The Fight

by Fran Caffey Sandin

For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 ESV

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? How do they work out for you?

January initiates a fresh year, an opportunity for setting goals, and making changes. Unfortunately, my resolutions only last a few days. So, I make plans and take one day at a time, keeping in mind that God is with me, helping me to be flexible and aware of the needs of others while working toward personal goals.  

The book of Nehemiah describes how, following captivity and wanderings, the children of Israel returned to Jerusalem. Having viewed the destruction, and inspired by God, Nehemiah challenged the people to rebuild the broken walls and the gates destroyed by fire. The people responded favorably and replied, “Let us rise up and build” (Neh. 2:18 ESV). They began the good work, looking to the future.

But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah, the Ammonite, and Geshem, the Arab, heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed them. Nehemiah responded to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper” (Neh. 2:20 ESV).

This was an opportunity to start something new, but already opposition had arisen against the enormous project as, one by one, the gates were being replaced and the stone wall gradually gained height. When Sanballat heard about their continuing progress, he was furious and doubted the Jews could restore the wall from all the rubble. Tobiah joined in the mocking.

Meanwhile, the priests and men were working with all their hearts, but Sanballat and Tobiah plotted together to cause trouble and fight against Jerusalem. These enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work” (Neh. 4:11 ESV).

When that news reached Nehemiah, he expressed faith to his workers, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (Neh. 4:14 ESV). He had stationed some families with their swords, spears, and bows at the most vulnerable areas of the wall. Aware of the constant danger, Nehemiah ordered half of the men to do the work and the other half to protect them with their swords and weapons. Each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. The wall was completed in 52 days.

Victorious God! When the enemies saw what happened, they were afraid and lost their confidence.

As believers in Jesus Christ, our sword, the sword of the Spirit, is the Word of God, the Holy Bible. Our adversary, the devil, Satan, is a liar, deceiver, and makes plans for our destruction. Jesus used the Word of God to defy the devil’s schemes (Matthew 4: 1-11), and so can we.

We see the evil around us, but we fight for our families, our children, our brothers, sisters, our homes. Let us learn from Nehemiah and face adversity by expressing faith in Almighty God. We can use our spiritual sword, His Word, to defeat the evil one whose goal is to discourage and silence us. Let us stand firm in 2022. Now that’s a resolution worth making!

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

About the author: Fran is a retired nurse, organist, mother, and grandmother living in Greenville, Texas. She has authored See You Later, Jeffrey, Touching the Clouds, and has contributed to thirty books. She and her husband, Jim, have traveled to many countries and states. Her latest book, HOPE on the Way, Devotions to Go— contains 52 devotionals for those who love to combine faith and adventure. HOPE on the Way was acknowledged for outstanding Christian Literature both in the Devotional and Christian Living sections by Joy and Company in Arlington, Texas. Visit Fran’s website at www.fransandin.com.

Join the conversation: What adversity have you faced recently?

He’s Always Listening

by Cindi McMenamin

“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him. For God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8 NIV

I called up my friend, bursting with news to share.

“Guess what?” I blurted out as soon as she answered.

“Sorry, I’m on the other line,” she replied, cutting me off.  “Can I call you back?”

So I called another friend. No answer. Finally, I called my husband. “I’m in the middle of something right now,” he said, rather curtly. “I’ll get back to you later.”

Three attempts to share what was on my heart… all to no avail.

Then, as if remembering a friend on standby, I called on the One who is always available when I want to talk.

“Trust in Him at all times…pour out your hearts before Him,” David sang in his 62nd Psalm about this God Who Listens.

I bowed my head and prayed. I told God all that was on my heart. And you know what? He listened.

Why do I not go to Him first when I have something to say? He’s never on “another line.” He’s never got something else that’s more pressing, or more important than what it is I want to share with Him. Like a Daddy eager to hear from His daughter, He is always listening. So why do I not tell Him first?

We often have something on our hearts we just need to share with someone. Some exciting news. Something discouraging that’s weighing us down. A bill we can’t pay. A concern for something that might happen. Who do you call when there’s something on your heart and mind that you need to share? I’ve learned from experience that if I go to someone else, I’m eventually going to be disappointed – by their unavailability, their less-than-enthusiastic response, or maybe their lack of response altogether.

David proclaimed in Psalm 3:4: “I cried out to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy mountain.”(NLT) Did you catch that? He isn’t on another call. He isn’t too busy to pick up the call. He isn’t distracted by another incoming call. He answers me.

As you go throughout this day, with all that comes your way, tell God about it first. Of course, He already knows what it is you’re about to say. But by telling Him your news first, you’re reassuring Him – and yourself – that He is the single most important One in your life. And you have a guarantee that He’s listening.

Thank you, Lord, that You are never too busy, unavailable or disinterested to hear from me. Thank You that, instead, Your ear is always tuned to me. Help me to come to You first as You wait for me to share all that is on my heart and mind.

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindi

About the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 17 books including When Women Walk Alone (more than 120,000 copies sold), God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart, and Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her books and ministry, and free resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Cindi’s latest publication is Seven Ways to Experience More with Your Husband. Your marriage isn’t broken, but it doesn’t seem to be growing, either. Where’s the spark and passion you experienced as newlyweds? Butterflies in your stomach, your spouse’s undivided attention, the anticipation of spending time together…how can your marriage ever get back to that place?

That spark is still there, waiting to be fanned into a lasting flame! Let noted author and speaker Cindi McMenamin show you the small changes you can make to touch your husband’s heart in a big way. Renew and re-glue your relationship as you discover how to strengthen your marriage and reignite the passion you and your husband once shared.

Join the conversation: How do you remember to pray during your day?

God’s Gift of Living Water

by Christina Rose

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes afresh bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.  John 4:13-14 NLT

On his way to Galilee, Jesus and his disciples had to pass through Samaria. They came to the village of Sychar around noon and Jesus sat by Jacob’s well while his disciples went into the village to buy food. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus asked her to give him a drink. Jews did not speak with Samaritans, so she questioned why he would ask her for a drink. Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water” (John 4:10 NLT).

When the woman asked to receive this living water, Jesus told her to go get her husband; she replied that she did not have a husband. Jesus told her that he knew she was not married to the man she was living with, and that she had had five husbands. So, she became curious and questioned him further. “Then Jesus told her, ‘I Am the Messiah!’” (John 4:26 NLT).

Jesus purposely chose to reveal himself as the Messiah to an outcast woman who was scorned by her own people, a race the Jews despised. He showed how God values and actively seeks each one of us despite how bankrupt our lives may seem. Only someone like the Samaritan woman who felt unloved and unwanted could understand the magnitude of such grace. She was now set free to share her joy with the nearby village.

Shame is not always obvious. I’ve come to learn there are many thirsty people in the world who need the grace of God’s living water.

Sydney was one of the greatest windsurfers on San Francisco Bay. She fearlessly flew across the waves, barely skimming the surface with her speed and agility. Clumsy beginners like myself would watch in awe as she mastered the waves and never missed a jibe.

One day Sydney noticed my starstruck admiration and gave me some tips. We became fast friends, and she told me she had grown up in an abusive home. Her father had broken her nose when she was a little girl, and her mother admonished her for getting in his way.

On Sydney’s birthday, I brought a cake to the beach, and she dissolved in tears. Her parents had sent her to summer camp for her birthday every year, so she rarely had a cake. Sydney hid her shame of feeling unloved by being strong and free among the waves.

One day on my way to the chapel, I ran into Sydney and invited her to join me. We quietly chatted in the sanctuary, enjoying the beauty of the stillness, and sharing lessons. That was the last time I saw her. She died of a sudden heart attack a few weeks later at age 42. I am grateful for our last meeting in the chapel, where we were blessed by God’s amazing grace.

Just as Jesus reached out to the Samaritan woman who hid from others in shame, he reaches out to each one of us to share that God loves us despite the choices we may have made or how others may view us. As we grow in the intimacy of our worship with him, we can share the gift of living water with those we meet, so that none of them need ever thirst again, and that all might have eternal life.

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 with the John Maxwell Team. She is a DAR whose patriot ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story.  With her young family on the verge of falling apart, Christina appeals to heaven for hope and freedom just as her patriot ancestors did hundreds of years ago. She is a contributor to the Arise to Peace Daily Devotional and a frequent blogger for Arise Daily Devos.

Join the conversation: Do you know someone that needs a drink of living water? How can you reach out to them?

Be Careful Little Ears What You Hear

by Kathy Howard

Now [the Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Acts 17:11 ESV

We live in a wonderful, dangerous time. Technology provides access to vast amounts of faith-based teaching. Books of all forms, social media, blogs and vlogs, videos, and so many other things I don’t even know about. We could never read it all, watch it all, hear it all, consume it all. So much of it is good, helpful, and honoring to God. But sadly, some of it twists Scripture and misrepresents God, leading people astray.

Unlike many today, the apostle Paul consistently demonstrated his faithful commitment to God’s Word. He did not preach a manmade message. We see Paul’s good stewardship again and again in the book of Acts. For instance, when Paul visited the city of Thessalonica during his second missionary journey, he used the Scriptures to present, explain, and prove his teaching to the Jews in the synagogue (Acts 17:2-3). He encouraged discussion and questions. Paul had nothing to hide. Through God’s Word, Paul showed the Jews that Jesus was God’s long-awaited Messiah, who fulfilled many prophecies and promises.

Many responded with belief, but others responded with jealousy. They resented the attention given to Paul and his message; the growth of the Gospel diminished their own influence and following. So, they resorted to mob incitement and distortions to turn Thessalonica against the missionaries. When opponents of the Good News forced Paul out of town, he and his team headed to Berea.

The Jews in the Berean synagogue probably felt like a breath of fresh air to Paul. They listened eagerly but tested and validated everything by examining Scripture. With a humble, teachable attitude, they received the Gospel. Their response was not merely emotional, but a purposeful and intellectual conviction to receive the Gospel as truth.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

The Bereans set a good example for us. Christians have a responsibility to test everything we hear against the truth of God’s Word. And those who teach have the very serious obligation to be faithful stewards of Scripture. The apostle Paul not only assumed this weighty responsibility, he also charged his spiritual son Timothy to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Paul knew that many others, in a desire to build up themselves, would deviate from the truth and simply teach what people wanted to hear (2 Timothy 4:3).

Check everything you hear, see, and read against God’s Word, not your feelings, desires or the current culture. Validate it with Scripture: only and always Scripture. Any and all teaching must stand up to the scrutiny of the Bible. If it doesn’t, don’t accept it. God’s Word is the final word.

This post is adapted from “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Acts.”

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

About the author: Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate, richest coffee, and cherished stories of faith. She also digs deep into Scripture, mining God’s eternal truths. Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education and has taught the Bible for more than 30 years in a wide variety of venues. Kathy is the author of 11 books, including “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” and the “meaty” devotional series “Deep Rooted.” Kathy and her husband live in north Texas. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Find free discipleship resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Deep Rooted: Growing Through the Book of Acts: A 50-Day Devotional Journey by [Kathy Howard]

Pack your bags and join Kathy Howard for the journey of a lifetime with Deep Rooted: Growing Through the book of Acts. You’ll experience the powerful arrival of the Holy Spirit, witness the birth of the church, and walk the dusty roads alongside those first missionaries as they boldly share the Gospel of Jesus with the world. Finally, a devotional with some meat on its bones!

A Word for the New Year

by Crystal Bowman

A few years ago, like many of my friends, I began the practice of choosing a word or phrase to focus on for a given year. Before I choose my “word” I think about it for a few days and ask for God’s direction. As I look ahead to 2022, I have a few events that will demand my time, attention, and more energy than I have. After much thought and prayer God brought a Bible verse to my mind, so I did a quick Google search to find the reference. “The Lord gives strength to his people. The Lord blesses his people with peace”(Psalm 29:11 NIRV).

Nothing could be more fitting for me to focus on than that verse! I need strength for what lies ahead, and I need peace knowing that God will equip me for what he has called me to do. So I guess I actually have two words this year—strength and peace.

With the events of the past two years, I have learned to be flexible. I have learned that my plans may fall through. I have learned that a loved one may become seriously ill, and some may die. I have learned that the only thing I can count on is God’s love, and that even when I cannot understand his ways, I can trust that his ways are best.

I know that everyone is hoping and praying for a happier and healthier year. Will 2022 bring an end to the pandemic? Will there be peace in the streets rather than riots? Will political issues continue to divide our nation? Will hate and racism continue to escalate? Of course, we don’t know the answers. But we do know that God is in control, and he is faithful to meet all of our physical, spiritual, and emotional needs in the coming year. He will give us strength and peace for what lies ahead.

I came across another Bible verse recently. John 1:1 (NIRV) says, In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.  The “word” is Jesus, who was with God from the beginning of creation, who left his throne in the heavens to come to earth in the form of a baby human. His earthly life began in a humble stable and ended on a wooden cross to pay for the sins of the world. His victory over death gives us victory over sin, pain, and sorrow. His resurrection gives us hope for eternal life with him and with our loved ones. Jesus is the word of life, the word of hope, and the word of peace.

I will focus on the words strength and peace in the days ahead, but the greatest word I can focus on is Jesus. He is the way to the Father, the truth that we seek, and the giver of eternal life. Jesus is the Word above all other words!

Here is what we announce to everyone about the Word of life. The Word was already here from the beginning. We have heard him. We have seen him with our eyes. We have looked at him. Our hands have touched him. This life has appeared. We have seen him. We are witnesses about him. And we announce to you this same eternal life. He was already with the Father. He has appeared to us. We announce to you what we have seen and heard. We do it so you can share life together with us. And we share life with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ”. 1 John 1:1-3 NIRV

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

About the author: Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books including, Our Daily Bread for Kids.She and her husband have three married children and eight huggable grandchildren.

When a child’s grandparent or great-grandparent is afflicted with dementia, it’s difficult to explain the disease in a way that helps the child understand why the person they love is not the same. I Love You to the Stars–When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembersis a picture book inspired by a true story to help young children understand that even though Grandma is acting differently, she still loves them–to the stars!

Join the conversation: On what word will you focus in 2022?




Jesus Came to Earth to Wrap You in His Love

by Cindy Noonan

It was Christmas Eve. My husband and I had already spent five days at an Air BnB near my daughter’s home. We had traveled five hours to spend a month with her family as we anxiously awaited the birth of our 11th grandchild. I thought she would be born early, but she wasn’t. On her due date, Christmas Day, her mom showed no signs of imminent labor.

I read a devotional about the Christ child and thought about how humbling it must have been for the Creator of the Universe to come to earth as a human, limiting His limitless capacities. Talk about true love. Talk about burning desire. Talk about wanting our love so much that He was willing to confine Himself to something we could hold and touch.

As I meditated on Christ within me, Holy Spirit reminded me that I (and all believers in Jesus) sometimes just need to be someone who others can hold and touch.

I often enter the room with the attitude of an expert. I tend to think I can give people things they need in my areas of expertise as a wife, mother, and self-taught health guru. But the Holy Spirit reminded me that I don’t need to think of myself as a sage. Rather, when I allow myself to receive love that others give me, I feel peace and contentment. When I radiate peace and contentment, those around me experience it too.

We often push ourselves to do more and give more. Instead, let’s be more. Be kind to ourselves and others. Be loving and allow ourselves to be loved.

The excitement of Christmas has passed. The wrappings have been crumpled and tossed in the trash. Family and friends have returned home. Or maybe Covid limited your holiday travels. As the tensions that accompany a stressful season subside, remember the hugs, the kindnesses shared, and the generosity experienced. Let them be the fragrance that lingers.

Jesus didn’t enter our world as the conquering hero. He entered as an infant who desired our love.  

Before He defeated Satan at the cross, He taught us to love one another. When we get that right, everything else falls into place. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7 NIV

We finally welcomed a baby girl on December 28th. Her big sister, age four, giggled with delight when Mommy and baby came home from the hospital. We are all wrapping her in our love. However, the love she gives to us seems much greater than the love we can offer her.

Isn’t that just like Jesus? Just by being who He is, God made flesh, He gives us more love than we could ever return. Let that be a reminder amidst the unexpected sickness and fear that has accompanied this season. As you share your love with others, remember that Jesus wrapped you in His love when He came to earth.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10 NIV

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

About the author: Cindy Noonan learned how to depend on God and love her family in the trenches of dirty diapers, sick kids, and the everyday pressures of raising five children.  Now she helps women find and fulfill God’s will for their lives with her blog and Facebook Live program, EMBRACE YOUR DESTINY. She has also written an award-winning historical novel for kids and an accompanying study guide about the Underground Railroad, Dark Enough to See the Stars.

Join the conversation: How does God’s love minister to you?

A Beautiful Reminder

by Melissa Heiland

This morning, I went down to the beach to worship and study and spend time alone with my Jesus. It was very early, and I listened to the crashing of the waves as read and pondered and worried. Disturbing thoughts came unbidden to my mind bringing feelings of sorrow.

I thought about friends who had left without warning or explanation, family members who seemed uncaring. My mind was racing thinking about all the things that were on my list and all the people I wanted to please. I was listening to whispers of the enemy telling me that I was alone and unloved.

And then I looked up.

Sitting very still and incredibly close, was a beautiful snowy egret, a shore bird, spectacular in her beauty and glorious in her nearness to me. If I had extended my arm, I would have touched her.

In that moment, I remembered. I remembered the nearness of my Lord. He is always near, always close, always loving. In that moment, everything changed. My heart and mind were flooded with peace at the nearness of my Savior. How marvelous that my Jesus would love me so much, to send a bird to remind me that He is always with me.

All the issues that were consuming me still existed, but there was a shift in my spirit. In Psalm 46:10, we are told, “Be still and know that I am God.” When I am still in my heart and my mind, I can focus on the love and power of God. He sees me, loves me, and will take care of me. All my fretting is futile and even harmful.

1 Peter 5:6,7 teaches us, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” We can cast all our anxious thoughts on Jesus because he cares for us. We do not need to hold them, to nurture them, to replay them endlessly in our minds. We have a Savior, a Savior who cares enough to die on the cross for us and to send me an unexpected messenger as a reminder of His love and care.

In John 14:27, we read, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Peace is a gift given to us. Today, and every day, I want to live in His precious peace. I pray that you and I will be still and know.

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

About the author: Melissa Heiland is the Founder and President of Beautiful Feet International, a mission organization that plants pregnancy ministries around the world. She is an international speaker and author who is passionate about mommies, babies and sharing the Gospel. She has written devotionals for pregnant moms, new mothers and short-term mission teams, as well as a children’s book based on Psalm 139. She and her husband Ken have 6 children and 5 grandchildren.

Part devotional, part pregnancy journal, A Mother’s Journey has forty chapters that correspond with each week of pregnancy, offering comfort and spiritual guidance to those facing challenges. Each week’s reading includes Scripture verses and a journal prompt, as well as information about your baby’s development at various stages to help you get to know the little one growing inside you. A Mother’s Journey is a great resource to help you connect deeper with your baby, yourself, and your heavenly Father.

Join the conversation: What do you do to bring down high anxiety?

So Much for Good Intentions

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

“There is no more powerful motivation for holiness than loving God in response to the revelation of his redeeming character and eternal promises.” Bryan Chapell, Christ Centered Preaching

How are you at keeping resolutions? I am the world’s worst. Mind you, I am full of good intentions. I will keep a cleaner and more organized home. I will lose weight. I will get serious about an exercise program. At the start, keeping a resolution is a breeze. Why did I live like I did before turning over this new leaf? Life is so much better this way! I will never go back. Sometimes I even try to convert others to my cause. How could they not follow in my steps? This way is infinitely better.

But it’s not long before I begin to wobble. This is too hard. I miss the convenience of doing things the old way. It wasn’t so bad before. And before long I have fallen back into my old ways once again.

Living for Jesus can fall along similar lines. We read or hear something that convicts us. So we resolve to act on that conviction. We will be more diligent about reading our Bible. Pray more. Get control of our tongue.

But soon the enthusiasm wanes. The high priorities of yesterday diminish in light of the new urgencies of today. And the resolution dies a quiet death.

Where can we find motivation that will last longer than our good intentions?

Guilt is usually my chief motivation, a powerful force in my life. I attempt to change something because I foolishly think that God will somehow love me more if I can get a handle on this thing in my life. This, of course, is a very faulty assumption. He knew every selfish act I would commit before I was even born. But He chose to love me anyway. My relationship with God is based on grace. So trying to earn love or acceptance from God really is flawed thinking.

In the end, anyway, guilt fails to produce a lasting result. As soon as I have worked long enough at change to ease my guilty conscience, the motivation is at an end. And I regress.

But what if, instead, I acted in response to the unconditional love and grace God has lavished on me? Donald Miller, in Blue Like Jazz, suggested that if an ordinarily lazy man were to fall in love, he could swim the English Channel for the sake of his beloved. Love is a huge motivator.

Our greatest incentive for change comes as a response to the grace and love the Father has already poured out on us. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…that those who live should no longer lives for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV). The greater our understanding of who God is and what He has done for us, the greater our motivation to love and serve him in return.

So rather than focus on my behavior and what I need to accomplish, I will choose to focus on the God that I serve. I will focus on His great love for me and on His perfect character. And my behaviors and attitudes, the ones which so desperately need to change, will suddenly be revealed for the dark, damaging habits they are, inappropriately existing in a life which has already been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.

The stronger my love for Him, the stronger my motivation. Less of me, more of Him.

“For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for he Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” Romans 14:7-8 NASB

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Finding motivation to fuel good intentions – @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

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Join the conversation: What have you resolved to do in the coming year?

Pardon Me for Staring, But…

by Sandi Banks

Have you ever wondered what people watched before Netflix, You Tube, or Direct TV? For me, it was something far more entertaining: People.

How so? Journey back with me to a time when God first taught me a simple but profound truth by watching folks going about their daily lives. It’s the 1960’s and I’m in high school in Las Vegas—a town full of fascinating people. Yet, for me it’s not so much the celebrities who intrigue me, but the “ordinary” people—those who pass by as I sit on my usual bench at Vegas Village.

 I watch. And I wonder.

I watch the young mom juggling bouncy kids and bulging bags. I wonder how she’s managing, if she’s happy in her “mom” role, and if she has a husband at home to help her.

 I watch the teen “hoods” strutting by in black leather jackets and upturned collars, streaming smoke and vulgarities. I wonder how they got here, where they’re going, and who waits for them at home.

I watch an elderly couple, shuffling slowly by, arm in arm. I wonder what they were like at my age, what they did, what they dreamed of doing. I wonder how they met, and what life in the early 1900’s was like for them.

I watch, and I wonder, about the stream of “ordinary” people passing by—where they’re headed, what’s brought them to this town, what makes them laugh, or cry—and occasionally, what’s in their shopping bags.

Many of them fascinate me to the point of wishing they would come sit by me so we could chat, and I could listen to their stories. Thankfully, my people-watching at Vegas Village led to a degree in psychology rather than an arrest for voyeurism.

Today, over 50 years later, I picture that young mom’s kids with their own bouncy grandkids … those black jacket guys with silver hair, or no hair, on Medicare … and that elderly couple together in eternity.

Life passes by quickly, and the people who file past us day in and day out are far from ordinary. Each has a unique story. God can use them to enhance our lives, and teach valuable lessons, if we look beyond what our eyes can see, to what God sees.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, the Lord looks at the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

I wonder who God will put in my path, and yours, today, to plant a new thought or spark a new interest, or add some new dimension to our remaining days.

In this new year, what if we were intentional about looking, and listening—seeing beneath the surface. We just might find extraordinary treasure hidden in the hearts and lives of ordinary people.  

“Everyone has something extraordinary that can change you. A different perspective, a unique experience, a gift. We’re all ordinary people, but we are all extraordinary in our own way.” Skip Pritchard

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

About the author: As a published author, international traveler, and inspirational storyteller, Sandi delights in pointing people to Christ, by weaving insights and hope from His Word into her stories—her struggles, adventures, and humorous misadventures—through forty countries and forty-plus years of life. She inspires others to mine the Bible’s treasures for themselves, and fall in love with Jesus. (Stop by for a visit, at http://www.sandibanks.com)

Join the conversation: Who has God placed in your path recently that has enhanced your life?

Receive The Cup

by Louise Tucker Jones

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. Luke 22:42 NIV

When I read of Jesus’ last moments at Gethsemane, as he prayed for the Father to remove the bitter cup that lay ahead, I weep and even identify. That almost sounds blasphemous to say I identify with Jesus, but wasn’t that one of His purposes? To endure pain and suffering, so we might know that He understands when we are faced with the same?

No, I have not been asked to suffer on a cross for a world of sin. Only Jesus has done that. And it is through His death and resurrection that we have eternal life. But we will have problems on this earth. Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV) None of us are immune from pain or suffering.

And I doubt any of us can understand the loneliness that Jesus felt during such agonizing prayer that He sweat drops of blood, then found his friends sleeping. But because of this, He knows how we feel when we are betrayed or try to pull friends along for support in the midst of our crises. And often, like the apostles who napped while Jesus prayed, our friends don’t understand the magnitude of our pain. They have their own lives and problems, so they often retreat, leaving us feeling alone and hurt.

Prayer is truly all we know and all we can do in some situations. It’s the best thing to do. I know what it’s like to pray all night for something to change—for a child’s fever to break or an illness to leave. For teenagers to be kept safe when they are out after curfew. I’ve prayed long and hard prayers for a prodigal to return and a rebellious spirit to be subdued. And I definitely know the deep grief of sitting beside a loved one on the brink of death, praying that this day or night would not be their last breath. I want the “cup” to pass and life to go back to normal. And when it doesn’t happen, I want ready answers.

But sometimes those answers don’t come. We pray. We ask. We plead. But the answers evade us. They lie in unknown corridors of time until God is ready. When this happens, it is often all we can do to hold onto a scrap of faith lest we plummet into a pit of despair. When there is no rescue, and it is just God and you in the dark of night. When the answer is not what we want and our hearts are broken, may God give us the faith and courage to do what Jesus did. To lift our hands toward heaven and receive the cup as we plead, “Thy will be done!”

Lord Jesus, thank you that you understand our deepest heartaches and greatest sorrows. Thank you for loving us through the dark times as well as the good times. May our souls rejoice in You!

About the author: Louise Tucker Jones is the author/coauthor of six books, including the Gold Medallion award winning, Extraordinary Kids. She has published hundreds of poignant life stories in anthologies, magazines such as Guideposts and thirteen Chicken Soup for the Soul titles. Married for 45 years before her husband, Carl, relocated to heaven, Louise is the mother of two children on earth and two in heaven. She is a grandmother, great-grandmother and professed chocoholic. LouiseTuckerJones.com

Join the conversation: Have you ever felt isolated by disappointment?