Faith to Soar By

by Christina Rose

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 NLT

This morning, as I walked about the nearby lakes, I noticed a group of people looking to the sky and taking pictures with their phones.  As I followed their gaze, I saw the source of their interest, two large, majestic eagles perched high on a lofty treetop. The eagles’ piercing blue eyes were focused intently on the lake, searching the water for prey. One could sense their impressive power as they perched on alert for the sign of fish, gripping the branches with huge talons.

Eagles have long been considered a symbol of freedom and strength. Rather than retreat from a storm, the eagle uses the adversity to its advantage. When a storm hits, the eagle positions its wings above the wind so that it will lift it up to soar above the storm. While the storm rages below, the eagle soars above it. 

Last year the Pandemic unleashed storms throughout the world with loss of life and income, closures and cancellations, sending waves of anxiety and fear around the globe. At times, it feels like we are all in some weird Twilight Zone movie that can’t be real. My church of several thousand attendees endured closures for months and services were streamed online.  Shortly after reopening, the lead pastor announced that he and his wife would be leaving to start another church. We were unsure if they truly wanted to leave or were asked to leave, but for many of us it was just another loss during this time of great change.

Our pastor and his wife had relocated from another state to serve at this church for almost 10 years. They have three small sons, one of whom has special needs. Since they both worked for the church, leaving meant that both would lose their salaries which required big faith. There was no guarantee that this new venture would succeed, and they risked losing everything.  As the pastor addressed the congregation on his last sermon, he expressed his gratitude and then broke down. He started sobbing while his wife tried to comfort him and after some time, he looked up with tears streaming down his face. We could feel his love for the church and how sorry he was to leave, along with concern for what the future would hold. He was just a young dad trying his best to trust that God would provide for him and his family to move forward. He exemplified the emotions that many of us feel during this time of great uncertainty.

One month later, the new church opened its doors to fully packed Christmas services. Many members of the former church had chosen to follow the pastor, and they donated time and money to convert an abandoned restaurant into a welcoming church, beautifully decorated for Christmas. That first weekend as we sang Christmas hymns, familiar faces smiled at one another as the room was filled with joy that our pastor had succeeded in making his dream happen. He stood in front of the congregation, radiantly beaming and announced that they had received enough donations to build a larger church that would accommodate the 2,000 people who had chosen to follow him. 

There have been many storms in the past year as our lives have dramatically changed by the Pandemic. We have been required more than ever to have faith and trust God for all our cares.  Just as the eagle positions its wings to fly above the storm, if we position ourselves to trust God for every need, he will carry us safely above the storm as he delivers us to our divine destiny.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”  (Matthew 6:25-27 NIV)

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

christina rose

About the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer, and speaker certified by the John Maxwell Team of Leadership.  She is a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. She is a world traveler, surfer, foodie, cappuccino- loving chocoholic and a devoted mom to kids and dogs, as well as auntie to many nieces and nephews who live around the world.

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Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story.  With her young family on the verge of falling apart, Christina finds herself in a desperate situation with no resources other than herself.  After appealing to heaven, the Lord takes her on a journey of awakening, redemption and restoration. Christina hopes her story will encourage others who are in need of hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: Are you soaring on wings like an eagle’s in this time of uncertainty?

Holding Onto Hope

by Dena Dyer

[Anna] never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:38 NIV

Waiting is hard. Can I get an amen? Whether we’re waiting for a job, mate, child, cure, or answered prayer, I think all of us find it difficult to be patient. That’s why I appreciate the story of Anna, the prophetess, and what it says to us about waiting. Her story is told in Luke 2:36-38. This is right after Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the temple for Jewish purification rites, when Simeon the priest blessed them:

“There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38 NIV).

Anna’s name means “favor” or “grace.” She was married but widowed after a short seven years with her husband. Her position of prophetess was one of honor, and she took it seriously. She had found in her singleness a singleness of purpose–praising and praying to the Lord.

Her story challenges me.

First, because she didn’t let her loss of a husband take her focus from God. It’s so easy to let our grief turn us away from the One who made us and can help us the most. Anna kept her eyes on the Lord and made the temple Her place of worship and even residence. You and I can do the same thing: praising God in the midst of our waiting. It’s not easy, but for believers, the Holy Spirit is our promised, indwelling helper, and He will come alongside us and give us the faith we need.

Second, because although the angels announced Jesus’ birth to Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, and the shepherds, “Anna made the proclamation of who Jesus was to the pious of the Holy City” according to the IVP Women’s Commentary. She didn’t think she was too old to tell people about Jesus or to fulfill the calling He had given her. She didn’t believe she was “washed up” or that God wasn’t going to come through for her. She not only kept the faith; she also boldly shared her faith.

Anna exemplifies what Paul wrote: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And weboast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but wealso glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5 NIV)

Anna didn’t boast about her longevity as a prophetess. Instead, she boasted about God. She didn’t let suffering take her away from God but allowed the Heavenly Father to work in her life and give her perseverance, character, and hope.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if when people talked about us, they said: “She’s always worshipping God” or “He’s always praising God.” That would be an incredible legacy.

Let’s emulate Anna’s life and hold onto hope together.

Prayer: Father, thank you for always coming through for me. Forgive me for my impatience when answered prayers don’t come quickly. Help me to hold onto You and the hope You give me in Christ Jesus. Amen.


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

About the author: Dena Dyer is an award-winning author, speaker, and non-profit leader. She loves encouraging hurting, harried women with humor and hope. You can find her on Instagram or Facebook, or at her website.

Book Cover

You’re invited to download a free copy of Dena’s devotional book, Grace for the Race, which uses real-life stories, Scripture, and gentle humor to soothe the souls of frazzled moms. By being honest and vulnerable about the ways God has shown Himself to her as she’s struggled with motherhood, Dena hopes to help women realize that they’re not alone, and they’re not crazy!

Join the conversation: What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

The Root that Pushed Through

by Terri Gillespie

When the wicked thrive, wrongdoing increases, but the righteous will see their downfall. Proverbs 29:16 TLV

Have you ever seen a thin blade of grass find its way through concrete? It seems impossible, but as a homeowner, I can tell you it’s not only possible, it happens frequently. How about a mystery plant or those tiny seedlings from the maple tree breaking through the sidewalk? How is that possible?

Concrete contains microscopic cracks invisible to the naked eye. Plants have new cell growth at the tips of their roots. As the plant grows, so does the root system. God gave these roots sensitive tips that have the power to seek the path of least resistance for growth. Those microscopic cracks become the open door for plants growing beneath your sidewalk, patio, or driveway.

Once a plant’s roots discover a minuscule crack in the concrete, they force their way into the slab. Even small weeds and seedlings have the power to displace concrete using potential energy from root growth. Over time, the plant’s continued growth can crack, break, or buckle the surrounding concrete—at which point you may see the plant break through the surface.

God’s truth is like that little plant and the hard concrete is like those in the world who have turned their back on that truth. Nothing can keep His truth from springing forth. So, if the Creator of the Universe can create a tiny seed with enough power to push through concrete, then how much more, can we His children be a voice in this world?

These days we see a lot of “concrete” that scoffs at our little seedlings of truth. At times it may feel like they have buried us alive in hardness. The world may think themselves clever and firmly in control with what they think is a solid barrier against God’s truth, but a single little seedling of His truth can break up the hardness.

Therefore he told me, “This is the Lord’s message to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength and not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Zechariah 4:6 NET

What is your blade of truth? What is the seedling of truth that you are passionate about—that He has planted in your heart? God’s love? His redemption? His reconciliation? His forgiveness?

This isn’t about religion, or doctrine, or the finer points of our faith journey. This is about the core foundational truth that changed us. That which caused our hardness to break, so that life could spring forth. The root that pushed through and turned us to Jesus, who brought us to His Father.

Is that truth evident in our writing, our social media, and our conversations?

Sometimes, we might surrender and think there’s no way to break through. We mustn’t give up because the victory may already be growing and ready to push through. When that crack presents itself, our little root will find the doorway to get through. Are we ready to speak in love and wisdom?

So brace your minds for action. Keep your balance. And set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Yeshua the Messiah. 1 Peter 1:13 TLV

May we watch for the seedling that springs forth and be prepared to share the truth that set us free.

About the author: Award-winning author and speaker, Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus. Her newest book, Sweet Rivalry, releases in late 2021. http://www.authorterrigillespie.com

Join the conversation: Have you seen truth break through the hardness? Please share!

Everything to Lose/Everything to Gain

by Rhonda Rhea

Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it. Matthew 10:39 CSB

I’m always so sincere when I say I’m only going to eat one of your fries. Like, I really do believe it. I think I believe it right up until I grab that next fry.

Most of the time, I don’t blame myself. Is it okay if I blame the fries? French fries are almost obnoxiously good. Cupcakes? Same thing. So it’s not my fault.

Saying no to fries and cupcakes is not my best thing. But yesterday I stepped on the scale and the scale hurt my feelings really badly. So I’m pondering the need to get better at it. At least a little more balanced. Or perhaps I should just cut off any dealings with the scales. Those mean, mean scales.

It’s probably not helping that my favorite diet routine is the one where I pin a couple of salads on Pinterest and then eat half a chocolate ice cream pie.

I don’t blame the chocolate ice cream pie either. I can’t think of any time it’s ever been anything but sweet.

As followers of Christ, we have the sweet life available to us. Sweet, sweeter, sweetest. Real life. We can grab it all. Life abundant, full, and satisfying. Ironically, we get in on that life as we willingly give up…everything. It’s the strangest balance. Or is it the absence of balance? I’m not sure. Because in giving up that…everything, we gain more than everything. We gain joy, purpose, hope, direction, peace, satisfaction, and love. More! There’s freedom. Freedom from emptiness, guilt, unrest, and discontentment.

As He was commissioning His disciples to proclaim the message of this abundant life, Jesus said to them, “Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it” (Matthew 10:39 CSB).

Six chapters later, Jesus told His disciples again, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25 CSB).

Want to find life? Lose it. Want to have it? Give it away.

Real life is not found in possessions or fame or feelings or the most obnoxiously good earthly treat you can think of. We find spiritual life that transcends all that as we give all to Christ.

Give Him everything—when circumstances are great and you’re on top of the world, and give Him everything when it’s a mess and life is hard.

Those messy circumstances will not be able to touch the joy and satisfaction you’ll find in that place of surrender. And frankly, the glory you might experience when you’re on top of the world is not glory at all—not without The Glorious One.

So give it. All. You can do it as He empowers it. Sometimes surrender is about saying no to self. I don’t just mean the fries. I’m talking about saying no to anything in this life I might be tempted to hold onto tighter than I hold onto Jesus. Belongings, esteem, relationships, habits—He gives grace to let go of those things that hold us back and that keep us from experiencing the sweet, abundant life He has for each of us.

By the way, I’m still working on balancing the sweets on the physical side. Well, sort of working on it. I recently set a goal to lose 10 pounds in 60 days, and guess what! I only have 12 more pounds to go.


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

rhonda rhea

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: What does the word surrender mean to you?

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”.

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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.

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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.

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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?