Awash in Grace & the Forethought of God

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

You can tell a lot about people by the way they do their laundry. I have friends who have certain days they designate as “laundry days.” I confess, I’m probably much more impressed by that than any grown woman should be. My laundry days? They usually happen on whatever days I realize I have to make a choice:  I have to wash a load, or I have to be one of those people who goes to Wal-Mart in pajama pants.

I’m further impressed by my friends who go the extra mile, laundry-wise. They…are you ready for this?…pretreat. They do it like it’s this normal thing that people do. But do you know what pretreating is? It’s doing laundry before you actually do the laundry. There’s something remarkably intentional and impressively diligent about that.

I have other friends who go beyond even that and carry one of those pen-things so they can pretreat even before a stain makes it to the laundry room. They’re essentially doing laundry before they’re even home. It borders on laundry lunacy.

It probably won’t shock you to know that when I’m having dinner out and hot fudge drips down my sweater, I’m not thinking about laundry. You know what I’m thinking? Fudge. And if I scrape the fudge off my sweater, it’s not a pretreatment. It’s a fudge salvage.

Some people do laundry with great forethought. I do laundry with great afterthought.

Of course, there’s regular forethought. And then there’s the forethought of God. His is a whole different basket of laundry. We’re told in Titus 3:4-5 that “when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us,” (ESV). How vital it is to stay intentional and deliberate about remembering His planning of our salvation. That passage continues, “not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (vv. 5-6, ESV).

No kind of laundering would ever make us clean enough apart from that “washing of regeneration,” the saving work of Jesus Christ. We can’t do enough deeds, attend enough services—we can’t pray enough, or pay enough—to earn what is freely given by His mercy.

I know what you’re probably thinking. This is an oversimplified, everybody-already-knows-it, fact of the faith. Yet how many times do we overcomplicate the Gospel? It’s just:  Jesus. His amazing, pre-thought grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, ESV).

Even those of us who’ve been around the Christian block a few times need to be reminded to trust His grace. It’s easy to get off-track, concentrating on all the “good” we might be doing, forgetting the One we’re doing it for. Embracing our own lack of ability to do anything of lasting value is at the same time embracing His ability to do more than we could ever imagine. And that’s something we need to embrace anew every day.

Incidentally, there are also things I’ve embraced about my lack of laundry finesse. A spot on a sweater? It doesn’t really mean a laundry fail to me. It means a new sweater.

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.  2 Timothy 1:9 NIV

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rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown, mostly-coffee-drinking children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: How had God’s grace made a difference in your life?

Six Ways You Can Change the World

 by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Sometimes it feels as if darkness has overpowered light, sorrow dominates joy, and confusion and fear have infiltrated peace. Watching the news play out before me, or perhaps even sitting with a hurting friend, can make me feel powerless. Ineffectual.

But Scripture tells me this is a lie. In Christ, I–we–have the power to transform our world. Each day, with every word and action we choose, every smile we offer, we can speak hope into despair, love into loneliness, and healing into the most broken and beaten down hearts.

We have the power of the risen, victorious, life-and-light-bringing Savior residing within.

Here are ways we can unleash that power:

Engage. In our hyper-interactive culture, where tweets, posts, and likes often replace face-to-face encounters. The result: Many feel unseen. Insignificant. Unvalued. Simply taking the time to engage others in conversation, even if but for a moment, can encourage a deflated heart. Because remember, we’re representatives and reflectors of El Roi, the God who sees. (Gen. 16:13) May we reflect Him well.

Choose grace. I mess up a hundred times each day. I respond with frustration instead of kindness. I behave selfishly instead of releasing my Father’s love. And many, many times I let my mouth (or keyboard) run when I should simply walk away. But though each non-Christlike reaction leads me to confession, I’m also very quick to offer myself grace. I was tired, stressed, overwhelmed … perhaps caught off guard. Yet do I offer the same grace to others? Do I make allowances for their faults or “make much” of every blunder? Whenever I choose grace, I reveal a bit of Jesus and point others to Him.

Stand up. To champion the beaten down, discarded, or marginalized is to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. He left heaven to rescue the oppressed—those burdened and enslaved by sin—and His Word tells us to speak out for those who don’t have a voice. Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (NIV).

Enter into someone else’s darkness. Did you ever make flashlight shadows when you were a kid? Did you ever try to do this in a well-lit room? Not so effective, right? Most likely you closed yourself in a darkened bathroom where the beams from your flashlight radiated strong and bright. Whenever we seek out, reach out, and intentionally walk beside those shrouded in darkness, we flood their world with light.

Show kindness. Offer a smile, a hug, a word of encouragement, and an open door. Never underestimate the power of a simple yet intentional kind act done for another. It can soothe anger, counter distrust, and open hearts to the love of Christ. In everything we do and every word we speak, may we remember it is God’s kindness that leads people to repentance.

Pray. May we see every act of darkness, ugly display of hate, and destructive outburst of anger as a reminder to turn to our unchanging, unconquerable power source—Jesus Christ. Those moments spent on our knees may feel … anti-climactic. We may be tempted to think our time in doing—serving in ministry, feeding the poor, typing out oodles of words for books and blog posts—holds more value. But Scripture promises this is far from true. Prayer isn’t meant to be something we do in random, still moments before our real work begins. Prayer is our first and most important work, regardless the task, because ultimately, only Jesus can truly change a heart and a world. When we prioritize prayer, we’re acknowledging we believe this to be true.

Imagine if we each chose to do one of the above each day. Imagine how our families, relationships, neighborhoods—our world—might change.

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Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer and international speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and other writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels maintains a devotional blog found at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who Dancing in the Rain by [Rife, Eileen, Slattery, Jennifer]they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, (http://whollyloved.com) she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband. Connect with her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte) or Instagram

Join the conversation: What is one way you plan to be a world-changer today? Share your “I’m gonna!” along with anything else you’d add to my list in the comments below. We can all learn from and encourage one another! And in Christ, we can change the world!

How to Stop Being So Hard on Yourself

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

I glanced at the Waze GPS app on my phone. Great. I was on my way to a group who’d invited me to visit after discussing one of my books. Before I was even out of my driveway the estimated time of arrival said I’d arrive five minutes late.

Why can’t you leave on time? What’s wrong with you? My thoughts chided me.

This line of thinking neither helped me make up for lost time or prepared my heart to encourage the women I’d see. I thought of a book I’d recently finished with an imperfect heroine. If she ran late I didn’t love her less. I empathized with her. So why was I so hard on myself?

I shifted my thoughts off myself and onto God. I thanked Him for making me who I am. I asked Him to help me do better and to work this situation out for good—and to help me arrive on time!

A woman pulled in behind me as I parked my car. She jumped out of her car and raced to open the door. “I was so glad to see you drive up. If I walk in with the speaker I’m not late.” We both laughed.

God used my timing to build a bond. I entered relaxed and happy to be there. Would that have happened if I’d stayed self-absorbed brooding over my weaknesses?

Reading how God dealt with His flawed children in the Bible has helped me learn to give myself grace when I disappoint myself. God appeared to Jacob and gave him a spectacular dream in which the Lord stood at the top of a ladder that spanned the gap between heaven and earth and His angels ascended and descended it (Gen. 28:10-17).

God blessed Jacob in the dream and promised to give Jacob and his descendants the land of Canaan. “Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (v. 14 NIV). God was passing the blessing of Abraham to Jacob.

What amazes me about this scene is its timing.

The Lord revealed Himself and the promise to Jacob after Jacob had just deceived his father. Jacob was fleeing his brother Esau’s wrath.

God showed similar grace with Abraham. A pagan king took Abraham’s wife Sarah into his harem because Abraham told everyone that she was his sister. When the king discovered the truth, he reprimanded Abraham and had him escorted out of the country (Gen. 12:10-20).

I’m sure God didn’t condone this lapse on Abraham’s part, but He never mentioned it. Abraham had suffered the consequences of his deception. That was enough. Instead, in the next recorded conversation between God and Abraham, God gently reassured him and showed him the land He would give him.

If God is patient with us, shouldn’t we emulate Him and extend grace and patience to ourselves as well?  Living in regret doesn’t help us move forward. But if we surrender it to God, He can use our weaknesses for His glory and our good.

Perhaps the key to accepting ourselves—which precedes the ability to unconditionally love others—comes from seeing ourselves as our Lord sees us. “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (Ephesians. 1:4 NLT). When He looks at us, He sees what we will be.

And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.  Romans 8:30 NLT

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debbie wilsonAbout the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with forgiving yourself?

My Imperfections and God’s Power

by Kristine Brown @kristinebrown43

How could a task-oriented, detail-driven girl like me be so careless? I thought.

Mistakes happen. I knew this in my heart, but it was not just one mistake. It was two, and the errors caused problems for my entire team. I can usually maintain a lighthearted attitude about making mistakes, but not that day. Instead of laughing at myself, I questioned my abilities. Frustration grew as my thoughts centered around my flaws.

Making mistakes can make me feel inadequate. Defeated. Unable to get the job done.

The truth is, sometimes I get caught up in my own expertise, and I run ahead full speed. Tackling one task with ease gives me the confidence to take on another, then another, then another. Before I know it, I’ve run into a wall because I didn’t slow down long enough to place my confidence where it belongs.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV).

In verse 9, Paul explains to the church at Corinth how God responded to him when he asked God to take away a “thorn in his flesh.” Paul knew the purpose of that thorn, or weakness. Verse 7 says, “… in order to keep me from becoming conceited.”

God allowed Paul to carry the weakness to keep his dependence in the right place. Paul accepted his weakness with gladness, knowing full well that he needed it. I’m inspired by how Paul acknowledged his own vulnerability. He wanted to remain humble, keeping the focus of his life and ministry on Christ.

God provided grace for Paul, and He does the same for us. Even when our mistakes reveal our weaknesses. Messing up shouldn’t cause us to question our abilities. It simply provides a pause for us to check our dependence. Have we become reliant on ourselves rather than our Savior? Do we put pressure on ourselves to never make a mistake? God cares enough about us to expose our weaknesses, so He can shine through our lives and teach us how to place our trust in Him.

Mistakes happen, because we are imperfect. But through those imperfections, God’s power is revealed. Like Paul, let’s embrace our weaknesses, knowing we can rely on God’s strength instead of our own.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Hebrews 4:15 ESV

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kristine brownAbout the author: Kristine Brown is a communicator at heart, sharing biblical insight with readers and audiences in a relatable way. Her life experiences blend together to create an eclectic backdrop for her lessons that highlight God’s powerful Word and redemptive grace. She is the author of the book, Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan, and founder of the non-profit organization, More Than Yourself, Inc. Read Kristine’s weekly devotions and Bible study resources at kristinebrown.net or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Join the conversation: What are the weaknesses in you that have moved you back into a deeper dependence on God?

 

Car Horns, Icy Glares and Grace

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

One Tuesday morning years ago, I had a “traffic incident” on my way to lead ladies’ Bible study.  I started the drive frustrated with myself because I left the house late. Then, two stoplights from my destination, the driver of the only car in front of me sat through the green light without moving. While busily chatting with her passenger, she missed the opportunity to turn left. I “patiently” waited behind her for the next green light.

When the light changed to green again, she continued to chat, but failed to drive. So I hit my horn. And no, not a friendly, quick toot. It was a long, irritated blast. She slowly began to move and we both barely made it through the intersection before the light changed again.

As soon as I had the chance, I darted around her, tossing back my best icy glare as I sped by. I approached the last light and got in the right lane to make my turn. I glanced in the rearview mirror. “Distracted Driver” was also in the turn lane. One block from church, a horrible possibility hit me. What if Distracted Driver was also headed to my church?

A community group also met in our church building on Tuesday mornings. She would see me go in and know I was one of those “Christian” women.  I slowed to make the turn into the church parking lot. Another furtive glance in the rearview confirmed my fear. Distract Driver was turning too. I quickly scooted into the one remaining parking spot close to the doors and she made her way further down the lot. I ducked inside the building and into my classroom before she had time to get her seat-belt unfastened.

The Holy Spirit swiftly convicted me. Instead of extending grace, I acted with impatience and anger. My behavior negatively impacted the name of Jesus. Instead of sharing the grace of Christ that day, I was just another example of a graceless Christian.

God woos people to Himself with grace. Yet far too often our witness is anything but gracious. Sometimes our ungracious behavior reflects poorly on Jesus. Sometimes, our verbal witness lacks grace. And still other times our spiritual conversations simply fail to connect with the hearer.

Christians have experienced God’s grace in abundance yet sometimes we fail to share the Gospel of grace in a gracious way. God’s Word encourages us to be graceful witnesses, to behave and speak in ways that connect with others and honor Jesus.

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6, NIV

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Kathy HowardThis post is adapted from Kathy Howard’s Bible study Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing. Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: What specific changes can you make in your behavior or speech to be a more gracious witness?

 

 

Grace Calling

by Fran Sandin

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”   I Peter 3: 15 NIV

It all began when my husband, Jim, and I stopped for lunch in a small-town. Before entering the building, I excused myself to the ladies’ room. There was no appropriate area to set my purse as I washed up, so I placed it in the clean sink. Since it was raining when we arrived, I thought nothing of a few drops of water on the purse when I left the bathroom. Once we were seated, I reached into the purse for my phone.

That’s when I discovered the inside of my purse was soaked. It didn’t occur to me until that moment that the sink had an automatic faucet. Evidently the faucet mistook my purse for hands. Soooo—you guessed it. The phone was wet and dead.

We visited an AT&T store where a handsome young man, Jose, waited on us. He and another worker checked the phone and confirmed, “It is dead.”

I turned to Jim and apologized, “I am so sorry about this. Please forgive me.” He responded with such grace. “It was an accident! You need a phone, so let’s buy one now for your birthday.”

Thankfully, I answered a few questions; and while icloud loaded information from my old phone into a new one, we visited with Jose.

He told us he was a first-year college student working toward a business degree. During our conversation, Jim shared a tract written by our son, Steve, two months before he moved to Heaven. “So What Happens Next?

Jose repeated the title, and said, “I’ve always wondered about that. May I read it now?” We were quiet while he read most of it. Then he asked, “What advice would you give a young man my age?” It was a wonderful opportunity to share verses like—”Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3: 5-6 NIV).

Jim shared his own testimony and I asked Jose, “Do you have a Bible?” Jose was delighted when Jim helped him download a Bible app on his phone. We left the store feeling we had just experienced a divine appointment. I asked Jose to give us his name, so I could pray for him. He also included his telephone number. So, a few days later, I followed up with a text to thank him for helping us and added, “I hope you have trusted Jesus as your Savior.” He wrote back “I sure did,” and expressed gratitude for our time together.

I am overwhelmed by grace—the forgiving grace of my husband, God’s grace in providing our salvation, the opportunity to share good news, Jose’s prepared heart; and the joy of Jose’s accepting God’s grace toward him as he received Jesus Christ. To God be the glory!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace that is greater than our sin. Help us to always be ready to share that good news with others. In Jesus’ name, A-men.

fran sandlinAbout the authorFran Caffey Sandin is a retired nurse, wife, mother, and grandmother in Greenville, Texas. She enjoys baking, flower arranging, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Jim. Fran is a church organist, a core group leader for Community Bible Study, and author of See You Later, Jeffreyand Touching the Clouds: True Stories to Strengthen Your Faithand has co-authored othersJim and Fran are parents of two sons awaiting them in Heaven; a married daughter and son-in-law, and three fabulous grandchildren. Visit Fran at her website:  www.fransandin.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever experienced a divine appointment?

 

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When You Can’t Go Any Further

by Cindi McMenamin

Nancy had been on long rides before. But nothing like this.

For months, she had pedaled it hard on an upright bike at the health club, training for the 40-mile bicycle ride with her friend, Donna, across Whidby Island in Washington State. But the workouts on the stationary bike didn’t prepare her for the steep uphill climbs she was encountering on this ride.

Nancy’s friend, Barb – and her husband, Rick – followed Nancy and Donna on the long-grueling ride up the hills, offering support by driving ahead of them in a pickup truck, then coming back and briefing them what they would encounter around the next corner.

But after a couple steep climbs, Nancy was exhausted. Each time they made a turn and started up a hill again, she struggled, without saying a word. Donna rode on ahead of her, apparently unaware of her struggle.

But Rick saw it. And after driving back down another time to tell the women what lay ahead, this time he did something different. He stopped the truck, got out, picked up Nancy’s bike, and put it in the back of his truck. Then he let her into the truck, and drove her up the hill. Once they were up, he got out, lifted her bike out of the truck and put it back on the ground for her to resume her ride.

“He did that over and over again and never said a word,” Nancy told me later, with tears in her eyes. “That was grace.”

Nancy was right. That was grace.

We often face struggles. And in our pride we are determined to pedal harder and wear ourselves out working through them. Sometimes we complain to others. Sometimes, like Nancy, we don’t say a word. But God knows what lies ahead, around the next bend. And instead of saying “Come on, you can do it, pedal harder!” God quietly carries us up those hills.

In Isaiah 40:29-31, we are told that God gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. And even though the young and energetic may fall, those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength as if they’re soaring on eagles’ wings.

Are you struggling through something right now because you’re trying to do it completely by yourself? If so, recognize help where it exists. And just yield. Yield to the One who knows what lies ahead and is there to carry you up the hill.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness….” 2 Corinthians 12:9 CSV  

Lord, thank You for always being there to not just encourage me, but to carry me at times. Help me to humble myself and rely on Your help to get me through whatever lies ahead of me.   

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 When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold), God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart, and When You’re Running on Empty. For more on her books and ministry, or to learn more about her coaching and consulting services for writers, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Join the conversation: Has God ever carried you when you could not go on alone?

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The Great Hiking Boot Debacle

by Kathy Howard

 I filled my suitcase with shorts, flip-flops, three swimsuits, and one pair of hiking boots. My husband Wayne and I planned to do nothing but hike, snorkel, and soak up the sun during our 30th anniversary trip to the Caribbean island of St. John. The week would be easy, fun, and relaxing. And it was, all except for one small incident involving a steep, rocky trail and a worn out pair of hiking boots.

Once dominated by sugar plantations, today more than half of the island falls within the borders of the Virgin Islands National Park. Therefore, dozens of trails crisscross the island – some follow the coast, some snake through plantation ruins, and others delve deep into the tropical forest. We wanted to explore them all.

According to our travel guide, the Ram Head Trail was the most challenging. That’s where we began. The Ram Head Trail switches it’s way back and forth up a saddleback hill to the high, southern-most point of the island. Our book described it as a “steep, narrow, and slippery path, which can be tricky.”

However, since Wayne and I are seasoned hikers, we felt confident we could manage this trail without a problem. We had plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen. We both had sturdy hiking boots – at least we thought we did.

That last sentence needs a bit of explanation. Even though we have done lots of hiking, it had been quite a few years since my last hike. My good hiking boots had been sitting unused in the closet. Wayne encouraged me to buy some new ones. But mine still fit and felt great. “No need,” I had insisted.

Big mistake.

Just before we started up the steep part of the trail, my right boot began to feel strange. When I examined it, I discovered the sole had come loose from the boot at the heel. With every step the sole flopped against the ground.

Wayne pulled a small bungee cord out of his backpack and we used it to keep the sole tight against my heel. And it worked! For about 50 yards. Then the front of the sole released its grip on the toe of my boot.

Wayne didn’t have any more cords in his pack, but he did find a piece of thin nylon rope right on the trial. We fastened that around my toe and started back up the trial. Although the sole slipped around a bit, it allowed me to walk without any trouble.

Then about 30 yards from the summit, the inevitable happened. The sole on my left boot released completely. I picked it up and carried it the rest of the way to the top. Only a thin layer of fabric remained between the sole of my foot and the rocky trail. I felt every pebble on the last few yards to the top.

When I arrived, I plopped down on a large rock. Wayne wandered around taking photos. How I was going to get back down the trail? “Wish I hadn’t left my sport sandals in the jeep,” I complained out loud.

“I’ve got mine,” Wayne offered. “Do you think you could wear them?”

Of course his sandals didn’t fit my feet, but they did fit nicely over what was left of my boots. I tightened the Velcro straps as snug as possible and down the trail we went. The lug soles gave me the grip I needed on the rocky path. And they stayed put! Wayne to the rescue yet again! I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a kitchen sink in his pack.

My feet did look pretty strange. The few hikers we passed on the way down gave me weird looks. And it wasn’t my imagination. But Wayne’s sandals protected my feet and got me safely to the bottom.

Sometimes our lives are like that trail. The going gets steep and things start falling apart. We may even wonder how we’ll go on. In those times of struggle, God wraps His strength around our weakness. He graciously protects our tender places.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.                                                                                                                   2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT

When we cannot go on, He carries us. When difficulty overwhelms us, His grace rushes in. His strength. The greater the trial, the greater the grace. His protection. His love and mercy. Lavishly poured out.

Kathy HowardAbout the author: This post is adapted from Kathy Howard’s new Bible study Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing. Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: When was the last time God gave you His strength? Do you need His strength today?

A Stone’s Throw From Grace

by Edie Melson

When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.  John 8:7 CSB

Imagine with me the scene that day. A woman has been caught in the act of adultery. In first century Israel, it’s a crime punishable by death—death by stoning. The men and women drag her into the public square. I can hear the voices of her accusers, raised in hatred and condemnation.

  • “You’re nothing but filth.”
  • “You knew what could happen when you made your choice.”
  • “Get rid of her. We can’t have someone like her contaminating our town.”

She’s thrown at the feet of a famous teacher, for him to pronounce the death sentence. Why did they bring her to him? Because he’s known for his compassion. By bringing her crime to his attention they can literally kill two birds with one stone. They can get rid of a sinner and either expose him as a liar, or a lawbreaker.

Instead, Jesus introduces them all to the concept of grace.

And He does it without compromising the law or the heart of compassion he’s known for.

Back in the viewpoint of our sinner, I can imagine her laying there at His feet, covering her head with her arms as she tries to make as small a target as possible. Every muscle is tensed, waiting for the first stone from the angry mob.

As the crowd begins to quiet, instead of the sound of stones whistling through the air, she hears the words of the teacher. His pronouncement takes them all by surprise—even her. And I can imagine that the next sounds she hears are the thumps all around her as the stones drop to the ground as the crowd disperses.

Those in the crowd learned a valuable lesson as did the woman. They learned that they have a choice when it comes to confronting sin. They can be stone-throwers or stone-droppers.

It’s a choice we still have today. Starting today I’m going to make a conscious effort to drop those stones and be an instrument of grace.

Edie-MelsonAbout the author: Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, whether she’s addressing parents, military families, readers of fiction or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker, she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her latest book, While My Child is Away; Prayers for While Were Apart is available at local retailers and online. Connect with her further at www.EdieMelson.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Edie’s book, While My Child is Away,  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 kinds of things tempt you to throw stones?

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash

Are You Living in Guilt or Grace

by Edie Melson

I remember a time in my life when I was struggling. It came back to me in a rush after I’d met with a young woman I’d been mentoring. She was ready to give up, certain she’d never be good enough, no matter the fact that she’d accepted Jesus as Lord.

I shared with her a similar time in my life…

It had happened again. I’d sworn it wouldn’t happen, but it had. And I’d made the promise just last week. I’d cried out to God during my morning prayers, promising to do better, to be more careful. This wasn’t the first time I’d confessed this weakness. I’d wrestled with this temptation again and again.  

What kind of a person was I that I’d fall so easily back into the middle of temptation? My repeated lapses made me wonder if I was even a believer.

Those were dark days. But coming through them has given me confidence.

Not in myself…never in me. But in God.

No matter how many times I stumbled, He was always there to pick me up, always waiting to extend grace and give me another go. I was the one who struggled with shame and condemnation.

And that condemnation NEVER came from Him.

Oh don’t get me wrong. I know it hurt Him—still hurts Him—when I gave in to sin. But He didn’t return that hurt with punishment. He returned it with patience, grace, and love. During this painful process I discovered a life-changing truth that still sustains me.

It’s not possible to out-sin God’s mercy.

Do I still struggle? You better believe it. But I’m quicker to admit my failings, and less willing to listen to the false guilt that comes from my enemy.

Satan lashes my soul with guilt, but God extends infinite grace.

So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty. Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit that brings life made you free from the law that brings sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 NCV

Edie-MelsonAbout the author: Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, whether she’s addressing parents, military families, readers of fiction or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker, she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her latest book, While My Child is Away; Prayers for While Were Apart is available at local retailers and online. Connect with her further at www.EdieMelson.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Edie’s book, While My Child is Away,  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: Are you prone to self-condemnation? Find yourself living in guilt rather than grace? What ways have you found to battle those accusations?

Photo by Dan Bøțan on Unsplash