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~Written by Samantha Freds

I wanted to write about how we, as Christians, should have eyes like our Heavenly Father to see the world around us. It seemed fitting right after Father’s Day, but the words were not coming. I quickly realized why. I have been struggling with discontentment lately, and I doubt I’m alone. I needed to be real and raw this week.

Contentment. I don’t even like the word. It seems so nondescript. It’s not happy or sad, excited or melancholy. It’s not one extreme or another. Contentment is about being satisfied wherever you are. But, what if I don’t like where I am? How do I find contentment if my circumstances were supposed to be different by now?

Does God really expect us to be content if we are underpaid and under-appreciated at our jobs? Or if we are still waiting for marriage or for children while all our friends are enjoying both? How can we possibly be content after the latest diagnosis?

I think God does want us to be content in all circumstances, but I’m not pulling any punches. I started by saying I’m struggling with areas of discontentment, so I don’t pretend to have the answer. I am distinctly aware that even if I received all the things I thought I deserved or wanted, it would not be long before I was back to feeling discontent. That seems to be the nature of this life between two gardens.

I don’t take lightly the reasons for my own discontentment, and I certainly don’t mean to say “just get over it.” Here is the verse I keep coming back to: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6). And the very next verse promises that the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, will be ours.

Later in the same chapter, Paul says he has learned the secret to being content in all circumstances: God. No, seriously. It’s not a Sunday school answer and I’m not a simpleton. Discontentment is real, but the only way out of it is to give thanks to God for everything we do have.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I almost never got what I wanted when I was a little girl. Birthdays, Christmases, random special occasions—they all brought gifts (some of them were fantastic!), but they were rarely what I really wanted. The gifts were well thought out, but I remember thinking more than once, “My siblings got what they wanted, why didn’t I?”

It wasn’t until adulthood that I brought it up with my mom and I understood why. Apparently, I had never told her I wanted a Suzy Homemaker Oven, a specific instrument or special trinket. I remember believing as a child that if I needed a toy, my parents would just know. Otherwise, I didn’t need to be so selfish as to ask them outright to give me what I wanted.

“Why didn’t you just ask?” My mom asked when I told her the truth. I didn’t ask because I was afraid I’d disappoint her. At times, she knew exactly what I wanted, ended up getting it for me, but would have enjoyed hearing what I thought about the gift first.

Although the memory makes me chuckle now, I can’t help but see a correlation between myself as a kid and myself as an adult in front of the Father. His patience is never-ending with me. Often, though, when anxiety, fear, or misunderstanding keeps me silent from truly telling Him what I want, I can hear Him whisper, “Child, why don’t you just ask? Can we talk about it?”

He doesn’t always give me what I want. He doesn’t give me exactly what I want when I want it. But I’m learning it’s okay to climb up on His lap and just ask Him because I trust Him. Whatever the outcome, those conversations increase my intimacy with the Father. Simply because I asked.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

I recently started watching a two-year-old and four-year-old while on summer break from classes. I was quickly reminded of the innocence and imagination which characterize that tender age. Kids love to pretend they are superheroes, princesses, sports stars, or in the case of this adorable two-year-old, excavator operators!

Eventually, we grow out of that overwhelming imagination, but we often don’t stop pretending. Adults play dress up too. We wear masks to hide what is really going on beneath the surface. Especially as it relates to our struggles with sin.

It is human nature to hide. It was Adam and Eve’s reaction in the garden, and Jonah’s response on the boat. The pattern continues today. We are conditioned in today’s church to keep up appearances. Dress up a little and smile on Sundays. But that is not the model we were given. In Jesus’ day it was His audible voice that peeled off the masks of those around Him. Aren’t you glad there isn’t someone walking around revealing your secret sins and struggles, hidden agendas, insecurities or convictions anymore?

But, Jesus left a voice that does just that. Today it is up to us to listen to the Spirit’s prompting. Be assured that there is always a reason when He asks us to be raw and real with those around us. God doesn’t command us to hold up a whiteboard as we go about our day revealing our struggles and sins to everyone. He does, however, call us to respond in transparency and truth when we are prompted. And we can’t do that if we have conditioned ourselves to hide behind a mask.

Slowly but surely, the mask forms over the years. And before long you don’t even take it off when you’re home alone. It’s easier not to face what’s underneath.

You are not perfect. I am not perfect! The Bible reassures us that anyone who wants to judge us will do so in the presence of God, the ultimate and eternal judge. His is the only judgment that matters.

Take off the mask. Only then can you be used by God. Only then can you truly reflect the image of Christ. The real you, struggles and all, is the one the world needs to see.

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Shocking Memory

~ Written by Viki Rife

After several days of traveling, I was relieved to pull into my own driveway. I was not ready for the shock that greeted me. Something had been digging among the plants in the front yard and had fully dug up one of my favorite plants. It had been torn from its trellis and lay on the ground a foot away from its original hole, looking pale and rather wilted.

I hurried over to check it. My brain was processing the steps I needed to take. First it needed to be restored: put the roots in water right away and let it rehydrate. It needed to be established—replanted. It would need some plant food—but not too much or it would burn. As it began to produce new growth, I would need to help it attach itself to the trellis again for support.

The progression of my thoughts made me laugh. Just that morning I had read 1 Peter 5:10: “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while” (CSB). We were going through some hard times, and I had decided I needed to memorize that verse. But memorizing is not very easy for me these days.

Now I had a great visual to help me learn it! I could visualize the steps: restore, establish, strengthen and support. God allowed me to care for that suffering little plant so I could know exactly what His intentions are toward me! I felt ready to let Him root me in the Living Water.

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~ Written by Tabby McMonagle

You don’t always get what you want. How many times have I explained this to my children? Yet here I am, explaining it to myself. This darn instant gratification world we live in constantly screams, “You can have it your way!” Well, I am sick of it. I’ve been bamboozled for the last time!

Life doesn’t always go our way. Bad things happen to good people. There’s not always an answer or solution to every problem. Sometimes we have to sit in disappointment. I have been seeing this reminder all over the place lately. I just read about it in Lysa Terkeurst’s book It’s Not Supposed to Be Like This.

We all need to hear this truth again and again to let it sink in. That fact tells me that the voice I hear in my head is louder than the one in my heart. My head is saying, “You can have it your way! Fight for it. Figure it out. There has to be a way.” But my heart is saying, “You have done all you can do. You don’t always get what you want. God’s plan is more important than yours. Patience, humility, gratitude, and obedience is the answer.”

I don’t know about you, but that is not what I want to hear. I enjoyed the voice that told me to keep searching for things to go my way. I was getting comfortable in my “fix-it” hat. Sure, there was discouragement, but there was more self-gratification to be found. If I listen to the still small voice in my heart, however, I know it is right. But that means I am going to have to sit in disappointment.

That’s hard for me. I don’t like disappointment and I will do anything to get away from it. So, when the still small voice told me to sit, and that my strength will rise when I wait upon the Lord, I finally surrendered to its song. We don’t always get what we want; however God’s ways are better than our ways and His plans always turn out better than our own. We may not see it or even understand it, but when we surrender it always works out, like Don Moen’s song,

God will make a way
Where there seems to be no way;
He works in ways we cannot see,
He will make a way for me.

Let’s not be bamboozled!

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

Whose favorite household item is a sponge? Probably no one’s. That little yellow rectangle is a reminder of all the cleaning to be done, not to mention all the dishes in the sink! We use sponges for a while, then throw them out without thinking twice. What if I told you there is a deep theological lesson in a sponge?

The purpose of a sponge is to absorb and transport water. Sounds simple enough. Soak up. Pour out. It follows, then, that a sponge full of water is only serving half its purpose. In fact, if left full between uses, the sponge starts to harbor bacteria. On the other hand, a sponge out of water for too long becomes dry, hard, and useless.

The Christian life is like that sponge. We need to absorb living water. The water of the Word gives us life. But, like the sponge, if we stay in the water we aren’t serving our purpose. We are at risk of harboring pride. We are called to share the Living Water with the dry, dirty, hurting world around us. But, if we do not return to the source of Living Water we burn out. Doing for God begins to take priority over being with God. We need to learn the balance.

I call this the “Soak up—Pour out” rule. While some seasons may require us to hold water as we survive the heat of this life, those times are exceptions to the “Soak up–Pour out” rule.

I encourage you today to set up two columns. Under the heading “Soak Up,” list the ways you absorb living water throughout the week – quiet time with the Lord, church services, Bible studies, life-giving conversations with a friend, etc. Then list the areas where you are pouring out under the second column. Things like work, taking care of family, and volunteering at church will fill up the “Pour Out” column. The result doesn’t have to be a perfect perfectly equal columns, but we should be looking for a healthy balance.

If you are feeling dry today—go to the Source and spend some time soaking up living water!

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

My husband and I ask each other the same question every night, and never get the same answer. It’s been a spiritually silent season in our home. We’ve learned the hard way that if we don’t push ourselves to focus on Jesus, we’ll never look for Him. So, even on the days where God seems more like a topic than an active character in our lives, we challenge each other with a repetitive question:

“Where’d you see God today?”

To be honest, there are days I don’t want to answer when my time comes. Some days, my spiritually-lethargic attitude takes over and I inwardly grumble about how I don’t really care about pointing to Jesus. Sleep sounds better than talking about Him. But inevitably, the Spirit inside me whispers as long as He needs to until my heart knows that God was seen throughout the day.

Then, even when my heart is heavy, I can’t help but fall asleep with praise on my lips because God proved He was involved in the silence.

If you, like me, sometimes struggle to see God’s hand in the everyday monotony, are you looking for Him in the first place? Even when the times you’ve seen Him seem inconsequential, have you taken the time to praise Him for those moments simply because it proves your God is an ever-present God?

So, I’ll extend the question to you. Where’d you see God today?

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