The Birds, the Beast, and an Empty Nest

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. Matthew 10:29-30 NLT

Four baby barn swallows peered over the edge of the mud nest on a wall in a corner of our patio, eagerly waiting for their mother to return with breakfast. I had a really good view of the feathered family from my bedroom window. “This is going to be great,” I thought. “I can watch them grow, learn to fly, and leave the nest.” Like my own empty nest, the experience would be bittersweet, but exciting.

Then I remembered the beast. Our ninety-pound yellow lab dominates the back yard. Did the baby birds have a chance against a dog that pulls trees up by the roots? Maybe it would be better for the babies to never leave the nest. The mama bird could continue to feed them. Of course, the daddy bird would have to build an addition to the nest…

Two days later I stood at the bedroom window again. One baby clung to the edge of the nest and one was perched beside it on a brick that jutted out from the wall. It was time for flying lessons! Mother Swallow called to them from atop a blade of the patio ceiling fan about five feet away.

The beast lay on his side by the back door seemingly unaware of the unfolding drama. The baby on the brick hopped off into space, untested wings flapping. He dipped low, coming within eighteen inches of the ground. I held my breath. The beast slept on. Then the baby’s wings caught air, and he awkwardly joined his mother on the fan blade. Whew! One down, three to go.

Within a few days, all four baby birds had successfully learned to fly. At first they only flew to the ceiling fan, then back to the nest. As the days went by, they became a little more adventurous, visiting the roof and the large tree beyond the patio. Then one day they were gone. The nest stayed empty. Their mother had done her job, and they were on their own.

All three of our babies have tried their wings and left the nest. Even now, I worry about what could happen to them outside the nest. Will they watch out for those “big yellow labs?”

Now more than ever, this world is filled with things we could worry about. Most of which we have absolutely no control over. But the glorious thing is, I know someone who has full control, absolute sovereignty. The Creator is still and forever on His throne.

As Jesus reminded us in Matthew, nothing happens to a single sparrow without God’s knowledge. If He cares that much for a sparrow, how much more does He care for my children? For yours? They are worth more than many sparrows.

Summer is a time of transition. It’s filled with transitions like graduations and children planning to leave the nest. Give your worry to God and cling to His promises. Then watch from the fan blade with squawks of encouragement.

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The Birds, the Beast, and an Empty Nest – encouragement from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy Howard

About the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. She encourages women to get into God’s Word for themselves in order to build an unshakable faith that will stand firm through all the trials of life. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught the Bible in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She has a Masters in Religious Education and a certificate in Women’s Ministry from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 8 books and Bible studies, including “Lavish Grace” and “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents.” She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her “mostly retired” husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and three dogs – one of them on purpose. She provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy also connects with women at FacebookPinterest, and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Is there a transition going on in your life? How are you doing with it?

Are You a Jesus Fanatic?

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

My friend Jan was the ultimate high school football fanatic. When her son Clint played for the Midland High Bulldogs, she held back nothing. She even had purple highlights in her hair in honor of the Dawgs.

During Clint’s senior year, the Bulldogs got into the playoffs, so I invited myself along to a game. The kickoff was at noon. Jan arrived at the stadium at 9:45 am to get seats in the lower section on the 50-yard line. She suggested I bring ear plugs in case the cheering, jugs full of rocks, and cow bells got to be too much for my delicate ears. But Jan forgot to warn me to wear my most comfortable shoes. Bulldog parents do not sit down during the game except for time outs and half-time.

The Bulldogs’ parents are fanatics by definition. A fanatic is a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics (or West Texas football). These Bulldog fanatics are not ashamed of their Dawgs.

Their enthusiasm shows in their actions, their speech, and their attire. During that game I saw painted faces, purple shoes, purple sun glasses, and purple purses. Their attitudes and actions clearly show their love for their sons and their devotion to the team. They willingly travel great distances and sit out in inclement weather to show their support.

That experience got me thinking. I should be that enthusiastic about Jesus. Jesus calls us to be fanatical about Him: to have an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm and zeal for our Lord.

“Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels” (Luke 9:23-26, NLT).

If no one ever calls me a fanatic then I’m not following Jesus like I should be. True Christianity necessitates fanaticism. I love the apostle Paul’s example. He was definitely a Jesus fanatic. He lived full out for Jesus and held nothing back. “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8a, NLT). “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better” (Philippians 1:21, NLT).

Sounds just a bit crazy doesn’t it? Paul loved Jesus and he wanted everyone to know. I long to love Jesus so much that everyone thinks I’m a bit crazy too.

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Are You a Jesus Fanatic? – insight & encouragement from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy Howard

About the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. She encourages women to get into God’s Word for themselves in order to build an unshakable faith that will stand firm through all the trials of life. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught the Bible in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She has a Masters in Religious Education and a certificate in Women’s Ministry from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 8 books and Bible studies, including “Lavish Grace” and “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents.” She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her “mostly retired” husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and three dogs – one of them on purpose. She provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy also connects with women at FacebookPinterest, and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Are you a Jesus fanatic? Are you willing to be a fool for Christ? Let’s talk about what this should look like in our lives.

Doggin’ Sin

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

…Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.                                                                                                                                                        Genesis 4:7 NASB

One day, the Boys treed a squirrel. I came outside to find two of the smaller limbs of our large cottonwood tree hanging against the trunk, the obvious result of the bigger boy trying to get to the furry rodent. (By the way, “the Boys” is our collective name for Boone and Remi. Boone – Boy #1 – is an 80-pound yellow lab, and Remi – Boy #2—is an energetic, 11 pound rescue pup. The two are great friends.)

While I stood there trying to decide what to do, the squirrel leaped to the ground and took off across the back yard with Boone in hot pursuit. The squirrel jumped into the globe willow near the back fence and hustled to the upper branches.

When Boone reared up on the small tree he reached halfway to where the squirrel sat. The squirrel barked; Boone barked and howled; Remi yipped and circled; and several neighborhood dogs even joined the chorus.

Something had to be done before my willow tree became a casualty of war. I put Remi in the house. Then I dragged Boone by the collar to the patio and held him there to give the enemy a chance to escape.

After several minutes, the squirrel inched down the trunk of the willow and jumped to the ground. Unfortunately, at that moment I lost my grip on Boone and off he went to catch his prey. The squirrel climbed the 6-foot wooden fence and scurried along the top. But instead of leaping over it to safety, it hopped into one of two small Bradford Pear trees in the corner flower bed.

Focused on his mission, Boone thundered into the flower bed plowing over small shrubs as he went. The squirrel taunted him, hopping from one pear tree to the other and back again, Boon doggin’ his every step. The trees whipped from one side to the other as the chase continued, while I desperately tried to catch and hold the dog.

The wicked squirrel could have easily escaped, but instead, it hit the ground and took off back toward the house with Boone in hot pursuit. When the squirrel reached the cottonwood tree, back up it went, and we were right back to where we started.

Thankfully, my then-teen son arrived home about that time. Mark put Boone in the house and got rid of the trespasser. With the evil rodent gone, the Boys could go back outside without being tormented. However, for the rest of the evening, Boone sat under the cottonwood, looking up into its branches. Just in case.

I wish I was as determined about keeping sin out of my life as Boone is about keeping squirrels out of the yard. Sin is serious, and can often lead to destruction. Getting rid of sin can require extreme measures. Jesus said “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Matthew 5:30 NIV). Jesus used hyperbole to emphasize the danger of allowing sin in our lives. We must cut it out of our lives. And we must guard ourselves from new temptations.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:4 NIV). On the night He was betrayed, Jesus told the disciples to diligently protect themselves from temptation. Sin will torment us if we don’t constantly and carefully guard our hearts and minds.

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Insight on “Doggin’ Sin” from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. She encourages women to get into God’s Word for themselves in order to build an unshakable faith that will stand firm through all the trials of life. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught the Bible in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She has a Masters in Religious Education and a certificate in Women’s Ministry from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 8 books and Bible studies, including “Lavish Grace” and “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents.” She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her “mostly retired” husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and three dogs – one of them on purpose. She provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy also connects with women at FacebookPinterest, and Instagram.

Join the conversation: What sin do you need to “dog” today? What temptation requires a little extra guard duty?

Do You Ever Throw a Fit with God?

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

Because those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.  Hebrews 12:6 NIV

I love watching my daughters parent my grandchildren. They’re both wonderful mothers – loving, kind, and patient. But of course, challenges pop up constantly, and they both regularly text me for advice or just to share something funny or frustrating.

One day, our oldest daughter Kelley had a particularly bad day with one-year-old Micah. Like children are prone to do, he had thrown multiple fits throughout the day whenever something didn’t go his way. And not just a pouty face and a few tears. These were lay down on the floor, kick your legs, and bellow kind of fits.

For fun, she sent me a list of some things that set him off.

Things she stopped him from doing:

  • Grabbing the handle of the pot on the stove
  • Pulling electrical cords out of the sockets
  • Shutting a door with his fingers in the hinges
  • Digging in the trash can
  • Pulling the lamp off the table
  • Licking the bottom of Dad’s shoes
  • Sucking on the acorn he found in the yard
  • Tearing a page out of her Bible

Things he did and then didn’t like:

  • Pulled the stopper out of the tub and lost all the water
  • Crawled under the ottoman and got stuck

Things she did he didn’t like:

  • Shut the fridge door
  • Shut the dishwasher
  • Made him ride in his car seat

Even though Kelley acted completely in Micah’s best interest or to prevent unneeded destruction, he rebelled. Kelley sighed; I laughed. (Nanas can do that.) But Kelley handled it all well. Micah eventually learned that this kind of behavior is not productive.

When we were toddlers, most of us eventually learned that tantrums and fits were not acceptable behavior. Most of our parents did not fall for that kind of manipulation. We never allowed our children to manipulate us like that. So why do we still sometimes try it with God?

  • God, if you’ll do this for me here, then I’ll obey you in that.
  • If you’ll let me get away with this one time, I won’t ever do it again.
  • I can’t believe you aren’t going to let me have that!

  God is the perfect, ultimate parent. He only acts in love toward us and for our good.

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that me may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:10-11, NIV

Whether God withholds something we want, stops something we’re doing, or does something we don’t like, we can fully trust that it’s for our good. Even if it seems painful at the time.

God is working for our spiritual health and eternal welfare. Yet sometimes we end up on the floor, kicking our legs, and throwing a fit. Wait… maybe that’s just me?

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Do You Ever Throw a Fit with God? – @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. She encourages women to get into God’s Word for themselves in order to build an unshakable faith that will stand firm through all the trials of life. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught the Bible in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She has a Masters in Religious Education and a certificate in Women’s Ministry from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 8 books and Bible studies, including “Lavish Grace” and “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents.” She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her “mostly retired” husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and three dogs – one of them on purpose. She provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy also connects with women at FacebookPinterest, and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Don’t leave me hanging! Tell us about a time you threw a fit with God!

A Scary Prayer

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

Search me, 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

Some years ago, I attended a three-day conference for Christian speakers. The sessions covered things like techniques and presentation styles, how to do outlines, and how to engage your audience. Every afternoon, we broke into small groups to practice what we were learning. We evaluated our peers on delivery, personality, body language, and more.

On the final day of the conference, we delivered our most important presentation. Not only did our group leader evaluate us, but the founder of the training organization also popped into various groups at different times. I wasn’t overly nervous, but when my turn came, SHE walked in the room and sat down. My speaking ability would be evaluated by my peers, my group leader, and the very experienced founder of the organization.

I felt exposed and vulnerable. What would SHE think? What flaw would she spot? What weakness would she discern? As it turned out, she was very encouraging and helpful. But she couldn’t see everything about me. She didn’t know my insecurities, my failings, or my motivations.

What about you? Have you ever been evaluated? Maybe it was in a speech class, piano recital, or a yearly job performance review. We’ve all faced an evaluation at some point. But we don’t usually ask for it. We don’t often initiate the scrutiny.

But that’s exactly what the psalmist David did. And it wasn’t just some other lowly human he invited to take a really close look. Nope. David asked God Almighty, the One who knows all and sees all, to thoroughly examine his heart and mind.

That sounds super scary to me. I know God knows it all already, but to purposefully make myself so incredibly vulnerable… That’s like one of those dreams where you walk into a room full of people only to discover you wore your birthday suit.

But here’s the thing. God is totally faithful. Completely trustworthy. He wants only the best for us. He desires for us to grow into our full potential so we can be useful and effective for His good purposes. That requires spiritual refinement, transformation, and growth. It requires getting rid of all our junk and replacing it with Jesus.

This prayer, modeled by David, expresses a willingness to be laid completely bare before the Father. To invite His examination and scrutiny of our inner self. Every thought in our minds. Every inclination of our hearts. Every motivation. Every passion.

But if we are going to trust anyone with our lives, with ourselves, shouldn’t it be God? He already knows us better than we know ourselves. Let’s allow Him to have His way. Scary, yes. But also glorious and miraculous. Search me O God.

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A Scary Prayer – encouragement and insight from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. She encourages women to get into God’s Word for themselves in order to build an unshakable faith that will stand firm through all the trials of life. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught the Bible in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She has a Masters in Religious Education and a certificate in Women’s Ministry from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 8 books and Bible studies, including “Lavish Grace” and “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents.” She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her “mostly retired” husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and three dogs – one of them on purpose. She provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy also connects with women at FacebookPinterest, and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Have you ever prayed this prayer? Does the thought scare you a little?

An Icy Reminder of God’s Faithful Provision

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever.                                                                                                                                                         Psalm 145:5-6 ESV

How often does God provide, but we miss it?

When our kids were still at home, our family enjoyed snow skiing together. But one winter we had a scary experience. It happened during the first of seven ski seasons we lived in Alberta, Canada. While our son spent the afternoon in ski school down near the ski lodge, my husband, two daughters, and I hopped on a quad lift to go to the top.

Where we got on the lift, the sun was shining and the wind was calm. But as we glided up the side of the mountain the weather began to change quickly. Snow began to fall and the wind picked up speed causing the lift chair to sway dramatically. When we finally got to the top of the lift, we stepped off into a blizzard. Icy snow painfully pelted any exposed skin. We could only see a few feet in front of us. It was a total white-out.

Since this was our first visit to this particular ski resort, we didn’t know the trails. We couldn’t see the trail signs or even the ground! We didn’t know how we would get down the mountain to the lodge. The weather was so extreme they had closed the lift behind us, so that wasn’t an option.

The girls were frantic. Panic began to rise up in me as well. While the four of us huddled together against the white, icy barbs, I shot up a prayer for divine intercession. We definitely needed help.

Just then a young man skied up to us. “My name is Luke. I used to be a ski instructor here and know this mountain well. Can I help you get down?” Oh, yes please!

Luke led the way with our older daughter right behind him. I came next, with our younger daughter between my skis. My husband took the rear to make sure no man was left behind. With our eyes on Luke’s back, we slowly made our way down.

After about 20 nerve-wracking minutes of blind descent, we skied out of the white. We thanked Luke profusely, and he quickly skied away. The four of us went straight to the lodge and warmed up in front of the fire with big mugs of hot chocolate.

We were so thankful for Luke’s help. Sadly, it wasn’t until much later – after telling this story a few times – that I realized just who our Rescuer really was. It was not that experienced Canadian skier, but our faithful God who sent him. Just when we needed help.

This experience taught me to not only ask for God’s provision in desperate times, but to also anticipate it. To look for God’s hand and provision in all our circumstances. Like a stranger on a mountain in a blizzard.

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An Icy Reminder of God’s Faithful Provision – encouragement & insight from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. She encourages women to get into God’s Word for themselves in order to build an unshakable faith that will stand firm through all the trials of life. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught the Bible in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She has a Masters in Religious Education and a certificate in Women’s Ministry from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 8 books and Bible studies, including “Lavish Grace” and “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents.” She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her “mostly retired” husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and three dogs – one of them on purpose. She provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy also connects with women at FacebookPinterest, and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Have you ever missed seeing God’s provision in difficult circumstances?

Loose Lips Sink Ships (and Ruin Lots of Other Stuff, Too)

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.                                                                                                                                                  Proverbs 15:4 NASB

During wartime, soldiers and sailors have to carefully watch what they say. Sometimes what they think are harmless, casual remarks can give the enemy information to use against them. For instance, sailors on shore leave can get too chatty and accidentally spill facts that lead to disastrous results – even the sinking of their ship.

I don’t think I’ve ever said anything to endanger an aircraft carrier, but I know my words have hurt people again and again. The careless words of my mouth have wounded, discouraged, grieved, and angered. My unchecked speech has torn down, set back, and destroyed.

Sometimes I realize what I’ve done even before the last word has stopped its echo. I am witness to their impact. Like a tornado ripping its way through Oklahoma, my words have the power to level. But it’s not man-made structures they demolish. Instead my words rip apart relationships. Fragment fragile hopes. Tear down trust.

And it’s not only our verbal words that have this power. Written words can do the same kind of damage. In fact, we must be even more diligent with things like texts, social media posts, and emails because our intent can be so easily misunderstood.

God does not pull any punches when He talks about the power of our tongues to do evil:

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. James 3:6 NIV

Serious business isn’t it? And this struggle with our words is universal. Even King David–the “man after God’s own heart”–needed help controlling his tongue.

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; Keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3 NIV

Thankfully, we don’t have to let our tongues have the last word. (Yes, pun intended.) Like David, we can ask God to guard our tongue and monitor everything that flows from it. We may struggle to control our speech – both spoken and written—but it’s an easy task for the Holy Spirit!

I have a friend who was known for being outspoken. His words frequently got him into trouble and hurt others. So, he determined to give his speech to God. He calls this spiritual guard over his mouth his “filter.” And he regularly checks in with God to make sure his filter is in good working order.

The Holy Spirit wants to be our “filter.” Let’s allow Him to be the guard over our mouths. Let’s commit to allow everything we say or write to first pass through our Holy Spirit filter. Then our words will be consistently edifying and encouraging. No more verbal destruction. No more sinking ships.

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Loose Lips Sink Ships (and Ruin Lots of Other Stuff, Too) – insight from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest.

Kathy’s book “Before His Throne” leads you on a 9-week journey through the book of Malachi to discover what godly fear looks in our daily lives and how this biblical attitude will help you find deeper intimacy with God.

Join the conversation: How do you keep control of your tongue?

Caring for the Caregivers

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 NASB

Voices penetrated the heavy shroud of sleep. I checked my phone. Two o’clock in the morning. I could hear the anxiety in Mom and Dad’s conversation, but I couldn’t make out the words.

I threw back the covers and stumbled across the hall to their room. Dad lay on the floor beside the bed. I managed to get him sitting, but no matter how much I tried, I could not get him off the floor and back in the bed.

My husband Wayne was stirring in the other room, so I called for help. Together we got Dad up and settled back in bed. Thankfully, Dad only suffered a few bumps and bruises. But his fall was a dramatic reminder that I can’t care for my parents without help.

And neither can any of the millions of women in America caring for aging parents. They need community, help, and support.

No matter the exact situation, there is nothing easy about caring for aging parents. No matter how much we love them, the task often demands more than the caregiver has to give – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. God can and will supply everything caregivers lack, but He often chooses to work through other people to meet those needs.

If you aren’t a caregiver yourself, you probably know someone who is. You may have even wanted to help them, but you simply weren’t sure how. My personal experience has given me some insight on how ministry leaders and friends can offer practical help to those in our lives who care for family members at any level. Here are three things you can try:

  1. Ask – Every time a friend asks me about my mom and dad my spirits lift. The simple act of asking shows concern for my parents and love for me. I feel less alone in the journey. If someone you know or minister to cares for a parent, periodically ask how their parents are doing. And ask how you can pray for them and their parents specifically.
  2. Offer – So often we say, “Let me know if I can do anything!” And although we are sincere, the offer is too general. Instead, offer specific practical help. Before we moved my parents, my friend Kayleen offered to make the trip with me from Texas to Tennessee to unpack the boxes and get the house ready for them. Although this offer was huge, our help does not have to be this big to go a long way in providing comfort and relief to the caregiver. Just be specific and practical.
  3. Encourage – Caregiving is an emotional and spiritual journey. Caregivers need a shoulder to cry on, someone to pray with, and someone to laugh with. Bring her coffee and chocolate. Text her a link to a devotional that encouraged you. Send her flowers.

February 21, 2020 is National Caregivers Day! To celebrate, offer a helping hand to a caregiver you know. Although we can’t change her circumstances, we can ease her burden by extending practical care and loving concern for her.

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Caring for the Caregivers – insight from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. She encourages women to get into God’s Word for themselves in order to build an unshakable faith that will stand firm through all the trials of life. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught the Bible in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She has a Masters in Religious Education and a certificate in Women’s Ministry from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 8 books and Bible studies, including “Lavish Grace” and “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents.” She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her “mostly retired” husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and three dogs – one of them on purpose. She provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy also connects with women at Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Are you a caregiver? Have you ever been a caregiver? Please share what would be encouraging for those who are currently in the trenches!

Deep Roots, Abundant Fruit

by Kathy Howard  @KathyHHoward

The first time my husband and I visited New York City, we played the ultimate tourists. We took in a concert at Madison Square Garden, two Broadway plays, a walking food tour through Greenwich Village, and a Yankees game. We even rode the subway.

One of the highlights of our time in Manhattan was the four hours we spent on a Sunday afternoon exploring Central Park, an oasis in the city. Although we did not plan it, our trip coincided with the blooming of the cherry trees.

The first cherry trees planted in Central Park were brought from Japan about a century ago. Today, two different varieties stand on a gentle slope named Cherry Hill, overlooking a large lake. People come to admire the blooms and relax on the scenic hillside.

Year after year, the trees bloom in season. Year after year, the people enjoy their beauty.

The sight of the blooming cherry trees reminded me of one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Psalm 1 likens those who delight themselves in God’s Word to a tree that faithfully bears its fruit each season.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners of sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.  Psalm 1:1-3, NIV

Those Central Park cherry trees don’t worry about whether they will bloom and produce fruit each year. What they produce is a natural outflow of what they take in. Their location provides everything they need to fulfill their God-ordained purpose. Their roots soak up water and nutrients from the surrounding soil. The result is both beautiful and fruitful.

These cherry trees illustrate a vital spiritual truth for believers. Spiritual fruit is not a result of our valiant effort to produce it. We don’t have to try hard or worry whether our lives will be of use to God or benefit others. The spiritual produce of our lives will be a natural result of what we take in.

Our task is to turn away from following the world and its ways and instead delight ourselves in God’s Word. To “plant” ourselves in His truth. To remain in it long enough for it to permeate our hearts and minds. When our lives are saturated by the Word of God, when every pore is filled with His truth, the results will be beautiful and fruitful. God will produce His purposes in and through us. He will bring the results. Green leaves. Beautiful blossoms. Nourishing fruit. The natural result of a life rooted in God’s Word.

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Deep Roots, Abundant Fruit – encouragement from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest.

Kathy’s book “Before His Throne” leads you on a 9-week journey through the book of Malachi to discover what godly fear looks in our daily lives and how this biblical attitude will help you find deeper intimacy with God.

Join the conversation: Do you have some tips on getting into the Word on a regular basis?

 

Undos and Do-Overs

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

I love the “undo” button. You know the one on the computer—that little arrow that curves to the left. When you click it, the last thing you did magically reverses. Make a mistake? No problem. Click, it’s fixed! Accidentally deleted something? Not an issue. Click, it’s back!

But “undo” isn’t an option for everything. Like Christmas morning, when I got distracted and “overcooked” the cinnamon rolls. Sadly, it’s not possible to uncook something.

Wouldn’t it be great if life had an “undo” button? I could click it to magically erase the unkind words I blurted. Or wipe out my selfish behavior. Or eliminate the wrong decision that proved to be oh, so bad. I could “undo” all those things that brought unwanted consequences or now weigh heavy on my conscience.

“Do-overs” would be another great life tool. For instance, it would come in really handy when the trials and difficulties of life pile up around us until we’re overwhelmed. When every path forward is blocked we’d just call a do-over. We could simply start over like on one of those puzzle apps. No more moves? Okay, let’s just begin a new game.

Yep. I think undos and do-overs for life would be very popular. When everything is messed up, when nothing is right, we could get a clean slate. Then we could start fresh.

It might sound too good to be true, but for Christians, that’s exactly what we received when we entered into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. A clean slate.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  2 Corinthians 2:17, NIV

Our “old” life seriously needed a do-over. It looked like the ungodly world around us. We were burdened with the weight and consequences of self-centered living, bad decisions, and poor choices. But our “new” life is radically different from the world, holy and set apart to God. A life of holiness brings glorious freedom and joy. Freedom from the weight and consequences of sin.  And joy in a deeper intimacy with our holy God.

Sometimes Christians living the new life of faith can still get off track. We may fall back into old habits or allow the things of the world to distract us from following Christ. But praise God, He continuously invites us to repent and return to Him.

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23 NASB

We will not be perfect in this sinful world. Even as we grow spiritually to be more like Jesus, we will sometimes fall into temptation. But our faithful God will continue to give us second chances, undos, and do-overs until Jesus returns. Then we won’t need them ever again.

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Undos and Do-Overs – insight from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest.

Kathy’s book “Before His Throne” will lead you on a 9-week journey through the book of Malachi to discover what godly fear looks in our daily lives and how this biblical attitude will help you find deeper intimacy with God.

Join the conversation: How does the possibility of a do-over affect your walk with Jesus?