Am I Getting Older or Wiser?

by Laura Petherbridge

Put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth. Therefore, putting away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity…Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. Ephesians 4: 24-27, 31-32 CSB

Lately I’ve noticed little things that reveal I’m getting older. Some of them include:

  • I find myself gravitating to the anti-wrinkle section of the cosmetic counter.
  • I no longer have any idea what color lipstick I’m applying because I can’t read the small print on the bottom of the tube.
  • I walk into a room only to discover I have absolutely no recollection of why I’m there.

But the Bible shares a positive side to aging, “Wisdom is found with the elderly, and understanding comes with long life” (Job 12:12 CSB). My bones and hair may be thinning, but I am not defeated. As I age, I can become smarter than ever before, if I’m teachable and desire it.

This is fabulous news.

In my 40-year journey with Jesus (so far) I have discovered a few litmus tests to evaluate whether I’m getting smarter, or merely older. These can be found in the above verses from Ephesians. I can tell I’m growing as a Christian when:

Trials and temptations are viewed as an opportunity for growth. This doesn’t mean I’m skipping through a storm, shouting “Praise the Lord” and pretending pain doesn’t exist. It means I’ve learned that God can be trusted in the middle of a crisis. I know he can bring good out of bad. The result may make me stronger than before. I hate the storm, but I love the results.

There is an increased awareness of areas of weakness and the tendency to sin. Maturing in Christ doesn’t mean I don’t sin. It does mean that my radar is sharper, my knowledge of God’s Word is greater, and my desire to obey God is intense. When I’m growing in Christ, and I realize I’m disobeying Him, I’m quick to confess. I sincerely repent, and ask God to help me avoid this situation in the future. I must be willing to make sacrifices if that’s what’s necessary to avoid sin. The passion to be free is fierce. 

I’m not embarrassed, or arrogant, about being different. If it’s been a long time since I’ve shared Jesus with another person, that’s an indication my relationship with God is in trouble. When I lack enthusiasm about God’s amazing grace, or the price it cost Jesus to save my soul, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate. When I discover my comments, and social media posts, are focused on an “us versus them” mentality, that’s an indication that pride has crept into my life. Pride is always spelled, S-I-N. 

I recognize God owns it ALL. There isn’t a person, place or thing in my life that couldn’t be gone is 30 seconds. I have no ability to keep or control anything. God can choose to remove my husband, family, home, health, bank account and anything else he feels is wise. At first I didn’t like these sobering thoughts, but when I admitted that God is in control, not me—a huge burden was lifted. He has given me the privilege to be the caretaker of the people or things to which I’m entrusted. But I don’t own them. He does.

I’ve learned to dance with my Creator. Many of my early Christian years were spent in an exhausting performance for God. I kept trying to earn the love He has already given for free. Fear kept me from accepting His embrace, but His zealous love won out. I finally gave in and accepted His lavish love. I heard him whisper, “You are beautiful and precious to me. I delight in you, Laura. Relax, Beloved. I will never leave you. Never.” Because I stopped performing, wrestling and resisting, we now dance like a bride and groom.

God is helping me to focus and keep Him the main thing, so those new wrinkles don’t matter as much. Now—if I could only find where I put my cell? A-L-E-X-A, find my phone!

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

About the author: Laura Petherbridge is an international speaker and author of, When ‘I Do’ Becomes ‘I Don’t’The Smart Stepmom,  101 Tips for The Smart Stepmom, and Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul.  She has appeared at/on the Billy Graham Center, Family Talk (Dobson), Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman, FamilyLife, Lifeway and Moody Broadcasting. She has been a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series implemented in over 60,000 churches worldwide. In addition to the USA, she has spoken in South Africa, Australia, and Canada. Laura and Steve live in Atlanta, Ga and have been married for 35 years. She has two stepsons, daughters in law, and grandkids. She may be reached at www.TheSmartStepmom.com.

Laura’s resource When I Do Becomes I Don’t-Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce is answers to her most FAQ after 30 years in divorce recovery and stepfamily ministry. It includes chapters for friends and family, and a section for church leadership. 

Join the conversation: In what ways have you seen yourself growing wiser?

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Taste the Green!

by Kelly Wilson Mize

When I was younger, thinner, and a lot more energetic, I used to tumble. I learned in a gym, but my favorite place to put my skills into practice was a large, open area of thick, green grass. Still to this day, when I see a big green space, it calls out to me. I long to feel the freedom of reckless abandon that I once felt, when I was physically able to run and flip across the expanse.

Usually around this time of year, when the grass starts to turn green and the flowers burst into full-color, our lives too, begin to burst with renewed activity. With upcoming summer vacations, graduations, weddings, and summer planning–spring can often be chaotic and stressful, even with the aesthetic magnificence that is being reborn all around us.

But these last couple of years, the beginning of spring has been different–an unprecedented time, as we have often heard it called. Some of us have longed for the return of busy social schedules, and have mourned the loss of meaningful ceremonies that have been re-scheduled virtually, or postponed indefinitely. Most of us will remember this strange, uncertain pandemic experience for the rest of our lives. But there have been some positives too. With quarantines and social distancing, many of us have taken time to enjoy the outdoors, to fully digest the awakening spring colors and the peace and healing they can bring.

I have always been a devoted fan of chlorophyll. The sight of vivid green leaves and grass in springtime is so welcome to me after a long winter filled with dark skies and a world nearly void of color. The color green lies in between yellow and blue on the spectrum of visible light. Its hue is a mixture of the light of the sun, and the color of the bluest sky: God’s perfection. I can see the green of spring with my eyes, inhale its scent, and almost feel it in my soul. The season awakens senses that have been dormant for months. It offers a glimpse of new life, but also signifies the comforting return of an old friend. There is a green so vivid, I can almost taste it.

It’s not surprising that David refers to the color green in one of his most beloved songs of praise. Most of us have found restoration in those “green pastures” at one time or another. There is peace, strength, courage and comfort when we allow ourselves to submit to the only One who could make the grass green. The colors of springtime help strengthen our faith in an amazing Creator, and in the hope of growth and renewal that only He can offer.

As spring approaches, let go of the fear and uneasiness of the last year and remember that our skilled Shepherd is in control of every pasture. Take a few minutes to connect with Him in the perfect green meadow that was created just for you.

Be still.

Be renewed.

Be strengthened.

Be courageous.

Be led.

Be protected.

Be comforted.

Feast on His peace.

And this year, more than ever before,

Fully taste the green!

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.

You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23 NLT

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

About the author: Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother of two young adults, and former educator with a master’s degree in education. In 20 years as a published writer, she he has composed numerous articles, interviews, curriculum projects, and devotions, and has contributed to eight traditionally published books. Credits include LifeWay, Bethany House, Guideposts, (in)courage, and others. 

Join the conversation: What does the beginning of spring mean to you?

Got Milk. Need Meat?

by Lori Hynson 

For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.                                                  Hebrews 5:13-14  (NLT)

 Pediatrician visits with my kids always included measuring their progress on a growth chart. From birth, their height, weight, food intake, and motor skills were recorded to ensure good progress.

If so inclined, God could chart our spiritual progress in much the same way. When we accept Jesus, God delivers us once again as newborn spirits, feeding and nourishing us in His Word as we begin to grow and mature, first on milk, and later on meat as we grow in Him.

In my family of “sort of” believers, we only attended church for weddings, funerals and, inexplicably, to have our babies Christened.

When I was just out of high school, a teen pregnancy and shotgun wedding made me strive to prove I could still be a somebody. I ran myself ragged for years to prove my superior abilities, convinced this would win the approval I craved.

When 9/11 happened, I decided church might not be a bad idea. Besides, since I wanted to sing gospel, I could multitask! In super fashion I joined a church, accepted Jesus, and was baptized because I thought you were “supposed to.”

My chart may have announced my new birth at age 47, but my growth would be stunted for the next four years. I now had a pencil mark drawn on God’s doorframe, but nothing else about me or my lifestyle changed. The new me was born, but my old self-y self refused to move out. Forget feeding on milk. I survived on prenatal vitamins.

Four years later, when a storm blew into my life, I tried, as usual, to fix the situation on my own. When that failed, I prayed for God to approve my plans but got no response. When I finally found myself in the worst trouble I’d ever faced, God grabbed His spiritual forceps and delivered me. Helpless. Wailing. And flat on my face.

Now that He had my attention, God told me it was time for self-y me to get lost and to find Him instead. Trust in Him alone. I agreed, and God began to feed me His milk. But in order for me to grow higher and deeper, it was time to start solid food. Time to open wide!

I read, and He fed. He showed me the worldly lies in my life that had to go—like believing that I could rely on myself alone in life, or that I could control my circumstances. He countered the lies with His Truths. He carried away the me-things and filled me with desire for more Him-things.

At last I moved from milk to solid, life-giving meat. In the last decade, I’ve grown in spiritual height, weight, and depth, reaching ever more for the Jesus in me.

Hebrews 5:13-14 tells us that the solid food we find in God’s Word is the nourishment that supplies the depth to know right from wrong, according to His standards. Too bad the malnourished me didn’t recognize that I needed a whole lot more meat a whole lot sooner. The knowledge gained by mature me could have spared immature me a whole lot of pain.

Has your spiritual growth been stunted by sticking to the easy-to-swallow milk of God? Like me, maybe you haven’t noticed that you’ve stopped thriving on a diet of just milk. We might believe we’ve already reached our growth destination, or we’re simply stumped as to how to get there.

Got milk? Need meat.

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Got Milk. Need Meat? – insight from Lori Hynson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori HynsonAbout the author: Lori Hynson is a Recovering SuperGalaholic, author, speaker, Bible teacher, and singer. Her life ministry is to encourage women to recognize and be healed of their self-imposed SuperGal burdens, to find God’s abundant peace and contentment through His Word, and embrace the freedom they can experience daily in their new life in Christ.

Lori’s book, SuperGal vs. God, is the story of a woman who was convinced she could control everything life threw her way. Until she couldn’t fix the one thing that mattered most. A Bible study/book club guide on the truths in this story is also available.

Lori and her husband have five children, thirteen grandchildren, and enjoy living near Valley Forge, PA with their cats Wednesday and Natasha.

Join the conversation: How do you get real meat into you?

Preparing the Soil of Your Heart

by Debb Hackett @Debb_Hackett

In the fall, I check the strength my biceps for the hours I know I will spend leaf blowing and bagging. This isn’t anything I ever did when I lived in England, but despite the hard work, it remains a joy because it’s still a multicolored novelty. At least until the next good wind gives me another yard-full. Then I might frown for a moment.

Fall isn’t traditionally a time we think about planting seeds; it’s when we watch the foliage lighting up the horizon before falling away. The trees then grow dormant over the winter, only to burst to life again in a blaze of spring glory. But even when the plants are “sleeping” they’re preparing for spring.

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”  Matthew 13:23, NIV

The Parable of the Sower was a metaphor about different responses to the Word of God. Even when we have heard and responded, there can be challenges that can draw us away from the Lord: distractions that can pull our eyes from the life-giving message of the cross to focus elsewhere.

Both seeds grew. As I pondered the difference between the thorny ground and the good soil, I was struck by how slim the difference was between the two types. It’s the same with my heart. How often am I walking closely with the Lord, but then begin to fixate on my circumstances?

Jesus, in His great love and mercy knew that we’d face challenges. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). He is greater than anything we can encounter here on earth. In order to stay healthy, we need to aim our face toward the Son, giver of life and hope.

We follow His teaching, asking Him to guide our steps. We try to live faithful lives that bear fruit. But in order to grow anything, the soil needs tending. So how do we prepare the garden of our hearts to foster future growth?

I’m checking for weeds, things that distract me from the Gospel, and I’m fertilizing the soil, putting in the nutrients that will feed new growth. I’m spending time reading the Word, studying it, and applying it to my life. I’m worshiping in my car, my kitchen and of course — in the shower, I am belting praise out unless the house is sleeping. Finally, I’m fellowshiping with other believers who can encourage me as I go.

This fall as the leaves tumble, let them be a reminder to take the time to tend our hearts to keep them hospitable to future new growth. It’s the way to keep us from growing hard towards the God who loves us passionately. Then we will be ready for whatever lies ahead, for a new season of challenge and abundant life.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105, NIV

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Preparing the Soil of Your Heart – insight from @Debb_Hackett on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Deb HackettAbout the author: Writer, broadcaster, and speaker Debb Hackett  has been a radio journalist for more than twenty years. Married to a test pilot, Debb writes for military wives and lives just outside Washington D.C. with her husband and children. She’s having lots of fun working on an inspirational contemporary romance series. When she’s not writing, Debb can be found leading worship, playing bass, or skiing. Also, if you can swing by her house while she’s making scones, that would be a win. She blogs at: http://debbhackett.com

Join the conversation: How do you keep your heart soft towards God?

Continual Change

by Doris Hoover

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.                                                                                                                           1 John 3:2 NIV

I love to watch clouds. As air currents glide through them, cottony wisps morph into dream pictures. Mountains change into oceans which transform into deserts with horses galloping across them. Continuously clustering and stretching, the clouds form new pictures by the minute.

Clouds remind me that I’m also in a process of change. God has a perfect design for me. It evolves in increments. As the Holy Spirit glides through my spirit, causing subtle transformations in my attitude, values and priorities, I begin to morph into a different person. I may not know what I will become, but the Lord has a vision for me. He has a vision for each one of us. Little by little, He reshapes us to conform to His beautiful design.

Change has been a constant since the beginning of creation. The Lord began with a dark void which He transformed into light, sky, water, and land. His vision evolved until the world was complete. Then the Lord admired His masterpiece. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 NIV).

The Heavenly Father works a master plan in us, too. Like chalk blown across a sketchpad, the Lord breathes across our lives, gradually moving us toward His vision. As we yield to the Spirit’s influence, we’re transformed.

David asked the Lord to make changes in 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). By asking God to change his heart and attitude, David became as malleable as a cloud in the wind.

Circumstances are also in the process of change. They’re not permanent, even though, at times, it seems that way. We may wonder how long we have to endure the responsibility, the stress, the hurt, or even the mundane drudgery of each day. But our situations aren’t static. God works in them as powerfully as He works in us. Our “lot” in life isn’t permanent. We may think we’re stuck in a situation that will never improve; however, the Lord moves through our circumstances in imperceptible ways, making alterations according to His perfect plan. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

When I read through my journal entries, I see the cloud pictures of my life. The unfolding of my story amazes me. Through the Lord’s intervention, situations which seemed hopeless became victories.

Invisibly, the Lord moves through our circumstances and our hearts as He creates His masterpiece. We usually don’t notice the revisions until we look back over the years. Each breath of divine air moves the filaments of our lives closer to a heavenly design. Even when we smudge our pictures, the Lord is able to blow over the chalk to turn our smudges into something good. Such modifications take a lifetime, but the Lord works in us until His work is finished. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

We may not know what we will become or how our circumstances will evolve, but each day the clouds remind us that changes are happening. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV).

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Continual Change – thoughts on walking with God from Doris Hoover on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

doris HooverAbout the author: Doris Hoover lives in Florida, but she also spends time along the coast of Maine. Her passion is discovering God’s messages in nature and sharing them with others. You can visit Doris at captivatedbythecreator.com. 

Doris’ book, Quiet Moments in The Villages, A Treasure Hunt Devotional invites you to step outside to discover the treasures God places around you. She leads you to beautiful places in her home town. Her poetic descriptions and beautiful photography draw you into moments that will stir your heart.

Join the conversation: Looking back over the years, can you see the progress God has accomplished in you? Please share a before-and-after example!