God Save America

by Sheri Schofield

Yesterday I had to have one of my paintings scanned at a local print shop. It was a picture of Jesus on the cross. When the young man doing the work accidentally sent the jpeg to a wrong email address. I said, “I wonder what that person will do when they get this picture?”

The man smiled and said, “Maybe they will find Jesus.”

I asked if he was a Christian. He was not, but he believed Jesus was a great teacher, and he approved of Jesus’ teachings. I said, “Did you know that Jesus claimed to be God?”

He blinked. Clearly, he had never heard that. I told him this was the rationale the Jews gave for crucifying Jesus, though they were clearly doing it out of jealousy. He agreed with the jealousy. I could see he was perplexed. I had given him something to think about. I will see him again, after he has thought about this for a while. There will be a follow-up conversation, for I feel he will give this some thought. Maybe those few words will open the door to his heart next time we speak. In the meantime, I will be praying for him.

Our world is lost. At the founding of America, George Washington was chosen to be the first President of the United States. In his inaugural address, he pointed out a truth: “…the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained…”* 

As I listen to the news and the immoral agenda being pressed upon our nation, I am grieved. This is not the nation our founders had in mind when they dedicated their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to fighting for independence. Confusion and sin is rampant. Witchcraft and New Age religions are increasingly predominant in our culture. A large portion of our people have turned their backs on God, and many Christians are hesitant to speak out about the salvation found only in Jesus, for fear of ridicule and rejection.

Can God’s smiles be expected? Can God bless America as we have become? No. But the great fact remains: God can still save America, if we, his people, called by his name, will come together again and pray, seek his face, call on his name, and reach out to the lost people around us with God’s truth. Mankind is born into sin, slaves to Satan, and can only be rescued by crying out to Jesus for help. The lost people around us will not turn to Jesus unless we pray for them then speak up about the salvation he offers.

The fate of America and the world in which we live depends upon our prayers, our sharing Jesus with others, and the Holy Spirit’s power. We are drawing closer every day to Christ’s return. The only question I have is this: Will there be one final harvest of souls in America and around this world before God calls an end to time? My lifework is dedicated toward that end.

A question has been passed down in recent times: If it were illegal to be a Christian, and you were arrested for being one, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

If that ever happens, I want the evidence of my faith to be overwhelming to those around me! Let there be witnesses wherever I have walked. I do not care about the personal cost. I have taken up my cross. I’m going all out for this.

God save America!

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 NIV

*From National Archives and Records Administration, Washington’s Inaugural Address of 1789.

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

sheri schofield

About the author: Award-winning author, illustrator, and Bible teacher Sheri Schofield ministers to children and their families through her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids. After serving Jesus through children’s ministries and personal evangelism for many years, she understands how to communicate God’s plan of salvation clearly to those who are seeking God.

Her first book on salvation, “The Prince and the Plan”, was designed specifically for children. But during COVID, Sheri sensed the need to also provide help for adults. Her new book for adults, “God? Where Are You?,” tells tells who God is, how we became separated from him, and what he is doing to bring us back to himself through Jesus. At the end of each chapter is a section called “Food For Thought”, which answers questions many unbelievers have, such as—If God is good, why do terrible things happen?—Is anyone too “bad” for God to want to rescue them from sin? This biblically based book is short and easy to read. 

Join the conversation: Has God given you an opportunity to share Jesus with someone lately?

People Are More Important than Projects

by Denise Wilson

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 NASB

Busyness is often worn like a badge of honor. To rush around in a million directions is somehow perceived to be a good thing.

I do my share of rushing around, yet I often stop and remind myself that people are more important than projects. If we’re not careful, we can spend our lives rushing from one project to the next while missing out on people and relationships along the way.

My husband Brad would be the first to admit that this is an area he could work on. He is so task-oriented that he finds it helpful to make a to-do list that looks something like this:

  • mow lawn
  • hang hooks in bathroom
  • play with boys

If hanging out with the boys isn’t on his list, the other tasks take over.

When the pressure is on to complete a task what gets neglected? People.

Regardless of how busy a day is, I always want to be sure that I reach out to someone.

When I think of prioritizing people, the story of Mary and Martha comes to mind. Mary sat at Jesus’s feet, while Martha was rushing around preparing the meal.

But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:40–42 NKJV).

Poor Martha was trying to take care of the company that came to her home for a meal. One of the guests was Jesus, no less. If I were Martha, I would want to pull out all the stops too. I hope I would also want to sit at Jesus’s feet. What a dilemma. I have pondered this a fair amount recently and concluded that while Jesus and the others needed to eat, the correct response was probably a simple meal that wouldn’t have required excessive time away from the guest of honor.

Those who know me know that I love to make things from scratch. I have been known to make my own soap, face creams, kombucha, bread, apple cider, and the list goes on. There is nothing wrong with doing that but in recent years I have been learning balance. I have cut out some things while continuing others. I’ve found balance by inviting others to join me in the creative process. I invite friends over to make apples pies when our apple harvest is plentiful. That way I can combine my love for homemade pies with my love for people.

Each of us is capable of making another human being feel valued. A phone call, a handwritten note, an encouraging word are always appreciated, especially during difficult times.

Several years ago a Facebook friend posted about the death of another friend’s daughter. Out of curiosity I looked up the profile of the woman whose daughter had died. I was saddened to realize that she had died by suicide. I then looked up the daughter’s profile. As I scrolled through her page, I read the saddest post. Written about a month before she took her own life it said, “1,611 Facebook friends and nobody to talk to.” How tragic!

On his death bed you won’t hear a businessman say, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” But you might hear him say, “I wish I’d spent more time with my family.”

I hope and pray that in the days and weeks ahead, we each find time in our busy schedules to prioritize people, because people are more important than projects.

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 the author of Seven Words You Never Want to Hear

Join the conversation: How do you make people your priority?

Sitting with Sorrow

by A.C. Williams

When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. Job 2:12-13 NLT

Why is it therapeutic to fix broken things? What is it that makes us feels better after we piece together fragments of something that used to be whole? I think part of it is being made in God’s image. He is the Master Fixer, after all.

So what happens when we encounter something that can’t be fixed? Where no act—physical, mental, or spiritual—can restore what has been lost? What do we do then?

I think often of Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. We vilify them as examples of what not to do when someone you love is hurting, and rightly so. Job’s friends tried to fix the situation. They needed to understand, which meant they had to assign blame. And, frankly, I’m not sure assigning blame ever helps.

What we tend to forget, however, is that when they first arrived, they did it right (Job 2:12-13). They mourned with him. They grieved for his loss right alongside him, and they were silent. Because they could tell that his grief was too great for words, so they sat with him in his sorrow without speaking.

But after a week, they couldn’t be silent anymore.

Why do we think that a grief too great for words must endure only a short time? We think once the initial grieving period is done, it’s time to get down to business and figure out what went wrong. Whose fault is it? How do we fix it?

Friends, we don’t get to decide when someone else is done grieving. It’s not our responsibility to tell someone it’s time to move on.

Job’s friends eventually got tired of sitting with his sorrow and tried to fix his life for him. That’s where they went wrong (Job 42:7-9).

Sitting with sorrow isn’t fun. It’s not pleasant. And the longer it lasts, the more uncomfortable it gets. It’s frustrating. Heartbreaking. Exhausting in every sense of the word. We want to point fingers. We want to cheer people up. We want to do something.

And maybe there is something we can do, but it’s important to remember that sitting with sorrow isn’t about making ourselves feel better. Sitting with sorrow is the sacrifice we bring to support someone we love on their terms. Not ours.

Part of being in Jesus’ big family is bearing the burdens of our brothers and sisters (Galatians 6:2). We offer a shoulder to cry on, a hand to steady them when their world is upside down, or a prayer when they are so broken they can’t pray for themselves.

I’m not saying people don’t need to eat or that they don’t need clean clothes or a clean house. There’s absolutely a need for practical support in the face of overwhelming grief. But in our compassionate drive to bless others, don’t forget that grief is a process that looks different for everyone.

Be willing to help, yes, but be patient. Then be available to help on their terms when they ask. If we’re with them in their moments of deepest grief, understand that we are in a place of privilege and trust. When they’re ready, they’ll tell us what they need.

We can’t fix grief. We can’t fix mourning and sorrow and trauma. Those are things that will never be fixed in this world, but they can be redeemed. It’s just not us who can do it.

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

Flipping Fates (The Misadventures of Trisha Lee Book 3) by [A. C. Williams]

About the author: A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if isn’t, her socks won’t match. She has authored eight novels, two novellas, three devotional books, and more flash fiction than you can shake a stick at. A senior partner at the award-winning Uncommon Universes Press, she is passionate about stories and the authors who write them. Learn more about her book coaching and follow her adventures online at www.amycwilliams.com.

Join the conversation: How have you helped people who are grieving?

Wholly Forgiven

by Terri Gillespie

But Yeshua was saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Then they cast lots, dividing up His clothing. Luke 23:34 TLV

I waited patiently as the van backed out from the parking space. Since it was a large vehicle, I gave them plenty of room. My blinker on, I chuckled as they struggled to finally vacate the spot—I totally identified with the battle.

Just as I put my car in drive, another car appeared from nowhere and zipped into the space. They had exited their vehicle before I even thought to honk my displeasure.

Anyone remember the scene from Fried Green Tomatoes? Well, it sure flashed in my mind. Don’t think I didn’t entertain the idea of ramming my SUV into their car’s cute little behind—multiple times.

Sigh. Fortunately, I didn’t.

I found another space a few spots away, but that wasn’t the point. They were rude and inconsiderate. How could they do that to me?

Did I forgive them? Honestly, I didn’t think about it. I was too occupied with being indignant.

So, when I read today’s verse, I thought of all those occasions where I was offended or wronged or unjustly accused. How long did it take me to realize I needed to forgive those folks? Then, I thought about the weight and responsibility of forgiveness.

Can we fully comprehend the cost of forgiveness? We struggle with forgiving because we want to judge and punish or wait until the other person knows how wrong they were or apologized to us first.

Think about the cost of forgiveness for Jesus. He could have supernaturally stopped the torture. He could have rained down fire and brimstone on those meting out the wrongful judgment.

He could have risen off the cross and said, “Do you know Who I am?” –and I mean physically lift off the cross—exploding each nail.

Only by remembering these things can we understand the strength and love that it took for our Messiah to forgive at that moment. “No one has greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 TLV

We may not be able to understand the depth of our Messiah’s love and sacrifice and forgiveness, but we can learn from it.

The practical applications of forgiveness begin at home with our family, at work with those we work for and with. It begins in the parking lot when someone “steals” our parking spot or cuts us off. Or when someone brings 19 items into the 10-item checkout line.

Every day we have a choice to forgive those who have no idea what they have done—or don’t care—and who we are. Every. Single. Day.

Remember what Yeshua did for us and do likewise in awe and gratitude. Even if someone steals that prime parking space.

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

About the author: Award-winning author and beloved speaker, Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, messages, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus. Her newest novel, Sweet Rivalry, releases later this year. http://www.authorterrigillespie.com

The third and final book in the Hair Mavens series, Really Bad Hair Day, is a whirlwind of changes for the mavens—marriage, love, danger, loss, and redemption. The Hair Mavens: modern-day Ruth and Naomi stories set in a hair salon.

Join the conversation: What do you find hard to forgive?

Are You Putting Limits on God?

by Kathy Howard

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high. I cannot attain to it. Psalm 139:6 NASB

I’ll call her Tracy. She attended a women’s study group I led for spiritual seekers. Tracy felt her spiritual need and was determined to fill it with something. She studied with us on Tuesday nights and with a Christian cult’s study group on Wednesday nights. Tracy heard biblical truth on Tuesdays, and on Wednesdays she heard distortions and false teaching. Every Wednesday the cult worked to cast doubt on the truth she’d heard the night before. I prayed for her, and I presented the truth of the Gospel over and over. In the end, Tracy rejected the truth of Christ and joined the cult.

Tracy took the wrong path because she underestimated the power of God. Since she couldn’t understand the triune nature of God, she rejected the full divinity of Jesus. Whatever she couldn’t understand, she wouldn’t accept. So instead, she chose to follow a god she could get her mind around. Wrong belief based on incorrect or insufficient knowledge of Scripture can be eternally dangerous.

Jesus pointed out this truth to a group of Sadducees that tried to trip Him up with a complicated question about marriage relationships in heaven (Mark 12:18-23). Ironically, the Sadducees rejected the resurrection because they didn’t see it in the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses).

After Jesus patiently explained that God doesn’t need marriage in heaven, He showed them how the Pentateuch supports the resurrection (Mark 12:24-27). They had strayed from the path of God’s truth because they lacked sufficient knowledge of both Scripture and God’s power.

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? Mark 12:24 ESV

They denied the resurrection because of their limited view of God. They didn’t believe Him powerful enough to raise the dead. Ironically, it would only be a matter of days until God gave them a tomb-busting demonstration. After suffering a brutal death on a Roman cross, Jesus would get up and walk out of His grave.

Like Tracy, the Sadducees’ eternal hope was restricted by their limited view of God. Their knowledge of God was restricted by their limited understanding of Scripture. At best, our own limited understanding will impede our spiritual growth and service. And at worst, a limited understanding of God may impact our eternity.

Why would we want to serve a “god” we can understand? That kind of god is no god at all. But, thankfully, our God is not hindered by our faulty understanding. He is not limited by our lack of knowledge. We serve a God who is all-powerful and transcendent. He spoke the heavens and earth into existence. He will accomplish what He determines to accomplish. He will fulfill every promise. Our hope in Him is sure and eternal.

I wouldn’t want to trust my eternal destiny to a god I could wrap up in a neat little box. Thankfully, God is so much bigger than our human minds can grasp. What about you? Is your view of God limited in any way?

About the author: A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She has a Masters of Christian Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary. Kathy is the author of 10 books, including the new “meaty” devotional Deep-Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark. She writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. She also connects with women at Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Join the conversation: What is most challenging to you in your understanding of God?

Miracle Seeds

by Deborah McCormick Maxey

As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.  Luke 8:23-25 (NIV)

I’ve heard so many messages on this passage. I’ve always wondered: after witnessing Jesus perform so many miracles, how in the world did his disciples still doubt?

Eventually, all those times I pondered on this message became the foundation for my own miracle. Because I too would doubt when scared out of my wits.

Hubby and I used to sail for weeks at a time on the Chesapeake Bay. We fished from the back, pulled into islands like Tangier and became tourists, and anchored out in front of billionaire homes. Our small sailboat was a holiday on water several weeks a year.

We were cautious sailors. We never put out if small craft warnings were advised, wore life jackets if the seas grew rough and tied ourselves to lifelines if the need arose with the threat of getting swept overboard. Our sailing days came before small crafts had weather radar, GPS, or depth finders. We used old fashioned charts and radio.

To reach destinations, we had to cross shipping lanes where huge cargo vessels traveled to other countries or back to ours. Our small sailboat would look like a flea on an elephant compared to these ships.

One clear bright day, we sat out to cross the shipping lanes and unexpectedly we were confronted with a “Flash Fog”: a phenomenon we had prepared for but hoped never to experience. Suddenly, a dense fog surrounded us like a thick blanket. Sitting in the back of the boat, we could not see our own bow. Visibility was less than six feet.

With not a breath of breeze, sails were useless. Hubby could not start the auxiliary motor. We were dead in the water.  There was no choice but to sit in the stillness while those massive vessels were still able to navigate.

Praying, I crawled to the bow to begin the recommended emergency procedure: one prolonged and two short blasts of an air horn, ring a large bell for one minute (which seemed like an hour) then listen for a minute, meanwhile praying that we wouldn’t hear the huge groan of a cargo vessel.

But we did.

In the blanket of fog, the sound grew closer. I prayed with panic as I continued the protocol.

There we sat. Unseen at sea. Bobbing like a cork. Waiting for a massive ship to collide with us or it’s huge waves to swamp us.

While I prayed God spoke. I needed to recall the passage above and all the times I wondered why the disciples doubted when they had witnessed miracles.

Because I too had witnessed miracles.  From early childhood I had memories of knowing without any doubt, “That was God.”

I began to recall them while I continued the protocol. And peace that passes understanding descended on me. Thicker than the fog. I knew we were in the palm of His hands. After all, I reminded myself. He rescues His beloved from the seas.

As suddenly as the fog descended it lifted. A ship had passed close by. A bit further on we saw the buoy that we had been sailing towards. We had not even veered off course.

So many miracles. The fog, safety, and cleared skies. But best of all was the miracle that was seeded well in advance of the emergency. I had pondered on His Word and He brought my own insight back to me, reminding me that I could harvest peace in the midst of crisis by recalling his faithfulness.

Yet another miracle to chronicle. Panic lifted with faith, long before fog.

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

About the author: A licensed therapist, Deborah McCormick Maxey retired from her counseling practice in 2020 to joyfully invest her energy in writing Christian fiction, devotions, and her website https://deborahmaxey.com that focuses on miracles.  

The Endling: A Novel by [Deborah Maxey]

Deborah’s debut novel, The Endling, is newly released! 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: What miracles have you experienced?

Packing for the Journey

by Virginia Grounds

And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money, and do not have two tunics apiece. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.”  Luke 9:3 NKJV (emphasis added)

Summertime – my favorite time of year. It is a time for break from the everyday routine. For many, it is a time for vacation, fun, relaxation, and family gatherings.

Summertime is also a time of church mission trips and conferences. Packing for a mission trip can be a challenge, as there are normally limits on how much luggage you can take. How to squeeze a change of clothes for each day into one small bag is an interesting experience. And we cannot forget about all the incidentals including mission gifts.

Several years ago, I went on mission to El Salvador. The message God gave me to the women there was about the rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ. I had this great idea to take some polished rocks and markers for each woman to write the scripture reference on that most spoke to them through the message. When we arrived at the airport, my luggage was overweight. I had to open it right there at the check-in counter with the eleven other women around me and distribute bags of rocks to each one. How embarrassing! From this experience I learned an important lesson. What we take is not important; the message and the mission is our purpose.

When Jesus sent His twelve disciples out on mission, His instruction for their travel was quite different than what we are inclined to do as we prepare to travel. He told them to “take nothing for the journey”, not even a change of clothing! They were not to take a suitcase, food, or money. Can you even imagine leaving on a mission trip with only the clothes you are wearing?

No purse full of stuff, ladies. No briefcase of work to do as you travel, or technology. No snacks. No cellphone. Nothing.

As I read the Scripture, I thought perhaps the journey was a short one, and they would not need provision. However, the words of Jesus dispute that claim by showing their need for housing. Therefore, I believe the message Jesus is teaching them is to trust God to provide as they carry out the mission for which they are sent. A change of clothes for everyday is not to be the focus. Worrying about food and housing was not to be the focus. Their mission was to preach the kingdom of God for salvation to all who would hear. Jesus would inspire others to house and feed them. The disciples were to be dependent on God to provide.

The Lord, who knows all things, sent them out knowing that provisions would be made for them, as they obeyed what was asked of them. He had given them the power to do so. When Jesus empowers and we respond, He provides. That is a trust building truth you can count on.

When it seems the provisions in your life journey are not what you wanted or hoped they would be, Jesus provides what is needed. He tells us in Matthew 6:31-33 (NKJV) not to worry about what we will eat or what we will wear. Just take care of today for tomorrow will worry about its own things.

He applied this same message to sending the disciples on mission, and it applies to our lives as well. Focus on the moment. Don’t worry about what will take place there, just do what we are sent to do. Trust God to provide.

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

About the author: Virginia Grounds is a speaker, author, Bible Teacher, former radio host, and effective communicator. Her love for women’s ministry and passion for God’s Word have been an important part of serving for more than 30 years in ministry in one of the largest churches in America. Virginia served with her husband in full-time ministry

Rock Solid Trust: Trusting God When Life Is Hard by [Virginia Grounds]

helping to meet the needs of hurting people. This motivated her to write her first book, Facing Fears, Quenching Flames, a devotional book for overcoming fear and anger.

Virginia writes to grow women in their faith and teach life lessons for survival in today’s world. She is married with three adult children and grandchildren. Her ministry website is majesticinspirations.com.

Join the conversation: What do you prioritize when preparing for a trip?

A Time for Rest

by Jackie M. Johnson

God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 2:3 HCSB

Rest is not a four-letter word. OK, technically it is, but it is not a bad word. Nonetheless, our culture seems to prize work and being busy. There always seems to be so much to do and never enough time.

Indeed, to work is right and responsible. We are to use our time and talents wisely to make a living, advance the kingdom and glorify God with all he has given us. But for many, we are driven by the have to, ought to, and shoulds of life to do more and to be more. Every day is like running on a hamster wheel, and we can’t seem to get off of it.

Thankfully, I am learning that life is more than work, chores, and errands. And I don’t need to feel guilty when I take time to replenish. In fact, when I take time to renew my mind, my body and my soul, I can be more effective—for myself and for those I serve.

Mostly, I am learning that the number of checkmarks on my endless “To Do” list do not determine my worth and value. In God’s eyes, I am enough. I don’t have to prove anything or earn favors. It’s all grace.

God values rest. He rested from all his work of creating the entire universe. He didn’t do this because He was tired. His power is eternal. He rested as an example for us to follow, because we humans need rest. His admonishment for us to rest is a gift that I, for one, plan to unwrap and use daily.

Every day I ask God what he wants me to accomplish. I ask him to empower me and help me do my best. Then, when my head finally hits the pillow at night, I can feel satisfied and content. I can rest.

Lord, thank you for the gift of rest. Help me to value it, and know that when I take time to replenish, I can be a better version of myself for those I love and serve. And I can honor you as I obey. Show me what real rest looks like, and empower me to find balance in work, rest, and all the other areas of my life.

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

About the author: Jackie M. Johnson is an accomplished author and blogger who inspires readers worldwide with hope-filled and encouraging content. Jackie is the author of Power Prayers for Women, the breakup recovery resource, When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty and Praying with Power When Life Gets Tough. Jackie’s is member of CAN (Christian Authors Network). Connect with Jackie at www.jackiejohnsoncreative.com.

Join the conversation: Do you make rest one of your priorities?

Beauty in Barrenness

by Maureen Miller

There was a time I wouldn’t have believed anything beautiful could come from the barren season of infertility. My dreams were dead, plain and simple. With a broken heart, I was resigned to live with this truth.

But the Spirit persisted in the quiet, morning moments, in the afternoon, and even in the weary, ready for bed weariness. He just wouldn’t let it go, and His gentle wooing turned my heart toward Him with affirmation that one day, I would be a mom.

You’re blessed in your barrenness, He’d whisper. Watch as I make beauty from what you consider broken.

And you know, as I replaced my stinkin’ thinkin’ with the truth of God’s Word, the sweet fragrance of Christ infiltrated my clenched heart to saturate all its fragmented pieces. What was hardened became soft. Where I’d once been emotionally arid, impregnable excitement grew.

What will God do? I’d ask, pouring my heart onto the pages of my journal. I couldn’t write my thoughts quickly enough. What had started out as a few quiet moments with the Lord became quiet hours instead. I desired to remain in His presence, because, despite unchanged circumstances, that’s where I felt most at peace.

Good fruit blossoms when one clings to God’s promises. Though the enemy tried to steal this newfound contentment, I took negative, dishonest thoughts captive and claimed instead passages that spoke life rather than death. I felt God’s favor and was finally able to journey with joy.

One morning, God spoke words I knew were from the Bible, though I didn’t know where. My word will not return void.

What did He mean? I pondered this prayerfully and journaled my thoughts. To be void is to be empty of something, and my womb was certainly this. Was God promising that a baby would one day fill that vacant space, the place I’d previously considered merely a tomb for my dreams?

I discovered that these words are from Isaiah 55, although some versions actually use “empty” instead of void. The passage speaks of God’s thoughts and ways being so much higher, much more purposeful, than our own—culminating with, “So is My word that goes out of my mouth: It will not return [void], but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it…” (Isaiah 55:11 NIV).

This truth took root in my heart and sustained me through years of infertility. I came to trust that God had a plan, though perhaps His manner of bringing it to fruition was different than I’d at one time imagined. though my womb remained empty, God’s words did not return void but conceived within me flourishing fruits of peace and joy.

In time, I did become a mom. Through the miracle of adoption, I have three “born-in-my-heart” children, as well as two grandchildren, with another on the way. I relish in sharing the story of God’s faithfulness—His promises spoken through His Word which have blossomed beauty, even in the most barren of seasons.

No matter where one might find herself—no matter how dry and desolate her circumstances—God is calling each of us to step out in faith and to say Yes! to a joy-filled journey with Jesus. His promises are true and His Word a weapon against the enemy of our souls, the destroyer of our dreams.

Mostly, what we’ll discover as we press in to Him is that, without fail, our Redeemer’s words will never return empty. Rather, no matter where we find ourselves, no matter how broken or barren, when we walk with Him–

[We] will go out with joy and be led forth with peace. Isaiah 55:12a NIV

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

About the author: Maureen Miller has a heart to convey God’s faithfulness and love to a world in need. She blogs regularly at www.penningpansies.com and is finishing her debut novel The Bible by the Bed, under contract with Redemption Press. She can be found picking wildflowers in western North Carolina or playing with grandchildren and her dogs in dancing pastures, the dwelling place for her family’s Scottish Highlanders.  

Join the conversation: For what promise are you waiting for God to fulfill?

Grounds for Addiction

by Cherrilynn Bisbano

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:16 ESV

I was stuck with the overnight shift in the Navy.

Sleep was an unwanted intruder. If I allowed myself to doze, I would go to jail (rules of the Navy).
I had to drink coffee to stay awake. I hesitated. I hated the taste. But after a few nights of fighting to stay awake, I had to succumb.

That jolt of Java promised to keep me awake. That slap in the face from a dark brew kept me alert.
Jail or Java? A simple decision for me. After a while, I began liking the taste. I even longed to go to work to get a drink. I confess, I am a coffeeholic. It seems I cannot get my day started without it. I look forward to my morning Joe the night before.

K-Cups are my favorite. Whoever invented the Keurig is my hero. Hot coffee at my fingertips one cup at a time. That is Genius!

I tried doing without that jolt of java, but I got a headache. I know that is a sign of addiction. I know I am not alone. Are we bad people for needing this wake-up call every morning? I don’t think so. Why there are shops created just for our addiction!

One morning, I had forty-five minutes to myself. I wanted to grab my cup and fellowship with God. I long for that time, before the sun rises, to read the Word and sip my coffee. I grabbed my cup from under the spout. What? An empty cup?
I forgot to put the water in the machine. Now I had to wait all over again.

UGH! My quiet time was disintegrating because I did not follow proper Keurig procedure! I made sure everything was set. K-cup in. Water added. Cup under the spout. Push the button. Wait…

Yes! A hot cup of pure joy. But at my first sip, I quickly spit it out. Rather than a warming swallow, it was lukewarm. Have you ever tasted lukewarm coffee? YUCK! No one likes lukewarm anything.

At that moment, the Spirit reminded me of the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3. God hates lukewarm.

Laodicea was known for its lukewarm water because it was located between the hot springs of Hierapolis and the pure, cold water of Colossae. Some scholars believe the metaphor for hot and cold came from Laodicea’s location. The Laodicean church was criticized for their lack of zeal for the Lord. The English language refers to those that are neutral or indifferent in matters of faith as “Laodicean.”

As I finished my new cup of hot coffee and pondered the message, I asked myself: Was I half-hearted in my service for Him? Was I giving God only portions of my life? I asked the Lord to show me where I’m lacking zeal for his kingdom. My little coffee fiasco had proven to be a great reminder to serve him with a wholehearted devotion and a willing mind.

Will you join me and be a zealot for Jesus?

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

About the author: Cherrilynn Bisbano is an award-winning writer in both fiction and non-fiction. She is a coach, ghostwriter, editor, and speaker. She is honored to be a member of AWSA.

Shine Don't Whine

You can find her published in several online magazines and blogs along with books.  Her latest book, Shine Don’t Whine, released in October 2020. Cherrilynn proudly served in the Navy and Air National Guard. She lives with her son, Michael, Jr., and husband of 22 years. Cherrilynn loves Christ, Chocolate, coffee, and Cats. You will often find her on the beach sea glass hunting.

Join the conversation: In what do you struggle to be zealous for the Lord?