Silent Love

by Kelly Wilson Mize

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)

“The silence was deafening.” 

There is great truth in that ironic expression.  Silence is powerful. Sometimes the sound of silence can be a difficult state of existence, awkward and unwelcome. Quiet can imply sadness, loneliness, or boredom. Silence can also be wonderful–even “golden,” as they say. But when communicating with others, most of us would prefer at least some actual noise. In our fast-paced world, we deal in quick information, and want unmistakable (sometimes loud!) confirmation–We want our voices heard, so we can get the answers we think we need. And we want those answers RIGHT NOW.

While waiting on God, the last thing we usually want to be is silent. Instead, we want to clearly express our feelings to Him in a way that ensures there is no doubt that He understands. And God does welcome our words. But He can also work mightily when we choose not to use any.

I used to teach middle school, and one of my pet peeves as an educator was being interrupted while giving instructions to the class. Many times, while I was talking, a hand would go up (or not) and a voice would impatiently call out:

What if?Can we?But what about?

All while I was in the process of explaining everything completely!  The students would sometimes be so eager to find out what they were supposed to be doing that they would jump ahead. In a classroom setting, only when the class is “tuned in” and listening, can it collectively arrive at a place of true understanding.  And effective listening usually involves being quiet.

There is definitely a time for questioning, but preceding those important questions, there is silence.

Waiting on God is sometimes so difficult. We want to KNOW exactly what he wants from us, what He plans to do for us (if anything at all), and when and where He’s going to do it. But sometimes while we wait quietly, a beautiful thing happens: We begin to feel God’s presence in a fresh, new way.

Psalm 46:10 (NIV) describes the beauty of it: “Be still and know that I am God…”

Most versions of that passage say “Be still.” Other translations have a slightly different explanation:

Stop Your Striving, and recognize that I am God…” (NET)

Be in awe and know that I am God…” (ISV)

Stop your fighting–and know that I am God…” (HCSB)

And perhaps my new favorite:

Let go [of your concerns]! Then you will know that I am God.” (GW)

Each variation ends with a reassuring promise: IF you do this–You will know, without a doubt, that God is exactly who He says He is.

Sometimes, as much as we want to jump ahead and ask question after question, like restless middle school students, we should instead be still– respectfully in tune with God’s presence and listening attentively for His direction. Only when we are silent before God (physically, mentally, and spiritually), can we truly hear what He has to say. The stillness provides an environment where we can experience His authentic presence, allow Him to minister to our spirits, and feel His LOVE for us.

We know that love is patient, kind, and never-failing. But sometimes, that perfect love is also silent. 

  • Think of a time you felt God’s presence. Most likely it was at a point where you had “let go” of your own agenda and surrendered to His leading. Even amidst your busy schedule, make every effort to include that invaluable quiet time. 
  • Are you waiting on an answer from God?  Take the time to “Be still and know.”

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: When is the last time you stopped striving?

A Word of Hope

by Crystal Bowman

But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love. Psalm 33:18 NIV

It’s become sort of trendy to choose a word or phrase to focus on for the coming year. Maybe you’ve been doing this for years, or maybe this is new to you. Either way, I like this idea. The phrase I picked for 2020 was hang in there. In the fall of 2019, we had some sudden and unexpected changes in our lives, and I knew the adjustment to these changes would be long and hard. We had to leave our home in paradise (Florida) and return to our home in the Midwest for a variety of reasons. I was doing my best to “hang in there.” Then the pandemic reached the US and once again I was adjusting to sudden and unexpected changes.

Along with my 2020 phrase, I also chose a Bible verse: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

I taped the verse to my bathroom mirror and read it every day. During the months of 2020, I had multiple reasons to be anxious and worried about the future. But every day, as I soaked in the words to that verse and chose to thank God, His peace filled my soul.

In John chapter 14, Jesus begins preparing His disciples for His departure. Since He would not be with them much longer, He offered words of comfort and the promise of the Holy Spirit. He knew they would be troubled because they didn’t understand all that would soon take place. He explained that the Holy Spirit would help them remember Jesus’s words and instructions. I love what Jesus says to them in verse 27 (NIV): “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

The peace we receive from the Holy Spirit in the midst of our anxious moments is a peace that we can’t explain. This peace does not come from the world, it only comes through faith. Even when troubles swirl around us like an F-5 tornado, we can experience inner peace when we belong to Jesus.

I began 2021 with a new word to focus on. That word is hope. There are two definitions of the word hope. One is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. The second definition is a feeling of trust. I chose the second. I trust that God will continue to be my source of strength and peace in the coming year. I trust that my life is in His hands and that nothing will happen to me outside of His will.

My Bible verse to focus on this year is Hebrews 10:23 NIV: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Do you have a word or verse for 2021? I’d love for you to share in the comment section below. May God richly bless you in the coming year and fill your life with peace, hope, and joy. 

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

About the author: Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books including, Our Daily Bread for Kids.She and her husband have three married children and seven huggable grandchildren.

When a child’s grandparent or great-grandparent is afflicted with dementia, it’s difficult to explain the disease in a way that helps the child understand why the person they love is not the same. I Love You to the Stars–When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembersis a picture book inspired by a true story to help young children understand that even though Grandma is acting differently, she still loves them–to the stars!

Join the conversation: What is your word for 2021?

Assured

by Susie Crosby

adj: very confident; sure that something is certain or true

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”  John 16:33 MSG

We can’t be sure about much of anything right now. Many of the things we have always been able to count on are no longer certain. Plans are on hold, and we are realizing that even some of our most cherished traditions may never be the same.

Not only are we disappointed, we are weary, and we are worried. Even those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus­–we who know that life ends well for us–are struggling with the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

I catch myself occasionally drifting toward despair as my anxiety causes me to doubt the sovereignty of God. My heart needs to be assured and reassured. Often.

God, are you really in control?

Do you see this mess we’re in?

Do you hear us praying and crying out to you?

Are you ever going to answer?

It’s okay to ask him that. But then we have to be willing to devote some energy and time to looking and listening for reminders of his faithfulness.

We will find them in unique places. Maybe in a precious photo, a nature walk, a favorite song, or a conversation with a friend. For me, some answers were discovered in 20 years of prayer journals piled in a box on my bedroom floor.

As I poured through page after page, journal after journal, I started making a list. There were so many prayers, long forgotten, that God had been faithful to answer. Prayers for big things, and small things, for people, and for material things. There were times when I had asked him to heal someone I loved, to soften hearts, to help us figure out finances, to lead us to a church, to guide us in tough decisions, and to draw our family closer to him.

There were surprises in these journals, too. I found answers to prayers I hadn’t even voiced. I realized as I flipped through the pages that several of the gifts God had given me were things that he knew I needed, but I didn’t know I did.  Often it was a person he brought into my life to show me more of his love for me. These unspoken prayers were answered simply because of his goodness and his commitment to take care of his children.

There were also answers that looked very different than what I thought they should look like. I still don’t understand God’s plan in some of these, but I do know that someday he will show me how he has worked everything together for his good and his glory.

Can we trust him? Can we believe what Jesus said as he went to be with our Father in Heaven? These last words he spoke to us were meant for us to hold onto during times like these. He knows what is happening in our country, in our workplaces, in our homes, and in our hearts. And here he reminds us that we can be unshakable and deeply at peace; because he has conquered it all.

As the year winds down to its end, look and listen to the God who loves you more than you can comprehend. Let him remind you that he has never once ignored your prayers or left you alone. You can be assured that greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.

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

susie crosby

About the author: Susie is a grateful mom of two (almost) grown boys who currently live and go to school in Honolulu, Hawaii. She and her husband live in a seaside town in the Puget Sound region called Mukilteo. They love to hike and kayak, they are huge Seattle sports fans, and they mostly love hanging out at home with their little dog Koko. Susie teaches P.E., Art, Technology, and Music at an all-kindergarten school which keeps her busy full time. Her passion and joy is sharing encouraging words with the people she loves. She is an active blogger and speaker, and she is the author of Just One Word: 90 Devotions to Invite Jesus In. She is always on the lookout for fun coffee shops, inspiring books, remote beaches, and farmers’ markets. Connect with Susie at www.susiecrosby.com.

Join the conversation: Do you have trouble in trusting God?

Honored, or Forgotten?

by Candy Arrington

But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. 1 Peter 3:15a AMP

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that it is a lot more fun to select, set up, and decorate a Christmas tree than to undecorate and dispose of it. Similarly, emotions of Christmastime: the excitement, joy, and anticipation, can be difficult to maintain after the fact, especially when a year is full of challenges.

One year, as I sat in the sunroom, I noticed our Christmas tree standing tall and erect in a secluded corner of our deck. There was nothing unusual about this, except it had been three months since Christmas. We pulled the tree out onto the deck early in the new year, intending to dispose of it later, and then forgot about it because it was not in a location easily seen.

Looking at the tree, I thought how it was a focal point in our home just a few months before. Selecting the tree was an anticipated family event, its decorating a family activity. It was a central part of our celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Now it languished on our deck, forgotten. Although no longer ornamented, it was still beautiful, retaining its green color and shapely branches. The tree was a reminder of the joy and focus of the Christmas season.

Seeing the tree, I thought about how we sometimes push Jesus aside, out of view, in the same way. On Sunday, we honor Him with our time and attention in worship. We sing songs of praise and offer reverent hearts. Then, for the rest of the week, our Bibles are tucked neatly away somewhere, to emerge again the next sabbath, an ornament to our Sunday attire.

In the midst of our busy lives, we sometimes relegate Christ to a secluded corner of our hearts, while we frantically engage in the urgent, forgetting he is the source of wisdom and strength. Some nights, we fall into bed exhausted without spending time in Bible study or prayer.

Perhaps this year has made it even more difficult to maintain proper focus, giving Christ due honor. A pandemic has kept us away from places of worship for many months. What felt odd at first now seems commonplace. Fear and frustration seeped into our lives, diverting our attention. Yet our Creator and Sustainer patiently waits for us to seek him, to turn our attention toward him, and honor him with our time.

Decide today to make Jesus the focal point in your life every day, not just on Sunday, or at Christmastime. Commit to time alone with him each day and keep the joy and peace experienced at Christmas alive in your heart year-round.

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

Candy Arrington

About the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: How do you keep Jesus front and center every day?

He Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

by Nan Corbitt Allen

From Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s journal:

CHRISTMAS 1861

“How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.”

JULY 1862

“I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.”

CHRISTMAS 1862

“‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”

CHRISTMAS 1863

No journal entry.

CHRISTMAS 1864

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along the unbroken song of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way, the world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime, a chant sublime, of peace on earth, good will to men!

How did the great poet go from despair to silence to hope? It is no wonder that his poem “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” has become a beloved, classic Christmas carol. And when you know the story of Mr. Longfellow’s journey, it inspires more than hope to those who grieve. It also recollects the reason for which Christ was sent to earth.

July 1861. The War Between the States had just begun and Henry, his wife, Fanny, and their five children were in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a house overlooking the Charles River. It was a hot summer and Fanny wrote in her journal “We are all sighing for the good sea breeze instead of this stifling land one filled with dust. Poor Allegra is very droopy with heat, and Edie has to get her hair in a net to free her neck from the weight.”

The next day Fanny decided to cut little Edie’s hair. Since it was the child’s first haircut, Fanny wanted to preserve a lock of the hair in wax as she had with the older children. Hoping for a breeze of relief, Fanny did not realize what a hazard she had created as she lit a wax candle to preserve the hair, and then opened a window to get a breeze flowing.

A gust blew in, caught the hot wax, which splattered Fanny’s dress. The fabric immediately burst into flames. Panicked, Fanny began to run. She ran into Henry’s study screaming for help. In his attempt to smother the flames he was badly burned on his face and hands. Fanny, however, died from her injuries. Henry could not attend his wife’s funeral because of his burns. The pain was excruciating – physically and emotionally.

A home that should have been filled with joy and laughter at the next Christmas, 1861, was instead somber and silent. The cloud of mourning had not yet lifted. There was little sign of hope.

The following year, 1862, Charles Longfellow, Henry’s oldest son joined the Union Army. As the young man marched off to battle, his father feared he would never see his son again.

On Christmas, 1863, Henry received the news. Charles had been wounded in battle. A bullet had passed under his shoulder blade and injured his spine. In those days, such a wound was most often crippling if not fatal.

The following Christmas, 1864, though he was an invalid, Charles was still alive. There were rumors of the war’s end and hope began to flicker. On Christmas Day, Henry picked up his pen and wrote the first verses of the Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Though total peace was somewhat elusive from a world point of view it was possible that Christmas Day to find peace.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

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

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

Nan and Dennis retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: Are you at peace this Christmas season?

Counterintuitive Peace

by Deborah McCormick Maxey, PhD @DeborahMaxey2

…he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge.                                                                          Psalm 91:4 NRSV

“Brain surgery.” Never had two words produced so much anxiety in me. I had prayed the world renown medical team would suggest I try yet another pill. My mind constantly replayed what it would entail to create a “hole in the head”: scalpels in my grey matter and affixing a titanium plate.

It was the first week in December, and instantly I knew that other than my husband, who was with me, God was calling me to keep this scary news from everyone else. I could not let the joy of the Christmas holiday be marred with the fact that I would undergo this on New Year’s Eve, I would undergo this procedure.

At first I was mystified, as a worship leader and a prayer warrior, by God’s direction to not ask for prayer. But eventually I understood: He wanted me to look up, not around, for support.

A few days later I felt God moving me to message a Facebook acquaintance whose sister is a pastor. They both advised me to memorize Psalm 91 and to think of it as “911” to God, because of His promises of protection it held.

I began intense study on that psalm. Verse by verse I journaled deeply into the meaning of the words. As a visual person, it was not enough to understand what the Scripture said, I wanted images to spring to mind as I recited the words in praise and petition.

For the above verse, I googled “birds protecting their young” and found pictures that brought me peace. Birds stretch out their huge pinion feathers and fold their young beneath their wings to shield them. Huddled safe from everything, the babies sleep peacefully while the parent bird stands watch, taking the blows from any attacker. Just as Jesus did on the cross.

I found another reassuring image in verses 11-12 (NRSV): For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up.”

Verse 15 (NRSV) also promises God will not fail. “When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.” Each verse brought joy and confidence that the Lord would be there for me through everything that lay ahead.

En route to Duke University on the day of surgery, Psalm 118:24 (NKJV) spontaneously repeated in my head: “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” And unbelievably, I felt the truth of those words.

Before leaving for the hospital, with a Sharpie, I had written “Psalm 91” in the palm of my hand, ready to grasp it like a squeeze ball if I needed extra strength. But there was an unintended effect: several hospital staff saw it, recognized it, and prayed with me on the spot. Folks I never met on the surgical team, found me afterwards to say that they also saw it and prayed.

I suffer from a chronic neurological disorder, Trigeminal Neuralgia, known as the “The Suicide Disease” because seventy two percent of those diagnosed end their lives within two years of onset. But through the surgery, which had been so scary to anticipate, God greatly reduced my 24/7 pain. He knew all along that His grace would be sufficient when I sought and trusted in him.

When things look overwhelming, and it feels counterintuitive to trust fully in Him, we can know He has a plan, a lesson, and a blessing in store. Over time, prayer, and the study of His Word, we learn to discern His voice. And His presence in our discipline brings us peace.

TWEETABLE
Counterintuitive Peace – encouragement from @DeborahMaxey2 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deborah maxeyAbout the author: Deborah Maxey, winner of numerous writing awards, has several short stories soon to be released in anthologies. Her first novel, “The Endling,” is scheduled to be published by Firefly Southern Fiction, Iron Stream Media. Along with a love for storytelling, Deborah is worship leader at her church, devoted wife, mother, grandmother, fine artist, and a licensed professional therapist in Lynchburg Virginia.

Join the conversation: What has been counterintuitive for you in your relationship with God?

Choosing Peace Over Perfection

by Beth Vogt @BethVogt

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NLT

I can’t remember the last time I had a perfect day.

Oh, I daydream about perfect days. Catch glimpses of other people’s picture-perfect times on social media. Their just completed kitchen remodels or their “look what I accomplished today!” photo ops. The beach sunrises and sunsets, bare feet by the pool days. My dreams aren’t about elaborate escapes to Tahiti – although there are times those salt-breezy vacations sound, well, perfect.

Most times, perfection would be all about having time to clean my house. No clutter on my kitchen countertops. No dirty laundry in my hampers. No search and destroy missions to remove mystery foods from my fridge. No smudges on my mirrors or dog hair lurking under my couches. Who am I kidding? No dog hair on my couches.

And sometimes all I want is uninterrupted time. No disruptions. No surprises. Enough quiet for creativity to flourish so I could work on my novel. But the last time I managed to squeeze in even a partial day of calmness, circumstances went awry, requiring that my 100-year-old mother-in-law be transferred from assisted living to a rehab facility. Immediately.

The reality is we’re not promised perfect days. This year has certainly proven that, hasn’t it? We all would like one giant do-over on 2020. But these less-than-perfect days remind me that Jesus was honest enough to tell us that life is going to be hard enough to make us sad.

Jesus was having a long conversation with his disciples about abiding with him and how he was going to leave them, but then Spirit would come and that would be better … and then he said he was telling them all these things so they would have peace (John 16). If you’re like me, you want to skip over the rest of verse. But there’s no glossing over words like “trials” and “sorrows.”

The challenge is in choosing how we react when we want one thing – perfection – but we end up with the other – challenges and heartaches. That’s when we need to notice how Jesus bracketed his honesty about how hard life would be for us. He book-ended his straight talk about tough times with two promises:

  • That he would give us peace
  • That he has overcome the world

Jesus was honest enough to tell us we’d have trials, not easy circumstances. But we are promised his peace. And in the midst of our complicated days, the peace of God, which exceeds anything we can understand (Philippians 4:17 NLT), is what strengthens and steadies us, enabling us to navigate the “what just happened?” moments that upend our lives. Yes, today may be challenging, but God is our “more than this” – and he will see us through whatever we are facing.

TWEETABLE
Choosing Peace Over Perfection – encouragement from @BethVogt on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” Having authored nine contemporary romance novels and novellas, The Best We’ve Been, the final book in Beth’s Thatcher Sisters Series with Tyndale House Publishers, released May 2020. Other books in the women’s fiction series include Things I Never Told You, which won the 2019 AWSA Award for Contemporary Novel of the

Year, and Moments We Forget. Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner, a 2016 ACFW Carol Award winner, and a 2015 RITA® finalist. An established magazine writer and former editor of the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth blogs for Learn How to Write a Novel and The Write Conversation. She enjoys speaking to writers groups and mentoring other writers. Visit Beth at bethvogt.com.

Join the conversation: How have you found peace in the interruptions?

The Almighty Shadow of Rest

by Christina Rose

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, 
my God, in whom I trust.”                                                                                                                                          Psalm 91:1-2 NIV

We were happily married and joyfully expecting our first baby. We enjoyed a carefree life on San Francisco bay and never imagined anything could go wrong. I still remember the day a notice arrived from the lab showing abnormal test results. When my husband came home, I was too overcome by grief to speak and just handed him the notice. Further testing revealed that our baby was thriving, but I had to quit working, rest often, and notify my doctor with any problems.

There were many sleepless nights as I constantly prayed that our baby would survive and be healthy. In the early hours of dawn, I would head to my rocking chair by the fireplace and look out over the twinkling lights of San Francisco to the south. To the west was our lush green lawn and a view of the mountains. Deer would arrive in those early morning hours to feed on the grass before the sun came up. Their peaceful presence would calm me as I prayed. They had no worries, and I decided that neither should I.  I learned to rest and find peace in the shadow of the Almighty.  Months later, our beautiful little daughter arrived, perfectly healthy.

Now, many years later, sleepless nights have led to more rocking chair prayer in the early hours of dawn. My trip home to California was cancelled due to the pandemic of the corona virus. As I sit in the silent, dark hours, in Denver looking west towards my family in California, I choose to rest and trust in God’s perfect plan.

While this pandemic has seemingly paralyzed the world, it is instilling humility, compassion, and gratitude for many things we took for granted. This is a time of great harvest, as formerly self-reliant people are now turning to God for guidance. We will emerge from this global reset with a greater appreciation for our families, jobs, health, food, shelter, and most importantly, more trust in the God who has provided these things.

Not being able to see or hug our loved ones, especially in times of sickness and death, is something we have never known. But the silver lining is, once the crisis is over, we will embrace each other with greater love and affection. We will joyfully celebrate the simple pleasures that were temporarily taken away from us. We will have a greater appreciation for one another and all of life itself, realizing that each day is a gift from above.

As I watch the sunrise casting pink shadows over the snow-capped Rockies, I think of all the magnificent wildlife that is stirring in the mountains. I think of the vast beauty of the majestic mountains, lakes, streams and wildflowers that are starting to bloom. I think of my family on the California coast and pray that I will see them soon.  When we learn to rest in the shadow of the Almighty, we learn to find the peace that surpasses all understanding. We learn that while we may seem to be in the middle of a dark storm, it is merely a pause to reflect while God is birthing something new and wonderful.

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)

TWEETABLE
The Almighty Shadow of Rest – encouragement from Christina Rose on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

christina roseAbout the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer and speaker certified by the John Maxwell Team of Leadership.  She is a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. A devoted mom of two daughters and great aunt to over 40 nieces and nephews, Christina loves spending time in nature and hosting gatherings for family and friends.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story. Her marriage in shambles, Christina finds herself in a desperate situation with no resources other than herself. After appealing to heaven, the Lord takes her on a journey of awakening and miraculous empowerment. That power that is available to us all, especially those who are in need of hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: What have you been learning through the corona virus crisis?

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?