Lost on the Way to the Weather App

by Kelly Wilson Mize

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to thepaths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. Proverbs 4:25-27 NIV

“What am I even looking for?” I sometimes find myself asking as I mindlessly, even frantically, scroll through my phone. It’s sad but true…many of us spend way too much time staring at worthless information on a screen.

Technology can be wonderful, and there is much worthwhile content to consume via the screen of an electronic device: valuable information, happy pictures of sweet puppies and kittens to brighten a dreary day, beautiful music to inspire, even the Word of God, sermons, and biblical study materials. These are all good things.

Among the good things for me is the weather app. It’s is a convenient tool that I consult daily. In the South, we have tornado threats throughout the year, so being weather-aware is important. Beyond that, I check the weather for less pressing reasons, like the forecast for my daily walk, or just so I’ll know how to dress for the upcoming day.  

But more often than not, somewhere along the way to the weather app, I find myself distracted. Swipe, swipe, swipe—emails, texts, doom-and-gloom news stories, social media posts, book rankings, memes, videos—before I ever make it to the weather. Often, a whole lot of time passes before I realize I haven’t even seen the weather report at all!

Essentially, I get completely lost, focusing on things that distract me from my purpose.

I don’t know about you, but I often get distracted from my life’s purpose as well.

Ecclesiastes 12 :13 (NIV) says, “… Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.”

When Jesus was asked which commandment was the most important, He said, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV).

What kinds of things distract us from that fundamental purpose? What unhealthy detours cause us to get lost on the way to God’s most ideal destination for us?

Personally, I get lost when I don’t spend time in prayer and Bible study, when I compare myself to others, when I am selfish with my time, when I constantly worry and doubt God’s goodness, when I fail to act because of fear…the list goes on and on.

But there is a better way. When we are focused and deliberate in our walk with Christ, obedient to His Word, and consistently seeking His presence, we gain a spiritual wisdom and maturity that only our Creator can impart.

Honestly, as long as I have a cell phone, I’ll probably continue to get lost on the way to the weather app. But spiritually, it’s vital that I stay attentive to my life’s goal. When I am intentional about my destination, following the path that God has set before me in this life, the Bible says I will be blessed with an inheritance from the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24). As Solomon advises in Proverbs 4, may we allendeavor to keep moving, looking straight ahead without distraction toward the only thing, the only ONE who should be our prime focus—Jesus.

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

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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 author, she 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. Kelly’s first full-length publication, a picture book for all ages called The Beautiful Story Within Me is available now wherever books are sold!

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Join the conversation: What kinds of things are most distracting to you?

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Autumn Leaves that Sparkle

by Kelly Wilson Mize

You made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to set. Psalm 104:19 NLT

Autumn has arrived, and for this Alabama girl, it’s an exciting time of year! The sweltering weather begins to cool, football season is in full swing, pumpkin-spice-flavored everything suddenly appears (like it or not!), and the excitement of Christmas is just around the corner.

In my lifetime, the tradition of decorating for fall seems to have exploded in popularity. I remember as a child begging my mother to put up the Christmas tree before mid-December. No one I had ever heard of decorated for any other season. But these days, it seems that pumpkins, hay bales, and scarecrows adorn every home and business this time of year. And count me in! Starting in late September, my house becomes a sea of orange, yellow, and burgundy.

A couple of years ago, I found a treasure in a craft store: a bouquet of sparkling leaves in beautiful fall colors–it was love at first sight! I’ll admit the fake, glittery leaves are probably a little tacky, but when I look at them my heart feels happy. They glisten in the sun, brighten up the cloudy days, and illuminate my little autumn world—my home and my mood—as the days get shorter and the world seems darker.

Over the years (as a result of too many trips to the craft store), the sparkly leaf bouquets have multiplied. Each fall I spend hours moving them all around until I find just the right spot, not even minding all the glitter that gets strewn over every inch of my house. The autumn leaves God created aren’t plastic and glittery like the ones I use to decorate, though they do indeed sparkle in the sun, but isn’t it fun to commemorate the changing of seasons?

Every part of the year is incredible in its own way, and the unique qualities of each were precisely calculated. It was God’s perfect plan for trees to sprout green leaves in the spring and transform into vivid colors in the fall. But ultimately, the lovely colors fade, and the leaves fall to the ground and die. And that seems like the end. But did you know those dead brown leaves serve a vital purpose? When leaves fall to the ground, they eventually decompose, providing nutrients for the soil. What seems like their demise is actually the beginning of new life! The dead leaves form a layer that helps the ground absorb water and allows plant growth in the spring.

How beautiful it is when God’s creation illustrates important spiritual concepts for us! All life has meaning, and death is not the end.

Psalm 104 paints a beautiful picture of nature as evidence of the presence of God: plants and animals, light and darkness, life and death–all subject to His authority. With meticulous care, He orchestrated the workings of our entire universe: days, nights, seasons, years, and all eternity. Isn’t there tremendous security in knowing that our God is a God of order and consistency, and that He alone remains always in control? 

In these troubling, sometimes heart-wrenching times, when we have no idea what new disease or disaster could be around the next corner, we can truly depend only on Him!  The sun will rise and set each day; winter, spring, summer, and fall will come and go, just as He planned. We can praise God for His steady hand upon His marvelous handiwork –and for the way He lovingly cares for each element of His creation—you and I included! His power and creativity are aweinspiring, unlike anything man-made could ever be. And so much better than my beloved plastic leaves.

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

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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 author, she 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. Kelly’s first full-length publication, a picture book for all ages called The Beautiful Story Within Me is available now wherever books are sold!

Join the conversation: What do you learn about God through nature?

Please Pass the Salt!

by Kelly Wilson Mize

I’m not proud of it, but I am an admitted salt-a-holic. For me, this simplest of seasonings makes almost any food taste better. A generous amount of salt on vegetables and even some fruits (I think it’s a Southern thing?) Yes, please!

Health-wise, too much salt in a person’s diet can definitely be problematic. But in moderation, salt brings a food’s natural flavor to life. Salt contains nutrients that are not only beneficial, but essential to the human body. Did you know that if you drink too much water, it can flush the sodium out of your system and cause a fatal condition called hyponatremia? 

In the book of Colossians, Paul uses salt to illustrate the importance of being gracious in conversation. Just as salt provides a desirable seasoning for the food we eat, grace should season the words we speak.

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, that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6 NIV

In the New Living Translation of this passage, the phrase “seasoned with salt” is synonymously described as “gracious and attractive.”  In communicating with nonbelievers, our words should be attractive–welcoming and full of flavor, appealing to those who have not yet come to know God.

Salt is a preservative. Besides adding flavor, it can extend the life of certain foods. Do our words help or hinder the spread of Truth? Preserve it or destroy it?Without God’s grace, communication can be dull, tasteless, and ineffective. Matthew Henry wrote, “Grace is the salt that seasons our discourse and keeps it from corrupting.” 

In addition to its other uses, salt helps save lives! Did you know that in the United States, more salt is used to de-ice frozen streets and highways in the winter months, than is consumed in food year-round? Salt, in essence, clears the way. Shouldn’t that be true of the words we speak? They should make clear, and not obstruct the path to Jesus!

Words are forever. Positive or negative, once a word has been spoken, it can never be taken back. How gracious are we in the way that we behave and communicate?  In our interaction with others, let us consistently ask ourselves:

  • Are my intentions pure? 
  • Is my tone kind? 
  • Do my words preserve Truth?
  • Do my conversations make clear the path to Jesus?

As believers, may we take great care in the words that we speak, prayerful that our conversations are pleasing to God and helpful in expanding His kingdom. And where our words lack flavor, preservation, or clarity–may we always remember the simple recipe for improvement that we read about in Colossians: just add a pinch (or more!) of salt! 

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

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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 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. Kelly’s first full-length publication, a picture book, will be released later this year. You can find out more at kellywilsonmize.com

Join the conversation: With what do you try to salt your words?

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?

Recess, Resurrection, and Redemption

by Kelly Wilson Mize @KellyWilsonMize

Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”  And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” John 11: 43-44 NLT

Blue skies, fresh air and good friends–what could be better? Remember the sense of joy you felt when it was finally time for recess in elementary school? Or in college when you completed the final exam of the semester?  Five o’clock on Friday after a long week? Stop and think about that feeling for a second…

Ahh, freedom.

As a former elementary educator, I was able to witness that kind of exuberance on a regular basis.  When the doors leading to the playground burst open, bright smiles overtook small faces and excitement permeated the air. No matter how much the kids loved school and their teachers, there was just something about being ‘set free’—released from a place of restriction and confinement—to one of liberty. 

Many of us have lived in a somewhat restricted environment the last few months: our daily outlook has been limited to the view of only ‘essential’ locations. And though some indirect blessings may have come as a result of this strange season of COVID 19—family dinners, leisurely nature walks, a breather from tight, hectic schedules—I think most of us have had struggled with feeling a little restless or maybe even downright claustrophobic. 

The entire world, it seems, is searching for a reason to hope.

As believers, we not only have a reason, but firm assurance of that hope. According to the New Testament, Jesus’ beloved friend, Lazarus, had been dead for four whole days by the time Jesus arrived on the scene. All hope seemed lost. But Jesus had a plan. He went to Lazarus’ tomb, ordered the stone to be rolled away, and called out to him, “Lazarus, come out!” 

Then, the Bible says, the dead man came out, still wrapped in his grave clothes. Can you even begin to imagine what it must have been like to be there?

Jesus then spoke a simple sentence: “Unwrap him and let him go!”

Different versions of the Bible use different words to describe Jesus’ command:

Free him.

Unbind him.

Unwrap him.

Loose him.

…and Let. Him. Go!

Do you sometimes feel that you are being held in the darkness of a tomb, bound by a force that is taking away your very life?

What is holding you back—binding you, wrapping you up—in a way that has rendered you helpless?  What daily confinement do you need to be released from: loneliness? Anxiety, Depression? Anger? Jealousy? Unforgiveness? 

How was Lazarus miraculously brought back to life from death? Jesus spoke. We may not physically have Jesus, in human form, verbalizing life over us. But we do, like Lazarus did, have His presence and His WORD. We were given a life-changing Book bursting with promises that assure us of His love, power, and protection. It’s a freedom that’s even better than the joy of recess on a beautiful day!

Allow God to free you from the negative things that restrict you, so that you can leave the dark tomb behind, and experience authentic life—peace, security, and hope. Listen to His voice when He commands that you be unbound. Embrace His presence and absorb His Word. Because that Word is perfect truth, and truth is the only thing that has the power to truly set us free. (John 8:32)

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Recess, Resurrection, and Redemption – encouragement from @KellyWilsonMize on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother of two, educator, and freelance writer with a master’s degree in education and 20 years of published writing experience. She has written numerous articles, interviews, curriculum projects, and devotions, and has contributed to seven books. Credits include LifeWay, Bethany House, Guideposts,
(in)courage, and others. Find more from Kelly at kellywilsonmize.com.

Join the conversation: Have you been set free from something holding you back? Please share! What is holding you back or rendered you helpless?

 

Strengthened in Prayer and Lion-Aware

by Kelly Wilson Mize @KellyWilsonMize

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5: 8 (NLT)

Most people either love cats or despise them. I am most definitely a cat person: I love small cats, big cats, house cats, and wildcats. Cats are strong, independent, and beautifully graceful creatures. 

One species of big cat especially fascinating to me is the lion.  No zoo visit is complete without seeing the King of the Jungle. But while captivating to observe from a safe distance, this extraordinary creature has the power to be deadly.

Did you know that male lions weigh around 400 pounds, and can reach running speeds of up to 50 miles per hour? A lion’s roar can be heard from up to five miles away! As intriguing as they are, I would never want to share personal space with a hungry lion.

Peter warns believers that our enemy, Satan, is like a roaring lion. He roams around just looking for someone to attack, devour, and utterly destroy. A lion attack is horrific; the process is graphic and violent.

Have you experienced a season in your life when you felt you were under attack?

Peter prefaces the above verse with words of comfort and encouragement–to prepare us for the inevitable times in our lives when we will experience attack from our enemy. He writes: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).

Then, only after we are assured of God’s great love and care, we read the warning: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NLT). 

Here’s another interesting fact about lions: they hunt for food mostly in the dark hours between dusk and dawn. How many times do we wake in the middle of the night, plagued with worry, doubt, loneliness, or fear? The lion is most dangerous at a time when there is an absence of light. 

So what can we do to protect ourselves from the enemy’s powerful attack? We welcome the Light! God’s word continues by telling us exactly what to do! Verse 9 says:

  • Stand firm.
  • Be strong in your faith. 
  • Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.

Don’t you just love it when God’s word gives us clear, step-by-step instructions? We are to stand firm, be strong, and remember that we are not alone. Through God’s Word, His presence, and the accountability of other believers, we are able to withstand the violent attacks of the Prince of Darkness. Together.

But verse 10 offers the best news of all. After we have suffered through the pursuit, we will be restored, supported, strengthened, and given a firm foundation upon which to stand. Through His amazing grace and power—a power that is exponentially stronger than any roaring, prowling enemy—God will redeem us. Because even the King of the Jungle is no match for the King of Kings.

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Strengthened in Prayer and Lion-Aware – encouragement from @KellyWilsonMize on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother of two, educator, and freelance writer with a master’s in education and 20 years of published writing experience. She has written numerous articles, interviews, and curriculum projects, and has contributed to seven books. Credits include LifeWay, Bethany House, Guideposts, Group Publishing, (in)courage, and many others. You can find out more about Kelly at kellywilsonmize.com.

Join the conversation: Have you experienced an attack from the enemy recently?