“…And He Tells Me I am His Own”

by Sandi Banks

I lift my fingers from the strings of Mom’s grand old concert harp. The lilting strains of the beloved hymn “In the Garden” linger in midair, as I wipe fresh tears with the back of my hand and breathe a bittersweet sigh. How I miss her.

Memories flood my mind, as the lyrics soothe my soul:

“I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, And the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.” Without warning, my mind punches “rewind,” to a day long gone: August 20, 1956. My 10th birthday.

Our family was in crisis since Daddy had left several months earlier and Mom had moved her three daughters to Denver. A difficult transition. But on this day, I bubbled with excitement at the thought of having friends over.

We cleaned house, picked fresh roses from our garden, and began greeting our guests. Instantly, all seven girls gathered like magnets around Mom’s harp and begged her to play.

So, there in the living room of our tiny duplex, Denver Symphony’s harpist gave her daughter a beautiful gift: a mini concert for her new little friends.

They were awestruck. I was overjoyed. “Thank you, Mommy,” I whispered. “My very first slumber party! It’ll be so much fun!”

In her warm and winsome way, Mom welcomed everyone and began presenting the party plan. “After dinner, we’ll play games and open presents, and—”

“Hey, where’s your daddy?” my new best friend Sheila interrupted, facing me squarely. “Oh … he’s … he’s working,” I lied.

“Where’s he sleep?”

“Umm … in there.” I pointed to Mom’s closed bedroom door.

Sheila burst into the room, the others trailing behind. A single bed; flowers and lace. “This is your mommy’s room. Where’s your daddy sleep?”

I felt my face burn red hot. A lump formed in my throat.

“Well, see, Daddy works really hard and comes home really late, and he loves us so much, he doesn’t want to wake us so he … umm … sleeps downstairs.”

No sooner had the words tumbled out my mouth than The Sherlock Seven, relentless in their pursuit, descended the basement steps, only to find a wringer washer and a pile of old newspapers. The truth became painfully clear to them all.

Incensed, Sheila strutted toward me, knuckles on her hips, eyes ablaze. “You don’t even have a daddy, do you!”

Her words pierced my heart. I burst into tears, raced upstairs, locked myself in my room, and made Mom send all the girls and their gifts back home. I sobbed into the night.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own …” Slowly, I lower the harp to the floor. It’s been over fifty years since that day, yet the sound of Mom’s gentle voice through that door remains a poignant memory.

Oh, Mom, I never considered what you went through that night. I only knew my pain. Now I understand, and I love you all the more.

“Where’s your daddy?” I answer now with a grateful smile, pointing to my Heavenly Father. The day I finally did open the door—the door to my heart— a few years later, He came in and drew me close. I embraced His truths and became His beloved daughter.

The love of a mother. The love of a Heavenly Father. Priceless.

“And the joys we share ,as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” Those joys, His promises, give us all hope:

“For God has said, ‘I will never leave you; I will never abandon you….’ ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5,6 GNT).

“Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love…revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,39 NLT).

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

About the author: Sandi Banks is an author and devotional writer for numerous publishing houses. As a storyteller, she draws upon her years of ministry and travel in 40 countries, living abroad, leading Bible studies, and hosting Summit Ministries’ worldview conferences. Her passion is bringing the hope of Christ to hurting women through writing, speaking, and mentoring. Find her at sandibanks.com

Join the conversation: What promise of God gives you the most hope?

Oh, Jubilee!

by Patti Richter

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness. Isaiah 61:10 ESV

Ten years ago, a thousand vessels paraded up the River Thames under dark and rainy skies to mark the Queen of England’s 60-year, Diamond Jubilee. The spectacular flotilla in 2012 included Queen Elizabeth II herself on a royally decorated barge, surrounded by family members and a thousand flowers from her own garden. Throngs of celebrants gathered along the banks of the seven-mile route through London for the biggest river event in England in around 350 years.

This year marks the Queen’s 70-year, Platinum Jubilee, which makes her the longest-reigning British monarch in history. The celebration will last all year, with most official events planned for early June.

The word jubilee comes from a Hebrew word meaning “ram” or “ram’s horn.” It’s a call to celebrate—with thanksgiving. It was God’s idea to observe special times. 

Though these commemorations belong to the realms of the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth, much of the world wants in on the celebrations, too. We’ll surely view some of the events on television and online—royal watching, or simply catching the news.

We’re captivated by crowns and carriages, silks and satins. Why is that?

While the British monarchy may be good for the UK’s national pride and economy, it serves to represent something infinitely greater. On their coronation day, kings and queens of England are anointed with holy oil. They further receive a symbolic robe of righteousness. These monarchs serve as figureheads of God’s sovereign power.

The rest of us, commoners, stand along the roadways of life, hoping for a glimpse of grandeur. And no wonder we crave it, for we were created for a kingdom!

We have a King who loves us, not as mere spectators of his majesty, but as partakers. The Lord our God has invited us to come into his banquet; and he has supplied the proper attire: a robe of righteousness (Revelation 7:9; 19:6-9), and cleansed us with holy water (Ephesians 5:25-26).

Our King offers to share his kingdom with whoever will come, whoever will believe in him (John 3:16; Revelation 3:20). Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:2), and he will return in the clouds—probably not dark and rainy ones—to take us there someday (Revelation 1:5-7).  

And we will celebrate our King for eternity.

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

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.

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Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: Are you a royal subject of the king?

Camo vs. Yoga

By DeeDee Lake

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Luke 6:42 NIV

Bounding down the steps, I was immediately greeted by husband’s out-stretched arms and a huge smile on his face. So immensely proud of himself.

“Babe, Whatcha think? Isn’t it great?”

I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was wearing yet another new camouflage item. I instantly remembered all the conversations we had over the last eleven years since his retirement. It seemed a dispute with no resolution.

Just the week before, he came home from conquering the local thrift store with a new pair of camouflage sunglasses. Who knew they even made them? I guess he did. He owned camouflage gear, shirts, pants, pajamas, stadium chairs, blankets, notebooks, and even had a few pair of camouflage boxer shorts. It was everywhere.

My man, a thirty-year Army vet, loved camouflage. I suppose I should’ve known it when we met, but I assumed all the camouflage was due to his active-duty status. I mistakenly believed that after his retirement, we would kick all things camo to the curb or at least scale down the camo invasion. Nope. It didn’t happen. Instead, it escalated. I questioned why he wore camouflage. No longer active Army. He didn’t hunt. He wasn’t trying to hide from anyone. The madness had to stop.

I sighed. Looked my husband in his loving, kind face and began to recite, “You’re retired. You don’t hunt. You are no longer required to wear camouflage.”

His crest fallen face gave me pause. Something caught my attention as I rolled my eyes in exasperation.

Oh, my word. Really God? But Lord, you know I’m right about all this stuff.

Desperately searching my mind for an effective argument, there was none to be found. I was convicted. Yep. Right there in our kitchen, where just a short while ago I was living a holier than thou moment. I glanced down and fell to the floor. Laughing.

There I sat, wearing my yoga pants.

Upstairs, I had three drawers filled with them. I had summer, winter, fall, and just for home yoga pants. My stretchy britches included all the colors of the rainbow, however, I preferred black, we all know it’s slimming. My exercise gear included expensive and cheap ones. Thick and thin they were part of my collection.

I don’t do yoga. I stopped going to the gym several years prior to this moment. I was an aerobics instructor nearly three decades ago. Now, my stretchy pants only served one purpose – to keep me comfortable. Laughing so hard, I began to cry. My husband nearly called 9-1-1. He thought his camo had sent me over the edge. In a way, I suppose it did.

God showed me I needed to remove the plank from my own eye. His words in Luke 6:42 are wise to live by and to have as a basis in marriage. Romance tends to falter when we can’t see our sweetie for all the junk in our way. It’s much easier to love someone well when we accept them, “speck” and all.

I recovered my composure enough to share with my love that I would never question his camo choice again. Never. Ever. However, I have thinned out my yoga assortment, purchased Pilate equipment, and believe one day I’ll use it.

And as the story goes, the couple lived happily ever after in their camouflage and yoga pants. God remained the center and the filter for removing all the planks out of their eyes. May you listen as the Author of Love reveals the areas in which you can extend grace and live a beautiful marriage the way God intended.

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

About the author: DeeDee Lake, The Connection Expert – speaker, author, blogger, and columnist – builds relationships one conversation at a time using humor, storytelling, and purposeful communication. As the owner of Cherish Relations Retreats, she lives out her faith and passion while writing, speaking, and guiding individuals how to have extraordinary relationships. Recently, she and husband, Seth celebrated their thirty-eighth wedding anniversary. You can connect with DeeDee at deedeelake.com

In DeeDee’s book, Next Step: You’ve Accepted Jesus, Now What, you’ll discover answers for what’s next for you as a Christian. It includes practical tips, action steps, Other teens and women have been where you are now. No need to feel lost. In Next Step, you’ll  discover you aren’t alone and what other teens do to make great choices.  You’ll love Next Step so much you’ll want to share it with friends!  

Join the conversation: When was the last time you discovered a log in your eye?

A Promise of Angels

by Christina Rose

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.  Psalm 91:11-12 ESV

We are so loved by God that he will command his angels to watch over us in all our ways. Angels are mentioned throughout the Bible as spiritual beings created by God to serve him, to deliver messages, to wage spiritual battles and to transmit his word. These Bible stories teach us of angels’ unwavering, unquestioning obedience to God.

The angel Gabriel first appeared to the prophet Daniel to explain a vision; then to the priest Zechariah to announce the impending birth of John the Baptist; and then to Mary to tell her she would conceive and bear a son who would be the Savior called Jesus.

An angel ministered to the prophet Elijah when he was so weary that he wanted to die: “And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again” (1 Kings 19:5-6 ESV).

We moved to South America when I was 12 to explore the continent in our VW bus. Both my parents were devout believers; otherwise, we might not have survived. (I still treasure the worn family Bible full of Mom’s notes.) As I straightened up the tent one day, I found a machete under Dad’s sleeping bag. He knew he might have to defend his young family of six from the dangers of the wilderness. One time we were bunked down in the Colombian jungle when we heard screams and clanging. The groundskeeper had broken into the kitchen to attack our young maid—until Dad knocked him out with a cooking pan.

As a 16-year-old, I left a ballet class in the city of Montevideo and found the dark streets full of people screaming. A woman offered me her phone, so I called my dad, who explained this was a revolution. He directed me to walk towards the ocean and our church, where he would meet me. This meant traversing the worst crime-ridden parts of town. I hummed the words of Psalm 91as I walked right into hundreds of troops and tanks heading into the city, and I was instantly redirected by an unseen force. Dad found me behind the church columns—without a scratch.

He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. Psalm 91:4-6 ESV

Finances were small when my girls were young, but my faith was big. One day on a snow outing, they became thirsty, but we were far from the car, and I had no money. While we waited for their dad, I looked at the sky and said a silent prayer. The wind whipped up a new $20 bill that landed at my feet, and we bought drinks and snacks. Another time, I was outside having coffee and praying for funds to take the kids to a movie. My two-year-old was nearby singing and dancing without a care in the world when a $50 bill floated down from the sky into her hands; and we went to the movies.

Being saved from danger and provided for in supernatural ways makes no sense from an earthly perspective. Yet God promises these things to his people.

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him   and show him my salvation.  Psalm 91:14 – 16 ESV

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

christina rose

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

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

Join the conversation: Do you have an angel story to share?

The Best Path Might Be the Hardest

by Kathy Howard

What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. –Acts 21:13 ESV

My husband and I love to hike. More often than not, when deciding where to hike, we choose the longer and more difficult trails. Not because we enjoy suffering, but because those trails usually provide greater benefits. The hard trails reward hikers with gorgeous waterfalls and breathtaking views. They weave through silent, ancient forests and past abundant flora and fauna. Yes, when you’re hiking, the best trails are often the hardest.

The same is true in our walk with God. His best path for us is often difficult. The apostle Paul not only knew this truth, but he fully embraced God’s will for him no matter where His path might lead. Throughout the return leg of his third missionary journey, the Holy Spirit had been leading Paul to Jerusalem. The Spirit had even revealed that trouble waited for him there (Acts 19:21 and 20:22). God’s will for Paul included suffering.

We first read this incredible truth during the account of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. When Jesus sent the Damascus believer Ananias to visit Paul (Saul), Jesus told Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16 ESV).

Sometimes God delivered Paul from persecution—like the time Paul escaped Damascus over the wall in a basket (Acts 9:23-25). Sometimes God delivered Paul in the midst of persecution—like sending an earthquake in Philippi to open the prison stocks (Acts 16:25-26). But then we see that God specifically directed Paul to go to Jerusalem, where suffering awaited him (Acts 20:22-23). And Paul obeyed, knowing what lay ahead.

Yet, as sure as Paul was of God’s will for him, many of his fellow believers and friends urged him not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:12). When the Spirit showed them how Paul would suffer, they had reacted with a desire to keep him safe. They understandably but wrongly jumped to the conclusion that he should run from this particular trial.

Paul stood at a crossroads. Would he turn away from suffering or would he follow Jesus no matter what lay ahead? God had constrained Paul to go to Jerusalem; to turn away would be disobedience.

“Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus’” (Acts 21:13 ESV).

God does not always lead us into suffering, but sometimes He works in and through our trials to carry out His purposes. Sometimes He uses fiery trials to refine our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7) or deepen our relationship with Jesus (Philippians 3:10) or to proclaim Christ’s salvation to the lost (Acts 16:30-32).

Paul’s path through Jerusalem ultimately led to imprisonment in Rome. Several years later, during that imprisonment, Paul wrote these words to the believers in Philippi: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21 NIV).

Let’s pray: Father, your will is always perfect, even if it’s hard. Help me obey you wherever you lead. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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.

Here’s more about “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Acts”:

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. 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. 

This volume of Deep Rooted — 50 devotions through the book of Acts–will show you how to interact with and apply Scripture, not just read it. Finally, a devotional with some meat on its bones! Available now on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3rEiYRf

Join the conversation: Are you in a hard season right now? Please share!

Living from the Inside Out

by Deborah McCormick Maxey

We have a precious little Yorkie that is great about letting us know when she needs to go outside. Of course, without delay, we follow Maxi’s wishes. But I’ve diagnosed her with attention deficit disorder. Once that door is open and she trots out, all seven pounds of her switches from, I gotta go! to Hey, what’s going on out here? Wait, that’s a squirrel! Someone is walking on mystreet. Someone is on my lake?

Maxi’s list of distractions is too numerous to mention. We’ve developed the habit of saying, “Focus.” But it falls on deaf ears. After she’s scoped out her domain and barked a sufficient number of times—with such voracious barks that her whole little body shakes—she will often remember that nature called. But not always. If it’s cold or rainy, Maxi wants back inside before she’s completed her tasks. Then she stands, just inside the door, waiting for her treat.

Only when the treat isn’t forthcoming does she remember, oh, that’s right, I gotta go. So, out she goes again, performs the task that internally called her to start with, and receives her reward.

Oh, how I can relate. I pray for guidance, work on projects I internally believe the Lord has called me to, and, the next thing I know, I’m wrapped up in that world out there. I’ve started researching things that don’t pertain, shopping online, making coffee, and answering emails.

I hate to admit how easy it is for me to get distracted and act like Maxi. I should have more discipline to limit my time on dilly-dallies. You know the ones: a puzzle on my iPad, watching a YouTube video with hubby, deciding it’s a good day to bake something—even though I’ve scheduled the time as work hours.

That’s how outside pressures of the world can bear down on me. I’m acting like my pup. I’m living from the outside in. I’m not responding to the inner call on my life any more than Maxi does.

But if I turn it around, step back, become still, and ask God for guidance, I can recenter. “What would You have me focus on, Lord?” Then I apply obedience. Sitting in my chair. Behind my keyboard. Focusing. And the flow begins.

Living from the inside out: focused. Peace, motivation and a sense of accomplishment follow. My reward.

When I focus on Christ as my center, my inner Commander, I reconnect. I want to live from that place. I want to be in His will. Me and my Jesus. Directed internally. Doing what He wants me to do.

Isn’t this exactly what He has asked of us?

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2 (KJB)

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

About the author: A licensed therapist, Deborah McCormick Maxey repurposed her life when she closed her counseling practice in 2020 to joyfully invest her energy in writing Christian fiction,devotions, and her website https://deborahmaxey.com that focuses on miracles.  

The Endling: A Novel by [Deborah Maxey]

Deborah’s debut novel, The Endling, has just been awarded the Golden Scrolls Fiction Book of the Year! 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. Do you struggle with focus?

Lifelong Love-Letters

by Nancy Kay Grace

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.” 1 John 4:9 (NLT), in God’s love-letter

When I was in college, a handsome young man caught my attention. We began dating in the fall, and enjoyed getting to know one another every day.

Months passed. Holiday break came, and I had to return home several hundred miles away. I felt sad leaving my newfound love. In the weeks until I returned, we promised to write each other every day. Phone calls were too expensive. There were no cell phones and computer technology.

At home, I eagerly checked the mail every day, looking for a written word from Rick. When a letter arrived, I immediately read it and reread it. Our relationship grew stronger in spite of the distance.

My letters to Rick were written on scented stationery. If I used plain stationery, I sprayed my perfume on the envelope. He could tell a letter from me had arrived before opening his mailbox. The scent wasn’t as pleasant as the day I sent it, but I didn’t care. I was a college girl in love and wanted to show it. Of course, his roommates teased him about the fragrant mail. I’m sure the post office workers laughed when handling my letters at arm’s length.

The love letters were an important part of our relationship until we married.

God’s Word, the Bible, is a love-letter written to all of us. It tells us of the great love story of God drawing us into relationship with him, becoming one of us in the life of Jesus Christ, who took the penalty of our sins and conquered death. Throughout the Old and New Testaments we learn of the depth of God’s love to us, as shown in these passages:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV)

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Roman 5:8 NIV)

“No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39 NLT)

Yet life gets busy. We can neglect reading God’s love-letter. When this happens, I begin to feel disconnected from the Lord. My faith is at risk of drifting into depending on a previous understanding of God instead of learning new revelations from Him. I need reminders of God’s love for me.

When I recall my eagerness to read the love-letters from the early days of Rick’s and my relationship, I want that same desire to open God’s love-letter for fresh insights from God.

I still have a box of Rick’s love letters in a closet and cherish them. Although I haven’t read them in a long time, I know the gist of what they say.

God’s lifelong love-letter has become even more precious to me even though I’m familiar with the story. There is always something new to discover in the scriptures. Its words are a source of daily encouragement, written with love from the heart of my heavenly Father.

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 peace in the face of turmoil. She is a speaker and award-winning author of The Grace Impact, a devotional about the touch of God. As a cancer survivor, she writes about hope, perseverance, and God’s grace. For relaxation, Nancy enjoys hugs from grandchildren, playing worship songs on piano, hiking, and travel. Her website, blog, and GraceNotes newsletter sign-up are found at www.nancykaygrace.com.

Join the conversation: How do you view the Bible?

What Frodo Teaches Us about Forgiveness

by Debbie Wilson

Some people have no conscience. The woman who stole your husband parades around the family reunion showing off your grandchild! The man who stabbed you in the back preaches unity and love to your team. They wronged you. Now they pour acid in your wound and dare you to flinch.

How do we handle such injuries? Biblical wisdom and J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings show the importance of forgiveness.

Biblical Guidance

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: 

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14, 17-21, NIV)

When I’m reeling from being wronged, I’m not thinking about how to bless my enemy. I’m thinking more about how to blast them. So why does the Bible admonish us to do good to them? So that we won’tbe overcome by evil.Enter Lord of the Rings.

Frodo and the Ringwraiths 

In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo the hobbit accepts the daunting task of taking the ring of power to the realm of the Dark Lord to destroy it and its power. The Dark Lord hears of this and sends a group of Ringwraiths to seize the ring and destroy Frodo. Ringwraiths are “the Enemy’s most terrible servants; darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death.”[1]

After a Ringwraith pierces Frodo’s shoulder with a poisonous sword, there’s a race to remove the poison. If poison remains in Frodo, he will become a diabolical Ringwraith himself.

The Poison of Bitterness

“Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many” (Hebrews 12:15 NLT).

Bitterness, like the poison in a Ringwraith’s sword, not only destroys the wounded, but it also defiles those they touch. If bitterness isn’t dealt with, the tormented becomes the tormentor.

Who hasn’t wrestled with this? We reason it’s only fair that the one who caused our pain should hurt as much we hurt. But we can’t handle the role of avenger. Only God can wield vengeance and not be destroyed by it.

God’s mandate to forgive is practical. When we overcome evil with good, we:

  • Receive a great reward and show the world we belong to God (Luke 6:35)
  • Become blessings instead of Ringwraiths who defile others (Hebrews 12:15)
  • Become like Christ (Luke 23:34)

The Ringwraiths in Lord of the Rings stayed evil. However, others under the Dark Lord’s spell were set free. But Frodo’s heart was healed. Some who injure us will be freed from their darkness. Some won’t. Only God knows who is entrapped by evil and who is evil. Another reason why He’s the only one who can correctly avenge wrongs. We can trust Him to repay fairly.

The next time someone pokes your wound, remember:

  • Whose child you are
  • Frodo and the Ringwraiths
  • Christ on the cross forgiving you

Bitterness disfigures its victims into servants of the Dark Lord. Forgiveness transforms us into the image of Christ.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. –Romans 12:21 NIV

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 God and 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]

Debbie 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: Have you allowed bitterness to grow from refusing to forgive?


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazg%C3%BBl

Supernatural

by Dana Peters-Colley

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit o the man which is in him?… Now we have received …the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 NASB

What if supernatural was the normal? People fantasize about it all the time. The fantasy Marvel films have personified the supernatural for decades. But why do people want to be supernatural?

First, we are made in the image of God. We are created from dust. And God created the dust from nothing, too. He spoke and it was. And is.

Yet how easy, with the modern world bringing its deception with every news broadcast, we are deceived into believing this world is the only reality. It may speak with authority, but its message is not the truth. Jesus wants us to recognize He is the Truth. What Jesus says in His Word is the Truth. We chew on His Words and come out filled with power and hope. We find and discover Him.

And here is the second point as to why we are supernatural. We are born again through Jesus Christ our Savior. This means we are re-created into a new being. When we are born again, we  will feel the difference. We will sense when things aren’t right and be uncomfortable until we correct course. That spiritual wisdom comes from the Spirit of God living in us.

Those who are born-again believers are supernatural right now. We have been retooled. Reformed. Remade.

Originally, we were created in God’s image. But we have been bought back through Christ’s blood and thus, have been given even more.

Why would God make us supernatural?  

You have been given an assignment, and only you can complete it with the personality, desires, and character that only you possess. You need the supernatural to assist you to abide in that life.

Those opportunities do not have to be big. They can be the small encounters we have each day that make us One in Christ. It’s listening with the new spiritual senses and abiding with the Maker of the Universe, who through His Son, retrieved us from a dead world. It’s praying and being close to our Maker. It’s reading and devouring the Word of God and being transformed by it. We will be new in every way to accomplish what He has given us to do.

So, today, surrender everything to your Maker. Follow all of His ways. And put some supernatural on. Listen for Jesus to guide you. Enjoy the way the Comforter lives within you. And rise up, saints, to be all that God has created you to be—His special – and yes, supernatural kid.

Be blessed my friends.

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

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About the author: Dana Peters-Colley is a creative who loves Jesus. She has been tucked away developing a brand of Christian parable books, faith-based fiction, and inspirational books as well as screenplays. Dana holds a B.A. in journalism, studied screenwriting at U.C.L.A., and is a former long-time Disney creative leader and producer. When the Lord got ahold of Dana everything marvelously changed. She is developing a heavenly-inspired brand line that brings stories to build family, inspire discovery, and teach kingdom ways. See danapeterscolley.com to connect to her spiritual blog and gaze at her adventures.

Do you have a friend you want to receive Jesus into their lives? Do you want to receive how much God loves and values you? Do you want to be empowered to do the impossible? Then, you have to know who you are! Treasure will take you into the realization of God’s love for you as you discover you are His treasure.

Join the conversation: What evidence of the supernatural have you seen in your life

More

by Terri Gillespie

Now to Him who is able to do far beyond all that we ask or imagine, by means of His power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the community of believers and in Messiah Yeshua throughout all generations forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 TLV

The ornate rod iron fence was too high—especially for vertically-challenged souls such as me. Behind the formidable barrier were the thousands-year-old olive trees of Israel’s Garden of Gethsemane. Trees that Jesus most likely passed, perhaps touching their young trunks as He made His way to the Garden for prayer to His Father.

I wanted a leaf. Oh, how I wanted a leaf. I checked the sidewalk around me for the small willow-like foliage. Then I knelt to hunt the ground just inside the fence, but there was nary a leaf, not even a fragment.

If you’ve ever toured Israel, you know it is frowned up to take natural “souvenirs.” Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a rock or tree left in the Land. There are hefty fines, and one could be unceremoniously escorted from the site.

So, what did I do? I lifted my foot to a crossbeam. If I climbed a bit higher, maybe I could reach one of the branches. That’s when the tug on my backpack brought me back to reality. Fortunately, it was only my wise hubby warning me to stop. He shook his head as he walked on.

I pressed my face against the bars and sighed. LORD, could I please have just one little leaf? When I turned away, I looked down and saw not one leaf, but two! Yes, in the area I had just searched.

As I praised the LORD, several from our tour approached and asked what had happened. Somehow, I knew I wasn’t to give the extra one away, so I told them to pray. The next few minutes where once there had been an empty sidewalk, there were slender green leaves in front of each person. Whoever asked that day, received.

Now to Him who is able to do far beyond all that we ask or imagine …

Did I need that little leaf? Of course not. But our heavenly Father had to have smiled at my longing to connect with His Son. Still, I did wonder about the second leaf. Should I keep it or give it away?

The supple green leaves were placed in my small Bible—at Joshua 1. Later, whole flower petals from what was believed to be the Garden Tomb were “conveniently” left on the sidewalk. My Bible filled with meaningful reminders of my first trip to Israel.

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37 TLV

Upon our return, our ministry secretary, Faith, wanted to hear every detail of the trip. That’s when I knew why there were two leaves. After I told her the miracle of the olive leaves, she teared up. Once I gave her the leaf God had left specifically for her, she wept.

“Oh, how I want to go to Israel,” she said as she blew her nose.

“You will,” I responded. The moment I said it, I swallowed. Faith was a single mother who could never afford the trip.

She shrugged and said, “Maybe. If it is the Lord’s will.”

Two years later, Faith accompanied us to Israel. God had provided the finances, and she finally visited the Land she had so longed to see. What an incredible gift it was to watch her experience the Land for the first time carrying her little Bible with her olive leaf.

Twenty-three years later the leaf isn’t as green, and it is fragile. But it’s still the tiny, sweet reminder that our Father does indeed give us more than we could think or imagine. And it began with a simple prayer for an olive leaf.

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

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About the author: Award-winning author and speaker, Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, messages, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, because of His Son Jesus. Her newest novel, Sweet Rivalry, released in October. https://authorterrigillespie.com/terri-gillespie-books/sweet-rivalry/

Sweet Rivalry, the story of twins separated by a troubled mother. One twin is lovingly raised by her grandmother who owns a small-town bakery. The other sister is raised by an addict mother. They discover one another through a televised baking competition. But will rivalry break them apart again?

Sweet Rivalry

Join the conversation: Has God ever given you more abundantly than what you asked?