Is Our Strength Too Small?

by Terri Gillespie

If you falter in a day of adversity, your strength is small. Proverbs 24:10 TLV

What was I thinking?

An amusement park ride that included the words “drop” or “doom” probably wasn’t the best choice for me—even twenty-five years ago. But the hopeful look on my then teenaged daughter’s face trumped my fear—and good sense. I couldn’t disappoint her again.

I suppose working fifty-hour weeks had built a sizeable reserve of guilt for her to draw from.

The ride advertised itself as the tallest in the park. “Breathtaking views,” it promoted. Unfortunately, as we sat in the gondola on the precipice of insanity, those views were only for a few seconds. And with the gondolas being completely exposed to the elements, I felt like I was about to freefall—without a parachute—over four hundred feet. Pure, unadulterated terror.

Sitting out there those seconds, I remember questioning how the ride worked. I may even have said—screamed—that out loud. In the state of pure fear, I had forgotten how the monstrosity worked.

Mind you, for the hour we stood in line, I had watched how it worked—over and over again. Listened to the teenaged attendant give the safety briefing, as he strapped us in.

Yet, once we perched over nothingness hundreds of feet in the air, everything I had seen or heard was forgotten.

You know what it reminded me of? Receiving a potential death sentence. Except I had absurdly spent good money to willingly receive that verdict.

The true test of wisdom’s strength in our life is when trials and tribulations befall us. When we’re strapped in and riding life’s “drop of doom.”

I can spout wise words with the best of them, but when challenges arise, especially ones that push those weak areas of my heart, I can still falter. That what-do-I-do panic moment before His truth kicks in. The standing on a precipice with a stampede behind me. My first thoughts are “Yikes! Help!” or a sense of hopelessness. Or, “How does this faith-thing work again?”

But the sooner I pause and look up, out of my physical situation—or down at the drop—my Heavenly Father can guide me and show me how to proceed. He can give me that peace, that perfect shalom.

And the shalom [peace] of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua [Jesus]. Philippians 4:7 TLV

I fully own to being weak. Still, if faltering points me to my true strength, my Abba, then that’s not too bad. “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Messiah may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 TLV).

Heavenly Father, I acknowledge my weakness. I would rather be wise and completely dependent upon our True Strength right away when adversity comes, but I know that You will walk me through the minute I come to You. Thanks for Your patience. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

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

Join the conversation: What do you do when you panic?

Stop, Look, and Listen

by Sandra Julian Barker

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 NIV

People often call the traffic signal in the middle of the intersection a “stoplight.” Even though the green for “go” light and the amber for “slow and be prepared to stop” are important lights, the red for “stop” is the most important of the three. If we don’t stop when the light is red, we run the danger of a deadly crash with harm to ourselves and those around us. I guess that’s why we so often call it a stoplight.

I’m reminded of a verse in Job where Elihu says to his friend, “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders…God comes in awesome majesty” (Job 37:14, 22 NIV). Elihu was basically saying, “Job, you need to stop, look and listen — consider all the wonders God has created. He’s so awesome!”

Too often, we tend to zip through life without stopping to appreciate the beauty God has placed in the world around us. Stopping to smell the roses is not just an indulgence, it makes life more beautiful, enjoyable and worthwhile.

Then there are times we need to stop what we’re doing and reassess our lives. Does God want you to continue on this road, or does He want you to go in another direction? In the book of Jeremiah, God told His people to “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16 IV). Don’t we all want rest for our souls? A soul at rest is able to think more clearly – to see the path in front of her and examine what the next step should be.

It’s easy to get caught up in everyday life – do what has to be done and then push on to the next thing, because if you don’t do it, no one else will.

But sometimes, we need to stop and peek around the corner before we plunge ahead. Be still and whisper a prayer before taking that next step. You may need an extra dose of God’s guidance and strength to face whatever lies beyond that corner.

In Matthew 20:32-33 NIV, there’s a story of two blind men who called out to Jesus. Scripture tells us, “Jesus stopped…” and asked, “What do you want Me to do for you?” I love that question, because I believe He stands at our heart’s door and asks us that same question: “What do you want Me to do for you?”

The two blind men answered, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.” And what did Jesus do? Of course He had compassion on the men and healed them – He opened their eyes so that they could see.

What better answer can we give to Jesus when He asks what we want than to answer, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened!” I’m reminded of the first line of an old hymn, “Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me” (written by Clara H. Scott in 1895). 

Oh, to have our eyes opened to the love of Jesus, the wonder of who He is, the good ways He wants to show us and help us walk, and the joy, peace and rest He offers us along the way.

Lord, help us to stop, look and listen. Help us be still and know that you are wonderful God!

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.” She has a passion for sharing the love of Christ, encouraging hope and helping others seek God’s path of purpose in their lives.

Sandra’s latest book includes her own story of God’s grace in the face of great tragedy. She blogs at sandra-ramblingrose.blogspot.com/ and is in ministry with womenvictorious.com.

Join the conversation: What have you noticed lately when you took the time to stop, look, and listen?

Our Go-To Behaviors

by Meredith Kendall

For years, my husband and I have taught churches how to respond in a biblical manner to those in the community who found themselves living in poverty. During the training, we explain about the mindset of someone who has grown up in this lifestyle, and that until their brain is retrained to think differently, their brain will always find the path of least resistance. Our brains are actually very lazy; they can spot patterns very efficiently, and therefore begin running off memory when they see something familiar. This is also known as our “go-to behavior”. 

My aha moment came recently when I was reading my Bible. God spoke to me and said, “You know, you live with a poverty mindset.” Hearing those words was so profound, I got out my journal and wrote them down. I then I started to pray, asking God to show me what He meant.

This started me on a journey of realizing how many times, while knowing God’s Truth, I don’t actually live a life to the fullest in those truths.

I can quote verses about how amazing God is and all I can do through Him, but it is just that, words that come out of my mouth.  Things I can regurgitate because I have memorized a few words. Just like those we have served in our ministry, until they retrained the pathways in their brain to take a different route, they would find themselves making the same decisions over and over again.

I have a couple of favorite verses that I like to meditate on, but the main one is from Ephesians 2. It says that we are God’s masterpiece, and that He created us anew in Christ Jesus.  Why did He do that?

So we can do the good things He has already planned long ago. 

Growing up, I was told I would never amount to anything. I heard that over and over again, so I unfortunately lived into those lies. What I felt God was telling me recently is that I have been living a spiritual life of poverty. I read Scripture and believe the statements that I am a masterpiece created to do great things, but my go-to behaviors usually win out over what I believe to be true. I am having to retrain my thoughts to believe and live out Ephesians 2:10.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (NLT).

Has God said something similar to you? Start today retraining your thoughts to live up to the words the Lord has said about you.

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

About the author: Meredith Sage Kendall, is a change agent, driven by her God-given passion to equip struggling families to achieve their unique God-given potential. As a nationally recognized sales leader, Meredith learned how to build bridges and make connections with the heart of what people need. God called her to co-found Advancing the Gospel which serves those who are often forgotten. Today she uses her giftings to help people understand the root causes of their struggles and find freedom through Christ. Visit her online atwww.meredithsagekendall.com.

Join the Conversation: What is your go-to behavior that you wish to change?

The Fear Not Factor

by Nan Allen

…Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 NIV

It was called Infantile Paralysis and though I don’t remember it, since I was only two years old, my sister and I actually had this virus—the virus we now know as polio. A few months after we had the virus, the vaccine became available and was distributed, subsequently eradicating the disease.

Even though my sister and I didn’t have any long-term effects, I’m aware that this virus not only killed but maimed millions of people, before it was finally eliminated by stopping the spread. I understand, too, that for many years before and after our illness, there was fear and panic and despair much like now with the present pandemic. Like COVID-19, this virus had a mind of its own. It could kill or not. It could make someone very ill or not. No one knew how a body would respond. But the epidemic hit our little southern town just as the vaccine was coming out.

I remember, later on, seeing pictures of people, children and adults, having to spend the rest of their lives in leg braces or a contraption called an “iron lung”—a casket-like device that moved paralyzed muscles that were required for breathing. Without it, the victim would suffocate. It was a horrible disease, and though I don’t remember much about my family’s bout with it, I know that the fear of it was very real.  (And the idea that it only affected children, infantile paralysis was no longer regarded as true. After all, President Franklin Roosevelt had it as an adult.)

We are born with a certain amount of fear. It is natural. Doctors say that humans have two inborn fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud sounds. In so many cases, fear is good. It helps us respond to danger. However, the kind of fear that we develop as we get older is born out of a feeling that we are out of control of the future. And we are. But that’s where this emotion becomes a problem. We are afraid of what we cannot see, touch, or hear. We don’t know what will happen, so we often don’t venture into that great unknown.

As believers, we add guilt to our fear. Fear is the absence of faith, right? And without faith, we cannot please God. Jesus spoke about fear to His disciples in the Upper Room. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1 ISV). However, right after this Jesus had a sense of fear Himself. “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me!” (Matthew 26:39, GNT). He knew what was ahead, and yet He still dreaded the pain of betrayal, of the whip, and of the nails that would be driven into His hands. He did not fear death, however. He knew that He would overcome that and, in doing so, overcome it for us, too.

Mr. Roosevelt said this in his first presidential inaugural address, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes…”

Fear can be paralyzing much like the poliomyelitis virus. It can keep us from walking, venturing out, and even breathing. The only way to banish this plague is to do what Jesus said in the garden just before His arrest and torture.  “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” An old adage says, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.”

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God… Isaiah 41:10 NIV

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 do you fear?


Bringing Friends to Jesus

by Jennifer Slattery

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7 NASB

I don’t want the love I give to be based on convenience, but honestly, this is my greatest battle. It’s relentless and persistent, and unfortunately, there are times I concede. Because of pride, insecurity, distraction … and a fierce hold on my comfort level. I give of my time and my money, my energy … but only so much.  To love deeper, I need to sit. Sit with my Savior, the One who floods my soul with everything good and right and lovely. And I need to sit in other people’s pain, so that it becomes my own.

Years ago, I watched a profound video that halted my thoughts and convicted my soul. In it, a man was advocating for orphans he’d encountered personally while visiting a developing country. Seeing them face-to-face as they scrounged through garbage cans, those children, once statistics easily forgotten, became real. And in that moment, God asked Him how he’d respond if the child digging through trash were his child. Then God told him the child was His—God’s.

I have to pause there. I know I can’t take on every wrong, but I can speak love and hope to those God brings near. Through grace and truth-filled actions, I can introduce them to my Savior. Even if that means actively tearing through the barriers that keep them from Him.

I can follow the example of the men who carried a paralytic—perhaps a friend or family member—to Christ. Scripture doesn’t tell us how far they’d traveled, whether a mile or ten. This was during a time when paralytics were often considered cursed by God, and likely to be abandoned by friends. Therefore, most of them suffered not only the loss of mobility, but the loss of community as well. I imagine the loneliness hurt most.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case with the paralytic in our story. His friends stood by him. They (literally) walked beside him as well. Even if that meant pushing through a throng of desperate people, embracing the stigma of associating with a paralytic, and potentially angering the religious elite—those with the power to expel people from their faith community (John 12:42). The Bible says everyone “gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door …” (Mark 2:2 NIV).

Pause to envision the scene. Envision these men standing on the outskirts, surveying the crowd. Place yourself in that position for a moment, not only needing to push through but to push through with someone our culture might stigmatize.

Who is that person for you? The one our society keeps on the fringe, ignores, and even disdains?

Had you been those men, how might you have responded?

Would you have hung back, telling yourself all the reasons Jesus didn’t have time for your friend?

That’s not what these men did. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on” (Mark 2:2-4 NIV).

That’d be the equivalent of someone removing your window to crawl inside your house. Polite, civilized people just don’t do that sort of thing.

But those desperate to see their loved ones encounter Christ do.

The result? Verse 5 states, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”

When Jesus saw their faith. Sit on that phrase in light of this passage. Their faith propelled these men into action. They knew their friend needed Jesus and couldn’t reach Him on his own, so they stepped into the gap. The broke through the barriers keeping the paralytic from life, and they received precisely what they longed for and more.

Reading this, I have to ask myself—who does God want me to step into the gap for, and what might that look like? What “roof” might I need to unhinge or “crowd” might I need to push through? More importantly, will I? Or will I stand on the fringe, waiting for an easy opening, one that fits my schedule or comfort level?

Each day, each encounter, my choice.

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

Jennifer Slattery

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites. In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.

Join the conversation: What about you? Who might God be asking you to bring to Him? Will you?

A Different Kind of Fruit

by Nancy Kay Grace

Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord…That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3 NIV

A friend of ours planted a small peach tree in our backyard, a gift to encourage us after a time an intense time of loss from the passing of our parents. We enjoyed the view from kitchen window, watching birds flutter in its branches.

Every year, the tree blossomed. Light pink flowers covered every branch. We anticipated fruit as it matured.

However, that never happened.

The tree blossomed in the early spring, only to be caught in a late-winter freeze. Overnight, the flowers dropped to the ground. When the weather warmed, a few more blossoms popped out on the tips of the branches. The fruit was small, and ended up being eaten by birds and squirrels. This happened every spring. 

We cared for the tree, spraying it against blight every spring and trimming any damaged branches.

One spring, a series of heavy rainstorms saturated our area. Straight-line winds pushed the medium-sized peach tree over, so much that the full, leafy branches bent toward the ground, almost lying on the soggy grass. Was the tree dead? We wondered if the tree would survive.

When we looked at the base of the trunk, the root system was exposed above dirt, but not broken. With the help of friends, my husband pushed the tree back in place, staking it up to once again become straight. Soil was added to the base of the tree for extra support.

The peach tree continued growing because the taproot went deep into the soil. It was vulnerable to the changeable weather but survived each storm.  Although it didn’t bear peaches, the tree had a different kind of fruit—protection for birds and shade in the summer, and our enjoyment in watching the birds.

Deep roots allowed the tree to stand, even when it looked like it would not survive the harsh winds.

Psalm 1:1-3 NIV expresses Christian growth this way: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.”

Although the peach tree wasn’t planted by water, its roots grew deep to an underground water source. As believers, we need to send our roots deep into the soil of God’s Word. We gain spiritual stability for the storms that come our way. When reading the encouraging words of the Bible, hope is restored. Our souls are nourished from the Word, so we can grow and bear fruit for the Lord, showing His love to those around us. 

May the Lord be your nourishment and stability as you send spiritual roots deep into His Word.

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 deepen your roots with God?

Called to Serve

by Christina Rose

 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV

When we believe in Christ, we become a new creation with hearts so filled with love that we feel called to share our blessings. We become a reflection of Christ who brings His Good News to the poor in spirit. Our desires begin to mirror His desires to spread His love throughout the world. Our deeds become a reflection of our hearts that are continually being transformed and renewed by God.

When my daughters left for college, life felt lonely, so I busied myself with finding a better job.  I prayed for something close to home, yet after months of searching, the only job offered to me was in San Francisco. This meant a commute of three hours round trip each day which was challenging, but it was a beautiful office, and I enjoyed the ferry ride across the bay each day.

A few weeks after I accepted this first offer, I received a second offer just minutes from my home.  I felt this was an answer to my prayers, so I quit the first job and took the second offer. Within weeks I knew I had made a serious mistake. The second offer close to home was a grueling sweatshop with constant overtime and explosive tempers.

One day an attorney I worked for called me into his office.  He said, “I’ve just been fired, and I’ve been thinking about killing myself for a long time. When I do, I may as well take a lot of people out with me.”  I froze yet had to think fast.  I knew I was on assignment and silently called for God’s help. I then stood up and commanded, “You’ll do no such thing! You’re going to dinner with me right now and we’re going to talk you out of this nonsense. You have so much to live for.” 

This man had a 21-year-old daughter. My father had taken his life when I was 21 over a despondent situation at work which devastated our family. I knew God was calling me to give this man the real deal of how hard his daughter’s life would be if he took his life, and how much he would miss out on – weddings, grandkids, holidays.  We sat at a restaurant talking for hours, and I could sense he was starting to soften. He then lifted up his sleeve and showed me a tattoo, “Micah”, a prophet of the Old Testament whose name means “who is like God”.  I said, “You believed once, you can believe again – have faith.” He then made plans to move near his daughter and look for work there. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” ( Galatians 6:10 NIV).

The next day, my daughters came home from college for the holidays.  I regretfully left for work, wishing I could stay home and spend time with them. When I arrived at work, I was given notice that I was being laid off with a full month of severance pay! My co-workers were dumbfounded as I burst out laughing, “Wow, that’s awesome – Merry Christmas!” I had just been handed a month’s paid vacation with my daughters after completing God’s assignment. Not only that, but the first job offered me my job back with a big raise, which I gratefully accepted.

When God calls us to serve the task may not be easy, but He always equips us through the process, and then shines His grace on us as we obey. After my daughters returned to college, I went back to work in San Francisco. One evening we had a live hula show on the ferry while commuting home. A glorious sunset filled the sky as the sun set over the Golden Gate bridge. I watched the hula dancers gracefully swaying to the Hawaiian music, and I then heard a whisper, “There is so much to live for.”

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.  To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11 ESV)

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

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 and auntie to many nieces and nephews who live around the world.

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 and miraculous empowerment. That power is available to us all, especially those who need hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: When is the last time you knew you were on assignment from God?

Are You Nice? Or Kind?

by Terri Gillespie

Let kindness and truth never leave you—bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3 TLV

A while back, there were these commercials for an energy/snack bar called KIND. It was a thoughtful advertisement because it practically defined the difference between nice and kind.

When I read this passage in Proverbs, I checked out the company’s website. It turns out, the founder of KIND is a child of a Holocaust survivor. Reading his corporation’s mission statement gave me insight into why he named his product KIND.

“Nice means well, but it’s not enough. Kind is different. Nice is polite, but it stays out of it. Kind is honest — it speaks up and rises to the occasion. Nice doesn’t bully, but Kind stands up to bullies. Nice is something you say, whereas Kind is something you do.” DANIEL LUBETZKY, FOUNDER of KIND SNACKS AND THE KIND FOUNDATION

Honestly, up until a few years ago, I had thought of nice and kind as interchangeable. That apparently has been my problem. Even though nice is good, it is frustrating when one assumes it is the same as kindness. What do I mean by this?

I love living in the South. People are so polite, which was refreshing coming from the East Coast where folks tend to be brusque. However, after a few months of living here, hubby and I were disappointed that the politeness — niceness — didn’t carry through to building relationships. It was confusing.

Dealing with the East Coast folks, we knew who and what we were dealing with—we knew our kindness was an act of faith, not fellowship. We were always grateful for the fruits of our labor—the sweet, lasting friendships that developed.

Sometimes, a nice person’s actions are based on feelings — they might crave the on-the-spot approval or validation that niceness gives them. Or they were simply brought up to be polite and nice (which really isn’t a bad thing) and were reprimanded if they were rude (also not a bad thing).

Still, I do like having nice people around. Nevertheless, politeness is a temporary action, not intended to go any deeper. It is pleasant but goes no further. No other involvement of the heart.

Kind people aren’t afraid of sacrifice if the need arises. A polite greeting from a kind person can promptly turn to aid and compassion if required.

Did you know the Bible agrees with this? The word kindness is used in thirty-four passages, lovingkindness one hundred four times! Many times, it is used as an attribute of GOD.

And the word nice? It is only used once. And, not in a “nice” way: “For even your brothers—your father’s house— even they will betray you, even they will shout out after you. Have no confidence in them, even if they say nice words to you” (Jeremiah 12: 6 TLV, emphasis mine).

Really, the difference between kindness and niceness is truth. Truth in our motivations, truth in our actions.

Just as politeness can be taught, so can kindness. But it must begin with a journey of the heart. Seeking the LORD to show us whether we operate in niceness or kindness, or perhaps a bit of both. He will help us refine our motives if we are willing. He will help us see the needs around us and respond according to His will and purpose.

We become His partners — His hands — in kindness. How great is that!

Heavenly Father, I want to learn how to be more than nice and polite. I want to be one of Your partners in kindness. Please show me how, by Your Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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

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

Join the conversation: How would you rather be treated: nicely, or with kindness? Why?

Rejoice: How to Safeguard Yourself

by Debbie W. Wilson

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Philippians. 3:1 NIV

How can you safeguard what’s precious to you? In the above Scripture, Paul offers a surprising form of protection—rejoice in the Lord!

I find it ironic that a letter written from prison would talk about rejoicing. Maybe you’ve felt like you’ve been in a prison this past year. COVID restrictions restrained us from gathering with friends and family. We couldn’t participate in activities we’d taken for granted. Without warning, many of life’s securities and pleasures were yanked away.

Paul didn’t have Zoom to keep in touch with the churches or Amazon Prime to deliver groceries. At one point, he asked Timothy to bring him the basic necessities of a cloak and writing paper. Yet, he says, “Rejoice in the Lord!”

Why Should We Rejoice in the Lord?

Paul says, “it is a safeguard to you.” A safeguard is a form of protection. It provides firm footing in uncertain times. The only absolute certainty we have is knowing the One who never changes (Heb. 13:8).

When Do We Rejoice?

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NIV).

Always! Even during COVID and political unrest. Even when we’re sick, weary, broke, or lonely. Rejoicing in the Lord should be a constant attitude no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in.

In What Do We Rejoice?

Imagine being on death row. You’ve said goodbye to your loved ones, your reputation, and your dreams of a future. You await lethal injection. The fateful day arrives. The guard, accompanied by a cohort of officials, comes at the appointed time. A man steps forward and reads from an official-looking document. The President of the United States has pardoned you. They haven’t come to escort you to your death, but to return your life!

Now imagine a month later you scorch the shirt you’re ironing for a job interview and get a parking ticket the same day. How long would the wonder of being pardoned last before you allowed lesser things to rob you of the joy of being alive?

Jesus understood the folly of basing our joy on our circumstances. Even phenomenal wins are transient.

“The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name’” (Lk. 10:17 NIV). What a high the seventy-two followers of Christ must have felt watching demons submit to them. Jesus rejoiced with them. But notice His warning.

“He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven’” (Lk. 10:18-20 NIV).

The seventy-two who rejoiced in that victory would soon be disillusioned when Jesus was crucified. Circumstances change. There will be days when we see great victories. But no matter how amazing those highs are, they can’t compare with the unshakable fact our names are written in the Book of Life!

It’s good to rejoice over our blessings. But we must be careful not to let the setbacks in life tarnish the joy that comes from knowing Jesus and having eternal life.

How? David danced before the Lord. Mary washed Jesus’ feet with expensive ointment. The woman who’d been forgiven much washed His feet with her tears. Deborah and Miriam led Israel in song.

How you rejoice may depend on your personality and situation. The admonition to rejoice in Philippians 4 was in the context of worry and prayer. The point is, do it! Make a habit of recalling God’s character and counting your eternal blessings. This practice will safeguard you through whatever life brings.

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

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big Godand Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: How do you rejoice over your blessings?

A Tea Party with God

by Chris Manion

You prepare a table before me…. Psalm 23:5 KJV

My 2-year-old grandson sets a tea party for his kitties every day before naptime. He slowly, carefully places a tea cup and bread before each stuffed kitty and then feeds every one.

His hand looks ginormous compared to the table, cups, and kitty.

“Meow… Tea?” he asks, as he lifts the littlest tea cup between his pudgy thumb and forefinger to his kitty critter. The time and care he takes to set up the tea party and feed his little ones belies his twenty-four-month development and small motor control.

That perspective made me imagine God’s hand big enough to pick up my kitchen table… then my house… then my city… then the planet. Yet he so patiently, slowly places before us our daily bread and feeds us when necessary, when we don’t – or won’t – take care of ourselves.

Imagine… His big hand and heart entering our tiny little space with such tender care.

I want to look at the world the way my little grandson does. I want to see creatures and humans with such loving eyes that I am moved to stop what I’m doing and sit with them, pour tea for them, serve the soup in a soup line, or help them find a child separated from them.

If I had such eyes, what would I do? Become a foster parent? Give more money to missioners for milk and bread? Spend time with the widow down the block? Adopt a lonely child?

“The Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples” (Isaiah 25:6 NIV).

Since God is not human, He sets up millions of tea parties or circumstances to feed us daily. To offer us our daily cross. Can you see His smile if we take the time to taste? To carry our cross like His Son did? To sip tea with someone we dislike?

Children teach us so much, so fresh from heaven…

Why not have tea with God today?

What is he gently setting before you? What is He asking you to see? To do? To be? “Be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good…” (Matthew 5:45 NABRE)

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

About the author: Chris Sauter Manion loves to speak from her core Scripture verse: “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). She’s an award-winning author, leadership expert, and inspirational speaker who uses skills from building a $20 million sales organization to help people of all ages embrace the give and take of a deepening relationship with God. Chris lives with her husband of forty-plus years in Florida‘s panhandle where she kayaks and photographs the Gulf coast’s natural beauty. She is a grandmother of five wee ones and loses all sense of time when gardening, creating and cooking. Reach out to her at www.ChrisManion.com

Join the conversation: What is God asking you to see?