Connecting the Dots—Or Maybe Chasing Them

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I was watching the cat wildly chase a laser dot the other day, and I thought, Wow, if that red dot was a Butterfinger, that could totally be me.

Those wild moments are the times I think Sammy could be the poster animal for the cat version of ADHD. It’s weird, because that poster cat is the same cat who can also be extremely focused. Any and every new item we bring into the house has to endure a thorough and focused Sammy-sniffing. Personally, I think that’s when he’s trying to determine whether or not his entire body will fit inside whatever it is. And if it’s even close—even if it’s not close—he ignores the fact that he has a BMI that’s got to be pushing 50, and he’s in. Maybe not all in, but in.

While my body mass numbers aren’t as bad as Sammy’s, they’re not so good that I can mock him as much as I’d like. And although I’ll go after most chocolate with laser-dot enthusiasm, any time I start climbing into a bag that looks like it’ll hold about 20% of me, somebody may need to take me to a see a professional. I’m wondering if the toughest part would be trying to decide if it should be a physician, a psychiatrist, or a veterinarian.

I have to say, though, that sometimes Sammy might have the right idea. Distractions can be time-stealing brutes, and they’ve earned their bad rep. But as contradictory as it may sound, I really don’t think distractions always have to result in negative productivity. They don’t always have to be bad. Only sinful distractions are bad.

Have you ever been working so diligently on a project that you thought your head might explode? Following a little distraction for a few minutes can sometimes sort of “reboot” our creative mojo.

I confess, every once in a while, a “mental Butterfinger” can help me get back to a task with renewed enthusiasm. Nothing sinful, mind you. Some music, a walk, a few minutes of reading, maybe. The Lord can even spark new ideas in some of those laser-dot moments. And that gives one pause. (“Pause.” Not “paws.”) The trick is to figure out if we’re procrastinating to avoid something we need to stay focused on, or if we’re instead taking a little respite from it so we can re-energize.

We do need to be careful, though, that we don’t climb into a distraction that’s smaller than we are. Sammy still doesn’t get this. We have big things to accomplish for the Kingdom, through the One who empowers us. Spending time getting refreshed is one thing. Killing time on tiny things is another. Paul tells us to be careful about spending, not killing, our time. “Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise, sensible, intelligent people, making the very most of the time…firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17, AMP).

We spend our time well when we spend it wisely and with His purposes ever in mind—even when we’re chasing a dot.

Endeavoring to live purposefully in His will? I’m in. All in. Me and my entire body mass index.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 NASB

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Connecting the Dots—Or Maybe Chasing Them – thoughts from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown, mostly-coffee-drinking children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: How do you prioritize use of your time? Do you have any tips to share?

Storing Up Treasure

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ” Matthew 6:21, NIV

I’ve been a collecting addict for as long as I can remember. At age five, it was Raggedy Ann dolls. Then it was cat figurines. By the time I was 10, I was collecting just about anything I came across: polished rocks, stamps, marbles, postcards, even bubble-gum wrapper comics!

But once I became an adult, I limited my collection to Cinderella. Dolls, ornaments, figurines, and snow globes take up every bit of space in two seven-foot-high curio cabinets in my bedroom. They remind me that I married a prince, and that my dreams and wishes have come true. And because most of them have been gifts, they also remind me of people who love me.

But I remember the day they also started interfering with my heart.

It was the middle of the night when I awoke from an earthquake jolt. I jumped out of bed and ran to one of the curio cabinets. With feet apart and both hands out in front of me, I prepared to brace my body against the 150-pound cabinet to keep it from falling over should the shaking increase. As the house stilled, I remembered my then six-year-old daughter, who was sleeping soundly under a shelf that could have toppled onto her! And I thought of my husband, who was still dreaming beneath a large picture frame that now hung crooked. And there I was protecting Cinderella! My concern for my collection had outweighed my concern for my own family. My “treasure” had gotten out of hand.

Jesus said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV).

I’ve realized through the years that it is freeing to not have to worry that an earthquake or fire or robbery would destroy my treasures. So, I’ve tried to focus my collection on what is more eternal: Scripture verses I’ve memorized through the years, people with whom I’ve shared the gospel, young women whom I’ve discipled, children I’ve loved and cared for, widows I’ve “adopted” as grandmas, and smiles from others that I’ve had the opportunity to encourage.

It’s never too late to start collecting the few things that really matter in this life and the life to come.

Lord, help me to want more of You and nothing else. Please give me Your heart to love people more than possessions so I will live wisely and invest in what is eternal.

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Storing Up Treasure – insight from @CindyMcMenamin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 16 books including When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold), When God Sees Your Tears, and When Women Long for Rest, upon which this devotional is based. For more on her books and ministry, or for free resources to strengthen your marriage, parenting, or walk with God, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

What readers are saying about When Women Long for Rest: “When Women Long for Rest Cindi McMenamin Long for Rest book cover (1)beckoned to me like an overstuffed chair. It is well written, and every woman will relate to at least one example listed. The exercises are simple, yet highly effective.”

Join the conversation: What are the most precious things you have collected?

The Season for Seed Catalogs

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12 NKJV

The holidays are past, and the long cold nights of winter are upon us. Do you know what that means? It’s seed catalog season—that time of year when we race to the mailbox everyday hoping this will be the day the offering of botanical bliss will be waiting for us. (Actually, I don’t even know if that’s still a thing.)

It’s certainly not for me. The universe seems to have caught wind of my horticultural history and deemed me unfit. In fact, my husband has forbidden me from buying plants, claiming it is cruel and unusual punishment for the plant.

But I remember my grandmother and my mother receiving these catalogs, pouring over them for the newest variety of sweet corn or most intriguing color of Iris for the coming Spring. Once the selections were made and the order placed, the work began. Every effort was made to make sure the best possible conditions were available for the seeds or plants once they arrived. Ground cover was removed, debris cleared, rocks dug up and relocated, and the soil was tilled. Sometimes borders were built, or material such as compost or sand would be added to the existing soil to help create the right growing environment.  As the ground began to thaw in the Spring, they tilled it until it was a soft and suitable place for something good to grow.

God is a gardener and the place He seeks to sow His seeds is in our hearts. But just like soil of the earth must be prepared, so too our hearts must be made ready to receive His seeds and provide a nurturing place for what He plants.

Sometimes our hearts are overgrown with weeds that need to be removed. What we listen to and watch, the things we fill our time thinking about: all these can cause things to take root that are destructive to the good things God would like to plant there.

It is easy to let parts of our hearts become like fallow ground. Fallow ground is land that has never been tilled or has been tilled but is now left to idle. Whether our hearts have never been tilled, or they once flourished with growth but have since been ignored, both conditions will make it difficult for seeds to penetrate and take root. We must plow the unbroken ground of our hearts until it is a soft, fertile place for good things to grow.

The work isn’t easy. Pulling weeds, breaking up the dense soil, digging up rocks, carting in good soil if needed—these things are not necessarily fun, either physically or spiritually. We may have to distance ourselves from certain situations or old friends. We may have to give up unimportant things we enjoy but rob us of the time we need for what is important. We may have to dig deep in our past and take a painful look at the things we have wanted to keep hidden. But it is the only way we can turn our hearts—our whole hearts—into the fertile ground needed for the seeds of God’s love.

We should be prepared for sore backs and blistered palms. We can’t be afraid to get a little dirt under our finger nails. But if we are willing to work, we can anticipate the harvest of righteousness that will come.

Lord, I want a soft heart toward you. Please give me discernment to spot the things currently in my life that need weeding and the strength to deal with them as I should. I want to make You my highest priority in 2019. Amen.

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The Season for Seed Catalogs – @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: What have you found to be helpful in keeping your heart soft toward the Lord?

Hope for When We Need to Refocus

by Kristine Brown

 I wrote it in my new 2018 day-planner, the one with all the space for goals, plans, and action steps. I jotted it down on my desk calendar at work.  I even scribbled it next to a little circle on my to-do list notepad. Yet I still forgot to bring the ‘thank you’ card to work for my co-worker this week.

Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. Friday evening as I set my belongings on the kitchen table, I found it tucked in the side of my bag. The card did make it to work, I just never took it out of my bag to give it to her. The task didn’t get done. How could I be so forgetful? So much for the satisfaction of checking off that item on my to-do list!

We’ve been in a busier-than-usual season at our house. The list of things that must get finished keeps growing, and I find myself putting off everything until the weekend. There’s just one problem with waiting until Saturday to complete it all. The weekend arrives, and I’m too tired to tackle the list.

So another week passes, and next Saturday’s list is even longer, and so on, and so on. As a result, frustration comes in like an overpowering wave.

In those times, I feel like chaos has taken over. My mind struggles to focus on just one thing, much less a never-ending list of things that have to be done right now. It’s hard to refocus when our schedules get overwhelming, but 1 Chronicles 28:9 reassures us that God knows our hearts, plans, and thoughts.

“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought.” 1 Chronicles 28:9 NLT

King David desired to build a temple to hold the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant. When the Lord chose Solomon to complete the project, David shared these words of encouragement with his son as he commissioned him to begin the work God called him to do.

As God’s children, we are commissioned and called to worship and serve Him. In this verse, we discover a valuable truth concerning these things. We are called to serve him “with our whole heart and a willing mind.” When we keep a whole heart and a willing mind set on God, the chaos of life will not distract us.

After my hectic week at work, I noticed something. In all the rushing around to get things done, I’d put off my time with God. I forged my own plans. I let my to-do list turn my heart away from Him. But David’s inspiring speech to Solomon gives us hope today. Putting God first in our hearts and minds will help us refocus on things that matter.

Speaking of focus, will you excuse me for a moment? I have a thank you card to drop in the mail.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 NASB

kristine brownMeet the author: Kristine Brown is a communicator at heart, sharing biblical insight with readers and audiences in a relatable way. Her life experiences blend together to create an eclectic backdrop for her lessons that highlight God’s powerful Word and redemptive grace. She is the author of the book, Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan, and founder of the non-profit organization, More Than Yourself, Inc. Read Kristine’s weekly devotions and Bible study resources at kristinebrown.net or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Join the conversation: Are you struggling with an over-the-top to-do list? What is most helpful to you in keeping your life in order?

Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

Rocking with God

by Peggy Cunningham

 In the early mornings, I sit down with God and rock a while––with a puppy on my lap. A puppy at our age––senior citizens? What were we thinking?

We didn’t plan on coming home with a puppy the day we went to buy our Golden Retriever a sweater because he’d lost all his hair from chemo treatments. I had wisely warned my husband that morning ––”Don’t look at the dogs for sale.” I should have warned myself! There she was, a Shih Tzu. Our Shih Tzu, Kelsey had been gone six years. Never another little dog again turned into right now, this little dog. We brought her home to Jake. I’m thankful I didn’t listen to my own advice!

Now there is a puppy on my lap again. One morning, as I sat rocking with Zoey, I read this in my Bible:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations underway. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed––or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38- 42 NIV

Every morning, Zoey chooses to sit on my lap and rock for a while just to be near me. Maybe she knows I won’t be sitting much the rest of the day. When I finish my reading, she goes about her day playing, napping, and going outside. But before all that, she chooses to be with me. Yes, she chooses what’s best before anything else––times of closeness with her master.

Isn’t that what Mary did? She chose to let the unimportant things go for the most important thing–time at Jesus’ feet. Maybe Martha, like me at times, was overwrought because of going overboard with preparations, unimportant things. She had lost her perspective. She was focusing on the service rather than the One she served.

We face the same kind of choice. It’s about loving God, not our schedules or to-do lists. We try to plan the things, and then seek the kingdom. If we heed Jesus’ words and seek Him first, maybe our priorities will be different; those overwhelming details we once thought important will dim in the light of His face.

Today’s (puppy) lesson: Let’s not be distracted and settle for less when God wants to give us more. Loving Him first will always be the best thing!

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:5

Peggy CunninghamAbout the author: Peggy Cunningham and her husband have been missionaries in Bolivia since 1981, where they work with the Quechua people and have a children’s ministry. Peggy is also a prolific writer. Peggy’s heart for children and vibrant imagination led the way to having two picture book series published, Really Rare Rabbits, and her new four-book series, Hooray for Holidays (releases quarterly in 2018.) She also writes devotionals for adults: Dancing Like Bees and a new one for women, Shape Your Soul, which will release in summer 2018.

Join the conversation: What things get in the way for you in keeping your focus on the Lord?