Labels

by Deborah Maxey

As a psychotherapist, I found every client presented with one common issue. They mislabeled themselves. And believed it. They might tell me they were “losers,” only to find they may have created a profitable business or raised successful children.  Many could tell me they hated being around people because they were “ugly, too fat, too thin, too tall, too short.” And I was looking at an attractive person.

Their thoughts had become labels they believed. Where did the labels come from? Together we worked to locate the sources. Those around them saw them that way first. But once they believed it was true, the negative label became their own. It was embedded in their core. Their heart.

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7 (KJV)

Our brains are wired to accept the negative far faster than the positive. Negative is like a heavy ball rolling downhill. Positive is like pushing a heavy ball uphill. We argue against compliments inwardly, “This old thing? Yeah, well I have gained ten pounds since you saw me. Or, “Yes, but that isn’t as good as yours.” We accept the negative quickly. “I agree, I could have done better. I loused this up. I do look sick, tired, older….”

Negativity defeats self-love.

Paul wrote: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13: 9 KJV). If we don’t love ourselves, we can’t love our neighbor. We believe that everyone we meet is judging us harshly by the same criteria with which we judge ourselves.

So how do we overcome that? We can start with prayer, asking the Lord to show us what prevents us from accepting and loving ourselves. Then write down our negative labels. Who taught us to see ourselves that way? Finally, we dispute every one of them with facts that disprove them. One at a time. No giving it a quick once over here. Pray to be shown.

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15, KJV).

Jesus knew that many labels were assigned to him by people who had watched him heal the sick, raise the dead, or feed thousands with a child’s lunch. Yet, they had difficulty saying who He was: The Messiah, The Son of God. Their thoughts about Him, despite evidence, prevented them from accepting Him and allowing it to change their hearts.

Who do we say that He is?  Is He the Lord of our hearts that can help us exorcise the negative labels that keep us from seeing ourselves as His exquisite creation?  He is. He performs much bigger miracles than that! 

We can pray to let go of the labels that other humans have given us. We can begin to acknowledge and accept the truths of how God labeled us in His Word: “For I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14 KJV). We can listen for how we speak or think about ourselves and know that we are not praising God when we annihilate our positives and rehearse negative thoughts that become reality in our heart.

We have a Helper. He’s on standby. Just waiting for us to call Him in. We are not alone in this battlefield of the mind.

This article was brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author:  Deborah McCormick Maxey Ph.D. “Re-tired” from her psychotherapy practice to be “Re-purposed,” writing Christian devotions, articles, and fiction. She features personal miracles monthly at deborahmaxey.com.

The Endling: A Novel by [Deborah Maxey]

Deborah’s debut novel, The Endling, released this year. Native American Emerson Coffee is the last surviving member of her tribe. When US Marshals inform her she’s being hunted by a mob hit man, Emerson declines their offer of witness protection. But when three innocent children become caught in the crosshairs, Emerson must decide if she will risk it all—her mountains, her heritage . . . even her life—to secure their safety. 

Join the conversation: With what labels do you struggle?

Deborah McCormick Maxey Ph.D. “Re-tired” from her psychotherapy practice to be “Re-purposed,” writing Christian devotions, articles, and fiction. Her debut book, The Endling: A Novel is available at Christian Books, Amazon, and Barnes and Nobel. She features personal miracles monthly at https://deborahmaxey.com/

Praying with Confidence

by Jennifer Slattery

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

We pray differently when we recognize God as our Father. Not in a figurative, authority figure sense or as a harsh rule enforcer, but as the attentive, dare I even say doting, all-powerful Dad that He is. When we fail to understand those truths, we approach God hesitantly. Apologetically. We say things like, “I know others are dealing with so much worse, but could You please …” Or, “I hate to bother You with this, Lord …”

My daughter doesn’t approach my husband and I with such disclaimers. I have, however, witnessed this hesitation in youth our family has taken in over the years. Kids who come from rough places and developed a distorted view of love and themselves. They struggled to recognize, understand, and fully accept their worth. As a result, if they sought my help, or my ear, at all, they did so timidly, entering my office with eyes downcast, as if their very presence irritated me.

The opposite is true. When they approached me with confidence, with honest and unfiltered requests, I didn’t find them rude or bothersome. I was filled with joy because their actions revealed trust—of me and my love. I knew they’d begun to see themselves less as a houseguest and more like a beloved child.

If you’re a parent, you probably understand what I mean. Maybe you’re smiling at a memory of your son or daughter running into your bedroom, begging for a pony or something else you had no intention of granting. Or asking for protection from monsters you knew don’t exist. I doubt their pleas irritated you. You expected them to ask for the big things and the small, the things you loved to grant and those you lovingly withheld. That was your role—to decide what requests to fulfill or deny—just as theirs was to ask.

Jesus offered us, His beloved, this same invitation when He said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7, NIV). He then shared an analogy intended to deepen our understanding of our Heavenly Father at His core and who we are to Him.

 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” Jesus said. “Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-10, NIV).

If we interpret Christ’s words as a promise to grant all of our desires, we’ll be disappointed and subsequently disillusioned. If we receive His statement as the caring invitation it was, however, our confidence in Him and His love grows—regardless of His response.

His heart is for us always, and He longs to grant us not just good things, but full access to Himself. That doesn’t mean He wants us to embrace a flippant and entitled attitude. That’s not relationship; that’s not love. But He does want us to come. To come often, to come easily, and to come with the boldness of someone who knows they are indeed wholly, eternally, and oh, so deeply loved.

Pause to consider your common approach to prayer. Do you proceed to God’s throne with the confidence of a child of God and heir of grace (Hebrews 4:16) or with the timidity of a tenant? What might God need to do within your heart to help you approach Him as His beloved

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Jennifer Slattery

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites.

Faith Over Fear (podcast) - Jennifer Slattery, Jodie Bailey and Shellie  Arnold | Listen Notes

Join Jennifer and her Wholly Loved Ministry team for an online mother-daughter conference for moms of teen through adult daughters. The mother-daughter relationship can be one of the most precious connections we experience, but they can also be a source of conflict and pain. Wholly Loved Ministries wants to help moms and daughters love one another well and experience the deep connections their hearts crave. Through personal anecdotes, biblical truths, and thought-provoking discussion questions, this event equips moms and daughters to cultivate the depth of relationship God Himself wants them to experience. In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.

Join the conversation: What might God need to do within your heart to help you approach Him as His beloved?

A Good Father

by Candy Arrington

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. Psalm 16:6 ESV

Recently, a cousin and I had a conversation about the blessing of growing up with good fathers. As adults and having interacted with many types of people with very different father experiences, we are reminded afresh what a gift it is to have had godly fathers.

Father’s Day is bittersweet for me. My father died thirty years ago this year. I loved him, and I miss him, but in many ways, he is still with me. I can hear his soft southern drawl, see his lopsided grin, and envision his strong hands. Daddy is with me most in the lessons he taught me about life and faith.

My father was a builder, and I often walked job sites with him. One of the first life lessons I learned is things are not always as they seem. During the “stake off” portion of building, the footprint of a house often appears smaller than its true size. The wooden stakes and ditches dug before constructing the foundation are somewhat deceptive in conveying the actual size of the house. Likewise, our view is sometimes skewed regarding people or opportunities. Only with wisdom, experience, and God-perception can we learn to see beyond appearances.

A second lesson I learned from my father was the importance of a level, firm foundation. Builders who don’t take time to do the necessary site work, wait for the dirt to settle, and pause to measure to ensure a level, plumb, straight foundation run into problems later in the building process. My father likened this  to building a sturdy faith foundation through prayer, Bible study, and spiritual growth.

A third lesson my father taught me comes straight from Scripture, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10 ESV). I witnessed my father “do good” to the men who worked for him. I especially remember one hot summer day when he came home and took clothes and shoes from his closet and drawers and asked my mother what cooking items she could part with. When I asked Daddy what he was doing, he said, “The house of one of my men burned last night and he needs help.” Doubtless, that help also included financial assistance.

Following my father’s death, I heard many stories of ways he had helped others in need. His giving was practical, without fanfare, and service-oriented, like voluntarily re-screening a widow’s porch, or maintaining rental properties in town for missionary families overseas. Daddy’s heart for service taught me to notice needs and give graciously according to the ways God has blessed me.

Perhaps you do not have pleasant memories of your father or know him at all. If that is your experience, look to your Heavenly Father as your example for love, grace, forgiveness, and relationship.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals on faith, personal growth, and moving through and beyond difficult life circumstances. Her books include: Life On Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books),  When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H Publishing Group). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back. Candy’s new book, Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Well, provides insights on learning from and growing through a time of waiting.

Join the conversation: What lessons for life did your father teach you?

On Earth and in Heaven—Hurray for Fatherhood

by Patti Richter

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. –Ephesians 6:4 ESV

My husband has been known to pull out a thick leather belt to warn misbehaving grandchildren. The kids, with wide eyes and open mouths, freeze in place for a few seconds before breaking into relieved smiles. They realize their Grandpa is all bark and no bite.

Jim is not the sentimental father and grandfather of greeting card commercials. Nor has he ever been the crude, clueless, or cowardly man portrayed in too many sit-coms and greeting cards. My husband and I were both raised with a firmer hand than our culture now approves. And our children—back in their young days—occasionally felt the sting of their father’s physical discipline. That firm approach instilled a healthy respect for authority.

Hooray for traditional fathers.

Today’s dad is typically more involved with his children, beginning with changing diapers—a task men rarely expected in the days of cloth diapers and pins. The current breed of fathers might prepare a meal with their kids or drive them to school and soccer practice. They navigate territories once mostly exclusive to moms. But when it comes to child discipline, modern fathers have a less hands-on approach. The average dad tends to show more mercy to his little ones: a time-out instead of a wooden paddle.

Hooray for contemporary fathers.

Even the best of fathers, like mothers, can flourish in one area of parenting but flounder in another. However, as men, they bring a unique quality to childrearing since, in general, they are stronger and more courageous than women. It’s more likely to be Dad rather than Mom who moves the washing machine to look for the snake that raced into the laundry room (personal experience here).   

Fathers offer their children a male perspective that balances a woman’s different way of seeing and reacting to circumstances. Yet masculinity has taken hits in the past decades. It’s not enough to satisfy the more progressive among us if Dad merely fills in for Mom when needed; the social order now expects that parenting roles should be equal and interchangeable.

Fathers bear the title and, by nature, the characteristics of our Father in Heaven—provider and protector. So many of the ills in our world are connected to the absence of fathers in the home. The importance of their role is sadly illustrated by the lament of prison chaplains: inmates annually request Mother’s Day cards to send but show little need for Father’s Day cards.

Though earthly fathers sometimes fail their children, our heavenly Father offers love, discipline, and mercy to those who by Christ “receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:5 ESV). Both the fatherless and the less fathered of this world will share alike in our Father’s glorious inheritance.

Hooray for the Perfect Father.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. 1 John 3:1 ESV


This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.

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Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: What do you appreciate about your father?

An Opportunity for Joy

by Denise Wilson

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  James 1:2 NLT

This verse in James is familiar, but when I read it in the New Living Translation, it struck me in a way that it never had before. The word opportunity jumped off the page. The troubles that come into our lives are an opportunity for joy. Not just any kind of joy, but “great joy”.

I knew a missionary who seemed to find joy in everything. On one occasion his car broke down, and his response was, “Thank you, Lord, for this good trouble.”

The chance of having trials in this life is 100 percent. James says not “if” but “when” trials come our way. The question is, what attitude will I have when I go through them?

Trials are uncomfortable and often painful, yet when I realize our sovereign God is in control, I have an opportunity for great joy. I am not just speaking theoretically. I have experienced the joy of the Lord during the deepest trials of my life.

While pregnant with our first child, I went into premature labor. We prayed that our child would survive. We also prayed, “Thy will be done.” In God’s sovereign plan our son Samuel was born and moments later died in my husband’s arms. What a trial, and what deep grief; yet mingled with that grief was joy.

It sounds impossible to experience joy in such circumstances, but it is possible. God cannot lie, and if he tells us that troubles are an opportunity for great joy, then it must be true.

Our faith was tested further when I became pregnant with our second child Hannah Faith, who was stillborn. Despite great pain and sorrow, I experienced peace and joy. God’s promises are true.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).

I had read these verses so many times before, but during those trials I lived them.

While God ultimately blessed us with two more children, not all stories have happy endings. Regardless of the outcome, God is in control and God is good.

Sorrow is a natural and normal human response to a painful situation. Even Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. The author of Hebrews tells us how Jesus responded to the greatest trial of his life. “…Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame” (Hebrews 12:2 NLT). Jesus is our example. We are to fix our eyes on him.

I wish I could say that I experience joy in all circumstances. I don’t. Strangely, I often find it easier to trust God in the big areas of my life. It’s the small things that trip me up.

We must remember that God uses trials to help us grow (James 1:3-4).

Be encouraged friends, God truly does work all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).

We may never understand why we have to go through the things we do, but we do know this: God is in control, and he loves us. When we trust him, he promises peace and joy. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NIV).

My prayer for me, and for you, is that the next trial that comes along, we will be able to say, “Thank you, Lord, for this good trouble.”

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Denise Wilson lives in small-town Ontario with her husband, two teenage sons, and a whole bunch of chickens. She is passionate about sharing the gospel and is the author of Seven Words You Never Want to Hear

                                                                                             

I Choose Peace

by Joan Benson

Have you noticed how life can run on parallel tracks? I recently saw a photo of a beautiful blooming redbud tree covered in the purest white of a heavy snowfall. What an analogy to life. Imagine bursting forth in your best show of blooms, to find yourself shivering under a pile of freezing fluff.

In our daily humanity, we may recognize layers of goodness while being struck with a serious loss or disabling event. Laying in a hospital bed, recovering from a painful surgery, I heard a sweet voice singing along with a praise song playing on my cell phone. I was miserable and half-asleep, but the sweet voice sounded like an angel. That nurse’s kindness and love deeply touched my heart. I chose to feel God’s presence and peace.

When my dog experienced multiple health crises during our short out-of-state vacation, a kind veterinarian spent thirty minutes reading the health reports and deciding on a course of treatment. We were to leave for home the next morning. When we checked out, he had not charged me for anything except the medication. I felt tears well up in my eyes. It was not the money saved, though that was a blessing. It was his compassion. I knew God was pouring His grace out on us.

People who are most successful in navigating pain, loss, and devastation don’t jump up and down to embrace their dark trial. They will say with honesty, “It was hard.” But somewhere along the way, they are able to pass from grief to gratefulness when they recognize God’s provision along the journey.

Yes, it may be a freezing jolt to our once-comfortable life, but in recognizing God’s mercy and grace, we find hope for the sorrows.

God’s peace is promised to us in Philippians 4:6-9. However, with that promise comes an expectation. We are told to not be anxious. How does that work, you may ask? “I just lost ____, and I’m not supposed to feel the sad?” Your spouse left you after years of marriage. A family member died suddenly without any advance warning. You or a loved one receives a diagnosis of a fatal illness without a remedy. Your child breaks off relationship. The list of possible tragedies goes on and on.

However, as believers, God asks us to pray through those challenges, to tell him what’s on our heart, praying/petitioning with thanksgiving. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV). We can choose His peace.

What a relief it is to let go of the spirit of heaviness and release it to the One who loves us most. God is a Father of compassion who comforts us in all our troubles. We know in Heaven there will be no more sorrow, no more tears. Everlasting joy!

“Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

His Gift by [Joan C. Benson]

About the author: Joan Benson is a freelance writer, a former (K-8) classroom teacher and reading specialist, and a wife and mother of four adult children and eight cherished grandchildren. Joan has produced devotional materials for CBN.com and written numerous magazine articles. She developed Sunday School curriculum for over twelve years for LifeWay. Joan’s historical fiction novel, His Gift, was released in July 2020. Joan and her husband, Jan, live in Chesapeake, VA, with their two Bichon Frisé pets.

Join the conversation: Have you been able to choose peace in a challenging circumstance?

Everyone Knows

by Crystal Bowman

Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Psalm 34:14 NIV

Several years ago I sat next to a young woman on an airplane who started up a conversation with me as soon as I took my seat. “Flying makes me nervous, so I like to talk to someone because it makes the time go faster.” 

I smiled at her and said, “Honey, you are sitting next to the right person—I love to talk!”

As we ascended into the clear blue sky, she began telling me her life’s story. When she was four years old, she and her family crawled through a tunnel from Mexico to the U.S., eventually finding their way to Chicago, where they settled. She shared that her father was an alcoholic and  she rarely saw him sober. He beat her every day, and her mother did nothing to protect her. She was never allowed to wear dresses to school because her mother didn’t want the teachers to see her bruises. Even in the hot, humid Chicago summers, she wore long sleeved shirts and pants.

She continued her story and told me that she left home as a teen and moved in with her boyfriend’s family. I asked her if it was a safer environment, and she told me that it was safer physically, but his mother was verbally abusive. She and her boyfriend married at the age of 19, and her husband worked as a landscaper, eventually building a successful business. With great pride, she told me they had three children, and she loved volunteering at school and being a teacher’s helper. It was obvious to me that she loved her children. She told me that she showered them with the affection she craved as a child.

I then asked her the questions that were begging to be answered. How do you know how to be a good mother when you didn’t have any role models? How can you raise your kids in a healthy environment when you were physically abused, and your husband was verbally abused

Her reply was confident and profound. “Everyone knows what’s right and wrong. You just choose to do one or the other.”

Wow! Such wisdom from a young woman.

The Apostle Paul preached the Gospel to both Jews and Gentiles. The Jews followed the 10 Commandments, also known as the Law. In Romans 2, he explains that the Gentiles, who do not have the Jewish law, know right from wrong because God created humans with a sense of right and wrong. In verse 15 (NIV) he writes,  “They [Gentiles]show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”

Since we are born with a sinful human nature, we don’t always choose to do what is right. It is impossible for us to live perfect lives. But when we choose to do what we know is wrong, our conscience convicts us.

Jesus came to bear our penalty for all those wrong choices we make. Through his death and resurrection, we can be fully forgiven and cleansed of sin. Even after we accept Jesus as our Savior, we continue in sin because of our human nature. But God is a God of mercy and forgiveness and wipes the slate clean as we confess our sins.

I had another question that I wanted to ask my passenger friend. “Are you a Christian?”

“Oh, yes!” she replied. “Being a Christian has allowed me to forgive my parents for my abusive childhood. I still see them often, and every year I help my mom put up her Christmas tree.”

As we landed, I told her that I would never forget her or our conversation. I told her how blessed I was to sit next to her, and how someday I would be sharing her story in one of my articles or books. That day is today. I trust her story inspires you as much as it has inspired me. May we all ask God to help us make the right choices in our lives. We know right from wrong—it’s written on our hearts.  


This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books including, Our Daily Bread for Kids.She and her husband have three married children and seven huggable grandchildren.

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When a child’s grandparent or great-grandparent is afflicted with dementia, it’s difficult to explain the disease in a way that helps the child understand why the person they love is not the same. I Love You to the Stars–When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembersis a picture book inspired by a true story to help young children understand that even though Grandma is acting differently, she still loves them–to the stars!

Join the conversation: Is there a conversation you have had that you will never forget?

Take the First Step

by Paula Jauch

O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these is the life of my spirit; O restore me to health and let me live! Lo, for my own welfare I had great bitterness; it is You who has kept my soul from the pit of nothingness, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back. Isaiah 38:16-17 NASB

I truly believe in my heart that we all deserve to find freedom, healing and recovery in this life, but I’ve also learned that not everyone is willing to do the hard work. I don’t want you to think I have all the answers, but what I do know through my own experience of suffering and healing is that God was able to do for me what I was not capable of figuring out for myself.  

Let me explain what I mean by that… For many years I was struggling with so many issues from self-hate, an eating disorder, drinking alcohol, relationships, and financial problems all while going to church. I tried so many things to change or get free—even to the point of going to the altar every Sunday to get prayed over.

What was wrong with me? Why was God not healing me? It didn’t matter how many times I went to church or what I learned in Scripture; I still kept struggling. I was exhausted from wearing a mask and pretending I was okay.

What I eventually learned, as simple as it sounds, was that I had a lot of wounds from growing up with addiction and abuse that needed to be healed. It was going to take a lot more than getting prayed over.

I needed help. I found a trauma therapist, went to recovery programs, and spent time with God. God also brought safe people into my life to love me where I was at in my journey and support me through the healing process.

I needed to surrender all the hurt that I was hiding inside of me and give it to God who was patiently waiting for me to trust him…

I had to learn how to trust God, because with all the people who hurt me in my life, it was hard to believe that God even cared, or that He had a plan for my life.

I had to learn to feel my feelings, even the feelings of anger, and start trusting God with those feelings. It’s about knowing we are not alone anymore, and that we don’t have to walk this journey by ourselves.

I want to encourage you in your faith, to know that you will be able to trust God enough to surrender every area of your life to Him. Please remember it is a process and change won’t happen overnight.

“For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). When I learned this Scripture, it gave me so much hope. For the first time in my life, someone was telling me that God didn’t want to hurt me.

This article is brought to you by the Advances Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Paula Jauch is a speaker, Selah Award finalist, AWSA Golden Scroll award-winning author, and podcaster. She is the Founder of the non-profit organization, Paula Jauch International. Her organization supports those who have been affected by trauma and addiction. She speaks from a place of brokenness and healing. Her book, Cross Addicted: Breaking Free from Family Trauma and Addiction offers a hopeful path to recovery for those who are hurting and traumatized. Her other projects include Letting Go of Family Trauma and Addiction devotions on the YouVersion Bible App, and “Exposing Family Secrets,” a chapter in She Writes for Him: Stories of Living Hope. To learn more, follow her on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter @paulajauch and at www.paulajauch.com.

Join the conversation: What are you struggling with today?

As Numerous as the Stars

by Cherrilynn Bisbano

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  John 1:4 NASB

While living in Honduras to help a missionary doctor, the town lost power. We prepared for many nights of darkness.

I looked to the heavens, holding my flashlight. as I walked the dusty street to Bible study. The stars pierced the sky and I was reminded of God’s covenant with Abraham. “Your descendants will be as numerous as the stars.”

I prayed, “Lord, use me to add to those descendants while I’m here in Honduras.”

As we studied John chapter eight by candlelight, we took turns reading verses. I loved hearing Scripture read in Spanish. Some ladies learning English read their verse in English with some help from me. What joy to share in God’s Word in any language, especially by candlelight. A few ladies did not know the Lord, but came because it was something to do in the quiet little mountain village. They just listened.

My turn came and I read John 8:12 from my ESV Bible. “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

As I declared the second “light,” all the lights suddenly came on. We looked at each other shocked, smiled, then jumped and cried “Gloria a Dios.”

We cried happy tears at God’s faithfulness and clear sign He was with us.

Rosa remained sitting, her mouth wider than her eyes. I had been told Rosa lived a life of gossiping, sexual immorality, and bitterness. She looked at me and said, “We never get power that quickly. I want your Jesus.”

That night, Rosa accepted Jesus’ free gift of eternal life and went home to tell her family. She had been rescued from the domain of darkness to the Kingdom of Light (Colossians 1: 13).

Rosa reconciled with her husband, and the family attends church and Bible study on a regular basis.

A few months later, I said my goodbyes with tear filled eyes, knowing, God continues to fulfill his promise to Abraham by shedding the light of the Gospel in the darkest hearts and tiniest places.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Cherrilynn Bisbano is an award-winning writer and speaker. As a certified Christian Life Coach Minister, and Ordained Minister, she aims to share the love of Christ wherever God leads. Cherrilynn is a speaker with Women Speakers. She contributes to the Blue Ridge Writers blog, is published in four compilations books, and her book Shine Don’t Whine released in 2020. Cherrilynn served in the military for twenty years, earning the John Levitow Military leadership award. She lives with her 19-year-old son Michael, Jr., and her husband of 22 years, Michael. She fondly calls them her M&M’s.

Join the conversation: Has God ever given you a sign that He is with you?

Where’s Our Focus?

by Sherri Wynn

It’s hard to top all the lessons four-year-olds can teach adults. My grandson, Corbin, is a perfect example. His world revolves around his Matchbox cars. Hours of play time always include providing for his cars: building them roads, parking garages, drive-up windows, and of course, car washes. Lincoln Logs are his favorite building material, but he happily uses anything available to create intersections, entrance/exit ramps, and yes, more parking lots. That’s his focus.

One day, when his mom sat on the floor to play cars with him, she tried to add on to one of his overhead bridges. He smiled and told her what she was doing wouldn’t work. She smiled back, assured him it would, and a few steps later realized he was right.

I’ve often thought God intentionally uses children to teach us lessons because as adults, we can be a little too full of ourselves. We’re in charge, right? So why does God send us messages in Scripture telling us we need to be more like children?

In the book of Matthew, Jesus’ disciples asked him which of them was most important in God’s kingdom. As always, Jesus had the perfect answer. He pulled a small child from the crowd surrounding them and said, “Unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3 NASB).

I can imagine the shock on those disciples’ faces. “Hey, Jesus” they might have said. “We’re the chosen twelve, remember? You picked us to live and work with you. That’s just a child there, who has no idea what you’re teaching or how holy you are.” Of course, Jesus remembered exactly who was who that day. Most importantly, Jesus was again the patient teacher showing his disciples that what they were doing wouldn’t work, that a child understood humility better than any of them.

A child may not have adult-level knowledge, but that little one knows love when he or she sees it and responds accordingly. Maybe that’s why Jesus went on to say, “So whoever will humble himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4 NASB).

I don’t know about you, but I fall into this trap way too often, the trap of thinking I’m so good I ought to be in front of the line for things. In God’s eyes, of course, I really am that special, because Jesus came to earth for the sole purpose of reconciling each one of us with God by removing our sin. God is holy, and we can’t come close to him without Jesus first switching our sins over to him so he can blanket us with his own holiness and forgiveness.

Being special enough to give your life for is a different kind of special. It doesn’t make me superior—far from it. It makes me grateful and humble and crazy in love with a God who would do all that for me. Jesus himself modeled humility for us: “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8 NIV); and “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29 NIV). If Jesus values humility, so should I. I need to keep my focus on Jesus rather than myself.

Jesus freely and humbly gives us the incomparable riches of his grace and mercy. And He often uses four-year-olds to smile and patiently explain that what we adults are doing won’t work.  

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 NASB

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

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About the author: Dr. Sherri Wynn is the founder and president of the International Christian Education Foundation, a nonprofit that provides custom curriculum to organizations and individuals. Her educational books can be found on Amazon. She also contributed two guest chapters to Not Just an Elder’s Wife through e2Ministries Inc. She is speaking at their summer conference in July.

Join the conversation: Have you ever learned from a child?