Qualities vs. Symptoms

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think I have some very unique and useful character qualities. Granted, most better psychoanalysts might not refer to them as “character qualities” as much as they refer to them as “symptoms,” but still.

I think writers acquire an exclusive symptom or two…make that a “quality” or two…that others don’t necessarily encounter. Maybe it’s the inordinate amount of rejection we’re called to deal with, but insecurity is so often the order of the day. Not to mention that when fiction writers hear new little voices in their heads, they never medicate. No, they actually encourage the little voices. And then publish them.

This week, though, I experienced a “quality” beyond voices. It’s a weird thing that happens to me now and again. I look over the writing du jour and I keep thinking I’ve misspelled words—even when I haven’t.

I think I might be a typo-chondriac.

Interestingly enough, if the psycho-professionals come up with a 12-step program for typo-chondriacs, I’m pretty sure step one will be admitting you don’t have a problem.

When it comes to successfully walking out this life for Christ, though, we have to recognize right from the get-go our complete lack of ability to make it happen ourselves. We do have a problem. And without surrendering to the leadership of God’s Holy Spirit, there’s no hope for resolving that problem. No 12-step program. No self-help book. Personally speaking, I don’t even have a horn to toot. Not a leg to stand on. Not a keyboard to type on. It’s got to be all Him and zero me.

You’d think that would cause a more intense insecurity than even a writer has to bear. But it doesn’t. As a matter of fact, it’s the exact opposite. There is great security in knowing that I don’t have to depend on my own abilities. There is even greater security in knowing that I can so completely depend on the One who is all-powerful. Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:3 that, “We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort” (NLT).

The Amplified version of Philippians 3:3 puts it this way: “Put no confidence or dependence on what we are in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances.” That pretty much settles it. Nothing we’ve done. Nothing we’ve said. Nothing we are. Nothing inside us. Nothing outside us. Victory in the walk of faith will only happen as we rely totally and completely in the all-powerful one. And in Him our security is sure.

So it’s not such a terrible thing to recognize that even though I’m a writer, with all the built-in insecurities and various “qualities” that come with it, I don’t have to live in insecurity. There’s freedom in recognizing I have nothing to offer in and of myself, but that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV).

That’s especially refreshing to dwell on when I realize that on top of my typo-chondria, I think I might be coming down with a touch of kleptomania. Gee, I hope there’s something I can take for that.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 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: What does relying on the Lord look like in practical terms for you?

Fearless When Ill-equipped

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

“God wants those who belong to Him to be brave and fearless. He Himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by the courage of the Spirit.” ~ Tertullian

I felt squeezed. In every direction. Sleep deprived and with more on my to-do list than I could possibly accomplish, pressing deadlines, and an upcoming speaking engagement I hadn’t begun to prepare for, all made me feel ready to explode. Or hide.

My brain, held captive by my insecurities and fears, refused to function. At a time I most needed it to shine.

I was afraid that I’d fail, and in failing I’d let everyone down. The conference director who had already purchased my plane ticket. Her team who had already sent out their promotional material, listing me as one of the keynotes. Their attendees, who had spent good money on the conference and were expecting to hear a fresh word.

And more than that, I was afraid I’d look stupid. As I stared at a blank computer screen, my eyes gritty from lack of sleep, my nerves tightly coiled, I worried I wouldn’t come up with anything.

I had nothing. No words. No thoughts.

I suppose that writer’s block came from the mounting stress, coupled with sheer exhaustion. In the middle of taking accelerated classes and with an already booked summer, God called my husband and I to something incredibly difficult. Something that took every ounce of strength we had and left me in tears daily. We knew this task was from God. But … what about all our other commitments?

I couldn’t simply walk away. But neither could I, it seemed, walk forward. All my insecurities kept chipping away at my strength.

So what did I do? I stepped away. To pray. To give this thing, this task I felt ill-equipped and ill-prepared for, to God. And as I sat in His presence, His peace overshadowed my anxiety, and His truth stilled my fears.

I knew He’d called me to this engagement, so I decided—yes.  I made the choice to trust God to give me the ability to fill this role–as He desired. And I reminded myself that this wasn’t about me. Nor was it up to me. It never is. In fact, it’s when I’m resting fully in His grace and leaning deepest into Him that I find my greatest strength.

Consider Francis Chan’s words, taken from Forgotten God: “How much it grieves [God] to watch His children ignore the promises He’s made throughout Scripture, due to fear that those promises won’t be kept! Empowering His children with the strength of the Holy Spirit is something the Father wants to do. It’s not something we have to talk Him into. He genuinely wants to see us walk in His strength.”

Walking in God’s strength. Listening, with a surrendered heart, for His guidance, then stepping forward in faith, trusting Him to come through.

In John 15:5, Jesus told us how we can live empowered in any situation:  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing” (NIV).

With Him, in Him, we have everything we need to do whatever He calls us to. Apart from, operating in our own strength, we’ll likely make a mess of things.

Is there something God has called you to, something that makes your stomach tighten and your knees wobble? Maybe to initiate conversation with a new neighbor or launch a women’s Bible study? Maybe share your faith with a friend or coworker? If so, how does remembering God will be strong on your behalf, that you don’t have to be, give you courage? What are some ways you can lean into Him and rest in His strength? How do our thoughts play into that?

We all struggle with negative thinking, and so often, we become our own limiting factor. We allow our insecurities and fears to hinder our obedience and to prevent us from living out the awesome and life-changing role God hand-crafted each of us to fill. God calls us to greatness. To live courageously. To be life-changers.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

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Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a Healing Love by [Slattery, Jennifer]devotional blog found at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who 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

Join the conversation: What has God called you to that will require courage to obey?

 

Being Seen Versus Being Fruitful

by Kendra Broekhuis 

It didn’t take a green thumb to see that two of our tomato plants were growing very differently from each other.

One stood impressively tall, so large that the weight of its stem and leaves had overwhelmed the wire cage meant to support it. It was always the first to catch my eye whenever I glanced at the small garden behind our house. The tomato plant next to it was dwarfed in comparison, barely noticeable next to its flashy neighbor’s lush greenery.

But as June and July’s sunshine battered my plants and rain watered them both, it became evident that showy greenery and towering height didn’t matter so much. The smaller plant began to bear fruit.

In fact, it grew so much fruit, that come harvest time, there were tomatoes ripe for the picking every other day. What the little plant lacked in grand outward appearances, it made up for by fulfilling the actual purpose of a tomato plant – producing tomatoes.

When I’m honest with myself, I know there are times I would rather be the large tomato plant.

Like when my life as a mother of three little children leaves me feeling unsung and isolated, or my career as a writer has me longing for the platform of authors much more famous than I. Some days I simply wish to feel seen. But then I remember that no matter how much I am noticed by others, my most important purpose is in bearing fruit.

Jesus fleshed out this concept with a garden metaphor, calling Himself the Vine and His people branches. He emphasized the importance of bearing fruit, for branches that are not fruit-bearing are worthless to a gardener (John 15:2).

And then Jesus gave His disciples the secret to bearing fruit: abiding in Him.

Bearing fruit is not accomplished by focusing on growing big enough to be seen. It means intentionally connecting with God, enjoying His love and keeping His commandments. It means living yielded to the Holy Spirit, who will produce His good fruit in my life, be it love, joy, peace, and the like. It means drawing everything I need from my true source of life: Jesus Christ.

Do you struggle with feeling unseen? Rather than striving to stand out from the crowd, instead may you abide in Jesus. Choose to be a branch that will focus on staying connected to The Vine. It truly is the only place you can truly thrive and bear fruit.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5 ESV).

 Kendre BroekhuisAbout the author: Kendra Broekhuis is the author of Here Goes Nothing: An Introvert’s Reckless Attempt to Love Her Neighbor. For her day job, Kendra stays home with three of their children and lives as an intentional neighbor in the inner city of Milwaukee. She recently started an online community called Mourning Companion, which is a safe space to lament life’s sorrows. To read more, follow her social media feeds and visit her website at www.kendrabroekhuis.com.

Join the conversation: What have you found helpful to you in learning to abide in The Vine?

Photo by Rafael Corrêa on Unsplash

Under the Influence

by Julie Zine Coleman

He was a scary drunk. Normally a fun-loving, gentle man, when alcohol was in his system, he transformed into a frightening spectacle. The teens in the house hid the knives when they knew their uncle was out at the bar. Then they would lie in their beds, dreading the moment he would come roaring home. His fits of rage and abusive tirades would inevitably have them and their widowed mother cowering before him. Yet always the next morning, he would return to his old self: loving, kind, and ready for a good laugh. It was like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Life with an alcoholic is a rollercoaster ride. When a person you love submits themselves to the influence of a substance, it often involves a personality change. It is like they become someone else.

“Do not get drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,” Paul wrote the Ephesians (5:18 NIV). Paul was contrasting two very different influences that can considerably alter a person. The first influence was wine.

This was a familiar metaphor for Paul’s readers. In Roman culture, abuse of alcohol peaked around the mid-first century, just about when Paul penned his letter. Drunkenness was common at festivals and other celebrations. This abusive drinking was modeled at the top: all four emperors who reigned from A.D. 37 to A.D. 69 were known for it.

But the point of this passage is not excessive drinking, however. Paul is merely using drunkenness as a contrast to being filled with the Holy Spirit, the second potentially altering influence.

The Holy Spirit indwells every believer. His presence in our lives and physical bodies began at the moment of our salvation: “After listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise…” (Ephesians 1:13 NASB) God placed the Spirit in us as a permanent seal and guarantee that someday our redemption will be complete.

So why would Paul urge Christians to be filled with the Spirit if He is already present within every believer?

The idea behind the original Greek word (translated be filled) is completion. We bring the Spirit’s presence to completion when we allow Him to dominate every thought and action.

Paul wrote to the Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [and] self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB). These are traits that naturally occur when we place ourselves under the Spirit’s influence. He alone produces that fruit in us.

Our job is simply to be yielded to Him.

When our minds and hearts are in sync with God’s leading, the fruit will inevitably come. And we cannot produce that fruit in any other way than remaining in Him.

I am the Vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Join the conversation: What helps you to live under the Spirit’s influence?

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Hear and Obey

by Joy Schneider

I sat on a large rock on the overlook in Arad, Israel.  What lay before me was vast desert landscape with a view of the southern edge of the Dead Sea below me in the distance. My friends and I were nearing the end of our visit to Israel. This day was one of the last times I would be able to sit alone and seek to hear from God. My husband of 42 years had passed away seven months earlier and I needed guidance. Where better to meet with the Lord than in the Holy Land?

As I gazed over the desert terrain of rocks, hills and valleys sparsely strewn with shrubs, I imagined the patriarch Abraham coming to sit next to me. “You know, it looked a lot like this when I was here,” he would have said. I recalled how Abraham had walked by faith as he entered this very land.

Eventually God impressed a clear message into my heart: “Hear and obey.” I was a little disappointed because that was the same message I had received before leaving home. I thought, “Lord, I was hoping for something more specific.”  My inner yearning was to see a plan and a path.

The Lord and I have our humorous times together. I could almost see the twinkle in His eye and sense His comical chide. “You know if I were to tell you the whole plan, you would say, ‘Okay, I got it.  I can take it from here.’” He was right. I probably would have jumped right into list-making mode, planning my next move. I had to laugh. How wise He is.

I know that we can get ourselves into trouble when we try to do things our way.  His Word tells us that He has plans for His people. But He knows our propensity to depend on our own resources, strengths, and ways. So He chooses to reveal a little at a time, just the next thing. He wants us to come to Him for wisdom, knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:6; 9:10).  He wants us never to forget how much we need Him and that without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

When God called Abraham to Canaan, He did not provide a blueprint of what would happen next. What Abraham was given were long-term promises: many descendants and the land as his inheritance. Genesis tells us Abraham believed God and his trust was credited to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) He would live his life according to that plan one day at a time. A walk of faith.

I have a number of paintings at my house that show a path but reveal no destination.  Perhaps the road fades at a bend in the road or trees obscure the pathway ahead. One of the pictures displays a continual reminder, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.  I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (Psalm 32:8 NIV). He will reveal His plan step by step.

He promises to show the way when we come to Him for direction.  We not only need to hear but we also need faith to obey. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 NASB). We are in good hands because the One who holds the future holds us. We need not fear the unknown paths that stretch out beyond our gaze.  Our unknown is known by our faithful Lord. We will receive His best when we hear and obey. And I can testify from experience that in the future, we can fully expect to have fun along the way!

“If you seek [wisdom] as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:5 NASB

joy SchneiderAbout the author: Joy Schneider is an author, speaker, teacher and encourager to those who are engaged in the battle between the kingdoms. Her desire is to see people receive Jesus Christ and to help them step into the fullness of their destiny.

Joy has authored Identifying the Hierarchy of Satan: A Handbook for Wrestling to Win? and How to Keep Grief from Stealing Your Destiny, the first in her Battle Over the Anointing Series. She also works with ministry to Israel. She is a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association’s Board of Directors and Christian Small Publishers Association. A Colorado native, Joy has two dynamic daughters and sons-in-law and loves being grandma to eight wonderful grandchildren. You can visit her website at:  wateroflifeunlimited.com

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winnerhow to keep grief from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Joy’s book,  How to Keep Grief from Stealing Your Destiny,  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 experiences have you had in being led by God?

 

 

 

 

Working with God

by Edie Melson

 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5

I am constantly amazed that the God of the universe has chosen to work through us. I don’t know about you, but I’m totally unworthy and unequipped for the honor. And looking at the condition of our world, I have to occasionally throw my hands up in frustration and ask, “What were you thinking?” Obviously, if He were doing the work Himself, we’d all be a lot better off…

…or would we?

Growing up, some of my fondest memories were times I spent in the kitchen with my grandmother. She’d back a kitchen chair up to the counter, wrap one her old aprons twice around me and together we’d spend the afternoon cooking. My grandmother never used recipes and I don’t ever remember seeing her open a cookbook. All her skill—and it was impressive—was completely intuitive. No matter how many dishes she had on the stove, or in the oven, she always knew when one needed a pinch of salt, an addition of bacon fat or to be plucked—perfectly done—from the oven.

But with all her skill, she always found a way to include me and make me a vital part of the process. There was no doubt that she could have gotten the meals on the table much faster without my childish help, but I know she enjoyed our time together as much as me. I’m certain of this because I did the same thing with my boys. I included them, not because I needed their help, but because I wanted to spend time with them and maybe teach them something in the process.

God does the same thing with us. He doesn’t need our help or our resources, but he includes us because we’re precious to him.

And, just maybe, we’ll learn something in the process.

Edie-MelsonAbout the author: Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, no matter if 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: To what work is God calling you? What are you learning as you fulfill that calling?