge.                                                                          Psalm 91:4 NRSV

“Brain surgery.” Never had two words produced so much anxiety in me. I had prayed the world renown medical team would suggest I try yet another pill. My mind constantly replayed what it would entail to create a “hole in the head”: scalpels in my grey matter and affixing a titanium plate.

It was the first week in December, and instantly I knew that other than my husband, who was with me, God was calling me to keep this scary news from everyone else. I could not let the joy of the Christmas holiday be marred with the fact that I would undergo this on New Year’s Eve, I would undergo this procedure.

At first I was mystified, as a worship leader and a prayer warrior, by God’s direction to not ask for prayer. But eventually I understood: He wanted me to look up, not around, for support.

A few days later I felt God moving me to message a Facebook acquaintance whose sister is a pastor. They both advised me to memorize Psalm 91 and to think of it as “911” to God, because of His promises of protection it held.

I began intense study on that psalm. Verse by verse I journaled deeply into the meaning of the words. As a visual person, it was not enough to understand what the Scripture said, I wanted images to spring to mind as I recited the words in praise and petition.

For the above verse, I googled “birds protecting their young” and found pictures that brought me peace. Birds stretch out their huge pinion feathers and fold their young beneath their wings to shield them. Huddled safe from everything, the babies sleep peacefully while the parent bird stands watch, taking the blows from any attacker. Just as Jesus did on the cross.

I found another reassuring image in verses 11-12 (NRSV): For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up.”

Verse 15 (NRSV) also promises God will not fail. “When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.” Each verse brought joy and confidence that the Lord would be there for me through everything that lay ahead.

En route to Duke University on the day of surgery, Psalm 118:24 (NKJV) spontaneously repeated in my head: “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” And unbelievably, I felt the truth of those words.

Before leaving for the hospital, with a Sharpie, I had written “Psalm 91” in the palm of my hand, ready to grasp it like a squeeze ball if I needed extra strength. But there was an unintended effect: several hospital staff saw it, recognized it, and prayed with me on the spot. Folks I never met on the surgical team, found me afterwards to say that they also saw it and prayed.

I suffer from a chronic neurological disorder, Trigeminal Neuralgia, known as the “The Suicide Disease” because seventy two percent of those diagnosed end their lives within two years of onset. But through the surgery, which had been so scary to anticipate, God greatly reduced my 24/7 pain. He knew all along that His grace would be sufficient when I sought and trusted in him.

When things look overwhelming, and it feels counterintuitive to trust fully in Him, we can know He has a plan, a lesson, and a blessing in store. Over time, prayer, and the study of His Word, we learn to discern His voice. And His presence in our discipline brings us peace.

TWEETABLE
Counterintuitive Peace – encouragement from @DeborahMaxey2 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deborah maxeyAbout the author: Deborah Maxey, winner of numerous writing awards, has several short stories soon to be released in anthologies. Her first novel, “The Endling,” is scheduled to be published by Firefly Southern Fiction, Iron Stream Media. Along with a love for storytelling, Deborah is worship leader at her church, devoted wife, mother, grandmother, fine artist, and a licensed professional therapist in Lynchburg Virginia.

Join the conversation: What has been counterintuitive for you in your relationship with God?

Live Free…Your Best Life is Yet to Be

by Beth Duewel @DuewelBeth

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  Romans 15:13 ESV

Life may seem a little off right now. In Fix Her Upper language, it’s been a bit of a demo time.

But that’s the good news. There will be a day we can look back and marvel at all God’s done. Today even. We can pray together, because we know prayer changes everything.

Jesus knew this. In Scripture we see Him step away from the crowds. Walk off quietly to pray. He takes walks with His Father and declares, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:11 ESV). No matter what happened to him on this earth, He remained in perfect peace. It’s prayer and the presence of God that fixes this anxious life.

Now that I’ve had 8000 moments to catch my breath, I can see how frequently I forget to pray when life is moving quickly and noisily.  

The enemy would love us to stay overwhelmed with crisis and underwhelmed with Jesus. But while the world tells us one thing—God tells us something different: “My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness” (Galatians 5:16 The MSG). I love this verse and the future it holds for us. God encourages us to live our best life freely, dynamically, and sensitive to the nudging of the helpful hand of the Spirit.

Apparently, I wasn’t living my freest life, though. Not at all. Because when the pandemic arrived, I was reassigned to work in our hospital Emergency Room with many of my coworkers. My dynamic was gone. My fear? The same as everyone else’s with the forecast of what the virus might do to our world, my family, and…me. I started to self-preserve and hold back; I noticed my preoccupation with the ability of my N95 to save me from all things germy.

But I’ve realized there’s no freedom in fear. None. Fear is selfish. It causes our spirits to retreat in an effort to ensure our own survival, protect ourselves. All this time, I’ve tried to play it safe.

A safe life is not our best life—because faith makes us live for something more.

This assurance came as I sat with a patient who was dying—my N95 pooling with snot and tears—my heart so full of prayer for the other person that I couldn’t safeguard my soul. Suddenly, I felt fierce and full of hope. Apparently, we don’t feed the compulsions of self-preservation or worry when we’re in all-out prayer for someone else. Galatians 5:16 reminds us “the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness.” Prayer is the freedom that overrides fear, selfishness, and self-preservation. Prayer is the dynamic that protects the ones we love, and those we don’t know but love anyway. Prayer places the future in the best hands.

Seriously, we don’t have to be consumed with the thought of staying safe in order for God’s loving intent to protect us. He just does. In fact, the very definition of Sovereignty means to be free from external control—God’s perfect purpose protects even when we can’t shield ourselves. You deserve the freedom in this thought. I do too.

We can live free. 

It’s okay to be afraid. It really is. It’s smart to be cautious. It really is. But Romans 15:13 (above) tells us that it’s by the Holy Spirit we have power and hope. It’s my guess that this power makes us more alive today than ever before.

Remember: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1 ESV).

In Christ, our flesh is released from sin. In prayer we’re energized with LIFE. Friends, this is good news! Because in the beginning the world was great, and then it wasn’t. And maybe today is good, and then it’s not. There is freedom when we live in the Spirit and have conversations with the Father. In this new day we can pray.

Lord, we want to live our best life with You. Stripped down, sanded of all the things we once felt important, we can feel full and undeserving of Your joy. We can only look back and marvel at what You’ve done and praise You for what You are about to do. May we settle into Your hope and stay totally dissatisfied with self or fear. For freedom You have set us free. Amen.

TWEETABLE
Live Free…Your Best Life is Yet to Be – encouragement from @DuewelBeth on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

beth duewel (2)
fix her upper reclaim your happy space

About the author: Beth Duewel is a writer, speaker, and blogger at Fix-Her-Upper.com. She has three almost adulting children, and lives with her husband in Ashland, Ohio. Beth and her coauthor, Rhonda Rhea, are super excited about their new book,  Fix Her Upper: Reclaim Your Happy Space.

Join the conversation: What have you found to help manage your fear in these uncertain times?