He Hears Every Prayer

by Monica Schmelter

He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. Luke 22:41-44 NLT

When I became a Christian, I listened to every word the pastor said. I was especially interested in learning more about prayer.

The whole idea of prayer made me nervous. What to pray? How to pray? So I started studying some of the prayers of Jesus. When I got to what He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, I was struck by the simplicity and substance of His Words.

Jesus was in such extreme agony, his sweat was falling like blood droplets. He prayed that His suffering be removed if possible. But then, He concluded with “Your Will Be Done.” These words teach us that we can come before our Heavenly Father with complete honesty. He will not reject our tears or fears; no apology or explanation for how we are feeling is required. As we lay our pain and concerns before Him, we can ask for relief. At the same time, we should also ultimately surrender the matter to His Lordship and pray Your Will Be Done.

This concept was especially hard for me to understand as a 13-year-old new Christian. My family was dysfunctional with a capital D. I prayed for them to be saved and to attend church with me. One Sunday, the pastor encouraged the congregation to pray BIG. With that I started to write out my prayers, again asking for my entire family’s salvation. I also asked for my then-atheist father to become so committed to Jesus that he would join the church praise team.

It would be 25 years before my parents gave their hearts to Christ.

A couple of weeks ago, my mom told me that my dad 81 year old dad had just done something surprising. He had joined the church orchestra! Since he is so advanced in age and suffers such poor health, my mom was questioning his decision.

I reminded my mom that this was an answer to one of my earliest prayers.

Forty-five years ago, I earnestly prayed for that. Of course, I was crying out for God to answer that request immediately. I wanted relief from the pain of living in a dysfunctional family. I wanted them all to change right that second. However, I eventually saw that while I could pour my heart out to God and ask for a suddenly, that I must also yield to His Lordship with nevertheless Your Will Be Done.

I never imagined that 45 years later I would sit in a sanctuary and watch my dad play the trumpet in his church orchestra! God heard the pleas of a 14-year-old girl, and He hears your cries as well. We can come to Him without fear of condemnation and lay out all our requests. When His timing or life’s curve balls make us question or doubt, we can trust His good will. We can rest in knowing He’s working everything out for our good.

God hears every prayer. You can pray BIG and trust Him, because His will is far better than we could pray or imagine.

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

About the author: Monica Schmelter is the General Manager of WHTN, Christian Television Network and host of daily television show Bridges. When people ask her why she smiles and nods so much while she’s interviewing guests she replies, “Oh that’s simple I am trying to think of what to say next”.


You can watch Bridges on demand at monicaschmelter.com. Monica’s latest book Messy to Meaningful – My Purse Runneth Over is coming soon!

Join the conversation: Has God answered a long-time prayer of yours? Please share!

It’s Time To Be The Church

by Sheri Schofield

People from all over the city have been hiking our mountain trails, having paintball parties, and hunting meat for their freezers this year. With the pandemic in full swing, there has been little else to do except recreate in the mountains, maintaining social distancing when approaching others on the trails. With the increase in human presence, the deer and the elk have disappeared from our mountainside. They have fled to safety elsewhere.

But in the meadow below, the field mice, ground squirrels, and the bunnies have remained, undeterred by the tromp of boots or the sound of rifles. They shelter together in their dens and nests. They have endured. They are peacefully abiding in what is a time of great stress for the other wildlife.

People around the planet are struggling. COVID, intertribal fighting, famines caused by drought and locusts, loss of jobs, and the disruption of the food supply, has brought many people to the point of desperation. The World Food Program alone reports that 270-million people are going hungry in countries where they are serving. They are able to help only 130-million with their program. Rebel groups are recruiting people with the promise of food in exchange for fighting.[1] Christians around the world are suffering.

In times like these, it would be easy to panic or flee to safety. The problem is, the whole world is affected. There is nowhere to go. What can we do to endure this crisis on planet earth?

The past holds the key. When we look back to the World Wars, when over 65 million husbands, sons and fathers marched off to war, we read of communities coming together for prayer meetings. They sang songs like, “O God, Our Help In Ages Past” to keep up their courage. They helped each other.

With social distancing, it is hard to get together for prayer meetings or singing. Unless … remember Zoom? Remember Face Time? We can still meet, pray, and sing together, with help from our social media tools.

In these difficult times, we need each other! We need to interact and remind each other of our great God, who keeps our souls safe during the stormy blast. God has provided us the tools to meet, whether by phone or by computer. If ever we needed to abide together in our safe place with God, it is now.

During the early days of the church, when persecution drove the believers underground for safety, the writer of Hebrews wrote: “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…” (Hebrews 10:25, NLT).

Let 2021 be a time when the church abides together in God, making use of whatever means we have been given, to communicate, love, lift, and support. Is anyone sick, unable to work, or has had their business closed down? Those of us who have enough must reach out in love and help them. Is someone alone? Discouraged? Imagine what a phone call could do to lift them up! And of course, there’s email. Or how about the old-fashioned, written note of encouragement, sent by snail mail?

If ever the church needed to be the church, it is now. Let us turn the Holy Spirit loose among us and see what God can do through us! This could be the greatest time of revival in decades … if we reach out to each other… and to the lost … with words of hope and love, with deeds of kindness and support.

Church, it is time: BE the light of Jesus to your world.

Our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others; then they will not be unproductive. Titus 3:14 NLT

[1] https://www.time.com ‘2021 Is Going To Be Catastrophic’, by Joseph Hincks, December 9, 2020

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

sheri schofield

About the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator. She was named Arise Daily Writer of the Year in 2020, and Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Sheri also writes devotions for children at her website: www.sherischofield.com in “Campfire”, and is in the process of developing a children’s program on her YouTube site. Questions welcomed!

Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.

Join the conversation: How have you responded to God’s call in this pandemic crisis?

Watch the Children

by Nan Corbitt Allen

He called a small child and had him stand among them. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-3 CSV

I hear this verse a lot.  But I’ve personally never used it in regards to babysitting or keeping children. Watching them was not something I considered the essence of the assignment. But recently I heard the phrase again, and so I decided to really watch children to see what Jesus is talking about.

One group of kids I observed, obviously on a school field trip, seemed to find joy in something as simple as walking. Even in a straight line. With the teacher leading like a mama duck, the little ones were following in single file. However, each “duckling” had his or her own style of walking. Some skipped, some twirled, some stepped over cracks in the sidewalk. Some even walked backwards. I remember asking myself.  When did I lose the sheer joy of just…walking? At my age, I consider walking a chore rather than a pleasure.

In this group of children, I saw no one who seemed to be anxious about who was going to pay for the outing or who was going to transport them safely home. Someone older, and perhaps, more responsible, had made all of the arrangements. The leader’s main chore was to keep up with her charges, often counting heads and reminding them to stay with the group. This configuration had incorporated a buddy system, giving each child a little responsibility, but only for one other person.

Paul wrote to ancient Corinth, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things” (1 Corinthians 13: 11 CSV). Here Paul is alluding to childishness as immaturity and carelessness. An unsavory trait.

But Matthew recorded this: “[Jesus] called a small child and had him stand among them. ‘Truly I tell you,’ He said, ‘unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2 CSV). The innocence and trust of a child will usher one into the Kingdom of God.

Childish behavior is wanting our own way, dishonoring those in authority, and dismissing the consequences of our actions. But childlikeness? Oh, this involves trusting Him who is in charge and finding joy in everyday things.

A few years ago I wrote this.

Of Such Is the Kingdom

He dances with joy on a summer day

He sings with “heart” the songs of play

He laughs at every rhymes he makes

Because he is a child….

She skips to tunes she feels inside

She patiently counts the stars at night

She never tires of asking why

Because she is a child….

So I wanna dance

I wanna sing

I wanna laugh

I wanna be

Like the little child again.

I wanna run into my father’s arms

The one I trust with all my heart

Of such is the kingdom

The Kingdom of God.

Watch the children. They might teach you something that will change your life, or it will at least remind you of things you already know.

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

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

Nan and Dennis retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg

Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: What have you learned from watching the children?

He Loves Ewe!

by Pam Farrel

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in need. Psalm 23:1 NASB

I am a true Bo Peep. I grew up on a Suffolk sheep farm in Idaho. So when I read Psalm 23, it is personal, encouraging, and comforting. Like most of the world, you may also need comfort or encouragement in your own life right now. There are a few qualities of your Good Shepherd that might encourage you, especially if you are feeling like you are traveling through the “valley of the shadow of death”.

The Shepherd is Personal

The Psalmist declares “the Lord is my shepherd” because the relationship between a lamb and a Shepherd can be close and compassionate. My first 4-H lamb was a “bummer”, meaning the mother had rejected or abandoned her own offspring. These kinds of lambs need extra attention, so I fed my little lambie with a bottle twice a day, holding her in my arms like a baby. I carded her wool, I hand feed her grain, I walked her, and yes, I talked to her. On cold nights, I tucked her into a warm pen, and if I heard howling coyotes, I got up and went out to check on her. I also named her, “Bunny” because when she was not in my arms, she would delight herself jumping from rock to rock in our pasture. Ours was an “everywhere that Pammy went her lamb was sure to go” kind of relationship.

The Shepherd is a Protector

I picture my granddad and brother as a definition of a protective good shepherd. Ravenous coyotes, wolves and wild dogs roamed the high desert of our family farm. These savage animals would attack and kill whole flocks of sheep in a single night. To keep our sheep safe, we armed them with bells collars. If we heard an occasional gentle chime, our sheep were grazing calmly but if we heard a cacophony of loud jingling, we knew the wild dogs were near by threatening an attack.

To protect the sheep, the men in my family would post themselves in the pasture with the sheep. They would wrap themselves in a down sleeping bag with their “rod and staff” within arm’s reach. It was a cold, uncomfortable, thankless job, but it saved the lives of the entire flock. To this day, when I picture my God as my Good Shepherd, I see him as my strong, powerful, and attentive protector.

The Shepherd is a Provider

When I read, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul,” that is my upbringing. I would often walk barefoot through the deep, lush, green grass of the pasture, as the sheep serenely grazed. I would take a blanket, a Bible, and lie down to spend quiet hours communing with God. I might walk over to the creek and sit on the simple wooden plank to rest quietly, dipping my toes into the cool stream. This was my place of solace and restoration, far away from the chaos that my alcoholic, raging, earthly father might be creating at home.  To this day, an open meadow, or trickling brook, reminds me of the restorative presence of the Good Shepherd, even in the midst of chaos.  

The Shepherd Is a Pursuer

As I have followed my Good Shepherd, I have seen how “goodness and mercy “has surely followed me the days of my life.  One could phrase the meaning of “goodness and mercy” as “certainly what is good, pleasant, agreeable, beneficial, desirable, beautiful and best as well as God’s faithful, loyal, lovingkindness will pursue you.” Wow! Our Good shepherd pursues us to give his faithful love and all things beautiful and beneficial. 

With the Shepherd, we can walk THROUGH the darkest valley and not tremble, because the Good Shepherd sees, knows, cares, and prepares hope and help for each and every one of his sheep…including you!

Find a wool blanket, spread it on some green grass, near some still water, (or a comfortable, cozy space) then open your Bible to let the Great Shepherd send some goodness and mercy your way.

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

pam ferrel

About the author: Pam Farrel is still a shepherdess at heart, however instead of living on her family farm, she now shepherds people’s hearts and relationships by speaking and teaching God’s goodness and mercy as Co-Director of Love-Wise. She is the author of 52 books including Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience.

Pam and Bill are the bestselling authors of Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti (and small group DVD series); Single Men Are Like Waffles, Single Women Are Like Spaghettiand the teen version: Guys are Waffles, Girls are Spaghetti.

Join the conversation: What other metaphors in Scripture about God bring you joy?

Love Never Ends

by Linda Ray Center

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV

Each morning my mother, Claire Ray, faithfully drew close to the Lord. She often sat in her favorite wingback chair before breakfast to prepare her heart for prayer. Her routine began with one of her devotional books, then finished with a chapter or two from her Bible. Claire went through several Bibles in her ninety-four years. She always penned the date on the cover page after she finished reading through her Bible. Her total was forty-eight times.

Mother loved and trusted Jesus more than anything. On her hospital bed last November, before she took her last couple of breaths, my sister overheard her whisper, “Jesus, what is taking you so long? I’m so ready for you to come and get me.” Mother’s words told me she anticipated going to a place where everything that is best remains. What a tremendous relief to know she looked forward to embracing the loving arms of her Lord and Savior. His divine love surrounded her as she prepared for her heavenly departure.

 Later, a friend sent me a condolence card. In the card was an outline for a “Letter to Heaven.” I used it to write a letter to honor my mother and another to honor my deceased husband. As I filled in the blanks, I caught sight of heavenly hope.

Since Valentine’s Day is in February, you might wish to remember a special someone who has left earth to reside in a place where everything lasts forever. Write why they were special to you, maybe a favorite memory or thing you miss most about them. Remind yourself that some day you will see them again and spend eternity together in the presence of the Lord.

Heaven is a place where love fills every heart. Scriptures tell us to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Scripture is God’s love letter to us. It contains so many promises and expressions of His love, like these:

On earth, my dear child, as it is in Heaven, you can love because I first loved you. (1 John 4:19)

You can depend on My goodness, and that I will always do the right thing for you. (Psalm 23:6)

Nothing can separate you from My love. (Romans 8:28-39)

As I curl up in Mom’s favorite wingback chair, I’m renewed by Scripture:

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:7 ESV

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

Crystal Discovers The Glow by [Linda Ray Center]

About the author: Linda Ray Center is a writer and inspirational speaker. She writes nonfiction for women and fiction for children. She has published The Relationship Dance and Crystal Discovers The Glow. She is also a contributing author to Abba’s Answers, 2020 Florida Writers Illusion Collection, Whispers of Grace and SuperBudZ. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as Good News, Joyful Living, Keys for Kids, and Unlocked. She encourages women and children to follow God’s design in their life experiences. Linda resides in charming Chattanooga. Connect with her at lindaraycenter.com or on Facebook and Instagram.  

Join the conversation: How does your heavenly hope affect your here and now?

Pause to Refresh

by Nan Corbitt Allen

If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him. John 7: 37-38 CSB (emphasis added)

The little South Alabama town where I grew up in the 1960s has a natural phenomenon that was responsible for some of my most delicious memories. The story is that around the early 1920s some speculators believed there was oil hiding under the town’s surface. In drilling for oil, however, they discovered an enormous artesian well (definition: an underground spring that naturally spews to the surface without a pump).  At around 1500 feet below, a subterranean spring began to spout 100 feet into the air and has continued flowing until this day—producing 1200 gallons of water a minute. A new above-ground lake was born on that day. But someone had the forethought to harness some of that naturally flowing water and funnel it into an enormous swimming pool. It was in that pool that I learned to swim.

The water was cold, even in the long summer months. Since the water came straight out of the ground through a large pipe, and then into the pool, the water was always fresh. And it was recirculated by leaving the main pool, flowing into the “baby pool” and then into the lake.  The main pool emptied and refilled itself every two hours. The pure H2O contains 27 nourishing minerals which are beneficial to life.

The whole Lake Geneva complex, with dance floor, snack bar (and even a cage for a pet monkey) was privately owned and immaculately maintained. I can still feel the shock of jumping off the diving board into the water below. It almost took my breath away. And on those hot, humid southern days, the temperature contrast was even more pronounced…and welcome.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if those drilling for oil had actually found it, pumped it out, and sold it. Somebody (or their heirs) would now be counting their money and the whole town’s economy would have taken a different path. I also imagine the disappointment that the prospectors had when that drill hit water instead of oil. The use of fossil fuels has come under fire in the last several decades, so one can only speculate that the boom would have died out at some point and the dream of prosperity with it. 

However, what riches we’ve enjoyed for a century all because of a failure to achieve the initial goal!

That’s the point here. The “weeping prophet,” Jeremiah, was God’s mouthpiece to the ancient Israelites, mostly with warnings of gloom and doom. Here, however, is one of his more positive prophecies:

“For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 CSB.

Maybe I’m reaching (or digging) for a metaphor here, but the memory of the artesian well keeps coming back to me in fresh ways.

Isaiah, my favorite prophet, reported that God said. “I will open rivers on the barren heights, and springs in the middle of the plains. I will turn the desert into a pool and dry land into springs.” (Isaiah 41:18  CSB)

I’m thankful for the well-spring that one beautiful excavation mistake created for me. I’m looking forward to how God will unearth deep-flowing truths to me, and to all of us, that will bubble to the surface.

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

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

Nan and Dennis retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg

Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: Has the Lord unexpectedly moved you away from a goal you had? How did that work out for you?

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

by Lori Altebaumer

These things I command you, that you love one another. John 15:17 NKJV

 Re-gifting is not a talent I possess. Fear someone will find out it’s a re-gift and realize what an ungrateful person I am causes more angst than simply keeping the unwanted gift. I’ll wear clothes I don’t like, read books that don’t interest me, and keep art I can’t explain. Someone made the effort to give me the gift, and I am determined to honor the thought no matter how much I suffer.

But there is one gift I’m not only happy to re-gift, but commanded I should—the undeserved gift of God’s love.

We love Him because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19 NKJV

The first and greatest gift of all is the love of God. Without God’s love, there would be no hope in this world and no way to spend eternity in His holy and righteous presence in the next.

This love God shows us is undeserved, unearned, and too often, unshared.

People give gifts to people they care about. Rarely will they give a gift to a stranger, and even less often to someone they don’t like. Not God. He gave His best gift to the least worthy—rowdy uneducated fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, and outcasts.

He gave this gift to us.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NKJV

I’m not worthy of such a gift. Yet God wrapped it in swaddling clothes and rested it gently in a bed of straw just for me. Clearly he knew the gift was so awesome, He didn’t need fancy wrapping paper and a big, red bow.

 The immeasurable worth of this gift—the ability to be seen as righteous, the forgiveness of my sins, a new life—is amazing enough. But wait… there’s more.

The gift also comes with lifetime access to a helper Who will be with me forever. I get the strength and power to persevere no matter what life brings. I get wisdom as a constant companion, so I’m never without understanding.

Most treasured of all, I get to spend eternity in the presence and glory of the One who created me and knows me intimately well—the One who wanted me when I was unworthy, and He alone knew just how unworthy.

And He not only wants me to re-gift, He commands me to do so.

 “These things I command you, that you love one another.” These are the red-letter words of Jesus spoken in John 15:17 (NKJV).

God’s love is kind of like the Friendship Bread we used to make years ago.

This bread started as a bit of dough that fermented and grew. Every few days you divided it into parts for baking into loaves and for starting more dough that would become next week’s loaves. This dough had a life of its own. If I kept feeding and tending to it, I could continue making loaves of bread into perpetuity—as everyone feared I might. A person simply couldn’t out give the Friendship Bread.

Because this dough was always growing, it had to be shared.

Only when I stopped sharing did it die.

This is God’s love. Gifting it away doesn’t diminish my portion. The more I give, the greater my capacity to receive it becomes.

 This Valentine’s Day we don’t need a colorful card, fresh flowers, or fancy chocolate. We already have what the world needs most—the gift of God’s love.

And when we share it, we’ll find an even larger portion filling our own hearts. It really is the gift that keeps on giving.

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

About the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. With her boots on the ground, head in the clouds, and heart in His hands, she is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart in search of life’s best adventures. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing.

A Firm Place to Stand by [Lori Altebaumer]

Her first novel, A Firm Place to Stand, released in January 2020. She also blogs regularly on her website www.lorialtebaumer.com. In between writing, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here.

Join the conversation: What opportunities has God given you to share His love with others?

Let God Love You!

by Nancy Kay Grace

Why is it that even though we know John 3:16 by heart, we still doubt God’s love? We think of His love in general terms of loving the world, not specifically for loving us—you or me. Or maybe we even think that God doesn’t like us. We struggle to believe and accept the basic truth. We make up excuses saying we are unlovable.

Yet God still loves us.

I’d driven 350 miles to celebrate my grandson’s third birthday. It was a fun weekend with lots of giggles and cake. I loved reading car stories to him and seeing his interest in the details of his favorite construction toys. He’s full of questions as he tries to understand life, such as “When will I be two again?” and “If possums hang upside down, do they get a headache?”

It’s easy to respond in love when the questions are innocent. But when an independent spirit rises to challenge the status quo, our response becomes a loving decision.

When it was time for me to leave, he ran to a different room. He wouldn’t let me hug him one more time. He hid.

He probably wanted to make a game of hiding from me. I left without a final hug from my little guy. Although I felt a bit saddened, I still love him. He’s only a child of three. I’ll see him again and there will be more hugs and books to read.

Too often we are like that with God—we hide from Him. We don’t accept the love that is expressed in the written Word, through the life of Jesus, or shown through other people. We hide in a childlike manner.

At the core of God’s nature is unconditional love, which spills out into every other attribute. It is sacrificial and life-giving, not sentimental and syrupy smooth talk. Even on our worst day, God loves us deeply.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1John 3:1 NIV).

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10 NIV)

We try to understand God’s unconditional love, but wrestle to fully grasp it. Sometimes we reject this gift when we struggle with low self-worth, but that is when we need it most.

God continues to reach out to us with love anyway, faithful and steadfast.

May we pray Ephesians 3:18 for a deeper grasp of God’s love:

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is” (NLT)

His arms are open. Won’t you let God love you?

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

About the author: Nancy Kay Grace is thankful for the gift of time. She is a speaker and award-winning author of The Grace Impact, a devotional about the touch of God’s grace in our lives.  

Visit https://www.nancykaygrace.com to sign up for her monthly Grace Notes devotional newsletter.

You can also connect with Nancy on Facebook or Instagram.

Join the conversation: Are you comfortable at the thought of God’s love?

Love One Another

by Crystal Bowman

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7 NIV

With Valentine’s day being smack dab in the middle of the month, February is known for celebrating love and romance. According to the National Retail Federation, about 55% of Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day, and those who do will spend close to $150 to give gifts to their loved ones.

To love others and to be loved is one of the strongest and most basic needs we have. When God created our innermost being (Psalm 139), He created us with that desire to love and be loved.

There are four different kinds of love in the Bible. Eros is a Greek word that refers to the longing or desire that is present in romantic love. Storge is the love we have for our family and close relatives. Mary and Martha showed this type of love in their deep grief over the death of their brother Lazarus. Philos is the love we have for friends. It’s the type of love we practice through social friendliness and acts of kindness. Agape is divine love. It’s the love God demonstrated when He gave His Son to die on the cross to save the world from sin (John 3:16). It’s the highest form of love and the kind of love God gives us every day.

Agape love is the type of love God commands us to have for others. It’s unconditional, unselfish, and sacrificial. In John 13:34-35 (NIV) Jesus tells His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”

Loving my friends and family is easy to do (most of the time). But loving strangers or people we don’t like is another matter. Do I truly care about the people suffering in 3rd world countries or inner-city slums? Do I offer agape love when it’s an inconvenience or a burden? 

One summer afternoon (before the pandemic), while walking downtown, I saw a homeless man sitting on a bench in front of our high-rise condo building. I’d seen him there often and usually smiled as I walked by. But this time, the Holy Spirit nudged me to do more than smile. I thought about my options as I rode the elevator to our floor. I knew he was probably hungry, but I wanted to offer more than physical food. 

After I packed a sack lunch and a bottle of water, I enclosed a copy of Our Daily Bread—a monthly devotional. I slipped some cash in between the pages of the devotional and rode the elevator back to the ground floor. I handed him the sack and said, “Here’s something I want to share with you.” He looked surprised, smiled brightly, and said, “Why, thank you so much. God bless you.”

This small act of love was not an inconvenience or a sacrifice. I’m not even sure in which category of love it belongs. But the smile on that man’s face is something I will never forget. I hope he read the devotions in the monthly booklet, and I hope he knows how much God loves him.

Expressing love is not just for the month of February, it’s for every day of the year. I pray that God will open my heart and my eyes to see ways I can show love to others.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16 NIV

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.

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: Have you been led to show love lately? Tell us your story!

A Love that Lasts

by Pam Farrel

We recently celebrated our 40th anniversary. As a gift, our grown sons and daughter in laws, along with our five grandchildren, all contributed to a book they wrote on “40 Reasons We Value Your Lasting Love”.

Here are a few of our favorites, along with four vital choices we made, and we recommend so that you too can gain a lasting lifetime love! 

Sit Face 2 Face 

We love because He [God] first loved us 1 John 4:19 NIV 

This verse was inscribed on our wedding gifts to each other. We knew going in, we would only succeed at long lasting love if God was kept front and center as the glue to hold us together. One of the less glamourous but most vital choices we made early in our marriage was to create a Marriage & Family Compass. This includes:

Marriage/Family Mission Statement– We penned ours about two years into our marriage inspired by a marriage conference for seminary students lead by Dr Norm T Wright. 

Marriage/ Family Motto– We wanted a short phrase like you’d see on a coffee mug or T-shirt. Ours is “Those who honor God, God honors”, based on 1 Samuel 2:30. 

Marriage/Family Moniker– This is a family crest. Ours has 3 L’s that stand for Leaner, Leader, who Loves God (what we prayed our children would grow into) Two hearts that stand for Farrels keep their promises, especially in marriage; and a cross with a star symbolizing that when you have a vibrant relationship with God, He ignites the God-given passion inside and you will “let your light shine” for God. 

We also made a commitment to have a weekly “Monday Morning Marriage Meeting” where we pray, then discuss things like money, calendar items, work, family, finances, delegate tasks, make decisions together, etc.—the important business issues of a marriage.  The Marriage Meet Up and the Family Compass were vital because we both came from very dysfunctional chaotic homes, we needed to be proactive and positive. 

Walk Hand 2 Hand

I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. 3 John 1:2 NIV 

An obvious tip on gaining a long-lasting love is you must live longer and stronger by treating your body (and your mate’s) as “a temple of the Holy Spirit.”  (1 Corinthians 6:19) Because we were both athletes when we met at age 19, and married at age 20, keeping active is a part of our love life.  We have always enjoyed a daily prayer walk, hand in hand. We have supported each other’s exercise pursuits, but the real key is finding some activities you BOTH enjoy doing together. Some of our favorites are kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, biking, swimming, and dancing under the stars—or while waiting for an elevator! 

Hug Heart 2 Heart  

I found the one my heart loves. I held him and would not let him go… Song of Songs 3:4 NIV 

We have cultivated romance. We kiss each other EVERY TIME we say grace. We put weekly date nights, a monthly day away, and twice a year over night getaways on our calendar FIRST!  We even schedule “Red Hot Monogamy”!   

Bow Knee 2 Knee 

You will pray to him, and he will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows.  Job 22:27 NIV

Prayer was a part of our relationship from the first moment that Bill first asked me out on our first date! We pray for one another and with one another. We pray, hug and kiss, when we greet and when we depart from each other. We pray over meals, over decisions, over family and friends, and over our failures and frailties. We wrap up in each other’s arms each night and pray and thank God for each other and one more day together. 

Do you have hopes and dreams for your marriage? I remember a drive together as a newly engaged couple when one of us said, “We are years away from starting a family, but what will we want our kids to say about us on our 25th or 50th wedding anniversary?” We made a verbal list, then we prayed and asked God to fulfill those hearts desires—and He is!  

What new habits or activities do you want to add into your marriage, your family to secure the future God longs to give you? 

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

About the author: Pam Farrel and her husband Bill are international speakers, relationship specialists, and authors of over 50 books including bestselling Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti, 10 Best Decisions a Couple Can Make (which explains how couples can create their own Family Compass: Mission, Motto, Moniker), Red Hot Monogamy (with more than 200 romance ideas).

Their latest book is Marriage Meet Ups: A Planner for Couples Who Want a Productive, Passionate and Purposeful Life. Nurture your relationship and create more time for the happy-side of marriage, romance, and intimacy. Get and stay on the same page so you can move forward TOGETHER in unity. Strengthen your spiritual life together and draw closer to God and your partner.

Join the conversation: What do you do to keep your marriage strong?