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~ Written by Melissa Kreis

As the tow-headed boy lathered his hands and turned the water on full-blast, he asked, “How come the water sometimes goes down the drain and sometimes it stops?”

Not sure how to explain this concept to a 4-year-old, I answered rather blandly, “I don’t know.”

“How does it work under the sink?” he persisted.

Now I was really stumped. I am not in the least bit mechanically inclined. So I offered the same answer, “I don’t know.”

Thoroughly puzzled, Derek* incredulously stated, “But you’re the teacher! You should know everything about this!”

Smiling and chuckling to myself, I answered the curious and candid young one, “I don’t know everything, but God does!”

I believe with my mind that God knows everything. I believe He knows my every thought, wish, action, and motive. But when I am stressed or worried about my present or future circumstances, my first reaction isn’t always to talk with God first. I do sometimes, but other times I try to pull myself up by my bootstraps or phone a friend.

However, I certainly don’t know everything, and neither do my caring friends. Only God does. So, my prayer is that the head knowledge that God knows everything would transfer to my emotions and heart when I am anxious. May He be the One I ultimately rely on for strength, and the first friend I call.

*Not his real name.

~ Written by Viki Rife

“I want to be a scientist when I grow up,” the six-year-old told his daddy. “But I don’t know if I can do it.” His father assured him that he was smart enough and would probably be a good scientist. The child asked intensely, “Do you really think I could be a scientist?” His daddy reiterated his confidence in the possibility.

“Okay, then,” the child said with a satisfied nod, “I’m going to invent a potion that will make everybody love Jesus.”

When his daddy, my son, told me about the discussion, my first thought was, “I wish!” It does seem ideal. But God never intended for the Christian life to be that easy. He knows that what is won by struggle and hard effort means much more to us, and can go deeper into our soul, than any quick fix.

 As my grandson gets older, I am trusting he will discover there already is a potion to help people love Jesus. It’s called the Bible. The more we read it, the more we fall in love with the amazing, loving God revealed in its pages. Thank God, He has already provided a way for us to fall in love with Jesus.

~ Written by Cassie Harris

“All you Christians do is gossip with each other. It’s disgusting!” Her words stung. It didn’t matter that she didn’t understand prayer. It didn’t really even matter that I knew she didn’t understand Christian accountability. Her anger still made me re-evaluate what I considered accountability, support, and the need for prayer.

I’m not ashamed to admit it: When my world is shaken, the first thing I do is ask trusted friends to join me in prayer. Prayer is powerful. I’ve never had to handle stress alone. Although I know God can meet me alone, my heart feels more at peace when I know my experiences are being shared with people who depend on God’s love as well as I do.

It’s true, the line between gossip and support should constantly be measured. But taking away someone else’s privilege to encourage you within the Body is harmful. Our Heavenly Father made us for community. The world will strive to tell us differently. Our culture is sick; don’t let the beauty of praying together suffer because of it.

~ Written by Melissa Kreis 

I sat comfortably in the shade under a large green maple tree, protected from the sun’s hot rays. Most of the trees surrounding me looked healthy and vibrant. One tree, however, looked like most trees do in December: not a single leaf hung from its bare branches. Obviously, something was very wrong with that tree. I couldn’t help but play the childhood game, “Which one doesn’t belong?” You know, the game where you are given three pictures of a tree. Two are large maple trees with a multitude of green leaves. The third is a smaller maple tree without any leaves, so you circle the last tree.

My mind immediately remembered a passage in Scripture that compares people to trees:

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:3).

I thought, “I want to become like the sturdy tree in that verse. How do I do that?” I only had to look at the preceding verses to find my answer:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

The last part of this verse grabbed my attention: “…and on his law he meditates day and night.” I envision myself, like the roots of this tree, growing deeper day by day, night by night into the fertile soil of God’s Word.

We cannot always choose where we are planted, but we can choose whether or not we soak up God’s Word. Let’s grow deep roots that will withstand dry days as well as torrential downpours of hardship. Let’s take time every day to nourish ourselves in God’s Word!

~ Written by Viki Rife

Some days just don’t go as planned. Like the morning I woke up mentally sorting out all that had to be done to prepare for the Margins Conference. The temptation to get busy and just skip my Bible reading was great, especially since I’d done some pretty monotonous reading the past several days in the Book of Numbers.

I’m so glad I resisted! God gave me exactly what I would need for that day. “Whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled, there the people of Israel camped” (Numbers 9:17). It goes on to say that whether the cloud stayed for a month, or just overnight, the people moved when, and only when, the cloud moved.

Soon after that, I got a call that my father was being taken to the emergency room. The week that followed was full of return trips to the emergency room, doctor’s office, radiology, and finally surgery. As I was catching my breath the day after the surgery, I got another call and he was taken to a hospital an hour away with a different problem. As primary caregiver for my parents, I found myself torn between him and my mother, who was understandably distressed at not being able to spend the long hours at the hospital by his side.

But as I spent my time in waiting rooms, exam rooms, and long drives back and forth, I kept reminding myself: “This is where the cloud has led me.” I envisioned myself as an Israelite mom, settling her brood into the tent, not knowing whether the next morning she would be catching up on laundry or pulling up stakes again. Can you imagine living like that for forty years? Yet that is the reality God called His people to experience.

The more I thought about it, the more real the concept of moving with the Spirit of God became to me. My moments are all in His hands. May I never forget the significance of this vivid imagery of God’s faithful leading.

~ Written by Melissa Kreis

Honey Nut Cheerios. Banned from breakfast on school days during my childhood because of its sugary content, Honey Nut Cheerios was a favorite tasty treat saved for weekends. During college and beyond, however, I began to break this sacred rule of no sugary cereals on a school day.

That is, until one fateful morning…

I poured a bowl of my favorite cereal and grabbed the milk. But just before pouring, I noticed movement through the tiny delectable O’s: an ant. I used my spoon to push around a few  Cheerios and discovered to my utter dismay that my bowl was, quite literally, crawling with ants!  I fished through the bowl, bent on a mission to rescue as many Cheerios as possible. One at a time I pulled out each sweet morsel, and then destroyed the ants with my trusty ant spray…

No! Of course I didn’t do that with my ruined breakfast!! Disgusted that I almost ate more protein than I had bargained for, I tossed my spoiled breakfast outside on the compost pile. After that I scrounged around for something else to fill my grumbling tummy.

But isn’t that what we do with our sin sometimes? For a little while, sin tastes sweet like my precious Honey Nut Cheerios. But then we start to see the little ants, the consequences of our sin. We see how sin damages ourselves or others or our relationship with God. However, instead of  throwing out our sin, we sometimes try to salvage it. We make excuses.

“How can something this fun really be harmful? This isn’t really that bad. Nobody will find out.”

When we are tempted to sin, let’s remember the image of a bowl of cereal crawling with ants. Let’s throw our sin far away, and then let’s carry out the most important part: Return to the One who can fill our hungry tummies with satisfying, living bread:

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst’” (John 15:35).

Our Lord does not call us to turn from our sin because he wants to deprive us of some sweet forbidden fruit; he beckons us to partake of a rich, sustaining feast. Let us seek the One who alone who can satisfy, so we are tempted no longer by a sweet but unwholesome breakfast.

~ Written by Cassie Harris

One of my dearest supporters growing up was a cop. We were 3,200 miles apart, but my day was either filled with two emails from him or an hour-long phone conversation. The only days I didn’t hear from him were holidays. If he “skipped” a day, he always warned me beforehand or gave me an extensive explanation later on.

Terry was the way I survived my teen years. Terry understood I needed him despite the fact that I wasn’t in trouble and he wasn’t pursuing me because I broke the law. My perception of cops was protected for 22 years because of Terry. Even after I became close friends with a black man and started questioning the authenticity of law enforcement, Terry was proof that some cops understood that their job goes beyond the badge.

During one phone conversation, Terry was anything but his upbeat self. He had always treated me as a “prayer warrior” despite my immature and naive ways. Brokenly, he asked me to pray for an unnamed 2nd-grader whom he had just picked up. The kid had drugs in his backpack — obviously belonging to his parents. There were no racial slurs. There were no major character judgments.

The only thing Terry wanted was to protect the boy and give the parents a second chance free of charge. He couldn’t do that last part; he was, after all, a cop. But he went about his job, praying every second of every day. He was not out to get an award. He wanted to make a difference. Even when it hurt.

There are still people out there exactly like Terry. Yes, recent events have led me to wonder what this world is coming to. But making blanket statements about the character of all law enforcement is wrong.

Be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves. Make every effort to confirm that what you believe about “that cop” is truth. This isn’t a story of Cops versus Citizens. Ultimately, this is a story of Broken versus Broken.

Our job is to be messengers of truth.

(Adapted with permission from author’s original post on her blog Defining My Sanity.)

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