Spring Awakening

by Nancy Kay Grace

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10 NIV

I need renewal in my dreary spirit after the long winter months. The colder-than-usual temperatures drag on and the deeper-than-desired snow refuses to melt, affecting my attitude. By the end of winter, I get antsy for spring to bring warmer air and signs of tulips and green grass.

Spring is a time of awakening, with fresh beauty of the budding trees, singing cardinals and chirping robins. New life is seen in the blossoming forsythia and perky daffodils breaking though the crusty earth. Creation welcomes the warmer change after a long, dormant winter. As I observe the changes in creation, I gain hope for renewal.

A pleasant walk in the warmer sunshine brightens my heart and mind. A visit with a long time friend refreshes my spirit.

Do you need a spring awakening and fresh renewal for your soul? Consider adding these practices to your daily routine. 

Reading the word of God renews the heart and mind.

Just like opening a window on a spring day freshens the house, the word of God revives my spirit.

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7 NIV

Prayer cleanses the spirit of the barriers that keep us from seeking God.

Coming to our heavenly Father in prayer, we can confess our weaknesses. The Holy Spirit melts any hardness of heart. He is always ready to welcome our prayers and renew us.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 NIV

Fellowship—connecting with others—is an encouragement.

We were made for community. We can encourage one another in our faith while we also benefit from the connection. Invite a friend to join you on a walk and enjoy the new season together.

“If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 NASB

Listen for God.

When the Lord refreshes my heart, I am more open to hear from him. My mind is cleared of daily concerns so I can focus on Him.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3 NIV

Lasting renewal of the heart comes slowly, like a long soaking rain on parched soil, making it useful again. The Lord works in our lives moment by moment—through reading the Bible, prayer, and sharing fellowship with others. Through these, we grow in our faith and hear the still, small voice of God whisper hope to us. He brings renewal to our hearts, just as He renews the earth. 

Are you ready for a spring awakening in your soul?

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: How do you renew your mind when things seem so dark and dreary?

The Prickly Porcupine

by Sandra Julian Barker

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Romans 12:18 NIV

I peered through the glass at several porcupines in their enclosure at the Baltimore Zoo. Their long, sharp quills bounced up and down as they moved. I was glad we were separated by protective glass. I wondered if one of the porcupines’ easily-detachable quills ever pierced the skin of the zookeeper. I cringed, imagining the painful prick and the even more painful removal of the backward-facing barbed quill.

As I watched the porcupines, I was reminded of some of the prickly people we come into contact with in life. Have you ever been pricked by a barbed quill, like an unkind, hurtful remark? I think we’ve all experienced painful words that wound. Some of those stings can cause lasting scars.

What do we do when a porcupine crosses our path? And even more challenging – how do we handle actually living with one? The Apostle Paul came into contact with his share of porcupines. In Romans 12:18 NIV, he said, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Whoever came up with the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” must not have lived with a difficult, prickly person.

Living peaceably with some people is not easy. How does a nice suit of armor sound? Armor offers great protection against painful barbs. Paul tells the Ephesians, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil [or barbed quills] comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (6:13 NIV). God can help us deflect painful barbs with His protection and peace.

There are numerous reasons people behave like porcupines. In many cases, their own inner issues might be causing the problem. Jesus said, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart…” Matthew 15:18 NIV. People who have pain and poison in their hearts tend to speak pain and poison with their lips.

Even though God called David, “a man after My own heart,” (Acts 13:22 NIV), David had his share of porcupine struggles. A particular barbed quill in the flesh for David was King Saul. The king might as well have been a porcupine wearing a crown. He chased David, wrongly accused him, and even tried to kill him many times. Yet, David never did battle with the king, saying “…may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds, so my hand will not touch you,’ ” 1 Samuel 24:12-13 NIV.

When you think about it, dealing with the porcupines of this world is just one more test for the Christian. It’s a way for God to strengthen our faith in Him and also to show His love for others through us. And who knows, our continued kindness toward a porcupine might help that person morph into a kinder, gentler creature.

I pray God will encourage each of us in our next encounter with a porcupine:  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God,” Matthew 5:9 NIV.

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

About the author: Sandra Julian Barker is the author of more than a dozen books, numerous magazine articles and a story in the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul. Sandra has a passion for sharing the love of Christ, encouraging hope and helping others seek God’s path of purpose in their lives. You can read her blog here. Sandra is in ministry with https://www.womenvictorious.com/.

Sandra’s latest book, Ordinary Women, Extraordinary God, includes her own story of God’s grace in the face of great tragedy. You will be encouraged at the stories of 14 ordinary women who trusted God on very dark and difficult days, and how He brought them through with praise on their lips.

Join the conversation: How have you effectively dealt with porcupine people?

A Lesson in Futility

by Nan Corbitt Allen

The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile. Psalm 94:11 NIV

It’s winter. It’s cold. All of the deciduous trees in our yard are naked and much of the wildlife has either migrated or hunkered down to keep warm. Except the bluebirds. And a few sparrows.

A couple of days ago, I was sitting in my sunroom and heard a loud thwumpping sound at the window. That’s when I saw two bluebirds (one male and one female) hurling themselves at the glass. I tried to shoo them away, and they would leave momentarily, but then return exhibiting the same behavior. I felt so sorry for them and helpless as to what to do. Of course, when in doubt, search the Internet.

Google said that they might be seeing their reflections in the window and, believing themselves other birds making threats to their nests, they were fighting to protect their young. I saw no nearby nests, so I kept seeking a motive and a solution.

I wondered if they were hungry, so I put out some seed in the feeder only to find out later—online—that bluebirds don’t eat seeds. They are carnivores. They eat worms and bugs. The thwumpping continued. I was afraid these two beautiful birds would hurt themselves in their futility. Maybe they were trying to find warmth; but letting them inside my house would be more destructive, to them and my house, than helpful. Don’t birds have instincts and feathers that protect them from the weather?

I kept looking for reasons why these creatures were so persistent. And why at my window. Some superstitions say that bluebirds at the window are an omen—a sign of impending doom. Other superstitions say that these creatures are trying to deliver a message of glad tidings. Yeah. Right.

To me, of course, this was a metaphor that I became determined to unpack.

Like the birds, how often do we flail against an illusion—obsessed with a perceived threat—worried about failures in the past that might still plague us, or an imagined future catastrophe that probably won’t happen? We’re prone to exhausting ourselves by the mere thought of danger or disappointment, or both.

Or maybe we look at our reflections but don’t like what we see. Instead of making positive changes, we thrash about with self-loathing and revulsion.

And there is a possibility that we see only what we want to see, not what is really there. In the present political climate, this seems to be the most prominent illusion that makes us not only fight with ourselves, but with others. Families are being torn apart by opinion and preconceived notions.

No matter, it seems that all of these possibilities demonstrated by the bluebirds are driven by self-absorption—and/or fear. Jesus said this about that:

 “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?”  Matthew 6:25-34 NIV

These are my favorite prophet’s words: LORD, you are the one who protects me and gives me strength; you help me in times of trouble. Jeremiah 16:19 GNT


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: Have you found yourself flailing about an illusion or something that never happened?

Blessed

by Susie Crosby

adj: enjoying happiness; favored, privileged, fortunate

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope…” Matthew 5:3 MSG

Religious-sounding words make me cringe sometimes. Maybe it’s because they get overused, or can seem insincere. Or maybe it’s because I haven’t understood their true meaning.

Blessed has been one of these awkward words for me.

“Bless you.”

“God bless.”

“Blessings!”

Everything in me feels weird when I say or hear or read words like this. I can’t help it.

Years ago, I impulsively bought a beautifully framed wooded sign that states: “We are so blessed.” It fits beautifully above our dining room mirror and works with the decor. But I can’t look at it without an uncomfortable feeling–wondering if it comes across as prideful or self-righteous or possibly inauthentic to people who visit.

But Jesus said, Blessed.” Many times, in the Beatitudes part of the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew. The upside-down truths that He shared that day surprised the crowd and brought them to cheers. They make me want to know more about what Jesus meant when He used this word.

When Jesus spoke on that hillside, He said we are blessed when we’re at the end of our rope, blessed when we’ve lost what is most dear to us, blessed when we are humbled, blessed when we have worked up a good appetite for God, blessed when we care for others, blessed when our hearts are pure, blessed when we work for peace, and blessed when we are left out and lied about–mistreated for doing what is right.

When Jesus calls us blessed in the midst of suffering or working or trying to do good, it doesn’t sound contrived or fake. And it doesn’t sound like pride. It sounds like he’s giving us something we desperately need but cannot earn.

Beatitude: a feeling or state of well-being and contentment; blissfulness, gladness, joy.

Blessed.

Maybe it means taken care of. Not simply happy or lucky, but attended to and held close by God Himself–our loving Father, by Jesus–our savior and friend, and by the Holy Spirit–our strength and comfort.

Every Sunday at the end of the church service, our pastor prays this blessing over us that God gave Moses and Aaron to bless the Israelites:

The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make his face shine on you

And be gracious to you;

The Lord turn his face toward you

And give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26 NIV

If it means that God will keep us, make his face shine on us, be gracious to us, turn his attention to us, and give us his peace; then maybe “bless you,” isn’t such an awkward thing to say after all.

Sit with Jesus on your own hillside for a moment. If you are at the end of your rope, look into His eyes. Invite Him in. Let Him bless you with His attention, His peace, His strength, and His grace for the struggle you face. He sees you, He knows you, and He will honor and take precious care of your heart for Him.

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

susie crosby

About the author: Susie is a grateful mom of two (almost) grown boys who currently live and go to school in Honolulu, Hawaii. She and her husband live in a seaside town in the Puget Sound region called Mukilteo. They love to hike and kayak, they are huge Seattle sports fans, and they mostly love hanging out at home with their little dog Koko. Susie teaches P.E., Art, Technology, and Music at an all-kindergarten school which keeps her busy full time. Her passion and joy is sharing encouraging words with the people she loves. She is an active blogger and speaker, and she is the author of Just One Word: 90 Devotions to Invite Jesus In. She is always on the lookout for fun coffee shops, inspiring books, remote beaches, and farmers’ markets. Connect with Susie at www.susiecrosby.com.

Join the conversation: How has God blessed you recently?

Green Mashed Potatoes

by Deborah McCormick Maxey

“Green mashed potatoes. Really, Mom?”

For our son, growing up meant every St. Patrick’s Day was the same. Everything green. Inside and outside of our house and my office. I decorate with the fervor of a newly hired elementary school teacher. Never one to fear the label “tacky,” years later my grandchildren would get boxes filled with green bobble head headbands, green shoelaces, lucky leprechaun pins, four-leaf clover earrings… well, you get the picture. I figured I wasn’t overdoing it: after all, there are cities that dye their rivers green!

Why all the fuss? I want my family to be proud of their heritage. My paternal McCormick blood line is from Ireland. On St. Patty’s day we are authentic!  But I love how inclusive the Irish can be. March 17th is the date that we are all Irish. Just put on a touch of green.

In the Old Testament, God wanted folks to have visible reminders too.  He suggested tassels on their clothing attached with a blue cord. “That way, when you see the tassel, you’ll remember all the commands of the Lord and you’ll observe them. Then you won’t seek your own interests and desires that lead you to be unfaithful” (Numbers 15:39 ISV).

Although I love my ethnic heritage, far more important is my faith family clan. While I take down the Irish green after the 17th, testaments to our faith are present every day. The walls and shelves of our home hold memorabilia from our trip to the Holy Land. A shadow box with bejeweled, ornate crosses hangs over our mantle. “Christ is the head of this house,” is displayed in an antique arrangement of seeds and nuts that hung in my Grandmother McCormick’s house, and angel statues grace the garden. And that’s to name a few.

Within seconds of entering our home you “see” the reminders of our faith. And like the Irish, we want everyone to belong. Not for just one day a year, but for eternity.

Just as St. Patty’s day has traditions, so does our faith family. I’m not just talking about church holidays that show up on a calendar, or even daily devotions. We have an indwelling call to unite. We pray for strangers at the sound of a siren, uplift a “friend” on social media by assuring them we are praying for them, praise God for others’ accomplishments. We listen to worship music in our cars, wear clothing that proclaims a message, and oh, the amount of jewelry that bears that precious cross!

No matter how many versions of the Bible we read, what organized religion we follow, or types of faith-filled music that stirs us, we all have one thing in common: we are family, united by our shared Heavenly Father. We might call Him by different names: Jesus, Holy Spirit, Abba, Father, Lord, Jehovah, Adonai, or God.  But we all call Him Father.

And He calls us His children. His Clan. For eternity, the greatest family of all.

And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:18, NLT

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 that focuses on miracles.  

The Endling: A Novel by [Deborah Maxey]

Deborah’s debut novel, The Endling, is available for preorder on Amazon, due to release (by Firefly Southern Fiction/Iron Stream Media) on May 11, 2021. 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: How important is your eternal family to you?

There Will Be Spring

by Carol Rusaw

I know that whatever God does lasts forever; there is no adding to it, no taking away. And he has done it all in such a way that everyone must feel awe in his presence. Whatever it has been already, and whatever is to come has been already, with God summoning each event back in its turn.   Ecclesiastes 3:14-15 Revised English Bible

Does it seem like what you are going through has no end in sight?  It may be waiting out the pandemic, having to stay at home while the kids are trying to learn on their computers, or wearing masks and social distancing whenever shopping for food. Or maybe it is the stress of having to take care of an ill loved one. It may be searching for a job to pay the rent or buy food and coming back empty again.

What do you do to get through bad times?

For me, I am still struggling through the unexpected loss of my husband to pancreatic cancer two years ago. I am still adjusting to his absence, but also in having to stretch limited income to pay the mortgage, to care for a son with special needs, and to fix things like basement leakages.

I am also searching for where I should go with the rest of my life. I had given training workshops on managing personal and organizational changes, but I had to retire to take care of Mike. Despite my experience in educating others, I now have trouble taking my own advice for coping with such massive, sudden changes.

“How long is this thing going to last?” we ask ourselves.  “When will things begin to return to normal and get better?”

We look to God for answers, but we do not hear any clear replies.  God does not seem to be responding to our pleas for help, and we become even more anxious.

I found some help from the book of Ecclesiastes. In this ancient writing is an enduring promise: bad things do not last forever. They disappear like winter’s snow, melting before crocuses pop up through the thawing dirt. God’s answer is as firm as the recurring cycles of nature, year after year, century after century, generation after generation. We can be reassured that a lack of apparent signs of His help do not mean it will never come. God ordains spring to follow winter. 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV) assures us: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” God has His plans and purposes. We cannot know when a difficult season will end, but we can trust that He will use even the hardest of things for our beauty. All in His time.

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

About the author: Carol Rusaw has retired from teaching adults about management, leadership, and organizational development to write, paint, and consult. She has written two books and over 20 academic articles. Her current project is a book on transformational redemption based on the book of Job. In addition to her PhD in adult education and human resource development, she holds several Masters degrees including an MA in Theological Studies. You can see her art at https://www.artforthespirit/shop.

Join the conversation: What does Ecclesiastes 3:11 mean to you?

Calming the Storms in Your Life

by Kathy Howard

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39 ESV

The forces of nature regularly demonstrate their power in our world. Tornadoes topple high rises like a toddler flattens block towers. Tsunamis sweep over cities, burying them beneath the waves. Mankind is powerless against the funnel cloud and the rushing ocean. But there is One who has power over all these forces and more.

One night on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus gave His disciples a glimpse of His kingly glory by demonstrating His power over the natural world. After a long day of teaching, Jesus needed rest. As soon as the boat pushed away from the shore, Jesus laid His head on the cushion reserved for guests and quickly feel asleep. (See Mark 4:1-21 for the full story.)

Away from the safety of the shore, a storm hit with fury. As the boat filled with water, even the experienced fishermen feared for their lives. But Jesus slept on. To the disciples it seemed as though Jesus did not care. But the big storm was an opportunity for Jesus to reveal something about Himself they did not yet know.

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39 ESV

Only the Lord of all creation (Colossians 1:16-17) could calm the storm with a word. Only the God of the universe could speak peace to the tumultuous waves and still the whipping wind. “Peace! Be still!” The winds and the waves obeyed Him. Immediately the howling wind was silent. The thrashing sea became like glass.

Anyone would be afraid in a similar situation. Yet, after Jesus commanded the storm to cease, He asked the disciples why they feared, why they failed to trust Him to care for them.

The disciples had heard Jesus’ authoritative teaching. They had seen Him heal broken and diseased bodies. But they had not seen power on this level. Trembling with fear and awe, they looked at each other. They thought they knew this man, but Jesus blew away their assumptions during the violent storm. What else did they not know about Jesus? This One who had authority over nature?

Storms of difficulty often hit our lives too. They rush in, often popping up quickly like that storm on the Sea of Galilee. We have little power to stop them.

When trouble comes, we may react much like the disciples in the storm. Fear may rise. Doubt about God’s concern for us may push in. And though He rarely works in the way we might expect, He will always work for our ultimate spiritual good and His own glory.

Every trial is an opportunity for God to teach us more about Himself, to reveal Himself to us in a new way. Each difficulty and struggle open the door for God to display His power in our lives. Trust Him to do what only He can do. He sees. He cares. And He is able.

This post was adapted from Kathy Howard’s new devotional book “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark.”

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

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 the Bible in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. Kathy, who has a Masters of Religious Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary, is a devotional and Bible study author. She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her husband live near family in the Dallas/Ft Worth. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy’s new book, Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark, is available now!

Join the conversation: What have you learned about God in a storm?

The Power of a Renewed Mind

by Misty Phillip

…be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 ESV

One morning not too long ago, my phone rang. On the line was my assistant. She was anxiously awaiting an important appointment, and I could tell that fear was guiding her thoughts. “What will happen if this appointment does not go well?” She asked.

Wanting to provide comfort, but also speak truth in love, I responded, “God is good, either way. Place yourself in a posture of praise. Thank the Lord for who He is and what you know He can do. Keep a record of His faithfulness because He has been so good to you.” Since that conversation, my assistant has shared with me that her focus has shifted from worrying about her circumstances to worshipping the God who holds her in the midst of these circumstances. With her permission, I have shared this story, so that you may be encouraged and uplifted.

Perhaps, in this moment in history, we could all use a change of mind, a perspective shift, and an adjustment to our attitudes. But it should not stop there. Specifically, as believers, we need renewed minds – ones that worship the creator in Spirit and in truth. If you only take one tiny nugget of inspiration from this post, let it be this: a renewed mind leads to a renewed life.

What does a renewed mind look like?

The life of Paul the apostle is a tremendous example of the power that the Lord possesses to shift perspective and change a life. Paul was once a persistent persecutor of the church who met the Lord on the road to Damascus. Not only was his physical sight taken for a time, but he gained eternal vision. That is, he found that heavenly things are immensely more important than the things of this life.

In the letter of Romans, Paul provides an excellent framework for how our minds and our worship are to look. As believers, we should strive not to look like the world, but to imitate the character of Christ. When we do this, we are acting as set apart, and holy people who have dedicated and consecrated our minds and our lives to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2 ESV).

The word “renewal,” as used in this passage, comes from the Greek term that means “complete change for the better.” When we come to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our minds, hearts, and attitudes are completely shifted through the process of sanctification. This process, although ongoing, allows for us to have an intimate relationship with the Lord. The more that we grow in the knowledge of Him and His character, the greater our desire will be to worship Him. Having a deep personal connection to the Lord enriches every area of our lives and points others to our source of hope—Jesus.  

I want to encourage you to get to know the Lord personally. Worship Him daily and walk in His ways. He is the giver of life, and we, as believers have the gift and the opportunity to praise Him with every breath. Take time to thank Him for who He is and to assume a posture of praise.

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

Image result for misty philip

About the author: Misty Philip is a dreamer and a doer who believes we are all here for a reason and that we are created for a purpose. She encourages people to use their story to give God glory. Misty is a podcaster, speaker, author, and entrepreneur who is passionate about helping you spark your soul message.

Founder of Spark Media which consists of the Spark Christian Podcast Conference, Spark Now Summit, and the Spark Collective. She is the host of the popular By His Grace podcast. Misty inspires others through her leadership, speaking, and mastermind groups. She currently serves as the Houston Connect Leader for Christian Women In Media. Misty is the author of the best-selling Bible Study, The Struggle is Real: But So is God and Spark Podcast Planner 2020.

Join the conversation: What do you do to renew your mind each day?

Looking Out for Art

by Janet Holm McHenry

People who create things are amazing to me. Like these folks I know…

Artists. My mom, 93, is a watercolorist. The youngest of seven raised during the Great Depression, she paid attention when her high school art teacher said, “You should go to art school.” So she did, even though most of her six half-siblings did not graduate from high school. I have many of her landscape paintings now and love staring at them, wondering such things as how she created smoke or water or sky.

Carpenters. My grandfather was a carpenter. Grandpa Max built homes for a living, and somehow kept food on their table, even through the 1930s. He also made furniture, mostly for family members. He made a custom desk and attached bookshelves that filled an eight-foot wall. He also made a large corner cupboard for my mom’s growing set of willow ware, as well as a large buffet for tablecloths and such.

Music-makers. My daughter Bethany and her husband Matt write music. Her first worship song stunned me: she has a way not only with words but with melodies as well. And he has incredible skills piecing and mixing multiple tracks. He made us family members sound good for a song my husband Craig wished for as his Christmas present.

Bezalel and Oholiab were true craftsmen in the Exodus story. God called them by name to create artistic designs for the tabernacle—the portable sanctuary that would house the Ten Commandments and serve as the meeting place between God and His people as they traveled from the desert to the Promised Land. But it could not be just any old tent structure. The Lord Himself provided artistic designs for the two men and their helpers to create in gold, silver, bronze, beautiful stones, and carving wood for the tabernacle and all the beautiful furniture and pieces to equip it. And others supported them in furnishing the materials needed to do their work–to an abundance so much that they had to be told to stop giving.

While man’s artwork of all kinds will never match much less exceed God’s creation around us, it is worthy of appreciating and supporting. This is such a time now to look around and help support our creatives–artists, musicians, skilled craftspeople, and even writers—many of whom are struggling financially as museums and theaters and such may be closed. We need beauty in our lives right now…and those who can create beautiful things need us. Just as God blessed the Exodus creatives, we can bless them today.

Every craftsman in whom the Lord has put skill and intelligence…shall work.” –Exodus 36:1 ESV

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

About the author: The only creative things Janet McHenry dabbles in are words. A national speaker, she is the author of thousands of articles, devotions, and blogs, as well as twenty-four books—including the bestselling PrayerWalk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Discipline and Strength. She is the host for the Sierra Valley Writers Retreat several times a year in her home in rural northern California and would love to connect with you through her website, https://www.janetmchenry.com.

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Not Just Your Lord

by Carol McCracken

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:37 (NIV)

When my son was six years old, my husband and I both worked full-time. Connor had a babysitter, Nikki, who loved the Lord. One summer she asked if Connor could attend her church’s Vacation Bible School. My husband and I heartily agreed.

After the first day, I picked Connor up from Nikki’s house and asked how VBS went. With a giggle, she told me Connor knew and loved his Lord. However, he had told her there was no reason for him to look for Jesus in her church because he knew Jesus lived and worked at his church. He did his best to correct Nikki’s theology. Nikki along with a group of her church’s VBS staff, finally convinced him to participate in the program by luring him with snacks and enticing playground equipment. They had four more days to work on him.

We tried so hard to make sure Connor loved God because God loved him first. Never wanting him to doubt God’s mutual love, we unintentionally taught Connor an exclusive relationship with the Lord. He understood his Heavenly Father knew his name, the number of hairs on his head, and that he was a masterpiece. We were delighted at how he took all of that in and deeply loved God back. However, it was clear we needed to teach Connor how to share Jesus, and to understand Jesus came for all His children.

While God wants us to have a personal relationship with Him, He also wants us to share His love with others. Connor had learned the greatest commandment of all quite well. He loved Jesus with all his little heart. That summer he also learned the second commandment, “…Love your neighbor as yourself“ (Matthew 22:39 NIV). Nikki and her church’s VBS staff showed some love to Connor. They brought that little boy to a fuller understanding of what Jesus wanted from us as His brothers and sisters.

A personal relationship with Jesus was never meant to be exclusive. Jesus has enough love for all of God’s children. He remains fully and divinely equipped to have a personal relationship with each one of us. Based on that, He wants us to put others before ourselves to show Jesus’ love to each other. That is a sacrificing kind of love like Jesus modeled in His earthly body.

Though Connor is our only child, we were reminded God has many children whom He loves equally. Thankfully, Connor learned to share that love of Christ. He came to realize Jesus as much bigger than he thought and not confined to living in a single brick and mortar church.

We were so grateful to those who used their gifts, such as Nikki along with the VBS staff, to help us raise our son to know the Lord correctly. Never underestimate the power or influence God gave you to share the love of Christ.

I took that thought to heart and volunteered to help with VBS at our church the next year. Apparently, I mortified Connor with my acting abilities as I taught all his fellow attendees from the stage. The following year, I showed the love of Jesus to others a bit more privately, teaching off the platform and in a small group, and he was able to hold his head up once again.

So, get out there and show the love of Jesus. For Connor and all other children, you could potentially mortify, but use your specific gifting in sharing Jesus’ love wisely. Just use it.

About the author: Carol McCracken has been a Bible teacher for over twenty years. She currently serves on church staff as Adult Discipleship Minister. Her passion is to make the Bible come alive for women and connect it to a real relationship with Jesus Christ in today’s busy and demanding world. She is an AWSA and Destin Word Weavers member.

Carol is a contributor to ChristianDevotions.us, Arise Daily and Mustard Seed Ministries. She published her book Wisdom: Where to Find It If You’ve Lost, Forgotten, Or Never Had It in November 2020. Connect with her at CarolMcCracken.com or on social media.

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