For Adults

Who Made the Trees

“Who made the trees? Did you make all the trees?”

He smiled gently, having answered the young girl’s question many times already. “No, child. Remember, I merely planted the seeds I was given. God has done the rest.”

The little girl nodded. “God did the rest. God made the trees.”

The man squeezed his granddaughter’s hand gently, “And each one of them has a name. Just like me and you.”

She turned her wide eyes upward, smiling broadly, “All of them?”

The two walked together, hand in hand, through the vast grove of trees as the grandfather discussed the name of each.

The tallest was named Upright for her honorable nature and the way she unfailingly pointed to the heavens.

One tree looked burdened, beaten down with withered branches and aged wood. Yet, he still stood, enduring all of life’s battles. For this, he was called Resilient.

Another tree had incredible, overarching branches, thick with leaves and moss. Any who sought Safe Haven, need only rest under her protective arms.

Then there was Longevity; a seemingly ageless tree with deep roots and a strong foundation.

The largest was called Life Giving, for within his mighty roots and throughout his vast wood, flowed a multitude of pure, plentiful, oxygen.

One tree was filled with an abundance of oranges, their lively color standing out against the stark green of leaves. Her name was Bears Fruit.

There were also smaller trees, still growing and changing, in the early years of their life. The Ever Growing Glade, the grandfather called them.

And these smaller trees leaned on a bigger tree: Support. She helped the smaller ones stay in line as they grew. Her long branches extended across a section of the grove, as if providing some sort of motherly embrace.

On the edge of the grove were lonely trees, more susceptible to drought or the terrors of a storm. This was home to trees called Grounded and Firmly Planted, whose roots were so thick and widespread no amount of wind could uproot them, or sun could parch them.

Nearby, were Stability and Sturdy, whose foundations had been disrupted by an earthquake long ago. The trees sat precariously on the edge of a steep drop off; but instead of giving way, their roots had grown down along the side wall of the drop off and into the ground below, safely securing their trunks.

After a while, they reached the end of the grove. Here, the grandfather stopped. He bent down until he was eye level with the girl, took her gently by the shoulders, and held her gaze. “You see, child, each one of these trees represent our lives in this world as children of God.” He pointed to her chest, “You and I? We are the seeds God has planted into this world.”

She stared at his face, listening intently.

“You are to be Upright: honest, honorable, and always Pointing to Christ. This life will bring you trials and tribulation; you must be Resilient against its temptations; you must Endure its painful arrows. You are called to be a Safe Haven, a wall of Protection and love for the poor, the needy, and the lost. Your life must exhibit Longevity; a life Firmly Planted, Deeply Rooted, and Grounded in Truth.”

The girl nodded; her brow furrowed in innocent concern.

“Oh, child,” He continued softly, “Your words and your actions must be Life Giving; every breath must magnify your Maker so that you are one who Bears Fruit; that through Christ working in you, others may receive His pure, plentiful, grace. Like the young trees, you must be Ever Growing in your knowledge of Christ, your love for Him, and your drive to be more like Him every day. You are to Support those around you…but not just those around you; your support must Extend to the ends of the Earth, for He has called you higher and He is worthy of that calling. You are to have Stability when the snares of evil try to destroy your foundation, your faith. You are to be Sturdy in the midst of bold-face mockery and deceit; when you are told your faith is a lie.”

Tears had begun to well up in the little girl’s eyes. One nervous hand rested across her lips, as if ready to stifle a sob.

“Oh, but, child,” The grandfather whispered. “You are not alone. Because who made the trees?”

The girl sniffled, blinking away the tears. Her hand dropped, “God made the trees.”

“God made the trees.” He repeated, “And He has created those trees with everything necessary to stand firmly in this life. He strengthens them to withstand that which would have them weakened.” He kissed her forehead, “And He has created you in the same way. In your weakness, He is Strong.”

The grandfather stood. The girl’s eyes followed him all the way up. She raised her hands and he lifted her into his arms. Together, they stared back at the trees, swaying softly in the afternoon breeze.

“I pray these trees over you every day.” The grandfather said. “In your waking. In your sleeping. In your coming. In your going. In your present and in your future.”

“When I’m playing?” She asked quietly.

He chuckled, “Yes, even when you’re playing.” With her in his arms, he turned from the grove and began walking down the hill.

The girl looked back, as if in deep thought. Then turned to look back at her grandfather. “Who made the playground?” She asked.

His laughter echoed throughout the beautiful grove of trees behind them.

For Adults

13 Things Moms Can Do to Help Their Daughters Survive and Thrive in This School Year

By: Elizabeth Hill

Being a preteen or a teen is tough. But add in school and all the ups and downs that come with it and it becomes even tougher.

You know it, I know it, and your daughter REALLY knows it. So what can you do to help your daughter through these years?

It pains me to say I’m not a teenager anymore (and I hate to admit that it’s been a little while since I was). But thankfully it’s not such ancient history that I’ve forgotten everything. I remember both the pain and excitement of my middle/high school years.

With that in mind, I’m going to share with you 13 things you can do to help your daughter survive and thrive in the school year.

A lot of these suggestions are things that my parents did for me while I was in school. And yes, I did call my mom and talk these over with her. I’m not too old for that!

  1. Help your daughter study.

When I began thinking about the things my mom did for me in school, this is one of the first things I remembered. My mom would quiz me for tests, and it was always made me feel better prepared. Of course, your daughter needs to develop studying skills, but reviewing her test material together is a great way to bond and to keep up with what she is learning in school.

2. Encourage excellence, not perfection.

With schoolwork, extracurricular activities, leadership roles, etc., teach your daughter to put in the effort and do her best. But don’t demand perfection. Excellence is giving it your best effort with the time, resources, and skills you’ve been given. Perfection is pushing beyond reasonable limits to attain the highest possible outcome. Of course, you want your daughter to do her best, but you don’t want her to become burned out in an endless push to be the best. Teach her the proper balance.

3. Support her extracurricular activities.

Go to her games and recitals. Cheer her on. Let her know you’re proud of her.

4. Share your stories of your school years.

While your school experiences aren’t necessarily the same as your daughter’s, she will benefit from hearing your tales of failure, success, excitement, heartbreak, embarrassment, etc. The experiences of your past help your daughter relate to you and give her reassurance that someone else knows what she’s feeling.

5. Let your daughter know she can talk to you about anything, including the hard and embarrassing stuff.

I can’t imagine what girls are facing in school right now. Your daughter needs someone in her corner who will tell her the truth. Be approachable, not condemning. Cultivate a relationship where she feels safer coming to you with questions than going to the internet, friends, or even teachers.

6. Be willing to talk about relationships.

Your daughter has a natural desire for relationship; it’s part of a girl’s DNA! Whether it’s friendships, sibling relationships, crushes, or boyfriends, she is searching for love and acceptance. Walk beside her as relationships change. Share godly wisdom and personal experience with her. She needs someone to talk to, and the best person is you!

7. Teach your daughter how to present herself well.

She wants to make a good impression on the first day of school and beyond, and you can help her do that. No, you don’t have to grab a book and place it on her head for balance practice. Practical things like good hygiene and flattering makeup techniques, and hair styles will help her tremendously. Teaching your daughter to find clothes that both make her feel confident and demonstrates she has self-respect.

8. Eat together as a family.

I can’t remember many meals that I didn’t share with my family. You may not get a lot of words out of her at breakfast (if your daughter is anything at all like me). But consistent, shared mealtimes can be a constant for your daughter providing daily opportunities to share what’s going on in and around her life.

9. Don’t treat your daughter like she’s still a little kid.

Grant her a certain measure of freedom. Let her take the car to the school event or to get coffee with friends. As much as you want (and need) to be a part of your daughter’s life, there’s also a time where she needs to be on her own. And that’s a good thing. You don’t want her living with you forever, do you? She needs some independence to prepare her for the quickly approaching, after-high-school years.

10. Provide stability and set expectations.

I know I just said to give your daughter freedom, but she also needs to know that someone is in charge. While she may gripe and complain about your rules, she can’t deny the sense of safety and protection that comes with knowing her godly, consistent parents are leading their family with integrity. Your daughter needs to know the boundaries. It is within those boundaries she will find greater freedom to live, grow, and mature.

11. Don’t pressure your daughter into thinking that middle/high school is the only high point of her life.

While we can look back on our school days and remember how nice it was to have fewer responsibilities, we know the other stages of life come with lots of joy and excitement, too. Yes, encourage your daughter to soak it all in, but don’t make “making the most of high school” an added stressor. She can enjoy this while also looking forward to other good things to come.

12. Help her as she plans her future.

If your daughter wants to go to college, help her think through her plans, then find and apply for scholarships. However, there’s no need to push college as the only option. She may have other goals or dreams that don’t require college, and that’s okay! The most important thing is that she follows a God-honoring path that complements the skills and abilities with which He has blessed her.

13. Let your daughter fight some battles.

 Don’t always clean up her messes (literally or metaphorically) nor fix her problems. You should always be there to love and guide her through difficulties. She should not face major problems on her own. But you can’t just jump in and take care of everything. She needs to be able to figure out things on her own.  If she never has to learn things or face consequences for her actions, she will be stuck in a rut facing the same problem repeatedly. She will wait for someone to fix it for her. Kids with helicopter parents are in for a huge, brutal awakening the first time they must do anything on their own. Don’t set your daughter up for that kind of failure.

For Adults

Suicide Survivor

By: Sarah Sargent

If you have ever attended a Shine event you know we don’t shy away from difficult topics. This month’s blog is no different. Before we get started take a couple deep breaths and try to lower your blood pressure as much as possible. For the next few minutes, we will be talking about a topic that is a parent’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, it is too often a parent’s reality. Childrenshospital.org reports that “according to 2019 statistics from the CDC, 8.9 percent of high school students surveyed attempted suicide and 18.8 percent of high school students ‘seriously considered’ attempting suicide.”

My friend, Ashley, is in her mid 20’s and recently graduated with her degree in childhood education. When she was in high school, she attempted to take her life. God intervened and made a miraculous change in her life. Now she is an advocate for mental health issues and warrior for Jesus Christ. For this blog I wanted to let you hear about this hard topic from her.

What have you learned from surviving a suicide attempt?

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It was such a dark place and I felt so alone. Immediately after, my family took me to church. I met people who loved me with no expectations. They loved me because God’s love lived in and poured out of them. Through them I learned God loved me.

What’s one thing you would tell a parent or a youth leader who believes they have a kid struggling with suicidal thoughts?

You have to do something!. The risk of losing them out ways any kind of broken relationship or anything like that. So certainly, pray about the right way to as,k but confront it immediately. Look for warning signs.

What are some of these warning signs?

  1. Changes to their sleep patterns.
  2. If they don’t like the things, they used to like to do.
  3. Nothing seems to bring them joy.
  4. They stop hanging out with their friends.
  5. Another big one is how they wear their clothes.

How do you think social media and all of that contributes to mental illness, depression and suicide?

It has a major impact! Adults need to be very careful what their kids are viewing. What content they are seeing? Not just social media, Tik Tok, or Instagram, but tv shows, movies, videos, etc. It puts those ideas in their heads. Things are almost amplified.

Also, people can just be mean. On social media people are worse. There are bullies everywhere hiding behind the screen and some of them are adults. That makes this very scary.

How can a parent really help a child press into God during their dark times?

It starts by living the example. Seeing your parents press into God during their dark times will teach you to do it as well. It also helps if you are vulnerable with them. Let them know you also struggle with things, but this is what God has done in your life.

You can share what Bible stories and verses have brought you encouragement during your rough times. Everyone struggles with deep sadness. It may not be on the same level as your teen, but show them this is okay and normal. Reassure your teen that you will do whatever is possible to help them. It starts with a conversation. Get them around people who will pray with and for them. Get them involved in activities where they can open up. Be around people who can help them on a mental health level as well as a spiritual levell.

If I had to guess you feel a bit overwhelmed and you desperately want more information. You want to get into to minds of your teens and you want resources to help. I want to end this blog with things to help you do both.

Discussion Questions

• What’s something you wish I knew about your mental health?

• How can you better help those who have mental health struggles? Do you know what to do if a friend tells you they’re considering self-harm or suicide?

• How do your friends talk about mental health issues? Do you have someone besides me that you can talk to if you’re struggling?

• How can I best help you press into God during your dark times?

Resources

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or 1-800-273-TALK
  • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) or 1-800-SUICIDE
  • Mentalhealthministries.net
  • Christianity Today’s “Top 10 Resources for Mental Health Ministry”
  • Axis.org
    • A parent’s guide to Suicide and Self Harm
    • A parent’s guide to Depression & Anxiety
    • Suicide Video Kit
For Adults, Uncategorized

Filling Our Spiritual Cup

By: Ana Batts

I opened the drawer that sits under my coffee maker.

Nothing. An empty drawer. The coffee pods were gone. My cup was empty.

Panic set in. How could I face my day with an empty cup?!? That quiet moment standing there contemplating the possibility of a $5 coffee run gave me a change to pause and reflect.

When it comes to spiritual things, how many days do I start with an empty cup? As a woman, mom, wife, mentor and friend I want pour into those around me. But when my cup is empty it is impossible to pour into those around me.

So how do we fill our spiritual cup?

1 Start where you are. Has it been a week since you lasted opened your Bible on a day that isn’t a Sunday? Or maybe a month? Or a year? Be honest with yourself about where you are and go from there. Don’t let the guilt of not being in the Word keep you from being in the Word.

2. Take time to reflect. Reading the Word is a powerful thing. However, taking the time to reflect on what it says and how it applies to your life is an important part that is often skipped. Copying down the scripture that we are studying is a great way to memorize it. Journaling what we are learning and how it applies in our lives is a great tool.

(My girls share about how they use writing in their personal Bible Study over here.)

3. Find someone to share with. Talking about spiritual things is a great way to pour into those around us. Making spiritual things part of our daily conversations also helps us hold one another accountable. Knowing that a friend will ask, “what have you been reading about in God’s Word lately?” can motivate us to build the consistent habit of being in the Word. Sharing spiritual struggles as well as personal discoveries of God’s Word can help us continue to fill our spiritual cup and to pour into those around us.

On the days when we feel spiritual empty, let us go do the One that always keeps His word.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8

For Adults

Equipping the Next Generation

By: Casey Pontious

We teach them to use utensils, cushion their falls when they’re learning to walk, help them as they develop social skills, practice driving before taking their license test, and help them prepare for adulthood. These are just a few of the things we, as parents and caretakers, do for our children. The list is quite honestly endless. We would never let their first bites of food be a jawbreaker nor would we get them behind the wheel of a car without making sure they know which pedal is gas and which is the brake. Every milestone moment for our children is surrounded by our instruction and influence. 

Why is it, though, that studying scripture is a facet we miss? Now, not every parent misses this. However, I would argue that the vast majority of church-going, faithful Christian parents feel they do an inadequate job of discipling their children by showing them how to study the word of God. The result of not doing so is staggering by the throngs of students who walk out on their faith after leaving home, post high school. Another result is a generation of biblical illiterate young adults who are still infants in their faith. I would argue that most parents, if not all, do NOT want that for our children. 

If you are a student of the Word, wonderful! Pass that gift on to your children. Teach them to not just read the Bible, but to dig in and study it, then to apply it to their lives. Start small – one verse or passage at a time. Walk through it with them. It will be a sweet time with you and your child(ren). 

I truly believe, though, that parents discipling their children does not happen because the parents themselves have never been discipled. They have never been taught how to study the word of God, so how can they possibly teach their children what they do not know themselves? We do not want to send our children into this world and society without equipping them for the spiritual battle they will face and are facing. Just like we want to equip our children for the everyday life of society and adulthood, it is imperative that we teach our children how to study and apply God’s Word. 

When our kids are learning to ride a bike, there are steps we show them. They typically start with training wheels to learn how to make the bike move. When the training wheels come off, parents will push them along, holding on to help them balance. Then, they let go and watch them put those things to practice as they peddle away. Learning to study God’s word is much the same. Let’s take a moment to look to scripture and see how we, as parents, are to guide and instruct our children. 

Deuteronomy 6:1-2, 6-9

1These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 

6These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

To apply these verses, we must realize the purpose of the Word, the practice of the Word, and the power of the Word. The purpose is so that you and the generations to come will both know and fear the Lord. The practice is literally as you go about your day. What are you doing right now? Turn it into a discipleship moment. This is you holding onto that bike as they learn to balance and peddle. What do you do when you first wake up or right before you lay your head down at night? How about all of the moments in between? Discipleship moment after discipleship moment. The power of the Word? Eternal impact for generations. Who doesn’t want that? Here, we let go of the bike and cheer them on as they make their faith their own. What a beautiful gift we can give our children!

One last thing – if you’ve never been discipled, don’t fret. It’s never too late to grow in your walk with Christ. Don’t let your pride and what other people may believe about you (even if you’re a leader in the church) stand in the way of a close relationship with God and discipling the generations to come. It’s never ever too late. 

For Adults

Be Encourages, Not Doubters

By: Callie Milling

As parents and youth workers, we often find ourselves surrounded by teens that we love. We cheer them on, pray for them, and encourage them. We’re their biggest fans, believing in them and supporting them as they take on life’s challenges. We want what’s best for them, but how do we respond when God asks them to do something hard? Do we question their abilities, doubting whether they are capable of doing hard things? Or do we stand in the gap, doing what we can to equip and help them be obedient to God’s call on their lives, even when it means they will have to face adversity and challenges?

I often hear adults talk about the younger generation negatively more than any other way. They say they’re too wrapped up in their phones, they don’t know how to have a conversation, and they’re disrespectful. This younger generation is often put down and doubted, not even given a chance to prove themselves and show what they’re capable of. I know I’ve been guilty of this before. There have been times I haven’t even given teens the chance to show what they’re capable of because I allow my doubt and prejudice take over. 

What I’ve learned, when I do give them the chance, is that teenagers are capable of so much–often so much more than we give them credit for. God knows that, too. He knows His children, and He has a special purpose for each teenager, believing in their ability to live up to the calling He has placed on their lives. He has created them each with gifts and talents to glorify Him. 

Because we love them, we often desire to see teens live an easy life, wanting comfort and safety for them. However, God calls them to so much more than a comfortable life. He calls them, and us, to live a life that honors Him. He requires obedience of them, even when it’s hard and when it brings on adversity and challenges. If we really love them, we should encourage them to pursue God and His will, and push them to be obedient to whatever God has called them to–even the hard things. 

When a teen feels called to be a missionary in a foreign country, it can be scary for those who love them. There’s so many unknowns about what a life of missions will look like. Will they be safe? Will I ever see them if they live across the world? These are valid questions, and they certainly have their place. We, as trusted adults in their life, should be more concerned about whether they’re being obedient to the Lord. To raise up adults who trust Him, and who have given their life to serve Him, what greater joy is there as a parent and youth worker? Whatever they’re called to, let’s be encouragers instead of doubters!

Just because they’re young, that doesn’t mean they’re incapable. However, many of them believe that their age is a hindrance. They feel as if they’re too young to make a difference or to live a life that honors God, that what they do now doesn’t really matter. However, we know that’s not true. So let’s be people that build up and encourage teens instead of tearing them down for what we think are their faults. Teenagers are capable of doing hard things. Sometimes, we just have to get out of their way and allow them to walk that road of obedience.

For Adults

Helping our Girls Find God’s Will for Their Lives

By: Diana Bryant

Even before our daughters were born, we all had dreams of what they would do with their lives. Of course, at that point, those dreams were based on what WE thought would be an excellent idea. They were our dreams, but it didn’t take long to discover our daughters had their own minds, with plans of their own. Today, our girls live in an exciting time, with the world literally at their fingertips. And as they grow and mature, we must remember it’s God’s plan for their lives we want them to find and follow.

How can we help them discern God’s will for their life?

  •  There is no substitute for routinely and intentionally praying for our girls. Pray for God to reveal His will to them and for them to be receptive to His plan. Let your daughter know you pray for her and pray with her.
  • Make sure your daughter knows you want God’s will for her. That may be something you have to settle in your heart because God’s will sometimes lead our children to faraway places or to places we would not have chosen. We need to be convinced God’s plan for their life is the absolute best place for them to be, no matter how that corresponds to our dreams for them.
  • Not only teach your girls to read, love, and obey God’s Word, make sure you are modeling that for them. Let them see you use wisdom found in Scripture to make decisions. You might even have an opportunity to share when you didn’t follow that plan and the consequences that followed.
  • Pay close attention to the personality traits, talents, and abilities your child displays. Do what you can to provide encouragement and growth in these areas. Search for lessons, opportunities to use their talents, or places of service to make the most of your child’s abilities. These may be the characteristics God uses to prepare them for their future.
  • Expose your daughters to opportunities, organizations, and activities that make use of their gifts and interests. Provide ways for them to grow in the areas in which they excel. At the same time, help them experience ways to serve others. God may lead them to do things He will use in their future.  

It’s exciting to watch our girls grow and mature. It’s rewarding to see them walk with the Lord, following wherever He leads. No matter what our dreams were initially, the truth of 3 John 1:4 is the absolute highest aspiration we can achieve: I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.  Walk every day with your daughters, keeping that goal in mind. Trust God for the results. He is faithful!

For Adults, For Girls

Intentional Relationships

By: Hannah Gorrell

This season of life has lasted much longer than any of us hoped or expected. We are endlessly separated from our friends and loved ones in one sense or another. Sometimes we only see our friends through screens or plexiglass. It feels like one of the loneliest times in history. We are challenged to find new ways to interact and form relationships. That may even be what led you to be reading this blog.

As human beings, we are made for relationships. God told Adam it was not good for him to be alone, so God made a companion. We should resist the temptation to take the easier route, shying away from relationships. My prayer is that we find new ways to be intentional in our friendships. Intentionality will enrich our love for those people even more. We may do this by writing letters to friends far away or making phone calls to our grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

I want to encourage you to set aside some time every day to do these things. Make it a time to express yourself but also a time to relax. The relationships you need to work on are not far away. Make sure to spend time with those in your household. Honor your father and mother and those who take care of you. Remember, your siblings are your companions for life.

Commit to reaching out to a different friend or loved one every day this week. You will be surprised when you not only lift their spirits, but they also raise yours.

For Adults, Uncategorized

A Love Affair of the Greatest Kind

By: Becky Gwartney

In the most recent blog, Becky Gwartney asks a simple question, “How is your love relationship with God?”

When my husband and I were dating, we couldn’t find enough time to be together. We lived in different states for a couple of months before our wedding, and I waited by the phone to answer his call each night. I longed to hear his voice, to hear the events of his day, and to hear of his love for me. No matter the time it took from my schedule or the cost (back when long-distance was a big deal financially), it was worth it to take the time to share my life and dreams with him.  Love does that to you! 

When you love someone, you want to spend time with them, get to know them, and value those moments together. The same is true in our relationship with God. Getting to know Him is vital, spending time with Him is crucial, and moments together should be treasured. We all know this in our hearts because something is missing when HE isn’t included in our lives.

So, during this month of love, let’s examine ourselves. How is your love relationship with God? Do you arrange your schedule each day to make sure you spend quality time with Him? Do you prioritize the things of God over the things of the world? Are you passionate about knowing Him and making Him known?

Maybe some of you are experiencing a crisis of the heart. Perhaps you’re too busy, overworked, or unable to unplug from an electronic society. How do you get out of a spiritual funk? Here are a couple of “no brainers”:

BE IN THE WORD!

God’s Word is not junk mail that is delivered to our mailbox or inbox.  It’s a message that is vital for our existence and God’s purpose for our lives. Second Timothy 3:17 tells us that, through the Word, we are put together and shaped for the tasks God has for us.  We may have been handed down the greatest of legacies, be shaped for God’s purpose, and be willing to serve, but if we lack His Word in our hearts, we aren’t “all in” with Him.

Whatever it takes for you to get into His Word and be intimate with Him, do it. The word intimacy means “into me see”.  I love that! God looks at us and knows us, but we can look at Him and know Him too! What a beautiful gift we’ve been offered, but to create that intimacy with God and become passionate about Him, we must see into Him and His heart through His Word.  Another way we can do that is through…

PRAYER

Psalm 55:17 says, “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice.”  You can’t be intimate with someone you don’t talk to. But, how do we pray so that we connect intimately with our Heavenly Father? It’s a two-way street—we talk, and we listen. We may be really good about the talking aspect, taking our “list of things to do” to God, but do we listen to His voice speaking to us? He wants a deeper relationship with you. He wants you to hear His heart and His thoughts. He wants you to reveal your deepest desires. And, if we set aside the time to be quiet enough (even quieting our thoughts), He will speak—through His Spirit, through the Bible, through friends, through circumstances, or through a gentle “knowing” that settles in our hearts.

These simple truths are nothing new and probably nothing new to you. Simple truths, simple steps, simple measures to take, but, oh, what benefits we reap when we do them! A love affair of the greatest kind is yours for the taking. Are you ready and willing to do your part?

For Adults

Fighting Your Battles

by Melinda Walker

There are many issues we face as an adult and as a parent. Sometimes they come all at once, and we don’t know how to handle them, making us vulnerable. Given the task of separating our battles into two categories, major and minor, could you? How would you determine if they were major or minor?

Being an adult is not always the easiest. My 24-year-old daughter has a “big girl job” and lives in a different state but will tell you she does not enjoy adulting. It’s hard! It doesn’t get any easier as you get older. Jobs, family, church, school, technology, health issues, anything can affect us negatively at some point. We often feel we are in a constant battle. Do you ever wonder if some of these battles are even worth it? Do we need to be in this battle?

There are times that we don’t back down from a battle because we let pride get in the way. We rush into a decision instead of thinking it through and then make the wrong decision. Did we want to prove a point or make a statement? Proverbs 16:18 (NLT) says, “Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.” 

Over the years, I have learned from some wise men and women to pick my battles. At my workplace, I have to decide which problems to battle and which ones to let go and let God handle. For example, at times, I receive emails that upset me. After reading them, I would like to fire back in a “nasty-gram.” But I have learned to push away from the computer, walk around for a bit, and pray; then I can think about the email. Maybe I can get more information regarding the reason for the email. I usually realize my “nasty-gram” wouldn’t help the situation and would probably make it worse. I have also learned that sometimes the person on the other end doesn’t always have all the facts. They are speaking from what they know or have heard. They might need to be educated on the subject or hear another side of the story, or they are having a bad day and fighting battles of their own. The fact is, God needs to be involved in all of your battles, large or small.

Whatever battle you are facing, major or minor, the only real way to handle any battle is to involve God in all of them. Some battles require immediate action, knowing God is there to help you fight, some you may be able to push aside for a while and fight another day. Others you can just give to God and walk away, knowing He is in control and will take care of the whole situation.

We have come through a year of fighting many battles, some more than others. Know that in 2021, God is with you through each one, major or minor. He promises to see you through. “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT).

Through this New Year, I pray that you allow God to help you through all of your battles and relieve any stress or anxiety that comes with the fight. He is there for you and wants to fight your battles if you let Him.