Precious

I Peter 2:4–To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious.

It is hard sometimes as adults to feel a sense of preciousness about ourselves. We aren’t cute, innocent children anymore, after all. We are grown-ups with busy schedules and responsibilities. Even the people we love fail to treat us as special and we them. We take each other for granted and assume they know how precious they are to us.

This verse struck me as I studied. I may not always be treated like a gift by humankind, but I was chosen by God. Precious in His sight. Special. Dear to His holy heart.

On days when I feel ragged, discouraged, beat-down, all I have to do is remember God thinks I am priceless. A treasure that He personally chose each trait to imbue. A soul He selected and offered His Son for payment of my sins. Highly valued. Loved. Precious.

Advertisements

God’s Sovereign Ways

I have a special guest for the devotional today, Cynthia Roemer. Cynthia is an award-winning inspirational writer with a heart for scattering seeds of hope into the lives of readers. Raised in the cornfields of rural Illinois, Cynthia enjoys spinning tales set in the backdrop of the 1800s prairie. She writes from her family farm in central Illinois where she resides with her husband and their two college-aged sons. She is kind enough to share her thoughts about God’s Sovereign Ways.

Why does God allow bad to happen? It’s a question each of us has asked at some point in our lives, when we witness needless tragedy, innocent lives lost, or experience hardships of our own. It’s a mystery that has been considered through the ages of time, and yet continues to go unresolved.

In my debut novel, Under This Same Sky, my main character, Becky Hollister, ponders this question when tragedy strikes her family, turning her once secure world upside down. Her heartaches cause her to doubt God’s power and authority and to ask why He didn’t spare her and her loved ones the tragedy of loss. In the months that follow, she battles anger and bitterness toward God before coming to the realization that He is wise and loving and that He wants only the best for us.

The novel’s key verse is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.” Under This Same Sky allows readers to walk alongside Becky as she journeys from the depth of despair to the place of acceptance and understanding.

Though my novel doesn’t seek to answer the question of why God allows pain and difficulties to infiltrate our lives, it does convey the message that God is able to work all things for our good when we seek Him. No matter what we go through in this life we have the comfort in knowing the Lord walks beside us.

I showcased Under This Same Sky on my blog with a review a few months ago. It was such a well-written and inspiring story. If you want to check it out on Amazon, here is the link. It was a great read. Thank you, Cynthia, for sharing your thoughts with us today. I hope all of you will seek out God’s plan for your life, and that all of you recognize He wants good for each of us because He loves us so very much.

Under This Same Sky cover image

~ She thought she’d lost everything ~ Instead she found what she needed most. ~

Illinois ~ 1854

Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents’ farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she’s ever known and the man she’s begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis.

Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with Matthew Brody, the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future.

You can learn more about Cynthia at her website, http://cynthiaroemer.com/,Cynthia Roemer Headshot image on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCynthiaRoemer/, Twitter,  https://twitter.com@cynthiaroemer, and Goodreads,  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16785237.Cynthia_Roemer.

Thank you again, Cynthia. I will see you all Thursday over on my blog for an interview with author Gail Kittleson!

Freedom in the Lord

Today, I have special guest, June Foster, for our devotional entry. Thank you, June, for sharing your heart with us!

For the Christian, walking in close intimacy with God is the most rewarding way to live. I am never more joyful and at peace when I remain in fellowship with Him. But unfortunately it’s not always easy.

I’m a first born child and type A personality. All my life, I’ve felt the demand to accomplish tasks expected of me. There’s also a bit of OCD in the mix, too. Therefore, I take the job of being a Christian seriously. Too seriously. But what’s wrong with that?

The prayer list from church, the prayer needs I read about on Facebook, our country that needs a revival, these and many more weigh on me. Sometimes I practice self-talk and say if I don’t pray enough, God might not be pleased with me. What else? Sending get well and sympathy cards, calling friends who need encouragement. What if I skipped somebody? Is this pointing to legalism? I think it is. So what’s the answer? While all of those things are important, I allow the sense of obligation to stand between me and a close walk with God. I need to take to heart when God says “Be still and know that I am God.” And “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and He will direct your path.”

I am slowly learning the Christian walk is not about me but about God. Lord, “Direct my footsteps according to Your word. Let no sin rule over me.” Psalms 119:133.

I can do nothing to improve my status before God. When I relax and allow God to work, He’ll place His will in my heart—at His perfect pace. When I’m totally resting and trusting in Him, that’s what pleases Him.

Thank you, again, June, for appearing on Finding the Silver Linings Daily. I know I am guilty of feeling pressure and stress and wishing I could rush God into action. I need to sit back and let Him direct my path, always.

An award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. June’s book Give Us This Day was a finalist in EPIC’s eBook awards and a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards for best first book. Ryan’s Father was one of three finalists in the published contemporary fiction category of the Oregon IMG_6653.jpgChristian Writers Cascade Writing Contest and Awards. Deliver Us was a finalist in COTT’s Laurel Awards. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day, As We Forgive, and Deliver Us, and Hometown Fourth of July. Ryan’s Father is published by WhiteFire Publishing. Red and the Wolf, a modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, is available from Amazon.com. The Almond Tree series, For All Eternity, Echoes From the Past, What God Knew, and Almond Street Mission are available at Amazon.com. June enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. Recently June has seen publication of Christmas at Raccoon Creek, Lavender Fields Inn, Misty Hollow, and Restoration of the Heart. Visit June at junefoster.com.

Her novel, Letting Go: A Small Town Novel, released on June 21, 2017 and is available on Amazon (along with all her other awesome novels and collections).

Pastor Zackary Lawrence lost his wife and unborn child when an embolism took her life. After questioning God why, Zack couldn’t find the will to continue as pastor at Oak Mountain Bible church in his small town of Oak Mountain, Alabama. But when his Letting Go.jpgparents encouraged him to continue his work, he reluctantly returned to the pulpit. Now, six months later, the congregation has dwindled to less than a handful, and Zack witnesses the closing of the church’s doors. Desperate, he takes a job at the local hardware store and reluctantly moves in with his parents.

Though Ella Russell had secretly been in love with Zack since high school, her hopes were shredded when he returned from seminary, accompanied by a wife. Trying to forget the only guy she’d ever loved, she threw herself into her profession as a high school counselor, working with rebellious youth. When Zack’s wife died, Ella grieved with him. Now as one of the few remaining members of Oak Mountain Bible Church, she tries to encourage Zack yet abandons her dream of a future with him. But when she drops by the church, the worst has happened. She finds a distraught Zack locking the doors for good with the bank’s immanent foreclosure.

Can God resurrect Zack’s life and allow him to finally discover the woman he’s always loved? If Ella entrusts her heart to Zack, will he shatter her hopes once more?

I hope you enjoyed today’s devotional and will come back on September 1st to read Cynthia Roemer’s devotional. In the meantime, check saralfoust.com for the Summer Spotlight Series interviews. I am learning a lot about some amazing authors and artists.

(Butterfly on flower picture taken by my mom, Barbara Campbell)

What if we tithed 10% of our time?

Today, I have a special guest to share her devotional about tithing our time. Thank you, Sherri Wilson Johnson, for being here and willing to share your thoughts.

Giving your tithe. What a touchy subject for some people. When pastors talk about reaching into your wallet and putting 10% of your income into the offering plate, some of us become prickly like a porcupine. For some, however, giving 10% of their income is no biggie. But when it comes to giving of their time–of themselves–that’s when it becomes really challenging and they (or should I say we) become quite stingy.

Our days are SO full already! How can we take 10% of our time and give it back to the Lord?

There are 24 hours in a day. If we sleep 8 hours, we’re left with 16 awake hours. If we work 8 hours a day, we’re still left with 8 free hours! If we drive in traffic 2.5 hours a day, we’re left with 5.5 good hours to spend with family, cooking, cleaning, helping kids with homework, texting, practicing basic hygiene, watching Netflix, etc. My pastor recently gave us this breakdown and it was quite eye-opening how much time we waste each day.

Okay, so there are 24 fabulous hours in a day and potentially 5.5 free hours. If we stop to think about it, not every single minute is allotted to something. What if we tithed 10% of that 24 hours? That would mean 2.4 hours a day (might as well round that up to 2.5 to make it easier to keep up with) dedicated to doing the Lord’s work and to following His commands for our lives.

What would that look like? For starters, we could spend an hour a day in prayer and Bible study. Break that down and you’ve got 30 minutes of prayer and 30 minutes of learning God’s Word (15 in the morning, 15 at lunch or at bedtime). Your prayer time could even be combined with driving to work because the Lord knows there are enough crazies out there on the highway that it takes a strong prayer life to make it to the office and back.

What could we do with the other hour and a half? How about spending 15 minutes encouraging others? Shoot some texts or emails to your friends to lift their load and spirits for the day. Maybe take someone who needs to get some burdens off their shoulders to lunch (or spend your lunch time with someone who needs a little extra encouragement)? Include their needs in your prayers (your prayers will probably overflow and become more than the “allotted” 30 minutes).

What about the time spent in the car with your kids? How about taking that time, turning down the radio, and just letting them talk about their day? And really LISTEN. When my kids were little, I had a tendency to zone out while they were talking (mainly because I had my own issues I was dealing with and just didn’t have the emotional energy). But those little ones do grow up; they leave the nest and one day won’t be there filling the house with buzzes and hums of “noise.” Spend the time you have with them well.

See how I’m combining these things into your daily routine?

Random acts of kindness can fill up another 15 minutes of your daily tithe of your time. Hold the door open for someone, pay for someone’s coffee in the line behind you, walk a friend’s dog when they can’t get home from work in time, help an elderly person with their groceries, etc. There are all sorts of things we can do to GIVE of OURSELVES that don’t take much time. In fact, we probably already do many of those things. We just don’t realize we’re doing them.

Something else you can do once a month is prepare a meal for someone who is sick or who has had surgery, a baby, or a death in the family. Or on your way home from shopping or work, stop by the hospital and visit someone you may know who is in there.

How do these become a tithe of our time? I mean, anyone and everyone can do random acts of kindness and that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a tithe to God. Well, it’s the heart behind it and the attitude you express to people while doing it. When you put a smile on your face and tell people to have a blessed day, when you ask someone if you can pray for them, when you show them Jesus in your own unique way, that’s when it’s a tithe.

Next time you post a status on Facebook or Twitter or next time you post a picture to Instagram, how about you make it count? Think about it. If you’ve got 500-1,000 friends/followers, why blast them with some complaint you have about someone in your life who irritates you or about the current political happenings? Why not say something encouraging? If you don’t feel very encouraging right now, you’d be surprised at how encouraged you can become when you take the time to say something that encourages others. Social media is your platform to the world, make it count. Give that to God, too, as a tithe.

Now what can we do with the other hour of our tithe time? How about taking care of ourselves? The body is the temple of the Lord’s, and we should take care of it. This is an area that I so desperately need to focus on. If we spent JUST one hour a day doing some form of physical activity (even if it’s in 15-minute bursts), we’d live so much longer and be around longer to bless others and to serve the Lord and our churches. They say that sitting is the new smoking. Our lives are so much more sedentary than they used to be 100 years ago. We’re going to sit ourselves right into the grave!

I’m working on putting this time tithe into practice. Won’t you join me?

Photo credit: Girl with clock

Sherri Wilson Johnson is a multi-published Inspirational Romance novelist, speaker, virtual assistant and self-publishing coach. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and is passionate about writing, publishing, and marketing. She DSC_6140.jpgis the author of To Dance Once MoreTo Laugh Once More, and When Love Must Wait from her Hope of the South series, and Song of the Meadowlark and Secrets Among the Cedars from her Contemporary Suspense series, Intertwined.

Sherri has been published in 101 Simple Ways to Show Your Husband You Love Him by Kathi Lipp (Harvest House), Powerline 365 by Nicole O’Dell (Choose NOW Ministries), Open Hearts Family: Connecting with One Another by Jane Seymour (Running Press, Hachette Book Group), The Writing Academy’s Daily Devotions for Writers, and several homeschool publications.  

She lives in Georgia with her husband and her Chihuahua. She loves spending time with her adult children and friends or curling up with a good book or her current work-in-progress. Sherri enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles in the winter, watching Bob Ross painting videos (although she can’t paint), and counts the days every year until she can take another trip to the beach.

Sherri, thank you so much for sharing your insights and your heart today. I know I will join you in tithing my time to God. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it! Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I’ll see you Thursday with my interview with author Carol McClain, and on the 15th with another special devotional from June Foster.

#LoveLikeRuss

For those of you who don’t know me, our little community of family and friends lost a great one on Sunday. Russell Stansberry, Jr. I wanted to dedicate my devotional this month to them. This is my “Russell (and Shawnte) story.”

I didn’t know Shawnte and Russell when they got married. Or when Russell was diagnosed. Or even in the years right after the cancer was discovered. We began visiting Dutch Valley Baptist Church six or seven years ago (I’m terrible at remembering dates). And I remember the first time someone told me Russell had a brain tumor. I was shocked. This perfectly healthy-appearing man with such a great outlook and cheery attitude couldn’t possibly have brain cancer. No way. But soon we got to know them and learned that yes, in fact, this was true. I don’t know if my shock ever truly wore off. Russell and Shawnte have continued to shock me through these last years–in the way they have smiled, laughed, and rejoiced in the midst of a terrible disease. And the more I got to know them, the more my respect and admiration grew.

I’m not gonna lie. This week has been rough. I’ve had the privilege of helping coordinate food for the after-funeral reception and co-plan a baby shower, both this week. It’s rather poetic don’t you think? And Russell would’ve liked that a new baby is being celebrated at the same time his life was being remembered. And I am so honored to have been a small part of it all.

Even after Russell’s surgery, when that left side of his was not responding as well, he never ceased to offer me help when I’d show up at church with a million bags and five kids in tow. He never failed to ask to hold my baby or shake my daughters’ hands. He never failed to raise his hand and praise God. And he never failed to answer positively when I asked, “How are you?”

Shawnte and Russell have been “that couple” for me. The one that you secretly watch when they think you aren’t looking, and smile when he pulls out her chair. Or she brings him a plate of food with a kiss. Or they are sitting in their car enjoying quiet time catching up with each other’s day. They’ve had a beautiful love, a rare love, a love worth looking up to. Shawnte told me once that their relationship was special because they’d faced death together. And I knew what she meant by that. They knew how important each minute of life was because they knew their minutes together weren’t infinite. She also told me she was ‘spoiled’ by that big teddy bear of hers. And I’m so glad she was. She deserved it, and Russell loved doing the spoiling, I do believe.

What an amazing testimony they have lived for all of us, providing a real-life example of a God-directed marriage, showing the grace of God in vivid presence in their life, and sharing the joy of laughter through the sorrow of life’s trials. I am honored to call them friend. #LoveLikeRuss #StansberryStrong

My Weakness

II Corinthians 12:9–And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

I am a very independent, headstrong, strong-willed person. And it has gained me a lot of ground in my life. Valedictorian. Swim team captain. A job of some sort steadily since I was fifteen. Marriage with land and house purchase at twenty-one. College graduate with honors. Three healthy biological kids before thirty. Foster parent for three years. Adoption of two kids. Full-time at-home medical transcription job through all the kids (until two years ago). And now, a writing career that is the first truly fulfilling career I’ve had (not counting marriage and kids). You get the point. It isn’t easy for me to be weak. I don’t like to feel out-of-control. I don’t like to fail. And most of the time, that’s a good thing.

Sometimes, though, it gets me in trouble. I know God is far more powerful than I can even imagine. Yet, I take on the weight of my world and try to go at it all alone. Usually this lasts for a time then implodes around me, with my body, mind, spirit, and emotions completely exhausted.

It is okay to admit that I am not as strong as God and let Him take over. If I did it from the beginning of my struggles, they would go much more smoothly, I know. He wants me to rely on Him. To trust Him. To let Him lead.  I would like to do better with this, so I’ll be praying that I allow myself to be weak in His presence so that He might be a stronger presence in my life. Do you? I’d love to hear your comments below.

I want to allow myself to be weak with God so He might be a stronger presence in my life. #prayer @Sfoust25 -Tweet that!

(Photo taken by me in Hot Springs, NC)

Increase

I Corinthians 3:6-7–I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

I can plant the flowers and water them, but I cannot force them to grow. Sometimes, it is the opposite (like this flower above that surprised me) where I try to eliminate a plant and it continues to grow. I have no control over whether a seed chooses to sprout or a flower provides a fragrant bloom. God is in control of those things. He oversees the rain and wind, the lights in the sky, and the growth of my children. I can be a good steward of the earth and of the children He has entrusted to me, but I cannot force their growth or change their nature.

It is my responsibility as God’s child to honor His amazing creations. To make sure that I am respectful of the earth and all that grows on it. To be certain I am caring for my children’s physical, mental, emotional, and, most importantly, spiritual health. To ensure that I am caring for myself also. What we put into a thing, we get out of it. If we plant a huge garden, weed it properly, feed it well, and water it thoroughly, we are more likely to get a large harvest. If we teach our children every single day how to be faith-filled Christians, upstanding citizens, and reliable workers, they are more likely to be successful. If I nurture my relationship with God, get enough rest, pray constantly, and follow His path for me, I am more likely to bloom.

How has God shown you His power to increase and grow your life?