Are You Missing the Benefits of Joy and Play?

by Debbie Wilson

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw

This quote struck me, because in many ways, I lost my sense play last year. 2020 was one of the hardest years I can remember. I lost one of my closest friends to cancer; several of my friends lost loved ones in unexpected tragedies; we were isolated, experienced national chaos, a worldwide pandemic, and an election like none I’ve ever witnessed.

Under such circumstances, to talk about fun may sound frivolous and out of touch. But I have good reason to believe joy is exactly what we need.

Research shows that fun can trigger the release of endorphins which promote an overall sense of well-being. And happy people have better relationships. The Bible supports turning on the joy even—or especially—in challenging circumstances.

Joy Is Biblical!

From prison the Apostle Paul wrote: “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NLT).

King Solomon, the wisest of kings, wrote: “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22 NLT).

A Psalm addressing the injustice of the wicked getting away with their evil schemes includes this admonition. “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4 NLT).

Considering these biblical admonitions, today is the perfect day to count our blessings—not our woes. God made us to celebrate and to enjoy Him. Paul said that rejoicing in the Lord is a safeguard for us (Philippians 3:1).

Oswald Chambers said, “I am ever playing in God’s Presence as well as praying in it.”

Considering this has helped me give myself permission to enjoy life’s daily blessings and carve time for activities I enjoy. I’ve been reminding myself throughout the day to “Rejoice in the Lord!” Just saying those words aloud helps me smile.

This year, I am working to put strong boundaries on my thought life and rejoice in the Lord always.

Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! Nehemiah 8:10 NLT

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

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big Godand Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: What role do joy and play have in your life? How do you incorporate them into your day? If you are good at this, I hope you will share a tip to help the rest of us incorporate more joy and play into our daily lives.

Can Comparison Ruin Your Time with God?

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

“What did you want to be when you grew up?” our small group leader asked. One by one, people offered sensible vocations. “From the time I was a boy, I wanted to be an eye doctor,” my optometrist said.

“I wanted to be a preacher and pound the pulpit,” a Christian worker chuckled. 

The leader turned to me. Unlike the rest of the group, I couldn’t recall one serious aspiration and couldn’t bring myself to admit I’d wanted to fly like Peter Pan or ride horses and catch bad guys like Annie Oakley.

My second-grade teacher once wrote on my report card, “Debbie does good work but daydreams too much.” Didn’t all children carry fairies to school? Little did I realize these were clues as to how I would someday connect with God.

Do you feel like your relationship with God should look a certain way? Do you compare yourself with other people and berate yourself for not being like them? The Psalmist wrote, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it” (Psalm 139:14 TLB).

God made us multifaceted and different from each other. He didn’t create a bunch of sock dolls from the same ball of yarn. He knit you together in the perfect way to reflect His glory and display His creativity. If no two fingerprints are the same, why would we think God expects everyone to relate to Him the same way?

When my children were babies, our church had a place for nursing mothers to feed their infants. While chatting with another nursing mom, I mentioned the quiet time I spend with God at night. She straightened her shoulders, and huffed, “We are children of the light.”

If it is supposed to be darkest before dawn, I wondered why she boasted about meeting with God then! Maybe she’d never read God neither slumbers nor sleeps. Seriously, this woman’s rigid perspective showed in her countenance and outlook on life.

That’s why I appreciate hearing women from different ages and stages of life share how they connect with God.

One young mother and pastor’s wife, who grew up dancing, said music speaks to her. Today she uses music to direct her thoughts to God.

A busy working mom listens to a Bible app while she rides her stationary bike before dashing off to work. She uses car rides to share devotions with her teens.

Another gal prays when she walks her dog.

One of my romantic friends views her quiet time as a date. She looks forward to spending time with the One who knows all about her and wants to share life with her.

Another friend, a busy CEO, wife, mother, and volunteer in many ministries, starts her day with a Bible study and a kale/jalapeño smoothie! If she has to catch an early flight, she carries her devotional on the airplane.

An older widow sings hymns when the house grows dark.

For me, daydreaming contributes to my joy in studying and teaching the Bible. I like to put myself in the story and imagine how I’d have responded to those same circumstances. People in my audiences have told me those passages have come alive for them because of that perspective.

God tells us to delight in Him. That means spend time with the Lord in the way that draws you close to Him. Don’t be afraid to try different times of day and forms of Bible study. Just spend time with Jesus.

Take delight in the Lord. Psalm 37:4 NIV

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

TWEETABLE
Can Comparison Ruin Your Time with God? – encouragement from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big Godand Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: What helps you connect with God?

Secret Petitions of the Heart

by Christina Rose

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.”                                                                                                              Psalm 37:4 AMP

One summer day many years ago I planted a secret petition in my heart. A thunderstorm had sent me and my cousin Susan racing from the pool to the cozy den where we plopped down with bowls of ice cream to watch a movie. “The Sandpiper” was filmed on the wild, central coast of California. I was overcome with awe by the spectacular Pacific coast. As I watched actress Elizabeth Taylor paint a canvas of sandpipers by the ocean, a bold dream was born in my heart. I knew I belonged there on that beautiful wild coast and that somehow and someday I would find my way there. For a little ten-year old girl who had never traveled west of Maryland, this dream seemed so big and impossible that I kept it to myself.

As years went by I forgot this dream amid the busyness of life. After college, I moved to San Francisco where I was married and had two children. Each summer we would drive down the coast to camp under the redwoods in Big Sur. We would spend hours on the beach, exploring tide pools and enjoying the surf. We would often stop by Nepenthe restaurant for an early dinner on the way back to camp.

One afternoon, as I was exploring the gift shop at Nepenthe, I noticed a huge poster of  “The Sandpiper” movie. Further inquisition revealed that the movie had been shot on the very beach I had been taking my children to every year. I learned that the stars in the movie often came to Nepenthe after filming for dinner. As the wonder of God’s grace in fulfilling a child’s secret dream from more than 30 years ago flooded me, I was filled with awe at how great God is. He never gives up on us or our dreams. He knows our every secret, even if we have buried them so deep, they have become secrets to ourselves. God actualized my childhood dream in a way far greater than I had imagined. He blessed me with a beautiful family with which to enjoy it all.

God’s greatness in restoring dreams is evidenced throughout the Bible.

Elisha was a prophet in the Bible who often traveled through the town of Shunem. A local woman wanted to honor him as a man of God, so she and her husband built a room for him in their home. Elisha wanted to repay the woman for her generosity, but she insisted there was nothing she needed. When Elisha discovered she had no children, he promised her that she would have a son within one year. She had kept her dream of having a child a secret, as she had given up on it many years ago. While she dared not hope again, the secret petition of her heart was granted when Elisha’s promise came true; she was blessed with a baby boy within the year. (2 Kings 4:8-17)

As a young teenager, Joseph had a great dream of being a powerful leader. When his jealous brothers sold him into slavery, he may have felt that this dream was just an illusion. For all the years he toiled in prison, there may have been moments when he wondered if his dream would ever be realized. All the while, God was not punishing Joseph, he was merely preparing him. Joseph’s dream came true, and he became the leader God called him to be. (Genesis 37, 41:38-43)

Have you given up on a dream that seems impossible? With God all things are possible, including granting the secret petitions of our hearts.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

TWEETABLE
Secret Petitions of the Heart – encouragement from Christina Rose on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

christina rose

About 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. She is a world traveler, surfer, foodie, cappuccino- loving chocoholic and a devoted mom to kids and dogs, as well as auntie to many nieces and nephews who live around the world.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story.  With her young family on the verge of falling apart, 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, redemption and restoration. Christina hopes her story will encourage others who are in need of hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: Has God fulfilled a secret dream of yours? Please share!

My Heart’s Desire

by Christina Rose

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4 NIV

After 22 years in the family home it was time to sell. I dreaded it. The house seemed so quiet and empty after my two daughters left for college, yet it was filled with joyful memories of new babies, holidays, birthdays, love and laughter. I never wanted those days to end. Now that my husband was living nearby with someone new, I felt more lost and alone than ever. I was on the verge of sliding into a serious pity party, and there was only one thing to do. I put on my hiking boots and headed out with the dogs to call on my Father.

My home was at the base of Ring Mountain, a beautiful nature preserve that overlooked San Francisco bay. Each day I hiked and prayed and found my peace.  Today I needed it more than ever. I looked to the sky in prayer and heard, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NIV.

The Lord spoke these words to His people in exile, spread all over the known world to give them hope. While things were grim at the moment, they were not to fear. The Lord would uphold and restore them. He never forgets His own.

Peace began filling my spirit and answers flowed. I was guided to call an old friend who had a beautiful historic home with a few rental cottages in the nearby town of Larkspur. His 100 year- old home sat on a hill in the middle of a redwood forest with spectacular mountain views and was a short drive to the beach. While I had not spoken to my friend in years, God’s message to call him was insistent. He was now living a few hours away and offered me the main house for a reasonable rent. He was in bankruptcy which meant if he lost the house I might have days to move out if I moved in. This was a huge financial and emotional risk. Again, I prayed on my mountain and the guidance to make this move was clear. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”  (Proverbs 3:5 NIV).

I lived in paradise for three years. My daughters and their friends loved to visit. The stained glass windows, high beamed ceilings, decks, views of the mountain, lush garden in the redwoods with visiting deer, hummingbirds and butterflies were heavenly. Each sunrise and sunset I prayed on the top deck. In the evenings the fog from the ocean would roll over the mountain refreshing the air. A cottage became vacant and my sister and her kids spent the summer with us. A niece came by with friends on their way to a Bible retreat. One morning as I was watching the group praying in the garden, I thought, God’s plan is so much bigger than our own if we would just ask for his help and trust him.

The three years I spent in Larkspur were so blessed, and I am beyond grateful. My leap of faith was rewarded in ways that were far greater than I could have ever imagined. But I learned the true desire of my heart was not Larkspur. My true heart’s desire was to have comfort in knowing how much our Father loves us and how much he wants his best for us.

If we will just turn to him and trust him he will astound us with his mercy and grace. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 (KJV)

TWEETABLE
My Heart’s Desire – 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: When has God blessed you beyond what you had hoped? How did it increase your trust in Him? 

My Heart’s Desire

by Christina Rose

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4 NIV

After 22 years in the family home, it was time to sell, and I dreaded it.  The house may have been quiet and empty after my two daughters left for college, but it was still full of joyful memories: new babies, holidays, birthdays, love, and laughter. I had never wanted those days to end. Now my husband was living nearby with someone new, and I felt more lost and alone than ever.  I was on the verge of sliding into a serious pity party and there was only one thing to do.

I put on my hiking boots and headed out with the dogs to call on my Father.

My home was at the base of Ring Mountain, a beautiful nature preserve that overlooks San Francisco bay.  Each day I hiked and prayed and found my peace.  Today I needed it more than ever.  I looked to the sky in prayer and heard, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 NIV).

Peace began filling my spirit and answers flowed. I was guided to call an old friend who had a beautiful historic home with a few rental cottages in the nearby town of Larkspur. This 100 year old home sat on a hill in the middle of a redwood forest with spectacular mountain views and was a short drive to the beach.  While I had not spoken to my friend in years, God’s message to call him was insistent. So I did.

I discovered he was now living a few hours away. He offered me the main house for a reasonable rent. But he was in bankruptcy, which meant if he lost the house, I might have to move back out with a few days’ notice. It was a huge financial and emotional risk. Again, I prayed on my mountain and the guidance to make this move was clear. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”  (Proverbs 3:5 NIV).

I lived in paradise for three years. My belongings fit perfectly, which made me feel at home immediately. My daughters and their friends loved to visit. The stained glass windows, high beamed ceilings, decks, views of the mountain, lush garden in the redwoods with visiting deer, hummingbirds, and butterflies were heavenly.  Each sunrise and sunset I prayed on the top deck. In the evenings the fog from the ocean would roll over the mountain refreshing the air.

A cottage became vacant, and my sister and her kids spent the summer with us. A niece came by with friends on their way to a Bible retreat. One morning, as I was watching the group praying in the garden, I thought, God’s plan is so much bigger than our own if we would just ask for his help and trust him. “Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us”  (Ephesians 3:20 KJV).

The three years I spent in Larkspur were so blessed, and I am beyond grateful. My leap of faith was rewarded in ways that were far greater than I could have ever imagined.  But I learned the true desire of my heart was not Larkspur.  My true heart’s desire was to have comfort in knowing how much our Father loves us and how much he wants his best for us.  If we will just turn to him and trust him he will astound us with his mercy and grace. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33 KJV).

TWEETABLE
My Heart’s Desire – insight 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 desires has God placed in your heart (and fulfilled)?

Are you Pliable?

by Sharon Tedford @61things

There was no way he was going to leave. She had brought him to the best playground in town. It had a sandpit and a slide with a tunnel. I mean, what more could a 3 year-old want? But it was time to go. His mum had tried all the usual tricks to prepare him to be ready to leave. There was the “5 minute warning”, and the “time’s nearly up”, as well as the, “say goodbye to your new friends. We will see them next time.” But he was having none of it.

An hour ago he was so happy when she said they’d head to the park for a while. But imagine his greater joy when they pulled up to this park, instead of their normal destination. This park gets top marks from all the kids in daycare! So why on earth did they have to leave already?

His mum was so embarrassed by his behavior. If you’ve ever looked after a vivaciously vigorous toddler, you will know the pain of this poor mum. Her sweet and lovable toddler turned on the “disagreeable” and made enough noise for the whole town to hear.

He seemed to have a switch where he could magnify the gravitational pull below him, and he became 40 pounds heavier when she tried to scoop him up. The soft, supple body, which had moments before been maneuvering its way through tiny tunnels and tight holes, became inflexible as he turned himself into a solid mass of straight-as-a-board kid.

And, as a child of God, I have done this too. My life was fun and successful in a certain location, and it seemed ludicrous to move on. I have felt disappointed my Father would take me out of the best place I’d ever been, and all seemingly without good reason. I have made myself stiff-necked and hard-hearted in order to ignore what my Father wanted to do, because I was sure He was mistaken.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4, ESV)

Some recent research led me to find the Hebrew word for “delight” could mean: “to be soft, delicate and pliable”. Put that implication into the verse above and it might read like this:

“Be soft and pliable before the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

If this small, feisty human had been pliable, he would have found out his mum had planned a second surprise for him. They were off to get ice cream, and in order to get ice cream, they had to leave the park! Did you hear me people? ICE CREAM! The only way to get his chubby little fingers on the creamy treat was to leave where he was. He had no idea where they were headed together, but his mum’s plans were pretty incredible!

If he had chosen to have a soft heart, he would have walked into this next part of his day much sooner and with a better attitude.

I have lived in good places filled with wonderful people and great experiences, and God has called me out. I have been this cranky child who complained, and cried, and wailed, only to be surprised once again by His goodness when He brings me to the wonder of the next adventure.

Our God is kind, faithful, and always good (Jeremiah 29:11). Let’s be pliable Jesus followers, choosing to live with soft hearts. Let’s allow Him to give us the desires of our delicate hearts.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.   Proverbs 4:23 NASB

TWEETABLE
Learning the blessing of being “Pliable” with God – insight from Sharon Tedford, @61Things on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Sharon tedfordAbout the author: Sharon Tedford is an experienced British storyteller who uses her gifts as a singer, author, worship leader, and speaker to connect with her listeners, inviting them into a revitalized relationship with God.  Her humorous stories always end with an invitation to action. Mother to three teenagers and the wife of an Irishman, Sharon encourages people to live a God-focused life. You can connect with her at www.61-things.com.

Sharon’s book, Stand, is a devotional based on the stories behind her songs. Readers will be drawn into a deeper personal experience with God and learn how to stand on the truth of a Heavenly Father who loves them. 

Join the conversation: How do you keep yourself soft and pliable?

 

Waiting Expectantly

by Doris Hoover

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:3 NIV

When my daughter was still in a crib, she began each day by calling out, “Ma-ma.” I’d peek around her door and say, “Good morning, Sunshine!” At the sound of my voice, her little face would light up and she’d stretch her arms out to me, knowing I’d pick her up and meet her needs.

I cherished her trust in me. Similarly, the Lord cherishes the trust we place in Him. He delights to hear our voices calling out His name. When we stretch our arms toward our Heavenly Father, He always responds to us. In fact, in Isaiah, we read, “Those who hope in me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:23 NIV) Our God, who has the power and wisdom to oversee everything that happens to us, looks out for our best interests, even though we may not understand how or when He’ll meet our needs. Our part is to call out and then to wait expectantly.

My daughter could be demanding at the start of the day. If she had to wait on me for anything, she grew impatient and fussy, but her cries didn’t rattle me, because I knew what she needed and that I would care for her in the best way possible. I did what I could to satisfy her, but always with maternal wisdom, according to my time frame rather than hers.

We can be a lot like impatient, fussy children demanding immediate fulfillment of our requests. But God knows what we need (not just want) and the perfect time to give it to us. He responds to us with divine wisdom and according to His time frame.

Each morning, David confidently laid his requests before God. “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing…I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” (Psalm 5:1, 3b NIV) Expectation means knowing assuredly that the Lord hears us and will to the right thing for us in His perfect way and timing.

We see another example of praying in expectation when King Jehoshaphat and all the people stood before the Lord in great distress crying out for help: “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12 NIV) The people cried out, knowing with certainty that their prayers did not land on deaf ears. They believed that God was in control of their circumstances.

When we pray with expectation, we humbly acknowledge our vulnerability and our total dependence on the Lord. My baby daughter had that kind of faith in me. David and Jehoshaphat had that kind of faith in God. Each cried out in need, knowing the one they trusted would hear their cries and respond.

I’m still learning to follow their examples.

TWEETABLE
Waiting Expectantly – insight from Doris Hoover on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

doris HooverAbout the author: Doris Hoover lives in Florida, but she also spends time along the coast of Maine. Her passion is discovering God’s messages in nature and sharing them with others. You can visit Doris at captivatedbythecreator.com. 

Doris’ book, Quiet Moments in The Villages, A Treasure Hunt Devotional invites you to step outside to discover the treasures God places around you. Doris Hoover leads you to beautiful places in her home town. Her poetic descriptions and beautiful photography draw you into moments that will stir your heart.

Join the conversation: Tell us about a time when God answered your prayer.