The Lesson of the PB&J

by Deb DeArmond

The Disciples were an interesting cast of characters. They were dissimilar in their personalities and professional pursuits. Those distinct differences could be a gift, as they could combine their strengths while working together. But those differences also created challenges, as they often disagreed on a variety of topics. In Luke 6: 12-16, the apostles are identified by name. Two are described. Simon, who was called a zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who would become a traitor.

Luke 6 is a treasure trove—a hidden store of valuable or delightful things. One of my favorite passages is found there: “But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28 CEB).

This passage supplied an everyday opportunity for my children at one point. I’m not sure we had a zealot and a traitor in the camp, but their ability to “pray for those who mistreat you” was often in question.

Three sons, with five years separating the first and last, was an everyday adventure. Bikes, skates, super-hero toys and basketballs. By the time the oldest two were nine and six, their personalities were diverse—which is the nice way to say they were nothing alike and rarely saw eye to eye. 

The background music during those years was a fevered pitch that made me cringe. The greatest hits on most days included those all-time favorites “That’s not fair!” and “Mom! He’s cheating!”

Sharing was a frequent challenge. I felt akin to Solomon as they trooped in for my decree as to the real owner of the toy truck or “How much longer does he get the skateboard before it’s my turn?”

While they never strayed into the “I hate you,” territory, the concept of “love one another as you love yourself” seemed out of reach in those moments. But the idea of keeping the peace seemed a bit more attainable. Determined to teach these two the value of fairness, working together, and sharing, I hit on a solution out of sheer desperation.

It was the last day before the weekly grocery run, and lunch fixings were in short supply. Two lopsided slices of bread and the scrapings at the bottom of the peanut butter jar created momentary panic . . . and a lifelong Bible lesson.

I made the sandwich and presented it to my younger son. “Jordan, you’ll cut the sandwich in half.” He pumped his fist. “And Cameron, you’ll choose first which half you want.” He smiled wide.

Jordan slumped in his chair and crossed his arms. He then leaned into his assignment and tackled the sandwich with the precision of a diamond cutter. His calculation was important, and both boys were satisfied. He was successful in his mission.

So was I.

That PB&J became their life lesson for God’s instruction loving one another. It also worked with son #3 – and now as full-grown men, I see the fruit of that Bible verse, as I watch them guide their children with the same principles. I’ve enjoyed observing my sons guide the combined group of my seven grandsons—with boy #8 on the way. Life in Jesus helps make the testosterone zone a fabulous place to be!

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. James 3:17 NASB

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

About the author: Deb DeArmond is an award-winning author, speaker and writing coach, helping others to achieve their goals whether in marriage, family relationships, at work, or in ministry. Her books reflect that path. Her newest release, We May Be Done But We’re Not Finished, encourages and informs women 50+ how to make the rest of their life the best of their life.

Join the conversation: What Bible verses are/were important to you as your raise/raised your children?

Am I Getting Older or Wiser?

by Laura Petherbridge

Put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth. Therefore, putting away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity…Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. Ephesians 4: 24-27, 31-32 CSB

Lately I’ve noticed little things that reveal I’m getting older. Some of them include:

  • I find myself gravitating to the anti-wrinkle section of the cosmetic counter.
  • I no longer have any idea what color lipstick I’m applying because I can’t read the small print on the bottom of the tube.
  • I walk into a room only to discover I have absolutely no recollection of why I’m there.

But the Bible shares a positive side to aging, “Wisdom is found with the elderly, and understanding comes with long life” (Job 12:12 CSB). My bones and hair may be thinning, but I am not defeated. As I age, I can become smarter than ever before, if I’m teachable and desire it.

This is fabulous news.

In my 40-year journey with Jesus (so far) I have discovered a few litmus tests to evaluate whether I’m getting smarter, or merely older. These can be found in the above verses from Ephesians. I can tell I’m growing as a Christian when:

Trials and temptations are viewed as an opportunity for growth. This doesn’t mean I’m skipping through a storm, shouting “Praise the Lord” and pretending pain doesn’t exist. It means I’ve learned that God can be trusted in the middle of a crisis. I know he can bring good out of bad. The result may make me stronger than before. I hate the storm, but I love the results.

There is an increased awareness of areas of weakness and the tendency to sin. Maturing in Christ doesn’t mean I don’t sin. It does mean that my radar is sharper, my knowledge of God’s Word is greater, and my desire to obey God is intense. When I’m growing in Christ, and I realize I’m disobeying Him, I’m quick to confess. I sincerely repent, and ask God to help me avoid this situation in the future. I must be willing to make sacrifices if that’s what’s necessary to avoid sin. The passion to be free is fierce. 

I’m not embarrassed, or arrogant, about being different. If it’s been a long time since I’ve shared Jesus with another person, that’s an indication my relationship with God is in trouble. When I lack enthusiasm about God’s amazing grace, or the price it cost Jesus to save my soul, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate. When I discover my comments, and social media posts, are focused on an “us versus them” mentality, that’s an indication that pride has crept into my life. Pride is always spelled, S-I-N. 

I recognize God owns it ALL. There isn’t a person, place or thing in my life that couldn’t be gone is 30 seconds. I have no ability to keep or control anything. God can choose to remove my husband, family, home, health, bank account and anything else he feels is wise. At first I didn’t like these sobering thoughts, but when I admitted that God is in control, not me—a huge burden was lifted. He has given me the privilege to be the caretaker of the people or things to which I’m entrusted. But I don’t own them. He does.

I’ve learned to dance with my Creator. Many of my early Christian years were spent in an exhausting performance for God. I kept trying to earn the love He has already given for free. Fear kept me from accepting His embrace, but His zealous love won out. I finally gave in and accepted His lavish love. I heard him whisper, “You are beautiful and precious to me. I delight in you, Laura. Relax, Beloved. I will never leave you. Never.” Because I stopped performing, wrestling and resisting, we now dance like a bride and groom.

God is helping me to focus and keep Him the main thing, so those new wrinkles don’t matter as much. Now—if I could only find where I put my cell? A-L-E-X-A, find my phone!

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

About the author: Laura Petherbridge is an international speaker and author of, When ‘I Do’ Becomes ‘I Don’t’The Smart Stepmom,  101 Tips for The Smart Stepmom, and Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul.  She has appeared at/on the Billy Graham Center, Family Talk (Dobson), Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman, FamilyLife, Lifeway and Moody Broadcasting. She has been a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series implemented in over 60,000 churches worldwide. In addition to the USA, she has spoken in South Africa, Australia, and Canada. Laura and Steve live in Atlanta, Ga and have been married for 35 years. She has two stepsons, daughters in law, and grandkids. She may be reached at www.TheSmartStepmom.com.

Laura’s resource When I Do Becomes I Don’t-Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce is answers to her most FAQ after 30 years in divorce recovery and stepfamily ministry. It includes chapters for friends and family, and a section for church leadership. 

Join the conversation: In what ways have you seen yourself growing wiser?

Philosophy

by Janet McHenry

My cousin Merry told me recently that when she was in high school, she had to write about her life’s philosophy. Isn’t that hilarious? As a former high school educator, I honestly can’t recall too many students who could have articulated a life philosophy. Hers was “eat, drink, and be merry.” I think most high school students would have agreed with that.

What might others say? I’m speculating, based on personal observation of teenagers for many years, but I think additional ones might be fair:

  • Work hard.
  • Be kind.
  • Enjoy life.
  • Take what you can get.
  • Figure it out as you go along.
  • Just do your best.

By the way, that last one I got from Merry, too. When I was teaching, I’d say, “As Cousin Merry would say, ‘Just do your best.'”

As I watched Olympics recently, I wondered about the philosophy those young athletes must have for themselves.

  • Work hard, then work even harder.
  • Show sportsmanship, whether you win or lose.
  • Learn something that will make you better each day.
  • Make sacrifices so you get better.
  • Do better today than yesterday’s best.
  • Just do your best.

It’s been interesting following the story of Simone Biles, the young gymnast who faltered in her vault competition and then withdrew from most of her events. She knew herself. She knew her body. She knew a weakness had crept in that could harm her. And so she sacrificed years of hard work for her life’s sake. She did her best, given all the circumstances of her health and wellness.

There are all kinds of ways we can get wisdom and gain perspective about how to best live our lives. We can read and research and observe. And we can have experiences. Personally, while I try to learn from the latter–experiences–I’d much rather learn from the former. From Simone I’ve learned that it’s not worth it to kill myself to get ahead. I can cheer from the sidelines . . . and perhaps even my sideline cheers are what God might prefer for me.

And what’s my life philosophy?

Mine stems from a directive that Joshua gave the eastern tribes after they had helped their brother tribes settle in the promised land—supporting them in battle. When things settled down, Joshua told them to observe and keep God’s commands, to love Him, to walk in His ways, to cling to God, and to serve Him with all their heart and soul.

I believe God has ordered my days. I tend to run to God when life’s situations are hard. When circumstances settle down, it’s easy to become complacent. In those times, if I step out, motivated by selfish ambitions, or if I ignore what I already know God has ordained for me, I won’t be doing my best. I want to follow Him at all times of my life.

So, since 1970, my life philosophy has been “Love God and serve Him forever.” I’ve tried other ways. They don’t work out well. So I’ll do my best, given the circumstances, and trust Him for the results.

Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. Joshua 22:5 ESV

The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus: What Jesus Prayed and How It Can Change Your Life Today by [Janet Holm McHenry]

About the author: Janet McHenry is an international speaker, creator of the online course called Prayer School, and the author of 24 books—including the bestselling 50 Life Lessons for Grads. Formerly a high school English teacher, she still enjoys hanging out with young people when she serves as her school’s official basketball scorekeeper. Janet has recently taken up cheering others from the sidelines by coaching new writers and hosting the Sierra Valley Writers Retreat. She loves connecting with others on social media and through her website: www.janetmchenry.com.

Join the conversation: What’s your life philosophy?

Really? Boundaries?

by Terri Gillespie

Now this I pray, that your love might overflow still more and more in knowledge and depth of discernment, in order to approve what is excellent—so that in the Day of Messiah you may be sincere and blameless . . . Philippians 1:9-10, TLV

If you hear the sound of knocking and you can’t identify its source, then it’s probably me, banging my head against the wall. Because it happened again.

I meant well. She needed help and no one else seemed to want to help. Little did I know, there was a reason for that.

So, I jumped in and helped. Then I helped again. And again. And again. The more I helped, the more the need seemed to flourish. Was I actually feeding the need?

Wait. Was I being taken advantage of?

As I sat at my mentor’s kitchen table, head in my hands, that revelation was confirmed. Why hadn’t anyone warned me? Perhaps, she said, because I did not ask.

I write a lot of blogs on the importance of love. As children of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. I refer to this passage a lot. This is a balanced and wise approach to love.

For the past few months, I have focused on the importance of love. How we are to respond in love when others behave badly, especially these days where division and chaos have separated family and friends and communities—and well, let’s face it—our nation.

But I have also discussed boundaries. If the apostle Paul were here today, he might use the term boundary to the Philippians. Qualifying only the love that came with the understanding of thousands of years’ worth of understanding and living wisdom.

When we employ the tools of wisdom, which include discernment and knowledge to our expressions of love, we do not accept sin. We understand that we must forgive, as our Father forgives us.

Our pursuit of reconciliation may mean pulling away from someone because continued contact is harmful to us or our loved ones — maybe even to them.

“Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has demanded to sift you all like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22: 31-32 TLV

Sometimes God must sift a soul. As difficult as it is to watch, we must allow them to experience the full weight of their sinful heart for them to be set free. Interfering with God’s process with an uninformed expression of love, is not only detrimental to that person’s process, but also prideful. You know what it is like? It is like saying, “Okay God, I’ll take care of this situation now. Clearly You don’t know what You’re doing.”

Like Peter’s betrayal and Paul’s persecution of the believers, we may need to love from afar via forgiveness and prayer. Love with knowledge and discernment so that we aren’t guilty of interfering with God’s purpose for that soul. And should the day arrive that reconciliation is possible, we will be ready to offer the love that ministers healing.

If you find you have been knocking your head against a wall in frustration over helping others, seek the Lord. Perhaps a little wisdom needs to be applied with that love.

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

About the author: Award-winning author and beloved speaker Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus. Her newest novel, Sweet Rivalry, releases later this year. 

Join the conversation: Do you struggle to set boundaries in relationships?

Time, Days, and Wisdom

by Nancy Kay Grace

In January we think about resolutions, goals, a fresh start, and time. A new year has begun with all its promise, opportunity, and challenge.

A. W. Tozer said, “Time is a resource that is non-renewable and non-transferable. You cannot store it, slow it up, hold it up, divide is up, or give it up. You can’t hoard it up or save it for a rainy day—when it’s lost, it is unrecoverable. When you kill time, remember that it has no resurrection.”

Wow. In this day of concern for non-renewable resources, do we stop to consider time as one of them? It is something that vanishes every day and cannot be replenished.

In Psalm 90:12, written by Moses, we read: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” How can we practice this wise prayer?

Seek God to determine what is most important. Moses depended on God to lead His people. He asked for God to teach him. In the everyday details of life, can you ask God to teach you how best to use your time? Create a daily to-do list. If there are still tasks on it at the end of the day, begin the next day with those. Asking for God’s guidance in planning the day helps overcome flightiness amidst distractions.

Realize that time is irreplaceable, a valuable asset given to each of us. Instead of thinking how you are going to spend your time, think about how you are going to invest your time. The verse reminds us that life is short (our days are numbered). Consider it in a positive way: what activities and people nurture you? Make time for more of those and less for the things that drain you. Time invested with the Lord at the beginning of the day increases productivity in the long run.

Live wisely, making each day count. The verse focuses on the day, not the year. How can you share the love of God throughout your day? Be diligent to let your light shine in your family and at work. A heart of wisdom results from seeking God and obeying Him.

All the days of our lives matter to God. Time is a non-renewable resource and gift given to all of us. There are many choices for how we will invest what we have been given. What will each of us do with the 24 hours in each day and the 365 days in 2021?

Seek God daily and live for Him to gain a heart of wisdom.

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

About the author: Nancy Kay Grace is thankful for the gift of time. She is a speaker and award-winning author of The Grace Impact, a devotional about the touch of God’s grace in our lives.  

Visit https://www.nancykaygrace.com to sign up for her monthly Grace Notes devotional newsletter.

 https://www.facebook.com/nancykaygrace 

https://www.instagram.com/nancykaygrace/

Join the conversation: How do you plan to invest your time in the coming year?

Know It All

by Nan Corbitt Allen

Don’t fool yourself. Don’t think that you can be wise merely by being up-to-date with the times. Be God’s fool—that’s the path to true wisdom. What the world calls smart, God calls stupid. 1 Corinthians 1:18-21 The Message

I overheard a conversation recently between a mother and her 8-year-old son.

SON: Mom, do you know everything?

MOM: Oh, no. Not everything—just a little something about a lot of things.

SON: Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I wanted to say to that mom, “Cherish this moment, because he won’t always think so highly of you or your knowledge.”

Perhaps the young boy wasn’t asking about his mom’s knowledge, but about her wisdom. There’s a difference, you know.

Knowledge is acquired through experience or education. In other words, we can study enough and travel enough and experience enough to gain knowledge. That’s impressive!

Wisdom, however, goes beyond knowledge. A wise person has perspective and discernment. They know how to use the information to make good decisions. The only way to gain wisdom is through a gift from God. Someone once said: “Knowledge is knowing what to say. Wisdom is knowing when to say it.” 

When thinking of wisdom, we often think of good King Solomon from the Bible. He was the son of David and Bathsheba who inherited the throne of Israel when his father died. God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” Solomon, with a whole kingdom at his disposal, asked for a “discerning heart” to judge the people wisely. God told him because he didn’t ask for riches or health or long life, He would give Solomon wisdom. And along with the wisdom He would bless him with all of the other things that usually follow success. (Find this story in 1 Kings 3 and 2 Chronicles 1.)

Of course, the rest of the story isn’t so good. Solomon had it all, but he allowed his possessions and successes to go to his head. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18 NASB). His pride was his undoing, not his knowledge or his wisdom.

There is something about getting older that awakens us to new things, new ideas, new knowledge. Trial and error. Adventure and experimentation. Voracity. These teach us a little something about a lot of things. But wisdom comes from a heavenly source. My favorite verse about this is in James 1:5 (NASB) “…if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

As a mom, I called on this promise often—everyday sometimes. Child rearing books were everywhere, and I read many of them. I had a lot of knowledge, you might say, but what I needed was wisdom on how to bring up my boys in a way that was pleasing to God. And when I asked, He provided.

These days we get a lot of information—some of it tainted with opinion and some of it sound with truth. However, none of this is valuable without first asking, “Give me wisdom, Lord.”

Romans 12:2 (NASB) says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (emphasis mine). The first part of the verse is a great word about gaining new ideas and insights, but the last part is the promise to which I cling. If I test information I receive against truth, wisdom will guide me to finding what is the right action.

Like the old hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory” says, “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour…” No matter what we face, we should first ask for wisdom, then for the courage to act upon it.

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.

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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: Can you think of a time when wisdom was vital to the knowledge you possessed?

Season’s Meatings

by Rhonda Rhea

You know how I can tell we’re approaching the Christmas season? I find myself thumbing through a catalog. A catalog. Of. Meat.

Potted meat. Pickled meat. Fried and dried and—maybe even poached meat. That just takes us to about page five. Then there’s meat by the log. Meat in a bar. Meat on a stick. Meat in a jar. And okay, that might sound a little Dr. Seuess-y-cutesy, but I get halfway through the catalog and I have to tell you, I’m pretty much meated out.

So here we are, heading into the season in which we really can end up meeting ourselves coming and going. And clearly we can also end up meating ourselves coming and going. More and more calories. More and more busyness. More.

There’s wisdom in keeping an eye out for the “more.” Sneaky clutter can fill our stomachs, our schedules—our lives. It’s the kind of “more” that can steal our focus from what’s important. It does it by rushing us to the busyness of what’s immediate instead of waiting for the blessedness of what’s vital.

We tend to think of ourselves as mature followers of Christ as long as we’re not throwing big-baby fits. But maturity includes so much more than that. It includes making wise choices—with our resources, with our time, with our focus. Let’s face it, some of us make more big-baby-choices during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season than any other time of the year.

How can we be grown up about our “more”? Jesus. Eyes off our own schedules and wants and everything fleshly. Eyes on Christ. It was because of selfish fleshliness that Paul said the Christians in Corinth couldn’t have solid spiritual food. “I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ…because you are still fleshly” (1 Corinthians 3:1, 3, HCSB). He said in verse 2, “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food.” Put away the catalogs. No meat for these people.

Paul warns later in that same passage that, “No one should deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this age, he must become foolish so that he can become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:18-19, HCSB).

It’s sad to get caught up in the busyness, thinking we’re accomplishing works of value, then discover we’ve been foolishly lying to ourselves about what’s important the whole time.

The wisdom we need is only found in Jesus. Time to put away that self-deceived baby stuff and sink our teeth into some meat. As we seek the Lord, He will give us the wisdom and direction we need to sort out our to-do’s. It’s only in Him that our choices can count. It’s only in Him that we’re able to identify the foolish temporary and then trade it for the will of God. We don’t need that other kind of “more.” We only need more Jesus.

That’s exactly what will make our season…well…more. But more in every good way—in ways we can see and ways we can’t. It’s more than meets the eye, as it were. You might even say, it’s more than “meats” the eye.

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

rhonda rhea

About 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 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: Are you settling for milk?

Have We Checked the Manual?

by Leigh Ann Thomas @LThomasWrites

Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep.

There it was again. Every minute or so, the faint sounds echoed throughout the house. What in the world? I checked the fire alarms, then attempted to narrow down the general location of the annoyance. My detective work led me to our refrigerator—delivered just that morning. Sure enough, when I opened its shiny new door, the grating beeps increased in volume.

Being a highly technical person, I began pushing buttons. If it looked remotely like a button, I pressed it. No luck. Beep-beep-beep…

It was time to escalate. I called the fine establishment where Mr. Fridge used to live and asked for help. I used my most calm, professional voice. “Ma’am, please tell me how to stop this infernal noise.”

The answer? (Wait for it…)

“Have you read the manual?”

In the interest of full transparency, I felt a special kinship with the apostle Paul in that moment, because I began having horribly wretched thoughts (see Romans 7:24-25 for further details). Thankfully, I took a deep breath and maintained composure.

“No ma’am. Um, I’ll do that right now.” I skimmed the manual, pressed a few more buttons, and the beeping ceased.

The experience got me to thinking. I’m incredibly thankful that when I approach the Lord in a state of distress, He doesn’t smack my hand and ask if I’ve read the manual. He could, you know. Can you imagine?

What now, child? You’re hurt or confused again? You don’t understand your present situation? Hmm. Have you cracked open that book I gave you? You know, the one with all the answers?

How many times do I have to tell you? My Holy Spirit speaks through prayer, circumstances, my people, and through the words in the manual. Seriously. Check it out.

Quite a humbling thought.

When the fridge was threatening my sanity, I wasted considerable time in my feeble attempts to fix the problem. I squandered additional minutes in phone Hades, waiting for an “expert” to help me. All while the manual lay two feet away.

Can you relate? In moments of angst, we will exhaust every silly avenue of worldly help and overlook the vast resources of Heaven a breath away. The most sacred of manuals couldn’t be clearer:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3 NIV).

God’s Word is our inexhaustible source of wisdom, peace, comfort, guidance, perspective, hope, joy, purpose, and so much more.

I am forever thankful for a Heavenly Father who is loving, patient, and kind. Who will gently move in me to seek His heart and His ways. And who will gather my trembling form under His wing and provide a steady, faithful refuge.

One beep-beep at a time.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4 NIV

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Have We Checked the Manual? – encouragement on #FollowingGod from Leigh Ann Thomas @LThomasWrites on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Leigh Ann Thomas is passionate about encouraging women to seek God’s best. She has penned four books and is a contributing author in 12 books and compilations. A writer and editor for the parenting site, InTheQuiver.com, Leigh Ann is also an AWSA Certified Writing Coach. She is married to her best friend, Roy, and they are thankful for the gifts of three daughters, two sons-in-law, three amazing grandsons and a grand princess. Connect on LeighAThomas.com, Facebook and Twitter.

Smack-Dab in the Midlife Zone—Inspiration for Women in the Middle, uses Scripture, prayer, and the power of story to show women in midlife how being smack-dab in the middle of God’s plans and purposes is the best place to be.

When God Speaks

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

God is always speaking to His children, guiding us toward His very best, but sometimes His voice grows faint amid the noise and confusion all around us.

Early in my parenting days, I was probably the most insecure, and often confused, mother around. I felt bombarded by advice, warnings, and contradicting tips from so-called experts. As a result, I routinely felt overwhelmed. Initially, I tried to raise our daughter in my wisdom and strength, largely because I hadn’t learned to discern God’s voice. I gave too much weight to the faulty and often shifting “insight” of others and falsely believed I could make sense of it all.

Relying on my own intellect characterized every area of my life, and in fact, had for some time, but it rarely brought the results I wanted. I did not experience the peace and confidence I craved.

Granted, I did pray. Oh, how I prayed. But I wasn’t always alert to God’s answers—in part because I rarely sat still long enough to hear Him. And when I did, though my heart would prick with the confidence and assurance that can only come from God, all too soon “common sense” or popular opinion overshadowed His perfect wisdom.

I often resembled a woman caught on an inflatable in the middle of a tumultuous ocean. James 1:5-8 describes this scenario. The principles found there apply to all of life. James began by encouraging us to seek God’s guidance, saying, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

God doesn’t expect me to know it all. He doesn’t expect me to have life all figured out, or even to know His will perfectly. Rather, He invites me to seek Him, and when I do, no matter the question, no matter the struggle, He responds with grace.

Yet, responsibility comes with this access and invitation, for he goes on to say in verse 6, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

When we doubt the very truths God Himself deposits into our souls, our thoughts become divided and disordered. We become unstable, pushed and pulled in whatever direction feels strongest or screams loudest. What an unsettling, if not terrifying, place to be!

Have you ever tried to swim or paddle in choppy water? It’s exhausting and defeating!

Years ago, our family vacationed to Hawaii. One afternoon, my daughter and I went paddle boarding in the ocean. Rather than paddling, I relaxed and allowed the waves to gently rock me. At some point, I realized how far I’d drifted. The people on the beach looked so small and the water surrounding me vast and deep!

I immediately began paddling back, but I didn’t seem to get anywhere against the waves.

Though I did ultimately make it back, the experience painted a vivid reminder of what life feels like when we’re not anchored to truth.

That’s not to say we’ll never experience doubt, but when we do, may we always bring our questions to the One with all the answers and choose to believe His Word.

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When God Speaks – encouragement on #FollowingGod from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites.

In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever inadvertently ventured away from the truth? How did God speak to you?

Perception vs. Reality

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.  1 Samuel 16:7 NLT

Preparing for our first beach vacation after the birth of our daughter was a tremendous task. A week away from home with an eight-month-old required planning, coordination, and an inordinate amount of equipment.

Just before dawn on the day of our departure, I hauled various bags, the play-yard, a table-mounted highchair, electric swing, and stroller onto the front porch. As I worked, I noticed a car creeping past our house. The occupants stared. I must have been quite a sight, still dressed in my nightgown and sporting a bed-head.

I went in the house for more items, and when I came out again, the car was making a second pass. The intense scrutiny of this second drive-by raised my discomfort level. Were they “casing the joint,” flagging our house as a target for theft while we were out of town? We had been robbed before, so I was alarmed.

On the third drive-by, the woman in the passenger seat rolled down her window and yelled, “What time does your yard sale start?”

Momentarily confused, it took several seconds for me to comprehend the question. Then it dawned on me. While I knew I was packing for a beach trip, this woman thought I was preparing to hold a yard sale. Annoyed, and slightly embarrassed, I yelled back, “It’s not a yard sale!”

“Are you sure? It looks like a yard sale,” she countered.

Things are not always as they appear at first glance. Our appraisal of people or situations can be influenced by our experiences, perceptions, or expectations. Sometimes, what seems like the right assessment or choice really isn’t. Running ahead of God, instead of waiting for his directive, can create problems we never anticipated.

1 Samuel 16 recounts the story of God sending Samuel to anoint Israel’s next king. Samuel knew the place and the designated family, but not the exact member. When Jesse presented his first son, Eliab, who perhaps carried himself in a regal manner, Samuel assumed he was the chosen one. But the Lord stopped Samuel, telling him a person’s heart matters more than outward appearance. Seven of Jesse’s sons paraded before Samuel, but, at the Lord’s instruction, he rejected them all. Finally, the youngest son, David, who was out shepherding his flock, was brought in from the fields. David’s father didn’t even consider him worth presenting, but Samuel knew immediately that he was God’s chosen one and anointed him.

Our wisdom can never equal God’s. Sometimes what appears to be a good opportunity can lead down a dead-end path, wasting time, energy, and talents. Other times, our perception of people is skewed, and we either miss out on a great connection, or end up being hurt by someone who isn’t what they appeared to be. In seeking God’s guidance before making decisions, we avoid the consequences of mistakes and detours. As James promises: “…if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5 NASB).

The better we know Him, the better we are able to sense His guidance. Through cultivating a relationship with God, we gain His perspective, make wiser choices, and follow His plan for our lives. He’ll never steer us wrong.

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Perception vs. Reality – insight from @CandyArrington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy ArringtonAbout 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: When has your own judgement or perspective led you astray?