The Kingdom…in a Nutshell

 by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.   Matthew 13:44 CSB

I love eating a big handful of money. Er…pecans. I meant pecans.

Seriously though, sometimes a gal just wants to snack on some of those delish pecans, right? And evidently also wants to cease having that extra $14.50.

Not to get all squirrely about it or anything, but I had a craving for them the other day and the only bag I could find at the convenience store was tiny—and eight bucks. I bought them anyway. Even though I knew that was just nuts.

I wonder if squirrels even know what they’re stashing away these days. If they figured it out and learned to trade them on the gem market, maybe they could leave those old trees behind and move on up to a de-luxe apartment in the sky.

Our faith walk is often affected by what we squirrel away, spiritually speaking. Sometimes without even realizing it, we find we’re spending all our work energies angling for hanging onto comfort and ease and contentment in our circumstances. Sometimes our focus is stolen away by an intense desire to stash away money and things. Sometimes we can find ourselves desperately scrambling for great power, influence or fame—scrambling like we’re readying for the hardest winter.

As we’re following Christ, the “hardest winters” are the ones we experience when all those earthly aspirations leave us feeling disappointed, dissatisfied, disillusioned—empty. Joyless. Brrr. Even worthy aspirations are empty when we seek them selfishly, or we leave Jesus out.

Paul said in Romans 14:7 (CSB) that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” It’s not about that handful of snacks. We find joy as we focus on the kingdom of God, and as we let the Holy Spirit rule our hearts.

Two of the parables of Jesus teach us the overwhelmingly precious value of His kingdom. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46 CSB).

Jesus teaches that the kingdom is so valuable, a person will freely give up everything else in life to lay hold of it. The kingdom of heaven—that place where God, our King, rules.

For believers, the King rules in our hearts by His joy-giving Holy Spirit. To follow whole-heartedly is our calling. Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25 CSB).

Lord, by the working of Your Holy Spirit in me, help me focus right there, finding life, stashing away the eternally valuable, letting go of anything temporary I might selfishly crave. Giving all. As Your kingdom dwells in me, may I dwell in Your kingdom.

I want to pray that regularly, allowing Him to renew my focus every place it gets off.

That’s probably also why I’m giving up on my jewelry idea. The one where I make myself a necklace. From 24 karat pecan halves.

TWEETABLE
The Kingdom…in a Nutshell – encouragement from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: How does knowing you are a part of the Kingdom of Heaven impact your life in the here and now?

Time for a Nap

by Terri Clark @TerriClarkTCM

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.                                                                                                                               Psalm 4:8 NIV 

I seldom ever take a nap during the day. It’s not that I’m opposed to naps, but I’m one of those perpetually fast-forward personalities that has a hard time slowing down long enough during the day to take one. But the other day, my late nights and early mornings caught up to me. I was so sleepy and sluggish; I couldn’t concentrate on anything and needed a power nap.

Setting the timer on my phone for 45 minutes, I curled up on my bed and started to drift off to sleep, but the room was so cold, I couldn’t relax. My husband keeps the thermostat set at “frigid” in our house. Remembering the quilt folded at the foot of the bed, I pulled it over myself. With the heavy warmth of that quilt wrapped around me, I instantly fell into a deep, restful sleep.

It feels good to have a fresh start; and grabbing a little rest is needed. When my timer went off, I woke up refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the day.

We normally just think about rest in terms of our physical bodies, like when I ran out of steam in the middle of that day. But rest is essential for our soul and spirit as well. We tend to forget about our need for spiritual and emotional rest. It’s easy to become weary and worn out when our lives are filled with concerns and worries for our family or marriage, work issues, finances, health, or even ministry.

Hey, let’s face it, we live in a cold world, and as much as I needed the warm quilt to relax and rest in a cold room, we need a covering over our minds and hearts to relax and rest in the Lord. That’s where we find peace for our weariness.

God has provided a covering for us that is even better than my warm quilt. Look what it says in Psalm 91:4 NLT: “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” When our minds are filled with a million thoughts, when we are stressed out, when life seems out of control and when things aren’t going the way we want them to, it’s time to step away and rest under the soft downy feathers of God’s faithful promises.

Our situation may not change right away, but His peace that comes with His covering, allows us to relax and rest. After a time of refreshment with Him, we’ll have what we need to get on with the situation at hand.

So, how about you? Are you in need of a spiritual and emotional nap? Cover up under the warmth of God’s wing. He is there for you. Here are a few more verses to read while you rest.

  • Ruth 2:12 (BSB) “May the Lord repay your work, and may you receive a rich reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have taken refuge.”
  • Psalm 17:8 (NIV) “Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings.”
  • Psalm 18:30 (BSB) “As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.”
  • Isaiah 51:16 (BSB) “I have put My words in your mouth, and covered you in the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’”
  • John 14:27 (NLT) “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.”

May you wrap yourself in God’s peace and be able to rest in Him today.

TWEETABLE
Time for a Nap – encouragement on finding God’s peace from @TerriClarkTCM on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Terri ClarkAbout the author: Terri Clark works with women to prepare and equip them to receive God and the blessings He wants to produce in their lives. She began to answer God’s call on her life in 1994 and has since impacted women all over the world with His news of salvation, edification, and healing.

Her book, Fanning the Flame: Reigniting Your Faith in God, identifies and addresses the issues which most affect a believer’s spiritual flame: the busyness of life, Christian service, pride, and worldly temptations. Join her in this pilgrimage and reignite your spiritual lamp with a fresh, empowering faith–a faith that will stand through a time of testing.

Join the conversation:  What are some of your favorite verses that help you to rest?

Trusting God in a Season of Uncertainty

by Lee Ann Mancini

I have heard your prayers. I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you.  2 Kings 20:5 NIV

“Hi, Mrs. Mancini,” I heard a faint voice saying. Slowly, I opened my eyes and began to register that, once again, surgery was finished. This time, I had required a complete removal of my thyroid. Only three months prior, I had undergone surgery for avascular necrosis of the third metatarsal. What is that, you ask? It is when the bone in the middle toe of your foot begins to die.

I was carrying a large biblical commentary when, all of a sudden, I somehow managed to drop it on my foot. Unfortunately for me, the book did not land on its flat surface, which would have allowed the weight to be evenly distributed. Instead, the corner of the massive book struck my middle toe like a sharp-pointed knife! Wincing in pain, I told myself with resignation, “Well, that’s going to hurt for a while.” Little did I know that, only eight months later, I would require surgery.

Why do I mention my surgeries?

Well, I suffer from anxiety. Normally, just the thought of having to lie in bed for two weeks with my foot propped up above my heart—or the thought of possibly never being able to talk again should my vocal cords accidentally be cut—would normally have sent me into full panic mode. However, I am thankful to say the Lord was gracious to me, and this did not happen.

We all go through seasons of tests and trials, however, during those two recent health issues, I decided that I would earnestly focus on learning to trust God completely first and foremost. I wanted to rely on the Word of God, pray to the Lord in confidence, and trust in His promises without reservation.

Whenever a fearful thought began creeping into my mind, I would take that thought and bring it directly to Christ. “We demolish arguments and ever pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV).

Do you earnestly seek the Lord in prayer during difficult times? Do you recite a particular Bible verse to help ease your mind as you feel anxiety creeping in? Or do you focus on the situation and dwell on the problem?

This time I didn’t dwell on the problem, but told my Father that I would accept whatever outcome He had planned for me. I was determined to praise Him no matter what the result. The Lord rewarded me by giving me peace and comfort through the entire process both surgeries entailed.

May the Lord protect and guide your hearts and minds during these very stressful days. May you be drawn closer to the Lord, trusting him and praising him. He promises to give you peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7)!

TWEETABLE
Trusting God in a Season of Uncertainty – encouragement from Lee Ann Mancini on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lee Ann Bio PictureAbout the author: Lee Ann Mancini is an adjunct professor at South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary. She is the author of the Sea Kids book series and an executive producer of the new Sea Kids animation series.

Lee Ann’s book, Forever with Jesus, teaches children how wonderful heaven is: no more tears, pain, or suffering. When their neighbor passes away, the children in the story learn that they do not have to fear death, because their belief in Jesus guarantees they will live forever with Him.

Join the conversation: What has helped you in dealing with anxiety?

 

Dealing with Horrific Circumstances

by Robin Gilbert Luftig @robinluftig

“…you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.”                                                        Deuteronomy 4:29 NASB

I stood in horror as the doctor’s words sunk in: your son has a broken neck. Hours earlier he had attempted a backflip—as he had accomplished hundreds of times before—but this time he didn’t make it over. He landed on his head and neck. There in the hospital my son tried to reach for my hand, but all he could do was offer a palsy-like movement.

Finally settled in his hospital room, I watched as the medication slowly took over and guided him to sleep. He lay there, neck braced and tubes of medication and monitors surrounding him. I pulled up a chair, leaned my forehead against the side of his mattress and readied my heart to pray. I knew I had an open channel to the Creator of the Universe and could speak to him about anything. This prayer needed to reach past all the clouds and stars. It needed to grab God’s attention. Yet all I could say was, “Oh God … Oh God … Oh God … Oh God ….”

Have you ever had a moment that shook you emotionally to the point where you had no words to speak, only utterances? Sometimes that’s all we have to offer.

And sometimes that’s enough. Comfort can be found in terrible situations, but it takes determination on your part. Moses told the Israelites, “…you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29 NASB, emphasis added).

 So when all you have is Oh God … Oh God … Oh God, know the Holy Spirit is working on your behalf, interceding for you. After I prayed that day in the hospital room, 1 Peter came to mind.

“… though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even through refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:5-7 (NIV).

The Apostle Peter wrote these words to the first century Christians who were experiencing persecution. He knew they needed encouragement to look beyond their circumstances. Those sentiments continue through today. When those words came to my mind there in the hospital while I waited for the doctor’s prognosis, they brought peace to my heart. I knew no matter the outcome, God was still in control.

Dealing with the emotions surrounding trauma may take longer than you anticipated. Peace seldom relieves a dark situation with a one-and-done prayer. Continue reaching out and listening. That doesn’t mean to return to the Oh God … Oh God … Oh God-type of conversation with God, but it does mean to remember Who is with you, cares for you, and is always in control.

Oh, and my son? His neck healed and he’s an avid volleyball player in Chicago these days.

There are times when we cannot change circumstances, we can only experience them. But we don’t have to experience them alone. Allow God to bring peace in all your storms.

TWEETABLE
Dealing with Horrific Circumstances – encouragement from @RobinLuftig on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

SONY DSCAbout the Author: Be grateful in everything—even the bumpy rides, is Robin Luftig’s mantra in either writing for
non-fiction readers or speaking to audiences on the healing after tragedy. She’s an award-nominated columnist for great magazines such as Leading Hearts, CBN.com, and many more. She is the author of two books, Learning to Bloom Again and the just released God’s Best During Your WorstImage result for robin luftig God's Best(Bold Vision Books) in March. Her first novel, Ladies of the Fire launches the end of 2020. Robin enjoys speaking all over the country and would love to be your next keynote presenter or workshop leader for your conference, retreat, or women’s event.

Join the Conversation: Have you been able to be at peace in a terrible time in your life? Please share!

Resting in God Our Rock

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

“I love You, O Lord, my strength.” The Lord is my Rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.                                                                                                          Psalm 18:1-2 NASB

In 2006, my husband Steve stepped into an ugly power struggle that nearly cost him his job. Dishonest and unethical practices had trickled down from the top, infecting all the staff. As a result, when Steve continually made a right, hard choice, he was attacked and slandered by evil, power-hungry men.

The union representative in particular made it his mission to get Steve fired, which included sending a letter to the CEO telling him how “terrible” he was. Then, he printed and prominently displayed the slanderous letter at the shop.

With every attack against Steve, my anxiety climbed. What if the union representative succeeded and Steve’s company let him go? Where would he work? How would we pay our bills? What if we lost our home?

Our world felt out of control, our security only as sure as my husband’s next paycheck. But then we remembered our sure foundation, the immovable Rock upon which we stood.

Psalm says, “I love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer” (Psalm 18:1-2a NASB).

This was written by ancient Israel’s second king, a mighty warrior who’d single-handedly defeated a tyrannical giant. Yet, this warrior found strength not in himself and his military prowess, but instead in His sovereign, all-powerful God. No matter how strong or skilled in battle, apart from God he was vulnerable and insufficient. In the crags of God’s love, however, he was amply protected, untouchable.

Towering rocks or bluffs dotted the landscape of ancient Palestine, providing places of refuge, of protection, for all who scampered upon them. These elevated geological edifices were difficult to reach and offered shelter within their caverns. They were places of safety in times of danger.

Fortresses offered similar protection. The people built heavily-fortified cities high upon a cliff, where they could see enemies approach for miles. Then, they erected stone towers at the highest point in the city.

Can you sense the layers of protection revealed in the Psalm 18 passage? In Christ, we stand high upon an immovable rock of power and grace, further hidden within the clefts of His love. His strength is greater than anything or anyone that comes against us. We are triply protected within His steadfast embrace. He is our sure and constant deliverer, the rock beneath our feet, and the fortress surrounding us.

As attacks continued to barrage my husband and our family, we hid ourselves deeply in God. When anxiety arose, we reminded ourselves of where our true security lay, and all we knew to be true about Him. He was faithful, loving and attentive—unconquerable. He was our ever-present provider, the only One with the power to sustain us.

That year, He proved Himself to be all those things and more. I’m confident He’ll do the same for you. Whatever you’re facing, whatever is coming against you, rest in this: God’s got you. He’s standing beside you, within you, and is camped around you. He is your refuge, your rock, and your strong, fortified tower.

You don’t have to be strong or know all the answers—that secret that will somehow whisk you to safety—because in Christ, you’re already safe.

Let’s talk about this! When has God proven Himself to be your rock and your fortress? How might remembering this time help you when future problems hit?

If you’re facing a difficult, uncertain period, how might it help to shift your thoughts off your ever-changing circumstances and onto your immovable Savior?

TWEETABLE
Resting in God Our Rock – encouragement from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer Slattery Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Hometown Healing and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s eventLogo image for Faith Over Fear

In her 12-part podcast series titled Faith Over Fear, she helps listeners battle many of the anxieties and fears that often assault us, sharing practical tools and timeless truths that, when applied, can help us live our Christ-won place of victory.

Don’t Worry Your Pretty Head

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I’m not going to lie, I allowed my kids to make a few bad hair decisions as they were growing up. I did it for two reasons. 1) I knew I would be able to show them the pictures years later and tease them mercilessly, and 2) if everything was all hair perfection for them growing up, how would they ever learn to be funny?

May I say now, “well-done, me.” Because I have pictures. And the laughter is very satisfying. And also, all my kids are hilarious.

I’m also big enough to admit that sometimes when we look at those pictures, the bad hair is mine. I’d rather call it a bad mousse day. Or as I’ve come to more often refer to it, “Serendipity-Do”—since I never knew exactly how that hair would turn out. Or how the gel would come off.

When I say that I’m big enough to admit it, sometimes I mean my hair was big enough. Big enough for whatever. Oh my, the sheer “bigness” of that hair. I look at the photos of those three-story bangs and wonder how it all held up without girders and trusses. I think the highest hair stood with a lot of teasing, spraying, wishing and even more worrying. Plus another jar and a half of the gel-mousse-plaster-of-Paris of the day.

Back then I also worried on windy days that those bangs might accidentally achieve enough thrust, drag, weight, lift and hairspray to fly me a couple of counties over. Oh the worries of heavy-duty aerodynamic bangs (hair-o-dynamic?). It’s enough to…well…make your hair stand on end. Or turn it gray.

Worry in all aspects of life can be as sticky as cheap mousse. It’s even sneaky. I often convince myself that worry works. After all, most of the things I worry about don’t happen. Doesn’t that mean it’s working?

Even in all its slick sneakiness, there’s something we can do with worry. When we feel we’re coming unglued (not a hair reference), and we don’t know what to do, we have a choice. We can trade in that worry. “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God,” (Philippians 4:6, CSB).

Trading worry for prayer, petition and thanksgiving? It’s the most amazing exchange. And you’re not even going to believe what comes along with it. A gloriously unexpected peace. We’re told about it in the very next verse. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, CSB). A heart-and-mind-guarding peace straight from Jesus Himself!

Seeking Jesus—heart and mind on Him—is the key. He said in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow.” He preceded that command with, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” (Matthew 6:33, CSB). When His peace rules, the fears that seem three stories tall one minute, appear appropriately minuscule the next. Is there any worry—anything at all—that can stand up against the perfect peace of God?

God’s peace has proven its ability to stand up against the biggest heartbreaks, the highest life-threats, or even the smallest and goofiest hair events—even events with pictures.

On the pics topic, I’m backing off my kids a hair. Possibly because for every shot I take at one of their styles, they can always pull out a Glamour Shot of mine.

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.                                                                                                 Isaiah 41:10 NASB

TWEETABLE 
Don’t Worry Your Pretty Head – Encouragement from @RhondaRhea (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-CaffeinatedWhen the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic. 

Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: What do you do to keep your worrying under control?

 

Peace Like a River

by Lane P. Jordan @Lane_Jordan

For thus says the Lord, “Behold, I extend peace to her like a river. And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. Isaiah 66:12, ESV

Oh, that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Isaiah 48:18 ESV

I just got back from a reunion at my childhood camp. It is my favorite place in all the world. I’m not sure if I love it so much because it’s located on the top of a beautiful North Georgia mountain, or because the food is so good, or the activities stupendous, or just because my memories cannot be daunted.

Either way, I love, love this camp and try to get to the reunion each year. At this year’s get together, we of course sang around the campfire with the standard songs sung every night, ending in a tight friendship circle.

And one of the songs we always sing is “Peace I ask of Thee, O River”. I thought, “How can a river give peace?

And then I remembered. There are verses about rivers in the Bible!

The source of a river, typically small mountain streams, depicts the beginnings of life, and its meeting with the ocean symbolizes the end. The river is also used as a metaphor for both boundaries and roadways. In the first Scripture above, I believe God is saying that His peace is as gentle as a slow-moving river, but as strong as a river with a swift current. Its never-ending movement pictures the kind of care and presence He will always provide.

But if we don’t follow Him and seek other places in which to place our security, we cannot rest in His peace. We may waver, but our God will never change. He and His peace are always there for us.

I love Romans 8:38-39. Paul explicitly says that nothing will ever be able to separate us from God’s love: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” NIV

That makes me want to jump for joy! These promises are so rich and so large—how could I ever not have peace in my life?

God loves us so very much. And He wants to give us His peace for every second of every day until we are with Him in His eternal home. That is why Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you: My peace I give to you.” John 14:27

Don’t you just want to have this peace too?

TWEETABLE
Peace Like a River – encouragement from @Lane_Jordan on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lane Jordan - High ResolutionAbout the author: Lane P. Jordan is a writer, best-selling author, international motivational and inspirational speaker, singer, artist, Bible teacher, and professional life coach. She lives in Frisco, Texas with her husband who partners with her in ministry and waits impatiently for daughters and granddaughter to visit!  Lane’s desire is to encourage, support, and motivate women of all ages to be better wives, mothers, and women of God by organizing their lives and time. You can find her at: http://www.LaneJordanMinistries.com and her blog at http://www.PathwaysToOrganization.com.

Lane’s book, 12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Woman, is an invaluable resource for every woman–from soccer moms to single grandmoms. It combines practical information on managing a fast-paced life with biblical wisdom and assurances that even when life seems overwhelming, the Lord is our keeper, our father, our husband, and our shepherd.

Join the conversation: What does God’s peace mean to you?

Learning to Listen Well

by Natalie Flake Ford @tearstojoy

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 NIV

Panic. Dread. Unprecedented Fear. These words describe the emotional turmoil in the car just moments before my daughter’s first driving lesson. After a quick prayer, I gently instructed her on keeping between the lines as well as knowing when to brake and when to speed up. As I did this, my anxious feelings slowly began to dissipate. Peace and calm gradually replaced my fear and anxiety.

In order for my daughter to drive well, we had to turn off distractions (cell phones and radio). As she listened intently to my voice and worked diligently to obey my commands, she gradually learned to drive.

God wants the same for us in our daily lives. Too often distractions drown out his still, quiet voice until we are consumed with doing what the world deems important. The result is becoming preoccupied with worry. Henry Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest and psychologist, wrote, “Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life.”

If we want to walk in obedience to Christ, we have to remove distractions so that we can focus on His voice. This is easier said than done. Silence can be uncomfortable.

I don’t know about you, but when I get quiet, my mind starts to race. I obsess over my to-do list and struggle with the urge to “do something.” If I am quiet long enough, anxieties, fears, hurtful memories, anger, and pain threaten to consume me.

Uncomfortable with these feelings, I want to stop this “inner chat” and hide in busyness. But to do so would mean missing God’s voice and the peace He offers. When we are still before Him, the Holy Spirit does a healing work in the deep recesses of our heart and soul.

One of my seminary professors required that we spend three hours alone with the Lord. Honestly, I dreaded this assignment and thought it to be a waste of time. But out of obligation, I gathered my Bible, a hymnal, a journal, and my guitar and headed for a local state park.

In the beginning, it felt awkward. My mind wandered, and I continually fought to bring it back to the Word. But as I disciplined myself to be still, I experienced one of the sweetest, most intimate times with the Lord that I’ve ever had. I left that park different than when I arrived. I was filled with contentment, peace, and joy, even though my circumstances remained the same.

Spending three hours alone with God daily is not realistic for most of us. But we can make finding quiet moments a priority, whether it be the few minutes before we get out of bed, turning off the radio in the car, or meditating on the Word during our quiet times.

Consider scheduling time in your calendar for solitude and don’t let anything change that appointment. Get up early on Sundays and spend time preparing your heart for worship — maybe even go to the Church and find a quiet place to pray and listen.

Solitude is not easy. It is awkward at first, but it has the potential to radically sanctify us and make us more like Christ. If Jesus was always intently listening to the Father, how much more do we need to do the same?

TWEETABLE
Learning to Listen Well – insight from Natalie Flake Ford, @TearsToJoy on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Natailie Ford headshotAbout the author: Natalie Flake Ford teaches counseling and psychology at Truett McConnell University.  She is also a licensed professional counselor. Dr. Ford is passionate about missions and lives to make Jesus known.

In her book, Tears to Joy, Natalie details the tribulations of dealing with mental illness. Debunking stigma and presenting practical advice, she offers hope to those who have dealt with a loved one’s mental illness or suicide, even to those who have struggled with it themselves.

Join the conversation: How do you manage to incorporate solitude into your life?

Humbugs to Hallelujahs

by Tina Yeager @tyeagerwrites

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world … and everyone went to their own town to register.  So Joseph also went … to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.                                                                                                                               Luke 2:1, 3-5 NIV

A shopping cart brushed past me in the holiday décor aisle. I stepped aside to avoid a collision, flattening myself against the shelves. As overhead speakers crackled into a whiny version of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” I couldn’t have agreed less.

Rather than humming along with the music, my heart’s refrain leaned more toward “humbug.” I couldn’t stop thinking the phrase which had repeated in my head since moving to this rural town.

I don’t belong here.

I still had no church family. This Christmas season promised no neighborhood gatherings. No familiar shop clerks or community sights. Instead of heading off to volunteer, I would stay home to work. All alone in my little humbug hole.

As I faced working the hours formerly spent on celebrations in years past, I felt bustled. Displaced. Distracted and pushed. And not so much merry this season.

I struggled to focus on writing. Fatigue was crashing into me like the oblivious shopper’s cart. Yet an overwhelming pile of work loomed unfinished.

Retail therapy had failed to serve as respite, so I switched on the television. News channels raged with political drama. A cyclone of negativity whirled around me. I grumbled about how the holiday season ought to begin on a cheerier note. Yet a closer look at the first Christmas revealed eerie similarities between my modern distractions and those swirling around the ancient children of God.

Political, emotional, and work stressors riddled first century Israel, too. The government compelled all citizens to register for a census, regardless of the strain the requirement imposed on its subjects. It had sent the nation into a frenzy of stress.

The original Christmas saw Joseph and Mary on a journey beleaguered with isolation, tension, and discomfort. The scandal of Mary’s pregnancy had frayed extended relationships at home, and no warm welcome awaited them in Bethlehem, either. Much like our family having to leave our home place and face isolation on this Christmas.

They arrived in a town stirred to overflowing with stressors. Bethlehem had no room for a new arrival. I wonder if Mary or Joseph considered my not-so-merry refrain of I don’t belong here.

In truth, with Mary about to give birth, their journey was far more difficult than any other young couple seeking the earthly comforts of a community. Rejection and displacement plagued their steps. God chose an isolated stable as the humble venue for this first Christmas.

Even if humbugs tempted Mary and Joseph, they remained faithful to their calling. They served the Son of God, who belonged to a heavenly Kingdom. Amid national tension and community bustle, Mary focused on the birth of hope. The first to carry the gospel surrendered the distress over troubled circumstances and embraced the most glorious gift exchange of all.

I had forgotten my true home place and allowed the world’s stressors to sell me misery at the expense of joy.

I want to exchange my humbugs for hallelujahs for the rest of my days, no matter where the journey takes me. I might remain set apart at times while carrying his message. But this Christmas, I want to enter a quiet and humble place with Jesus and lay my burdens before him. May praise for the gift of my Savior remain the song of my heart for the rest of my days.

TWEETABLE
Humbugs to Hallelujahs – thoughts on the season from Tina Yeager @TYeagerWrites on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Tina YeagerAbout the author: Award-winning author, speaker, licensed counselor, and life coach, Tina Yeager encourages audiences to fulfill their potential. She offers writing workshops through Serious Writer Academy, hosts the Flourish-Meant podcast, and is a mentor with Word Weavers International.

Tina’s book, Beautiful Warrior, empowers you to break free from the insecurity that has you trapped. Pick up your shield―the Word of God, your identity in Christ, and healthy thought patterns―and become the divine heroine you were destined to be.

Join the conversation: What do you do when the humbugs try to steal your joy?

 

Called to be Generous

by Louise Tucker Jones

Blessed are those who are generous… Proverbs 22:9 (NLT)

 My son, Jay, is a Sonic Coke-a-holic. His day is not complete without his Sonic Coke, so I take him every day after lunch. Jay is an adult with Down syndrome and thrives on routine. This one started years ago. Truthfully, I enjoy our outings, and most of the Sonic crew loves seeing his beaming smile. But once in a while, we are served by someone who is in too much of a hurry to appreciate Jay’s exuberance. And sometimes we wait for service a little too long, and I’m tempted not to give that extra tip in my hand.

Then God prompts me to remember the word He dropped into my spirit months ago. GENEROUS. Then I can’t refuse a tip just because I’m impatient. And it isn’t just Sonic where the Lord expects my generosity. He’s challenged me with a whole new meaning to that word.

I’m to be generous in every walk of life, not just in the financial realm. I often hear the Lord remind me to be generous with praise, encouragement, love and kindness. To offer a helping hand without being asked. To compliment one who isn’t expecting it. To be gracious and generous to those unlike me, even if they seem rude.

And here is the biggie. Be generous with forgiveness.

Wait! Does that really fall under the umbrella of generosity? Yes, it does. God expects me to give forgiveness generously. And here’s what I’ve learned. Many times, the hardest person to forgive is myself. Yes. Me. It’s the little things. It’s the big things. Heart-breaking things.

Everything from eating midnight snacks while trying to lose 10 pounds to losing a friend whom I had planned to call to an unexpected death. I too easily pronounce myself guilty and assault my spirit with negative comments.

“What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t I listen to my instincts?”

Perhaps you can identify. Sometimes we’re perfectionists. We don’t allow ourselves to make mistakes and pile on accusations when we do. We don’t think of it as egotistical. In fact, we often feel we just didn’t listen well to God. We prayed then made a wrong decision so it must be our fault. And sometimes that’s true, but other times it’s simply being human.

But no matter which, we need to offer the same forgiveness to ourselves that we give to others. We are not on the same spiritual plane as God. We don’t have all the answers. We will make mistakes and when that happens, we need to quickly forgive ourselves, whether we think we deserve it or not.

I can’t imagine King David thinking he deserved forgiveness when his selfish actions caused not only the death of a faithful warrior but also that of his own baby boy (2 Samuel 12). And I wonder if Peter berated himself when he became frightened and began to sink while walking on water to meet Jesus (Matthew 16:29-30).

 The lame, the blind and the sick begged Jesus for healing, but left with more than a healthy body. Why? Jesus forgave their sins as well, just as God forgave David and Peter. As people who want to follow Him, we need to cultivate forgiveness in our hearts—by remembering the grace of God.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) God’s extravagant love frees us to accept ourselves, with all our faults, as well as others. It also produces a grateful heart that is open to all kinds of generosity. Even forgiveness.

TWEETABLE
Called to be Generous – insight from Louise Tucker Jones on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Louise Tucker Jones ProfileAbout the author: Louise Tucker Jones is a speaker, columnist and author of four books, including The Gift of Christmas. Her poignant life stories will touch your heart or tickle your funny bone. Having a son with Down syndrome, Louise writes extensively concerning people with special needs, co-authoring the Gold Medallion award-winning book, Extraordinary Kids. Married to Carl for 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands. LouiseTJ@cox.net http://www.LouiseTuckerJones.com

Join the conversation: Do you have trouble forgiving yourself?