Friday, January 19, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Hope for the weary and heavy laden


An Unexpected Understanding
A devotional by Shellie Arnold 


"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." ~Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV) 

I’ve never been so tired in my life as I was after having my third child. A chunky, curly-headed baby girl. She was the answer to prayers. A miracle. And because of her digestive issues, I had no choice but to nurse her.

She is also a night person, like her father. As an infant, when 7 p.m. rolled around, Stephanie came alive. She needed interaction most when my system was counting the minutes until bedtime for her brothers, knowing if I didn’t get her to sleep before 11 p.m., she’d stay awake until 12:30 a.m. or later, yet still wake in the night.

Don’t get me wrong. Stephanie was a happy baby. She didn’t scream during the night, she simply wanted to play. For months I survived with a few hours of sleep per night on her bedroom floor. Yes, it is possible to spend an entire day with your pants on inside out and backward, but the nagging feeling something is wrong doesn’t quite get through the mental fog of exhaustion.

Often when I was in her room at night, I’d remember this verse and pray. “Jesus, please give me rest. Help this baby sleep. Give me rest.” As months passed, negative thoughts found fertile ground and set in. "I’m not a good mom. I’m not a good wife." Eventually, I felt worse inside than I felt outside.

One particularly long night as I pondered these verses, verse 29 caught my attention as it never had before. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…”. I easily identified with the “take my yoke” part. Follow Jesus’ example. Obey the Father. 

But I’d completely missed the “learn from me” part. And honestly, I took exception to it as I rocked and nursed my daughter, praying she’d quickly go back to sleep. Jesus was never a nursing mother. What could I possibly learn from Him about exhaustion? About being awake, alone, at night, with only prayer to keep you company.

An image of Jesus praying in Gethsemane came to my mind, the Holy Spirit gently chiding, yet encouraging me. As if the Father was saying, “See, He was tired, too. He could only pray alone, too. Even those who promised to pray with Him didn’t.”

Since then, I’ve found comfort in identifying with the tough times Jesus faced. I study how He reacted to betrayal. To rejection. To being misunderstood and labeled and forgotten. In times of my worst pain, I’m learning to encourage myself. “Shellie, Jesus has been here, too. You can survive this.”

And He’s always there to teach me through His Word and through His example. When I pay attention, I really can learn from Him.

~*~
Author Bio:
Shellie Arnold is a writer and speaker on marriage and family. She truly believes—despite baggage, neglect, or mistakes—if a husband and wife listen to God, they can live happily ever after. Her passion is sharing how God is helping her do exactly that. 

She maintains a blog at www.shelliearnold.com and is the founder of YOUR MARRIAGE resources. 

Shellie is a mother of three and has home-schooled for over twenty years. She lives in Ohio with her husband of thirty-one years. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Paula's story about how God intervened


A Call to Life
A devotional written by Paula Moldenhauer

“I came that they might have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” ~John 10:10 AMP

Life and death are only a split second apart. These words were spoken this January 1 by my husband from his hospital bed in ICU.

I nearly lost my husband.

There is no exaggeration in that statement. The main artery to the heart, the “widow maker,” was ninety-nine percent closed. As the ambulance blared its way to the hospital, everything was fading to black. He prayed, “Lord, if You’re taking me now, please be with Paula and the children. It’s going to be very hard on them.”

Instead of that final covering of darkness, he heard the EMT yelling, “Jerry! Stay with me.”

God intervened.

Modern medicine intervened.

Today Jerry sits across the room from me in our home office. The days spent at the hospital are already fading into memory. Now we live.

I like how our opening passage reads in the New Living Translation. “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

When you think about that word “life,” is there anything more satisfying than our God? Doesn’t the richest, fullest life begin and end in Jesus?

Jesus tells us in John 14:6 that He is life saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (NIV).

I understood Jesus as the way when I was about seven. I heard that to live with God forever, you had to accept Jesus as Savior, so I did.

I’ve known Him as the truth since my early 30’s. Before then "truth" was a tiny set of doctrine that was exclusive to my particular brand of religion. Jesus did away with that kind of thinking, showing me that He is Truth with a capital T. That simple, but profound understanding took my life to a whole new level of living. I quit focusing on a “small truth” to-do list and began focusing on Jesus. It changed everything.

I experienced Jesus as the life.

When Jesus is our life, relationship with Him becomes integral to who we are and everything we experience. As we surrender to Jesus as our life, He ushers us into a grand adventure of relationship with Him, astounding self-discovery, and living as His beloved.

Jesus wants to give us the most robust life possible, the life only He offers. Jesus didn’t only come as the entrance into a relationship with God (the way). Nor did He only come as the One who sets us free by love (the truth), but He also came as the One who becomes our all (the life). This life that He is offers a doorway into new, abundant living. Jesus came that we could have life and have it to the full (NIV).

I’ve only dipped my big toe in the ocean of life in Him. Much of it has been crazy-wonderful. Some of it is breathtakingly scary! He’s taught me much that changed the trajectory of my life and the life I give to my family. He’s given me adventure and courage and unconditional, joyful love. Still, that rich, satisfying relationship with Him as my life doesn’t mean everything has been easy.

Maybe you’re thinking your day doesn’t feel rich, satisfying, full, or abundant. I get it. I mean hospitals and near-death experiences aren’t exactly fun. The first day home from the hospital I felt like Jell-O. It was amazing how exhausting the four days were from the heart attack to Jerry’s return home. But even those days of ambulances, stents, and heart monitors were about life.

A life possible only because God ordained it.

It doesn’t take a heart attack to know that God is the sustainer of life, but a near-death experience certainly brings it to the front of our thinking. My friend, you and I (and my husband) are here because God chose us to live, to experience life with Him. The Amplified version of John 10:10 says he wants us to have and enjoy life. Let’s pause and ask Him to help us receive life as He wants to give it.

This is my prayer for you: Jesus, please help me to discover You as my very life, a life grounded in love. I want to enjoy this gift of life that You’ve given, even on the hard days. Draw me closer to You that I may release my burdens and walk with You in a trusting and joyful, relationship. Show me who You really are and how to live in abundance and satisfaction.
~*~
Author Bio: 
Author, speaker, and mom of four, Paula Moldenhauer encourages others to live free to flourish. She shares this message when speaking at women’s events, and it permeates her written work. 

Paula has published over 300 times in non-fiction markets and has a devotional book series, Soul Scents. Her first published novella, You’re a Charmer Mr. Grinch, was a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards, and she now has six published works of fiction. Her most recent release is included in A Bouquet of Brides

Paula and her husband, Jerry, are adjusting to a sometimes-empty nest in Colorado. They treasure time with their growing family of adult children, spouses, and spouses-to-be. Paula loves peppermint ice cream, going barefoot, and adventuring with friends. Visit her at www.paulamoldenhauer.com.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: War, Veterans and Focusing on God


Keep Your Eyes On The Captain

A devotional by Don E. Atkinson

Some years ago, my Dad, a World War II veteran, told me of his voyage across the Pacific Ocean to the South Pacific theater of war. He and approximately 500 other soldiers were boarded on a liberty ship troopship (LST, as Dad so often referred to it) and set sail with a convoy of ships for the South Pacific theater.

LST’s were approximately 57 feet wide, 440 feet long and cruised at 11 knots (13 mph). Being designed as cargo ships, the LST’s were not heavily armed. Consequently, they relied primarily upon destroyers and cruisers in the convoy for protection from enemy aircraft, war ships, and submarines. Approximately 225 liberty ships were converted from cargo use to troop transport ships, able to transport 550 troops. President Roosevelt nicknamed these ships “ugly ducklings.”


Warning: Enemy Submarines and Crazy Kamikazes!

Because of their vulnerability, about 200 liberty ships were lost to submarine torpedoes, mines, explosions, Japanese kamikazes, and other aircraft during WWII. Dad noted there was a freight load of fear among his fellow soldiers. Due to their extreme fear, and in some cases also sea sickness, many soldiers could not eat much. When they noticed Dad eating well they asked him how he had such a strong appetite in such dangerous circumstances?

Look to the Captain

Dad told his inquirers that early in his wartime voyage he “looked up” to the bridge and noticed their captain did not appear worried. So, he asked himself, “Because the captain is calm in this situation, why should I worry?” Dad did not suffer from sea sickness and with a greatly reduced fear and anxiety level, ate well on his wartime voyage filled with several potential dangers.

How are you doing in your voyage of life? Are you fearing possible “emergencies” or “trials” or “losses” in your voyage that might be compared to deadly enemy submarines? Like Dad, look up to the captain of your boat, Jesus, the author and completer of your faith. Regarding the “voyage” ahead for each one of us, the author of Hebrews exhorted his readers:

“We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete...So keep your mind on Jesus, who put up with many insults from sinners. Then you won’t get discouraged and give up." ~Hebrews 12:2a, 3 (The Promise).

Yes, keep your eyes and mind on Jesus. Your boat’s captain is calm, strong, and all-knowing. He will: (1) “lead” you in the various storms of your voyage; (2) help you with “discouragement;” and (3) bring you safely into the harbor. He accomplished this for a WWII soldier years ago and He can do it for you today and in the future!

At the beginning of this New Year, make a resolution to more regularly “look up” and gaze on Jesus, the pioneer and completer of your faith—and the “captain” of your little boat.

~*~
Author Bio: 
Don E. Atkinson was born and raised in Lincoln, NE. He attended Southern Nazarene University (formerly Bethany Nazarene College) and Colorado State University securing a Bachelor of Science degree. Later, he completed his Master of Science degree at Texas A&M University. 

He completed a significant amount of coursework towards a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS).

Don has been active in his local church teaching adult Bible studies and preaching as needed. Married in December of 1982, he has three grown children. Currently, Don and his wife reside near Lyons, NE.


Connect with Don via his website (www.daybydayintheword.org) and his blog (daybydayintheword.blogspot.com).

Friday, January 12, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Sara's Mission for the New Year


A Year with God
A devotional by Sara L. Foust


"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
~ Romans 8:38 (KJV) 

We have just celebrated the turn of a New Year. We have set our resolutions for 2018 (and still believe we can lose 25 pounds by swimsuit season). Maybe your goals don’t refer to weight loss but, rather, to success in your career. I know I have penned a few writing-career-related goals myself. Maybe they refer to your family life, your marriage, travel, or how many books you’d like to read this year. But, do you have any goals that relate to your spiritual relationship with God? I have to admit, my first draft didn’t, and that won’t do at all. Once I realized what my list was missing, I dropped everything down and opened goal number one up for this: I want to spend quality time EACH morning studying the Scripture and in quiet meditation with the Lord.

Around here, that is a tall order! Some of you may know already, but I have five children. It is never, I mean never, quiet around here. And when it is, I’d better see where everyone is because someone is doing something they shouldn’t be. But, I realized toward the close of 2017, even though I was still reading my Bible during my morning study times, I wasn’t really digesting the words and internalizing them to grow in my faith. That has to change. So, for 2018, I will make a point of going to a room by myself and reading, even if it has to be the bathroom (ha!). Yes, I want my children to see me in the Word, but I also know that I need that morning one-on-one time with my Savior so that I can make it through the day.

We don’t know what will come this year. No doubt we will experience loss to some degree. We will experience joy, success, satisfaction to some degree. We will have trials that feel like vertical mountains we must scale. We will have victory, standing on the top of those “impassable” trials and looking back on them with pride that God helped us through each step. The verse above reminds us that no matter where we go, what we face, or how low (or high) we get, God is there. He will be with me, and you, each and every moment, each breath, each blink of our eyes. Because He loves us. Unconditionally. Unequivocally. Eternally. Perfectly.

Let’s make the decision right now to spend the year being cognizant of His presence in our lives, dedicated to growing in our faith, and continuously striving to work for Him. Do you have a goal that relates to your relationship with God? Please share it with us! 

~*~
Author Bio: 
Sara writes Inspirational Romantic Suspense from a mini-farm in East Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and their five homeschooled children. 

She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Tennessee and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Tennessee Mountain Writers. 

Her debut novel Callum's Compass won second place in Deep River Books' 2017 Writer's Contest. She also has a story, “Leap of Faith,” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. Sara finds inspiration in her faith, her family, and the beauty of nature. 

When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, camping, and spending time outdoors with her family. To learn more about her and her work or to become a part of her email friend’s group, please visit www.saralfoust.com.
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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Life Lessons and A Reason to Rejoice


Rejoicing in the Lord Always

A devotional by Melissa Henderson

“Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say Rejoice.” ~Philippians 4:4 KJV

Rejoicing during difficult times can often be stressful. How can we rejoice when bills are overdue, our health is in jeopardy, the news is filled with scary information and we are not sure what will happen next?

God gives us a spirit of power and love and of sound mind. Anxiety and fear do not come from the Lord. So what do we do when troubled times enter our lives?

We pray. We talk with God, sharing our hopes and fears with Him. He already knows what we are thinking. He wants us to come to Him. He is waiting with open arms.

Recently, my husband and I moved from Virginia to South Carolina. We prayed and asked God to give us the wisdom, discernment and revelation as to what He wanted us to do about the move.

Yes, we had our times of uncertainty and fear. Yet, each time we paused and prayed, God gave us a feeling of calm and comfort.

Remembering to praise Him and to Rejoice in Him each and every day made our move easier. Even with road bumps along the way, we know God is with us and we will “Rejoice” again and again. He is in charge and He has a plan for our lives.

Have you thanked God for His blessings? Have you Rejoiced in His love and mercies today? Share time with God and you will be refreshed as you Rejoice.

~*~
Author Bio:
Melissa Henderson and her husband Alan live in South Carolina. Married for over 38 years, they have one son (Mike) who is married to daughter-in-love (Christine) and now are blessed by precious grandson (Rowan). 

Melissa was taught the love of reading and writing at an early age from her parents. She is now working on her first inspirational fiction novel. 

Her passions are volunteering, Bible Studies and reading and writing. 

Connect with Melissa online, https://mimionlife.wordpress.com.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: The Power of Words and Kindness


Words, How Do You Use Them?
A devotional by Tammy Karasek

When words are spoken in haste, they can either edify or tear down. Yet once spoken, they cannot be retrieved. Have you ever been hurt by people’s words? I know I have been crushed.

I have one of those memory banks that are both a blessing and a curse. I tend to remember just about everything. And I do mean EVERYTHING — both good and bad. The harder I try to forget the bad, the more it seems to commit to staying. I could probably list more times of hurtful words than my poor writing hand could handle.

Now that I’m much more mature in age, I have been purposely trying to go to those memories and see if the comments were truth or if they were lies. Then those that were not true, prayerfully choose to let the words go. I’ve tried to see where the person was coming from. Some times they were thrown out as an opinion, other times; there may have been slight truth to the comment. I’m sure soon after the person spewed out the harsh comments, they moved on. I, on the other hand, have given those words way too much time replaying in my mind. I’ve realized that the more I’ve held the memory, the more the memory has held me . . . and my heart.

I’m grateful to God those hurtful situations are mostly gone from my memory. But you see it’s the deep hurtful words, the words spoken to the heart by those we love that are the hardest to let go. They were spoken. And sadly, remembered. Yet, through prayer, they can diminish as well.

Recently I read this verse in my daily quiet time with God:

“Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you — for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.” 
~Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 

Wow! That’s big.

It tells me to not pay such close attention to every word spoken, because I may hear “cursing” — or hurtful words. Then the second verse says that I know I’ve done this same thing.

Wait, what did that say?

Did that just say that I know I’ve done it, too? No way – not me. I love words. I wouldn’t do that. I know the pain of mean comments, so I for sure wouldn’t do that. Would I? Have I?

Yes, God says I’ve done it, too. Oh, how I did not like reading that. That verse really caught my attention and has made me slow down before I speak too soon. Will the words I’m about to say help or hurt the person. If they may hurt, are they necessary for growth? If not, I don’t say them.

Some words are necessary to hear for our good, but if they’re hurtful and untrue, will you give them to God first? Let Him show you if it was given in truth and something you needed to hear. Do not let them consume your heart.

Harsh and hurtful words are going to be flung at us. That is a guarantee. Yet scripture reminds us that we‘re going to fling ‘em, too.

As I’m learning to “not pay attention to every word people say” as the verse above says, may I encourage you to do the same? And I’m not off the hook either; I also need to remember to not flippantly throw out those possible hurtful words to others.

What are your thoughts on words? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

~*~
Author bio: 

You’ll find Tammy seeing humor and causing laughter in every aspect of life. Tammy’s past filled with bullying and criticism is the driving force of her passion to always encourage others and share with them the Reason to smile. 

She’s been blissfully wedded to her college sweetheart, Larry, for 36 years, mom to their grown daughter, Kristen and wrapped around the paw of a little puppy named Hattie. 

She’s the President of Cross N Pens Christian Writers and a member of ACFW. She will be published in the 2018 Divine Moments book – Cool-nary Moments.
~*~
Connect with Tammy:
Blog - http://www.tammykarasek.com
Twitter - https://twitter.com/tickledpinktam
Email - tickledpinktammy@gmail.com
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Friday, January 5, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Inner battles and the spiritual lifestyle


Should vs. Want
A devotional by Linda Wood Rondeau


“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." 
~John 16:13 (NIV)

I know the drill. I hear it from my doctor with every visit. Lose weight, eat more nutritiously, and get more exercise. After my physician has kindly reminded me of the benefits derived from healthier lifestyle choices, I make well-intentioned promises of changed behaviors.

I vow to increase fiber, though to me it’s not much better than cardboard. I promise myself I will lose 50 pounds, do aerobic activity for 30 minutes a day, drink eight glasses of water, and consume the requisite servings of fruits and vegetables. I pride myself on my good intentions.

With gusto and determination, I dust off the treadmill, put motivational stickers around the house, and keep a diary of my new healthy ambitions. Sadly, however, my behaviors slowly drift back to my comfortable unhealthy choices within a few weeks. “I just don’t have enough willpower,” I tell myself while pouring my fourth cup of coffee.

Is my inability to change due to lack of motivation? Am I too weak of spirit? “Why”, I reprimand myself, “can’t I do better?”

Perhaps it is because I suffer from the shoulds. I should drink less coffee, I should exercise more and I should lose weight. Every magazine I pick up has more than half of its content devoted to the shoulds.

The problem in compliance is a lack of the wants. Oh, it’s true it would be nice to be as beautiful as Miss America, as athletic as an Olympic champion, and as enthusiastic as a political candidate, but do I have the want for these things? Am I willing to make the sacrifices and commit to the long haul? My resolve wanes because I lack the wants.

Attitudes regarding change are shaped according to whether we desire the change out of a feeling of guilt or whether the change is motivated due to a conviction. The shoulds are a result of guilt; the wants are born from conviction.

Guilt is laden with self-incrimination and self-loathing. It is a heavy burden to carry. It tends to slow progress and cause depression. Guilt may propel us into action initially, but the momentum is difficult to sustain. When we fail, we convince ourselves there is some intrinsic flaw within us that dooms us to a cycle of attempts and failures. With each failure, the desire to try again is diminished.

When we truly want to change, we are convicted to change. Conviction alters our perspective, renews our energies, and drives us toward a positive outcome. Even if a first attempt is unsuccessful, we will keep trying until we experience ultimate success.

What of our spiritual lifestyles? We believe we should read the Bible more, attend church regularly, and give a tithe unto the Lord. Every devotional article we read reminds us of the benefits when we do these things. Yet, our striving toward these goals wean as life’s mundane needs erode our best intentions.

God does not desire us to follow a blind pattern of religiosity. Doing good deeds, merely because one should do them, will produce meaningless exercise that does little to uplift the believer.

God has provided the believer with the Holy Spirit. It is The Spirit’s working within us that will bring the believer to conviction. He places a hunger within the believer that propels us toward God’s word. Rather than condemn our past, He uses our failure as a lamp to show us what our future could be when we walk in obedience. As we grow in our desire to walk more closely with God, we no longer pray simply because that’s what a Christian should do. We pray because our day is incomplete without spending time alone with Him.

~*~
Author bio:

Award-winning author Linda Wood Rondeau writes to demonstrate that our worst past surrendered to God becomes our best future. 

A veteran social worker, Linda now resides in Hagerstown, Maryland. 

Readers may visit her website at www.lindarondeau.com

~*~
Connect with Linda on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus and Goodreads.
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