What Everyone Should Know about Confession

by Debbie Wilson

Thomas Dewar quipped, “An honest confession is good for the soul but bad for the reputation.” Well, here is my honest confession: I have avoided confession.

Sometimes, I use Ken Boa’s Handbook to Prayer to guide my morning prayers. It divides daily prayers into sections of adoration, confession, renewal, petition, thanksgiving, and more. The confession section begins with a Scripture and asks you to invite the Holy Spirit to search your heart and reveal any areas of unconfessed sins. I was surprised at what God revealed.

I realized I often speed through this part hoping God won’t point out anything. You know I’m doing the best I can. I don’t have time to address anything new.

I’d slipped into viewing the Holy Spirit as a grumpy school principal who wanted to find fault with an imperfect student. I knew better. Yet there it was. I was avoiding the Spirit’s searchlight.

So, here is a reminder of the wonder of confession.

“Confess” comes the Greek word homologeo, which means “to say the same thing as another.” When we confess to God we say the same thing He says. We agree with God and align our wills with His values and perspective.

The Psalmist prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart;  Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24, NASB).

The Psalmist wanted to know if and where he had veered onto the path of pain. Sin always brings pain. “But he who sins against me injures himself” (Proverbs 8:36, NASB). Besides hurting me, it also grieves the Holy Spirit and hurts other people. Asking the Holy Spirit to reveal sin is asking Him to deliver us from the path of pain.

Sin is missing the mark. It is falling short of God’s glory. When I fail to love others or myself as God does—I’ve missed the mark. When I’m not thankful because I don’t see my circumstances from His perspective, I’ve fallen short.

But, when I agree with the Holy Spirit on the truth He reveals, He cleanses me from pain-causing sin (1 John 1:9). To confess our sins is to agree with what God says about our sins. He says:

• Sin falls short of His glory, grieves Him, and injures us (Ephesians 4:30).

• Jesus paid for all of our sins on the cross (Hebrews 10:10).

Confession is not a time of condemnation (Romans 8:1). It is:

• A time to express our regret to God and affirm His cleansing
• A fresh start
• The removal of a painful splinter so we can dance again

Understanding biblical confession makes me welcome the Spirit’s searchlight. Confession is not only good for the soul, but it is also God’s miraculous provision to keep me close to Him.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 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: How will what you have just learned impact your prayer times with God?

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Shine Your Light

by Virginia Grounds

The auditorium was dark as the band began to play softly. The star singer walked onto the stage and began to sing. The crowd went wild. One by one flashlights were lifted until the place was lit up like a Christmas tree. All the people there that night were inspired by secular music and artificial light. I was one of those people who didn’t see anything wrong with who I was exalting with my light.

But through the years, I learned about the true light and my life changed. In the gospel of John, Jesus identified himself as the Light of the World. It makes sense then that those who believe and receive Jesus into their lives would have his light within them. Knowing this helps us to understand Matthew 5:14-16. In this passage, Jesus is delivering what we call the Sermon on the Mount to his disciples. We can apply these truths to our lives, because as Christ followers, we are his disciples in this generation.

Jesus taught that his disciples are the light of the world. His instruction to let the light shine before others to glorify God is how we need to live. How does that happen? According to verse 16, it is through our good works. What are our good works? They are the works of faith, turning to God and occupying ourselves with those things assigned by God to us.

The light of Jesus is reflected through the peace he gives as we walk a rocky path. His light is reflected in the strength and courage he gives to press on. It is revealed through the wisdom he inspires, not the artificial light of the world. The love of Christ is the greatest light in our life.

We all have a ministry. Ministry is the service of believers in the work of the Gospel. As believers, we are to bear fruit for the kingdom in sharing the message of Christ with others. As we do, the light of his love shines through us for all to see, just as the city on a hill is not hidden. It is God’s purpose for us to allow others to see our faith in such a way that God is glorified.

The true light to lift is Jesus. He is the One to be exalted so that the light of his love is not hidden. He is the One who inspires us by his Spirit. We shine his light as we serve the Lord, love others, and share the Gospel. Does our light shine when our head is down with a frown on our face? Or, does our light shine when our head is lifted, we are smiling and allowing Jesus to love others through us? Yes!

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14 ESV

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

About the author: Virginia Grounds is a speaker, author, Bible Teacher, former radio host, and effective communicator. Her love for women’s ministry and passion for God’s Word have been an important part of serving for more than 30 years in ministry in one of the largest churches in America. Virginia served with her husband in full-time ministry helping to meet the needs of hurting people. This motivated her to write her first book, Facing Fears, Quenching Flames, a devotional book for overcoming fear and anger.

Rock Solid Trust: Trusting God When Life Is Hard by [Virginia Grounds]

Virginia writes to grow women in their faith and teach life lessons for survival in today’s world. She is married with three adult children and grandchildren. Her ministry website is majesticinspirations.com.

Join the conversation: On those days when we do not feel like loving others, what can we do to shine?

God’s Ways Are Not Our Ways

by Shadia Hrichi

I recently watched a documentary on the tragedy of the Midwest Dust Bowl. A man who lived in the area his entire life scooped up a handful of dirt and exclaimed to the reporter, “Look, it’s upside down!”

The farmers had stripped the tall, native grasses from the land, exposing the dense top layer of sand. Underneath, approximately 12 inches down, was dark, rich soil. They were deceived into investing their blood, sweat, and tears, harvesting the land by plowing too deeply into the soil. In effect, they turned it upside down. The results led to the most catastrophic man-made disaster in the history of the US. The reason? They had stripped the land of its protective God-given covering.

Sadly, to this day, we continue to make the same mistake. We have stripped our land of another God-given covering: His blessing and His presence. We’ve driven Him out of our schools, our courthouses, and our government. Have we forgotten that our government was founded by men guided by God’s principles?

What was once sacred is now reviled. What was once reviled is now celebrated. In effect, we’ve turned our world upside down.

They exchanged the truth of God for a lie. … Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. … Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:25, 28, 32 NIV

So here we are, in a world turned upside down. Yet God, in His mercy, still offers hope! And get this: the solution appears upside down! While every other religion places the demand for restitution on the sinner, only the God of the Bible places the burden of restitution on Himself.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NIV

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Lamentations 3:22, 23 NIV

Thank you, Father in Heaven, for your protection and blessings. May we never forget that You alone are our refuge and strength. We praise You and thank You for the gift of Jesus, Who came into our upside-down world that He might show us the way home. 

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

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: How can we effect change in this upside-down world?

God’s Riches—Much More Than We Imagine

by Patti Richter

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think . . . to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations. Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV

The group of college students from Texas stood in a long line of tourists. They had travelled from the capital city of Beijing to Central China for a museum tour of the “afterlife army” of China’s first emperor, who died in 210 B.C.

The Terracotta Army Museum is one of the greatest archeological sites in the world. And my son Weston’s Mandarin-language instructor had planned that day trip during a summer study-abroad semester. But Weston almost missed out on the opportunity due to the originally planned hours-long journey by train. My son had explained, “These trains weren’t designed for people over six feet tall.”

It saddened me to think of my son missing out on such an adventure, especially considering his fascination with China’s history and its leaders. However, the week of the trip, the instructor decided it would work for the group to fly!

After stepping inside the cavernous exhibition hall, Weston noticed a group of museum guards moving in behind him. They also closed off the entrance to others waiting in line outside. But his attention soon returned to the incredible display of ancient figures ahead of him: thousands of miniature clay soldiers and horses—no two alike.

The terracotta army had remained hidden in the earth for more than 2000 years until 1974, when farmers digging a well discovered an ancient pit. In the following decades, excavations uncovered immense vaults of clay figures, along with artifacts in bronze, silver, and gold. And archeologists believe much more of China’s treasure trove is waiting to be unearthed.

That amazing and ongoing discovery provides an earthly example of the spiritual treasure waiting for those who seek to know God. The apostle Paul wrote that he received God’s grace “to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Ephesians 3:8-9 ESV).

Paul went on to explain what believers can receive because of the riches of God’s glory:

Be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:18-19 ESV

My son exited the back of the exhibit hall that day surprised to find an expectant crowd. He also saw a line of security guards in front of a nearby caravan of expensive cars with government license plates. Then Weston turned back around in time to see two special tourists emerge from the doors behind him. The Premier of China and his guest, the Chancellor of Germany, had also come to view the long-hidden treasures.

So much more than expected.

This article 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.

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: What has God done for you that exceeded your expectations?

In Jesus’ Hands

by Crystal Bowman

When Jesus stepped out of a boat (in Mark  6:33-44), a large crowd gathered around Him. He had compassion on them and healed many who were sick. As evening approached, the people were hungry. His disciples wanted to send them away, but Jesus told them to feed the people.

The disciples were puzzled since they had no food. “We don’t have enough money to buy food to feed this many people,” they said. Then Andrew brought a young boy to Jesus who had two small fish and five small loaves of bread. Perhaps it was his lunch. Perhaps his parents sent him out to sell the food. The story doesn’t include those details.

But one thing we do know is that the young boy freely offered what he had and gave it to Jesus.

You know the rest of the story. Jesus blessed the food and broke it. As the disciples distributed the food, it multiplied until more than 5000 people had enough to eat. An amazing miracle in the hands of Jesus!

So what does this have to do with us?

A lot.

We are like that young, nameless boy walking among spiritually hungry people. We may not have much to offer, but if we give what we have to Jesus, He can bless it, multiply it, and use our offering to feed hungry souls.

In Romans 12:6, the Apostle Paul reminded the Christians in Rome that by God’s grace, He has given each of us gifts to use in the body of Christ. If you are a teacher, writer, or pastor, ask God to bless your words so He can multiply them and use those words to give spiritual food to dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people. If you have the gift of service, ask God to bless those whom you serve that they in turn may bless others, and your efforts are multiplied to reach people you don’t even know. If you have the gift of encouraging others or showing mercy, ask God to bless your acts of kindness and caring so that He can do more than you can imagine.

Besides our spiritual gifts, God has given us talents to use for Him as well. If you are an artist, musician, athlete, scientist, nurse, or hair stylist, God can use your talents to reach thousands of people when you dedicate your work to Him.

What do you have to give the Master that He can use and multiply? Whatever it is, it’s more than enough when you put it in Jesus’ hands.

God is able to do far more than we could ever ask for or imagine. He does everything by his power that is working in us. Ephesians 3:20 NIRV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced 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 seven 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: What do you have to offer back to Jesus today?

The Battle for Freedom

by Christina Rose

You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” 2 Chronicles 10:27 ESV

It was a brisk but refreshing ride on the morning commuter ferry across San Francisco Bay. I stood outside to enjoy the sea breeze, hoping to catch a glimpse of dolphins and whales. Once we disembarked, I would brace myself for the walk up Market Street through dozens of dirty homeless people who would often cry out for help. Their numbers and shabby tents increased every year. As I walked, I would often look upwards towards the blue skies and see American flags boldly waving from the tops of buildings. I prayed that God would help me stay strong in this battle.

My ancestor, Captain William Blackler, was the commander of the boat that took General George Washington across the Delaware River on Christmas Eve in 1776. This was a pivotal time in the war. Turning back meant certain defeat and crossing the icy river in the middle of the dark night through a blizzard could cost many lives.

The patriots were close to starving and their clothes were tattered, yet they pressed on with the faith and determination that freedom for our nation was worth risking death. Their goal lay above and beyond the storm to reaching the shore where they could safely land, so that George Washington could lead our country to freedom. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 ESV

If Captain Blackler and all the patriots could see the homeless and corruption I was now witnessing, they would have been disappointed. They might wonder if all they had fought and died for had been for nothing. Many generations have followed who also fought and gave their lives for freedom. Yet others have become so complacent that they have forgotten that the battle continues, and that we must pick up the torch and carry it every day for future generations just as our ancestors did for us. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 ESV

Sometimes we get so distracted by our earthly life that we are like little ants scurrying to and fro, forgetting to look up to see the signs of freedom that are everywhere. The flags, the cross, birds, butterflies and babies, skies, sunrises, sunsets, and rainbows are heavenly messages that God created us to be free, and we must have faith in Him. He can set us free from any oppression – whether it be physical or in the mind. And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 15:13-14 ESV

The battle is real. We have a choice in either focusing on our limitations, or we can look towards heaven and pray that with God all things are possible. We can draw on the strength of those who have gone before us as they did in the Revolutionary War of 1776, to cross those stormy seas in the middle of the night to reach the shores of freedom, knowing that God is on our side, and he always wins.  The battle belongs to the Lord.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9  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 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 Arise to Peace Daily Devotional and a frequent blogger for Arise Daily Devos.

Join the conversation: What battle are you fighting today?

Those Pesky Expectations

by Terri Gillespie

. . . But you will receive power when the Ruach ha-Kodesh [the Holy Spirit] has come upon you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and through all Judah, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8 TLV

Picture the scene. Jesus is saying His farewells to His followers on the Mount of Olives. He exhorts them then leaves them with the most incredible blessing—the Holy Spirit—and a mission that will change the world.

What is their response?

So when they gathered together, they asked Him, “Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (vs. 6 TLV)

Oy! Remember how the disciples thought Jesus was there to set them free from the Roman oppressors? Yet, He told them,

“. . . you heard from Me. For John immersed with water, but you will be immersed in the Ruach ha-Kodesh [the Holy Spirit] not many days from now.” (vss. 4b-5 TLV)

After everything Yeshua did — His miracles, death, and resurrection — they still asked Him when Israel would be theirs. When would their Roman oppressors be defeated?

Can you imagine our Messiah shaking His head, telling them it’s not for them to know when, only the Father knows? Then wondering how these guys still missed the bigger picture (vs.7)?

Why?

The followers of Yeshua still held tight to the expectation that the Messiah had come to defeat their oppressors. Like the Maccabees and their small army who miraculously defeated Antiochus IV Epiphanes. A huge army who had invaded Judaea and desecrated the Second Temple in Jerusalem, they thought Jesus would do the same to the Romans. Then He didn’t.

Instead, He did amazing miracles.

He told them He would die, which He did.

He told them He would rise from the dead, and He did.

He told them He was going back to His Father, and He did right in front of them.

The disciples read into all that: He was their conquering King here to set them free. But those pesky expectations almost caused them to miss the true reason Yeshua did all those wonders. To fulfill an even greater purpose — redemption for the world! Not just the Jewish people. And then Jesus is telling them they would receive an amazing gift, a powerful gift, the Holy Spirit to accomplish that mission.

“Really?” The disciples probably thought. “But what about the Romans?”

“Tsk,” we may say. “Those foolish disciples.” But, really, are we any different?

I have a writer-friend who loves the word, “pesky.” I’ve grown to appreciate it. Pesky can be things, creatures, and/or people who annoy or are bothersome. Not inherently evil, just distracting. Frustrating.

Do we have pesky expectations? Things we’ve had an iron-grip on and won’t let go. What we’re certain God told us, or promises in His word we’ve interpreted for our situation?

Another friend of mine says frequently — to me — to hold things lightly. I believe that applies to our expectations, not just things. Because holding too tightly means we become so focused on our expectation, we may miss what God is truly showing us.

If we hold anything tightly, we should hold tightly to our faith in our Heavenly Father. That He is a good Father who loves us, He has blessed us beyond measure, and that ultimately, His will is our desire.

Fortunately, our legacy was assured when those followers — still in awe, and most likely confused — walked away from the mountain and waited as Yeshua had instructed them. A few days later, the Holy Spirit came, and the Father’s purpose continued.

Right now, we may be confused and discouraged that our expectations are unfulfilled. Hold them lightly. Instead, focus on our Father, His Son, and the incredible gift of His Holy Spirit. Then watch for the true gift He has for you.

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

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 2021.

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. Twenty years later, they discover one another through a televised baking competition. But will rivalry and secrets break them apart again? https://authorterrigillespie.com/terri-gillespie-books/sweet-rivalry/

Join the conversation: With what pesky expectations do you struggle?

Meet Me at the Beach

by Mel Tavares

Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. Mark 6:31 NIV

Have you ever been so mentally exhausted that your brain seemingly stops processing? That happened to me recently, at the end of a hectic season of life. After pushing through project after project, I hit the proverbial wall. I told my husband I was “Crispy, fried, overcooked, done, and I need a day at the beach.” I secretly thought I needed a week at the beach but figured a day would allow me to recharge.

For me, the beach is where I recharge. Your recharging station may be a park or a mountain filled with hiking trails. We all need a place to retreat that is void of noise and distractions and will allow us to spend extended time with the Lord.

Uniquely created, God knows my innermost being and understands the beach is where I listen most intently to Him. “Meet me at the beach,” He whispered.

The next day I packed my beach bag, excited as I thought about an entire day of resting and communing with the Lord. I packed a journal, pen, Bible, favorite devotional, sunscreen, water bottles, and snacks.

Driving to the beach, I thought of Jesus and His frequent withdrawal from ministering to people so he could pray. Luke 4:42 (ESV) says, “And went it was day, he departed and went to a desolate place.”  As reports of Jesus’ miracles spread, crowds increasingly followed him. Luke 16 (ESV) says, “But, he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” Mark 1:36 (ESV) gives a similar account. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

If Jesus frequently needed to stop ministering to people and withdraw to a quiet place to pray, the same need is true for us. My mistake over the past couple of months is that I momentarily forgot the importance of frequently withdrawing and pushed myself too hard.

What about you? Do you remember to stop and retreat to a quiet place, to recharge?

My day at the beach was wonderful. I sat and observed all the Lord had created, and praise poured out of my mind and into my journal. I wrote as the Lord spoke words of direction and encouragement. As I let waves of the Holy Spirit refreshing crash over me, I felt strength arising.

I thought about the timing of Jesus’ withdrawals and how often he withdrew before or after pouring himself out: After he multiplied the loaves and fishes (Mark 6:46), before he chose his disciples (Luke 6:12), and before the transfiguration (Luke 9:28). As I reflected on these truths, my emotions normalized, realizing if Jesus needed to experience the ebb and flow of withdrawing and ministering; certainly, it is normal for me to need the same pattern.

As the waning sun shimmered hues of orange and pink on the water, joy returned to my soul. Not that I had been anxious or depressed, but the weariness of ministry with no breaks had depleted my emotions. Reluctantly, I packed my things and made my way to my car. As I drove back to the city that never sleeps, where addicts roam the streets and trafficked women lurk in the shadows, I felt the weight of ministry needs descending.

Is there a lifestyle change you need to make to enable you to withdraw to a quiet place? Do you need to get up earlier, before your household? Do you need to carve out time to sit by the water or walk in the garden in the cool of the night as you commune with the Lord? As for me, I am committing to meet the Lord at the beach more frequently.

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

About the author: Mel Tavares is an accomplished writer and speaker/teacher, both in ministry and in her career. She is passionate about encouraging and teaching writers. Her target market is women who are hurting and in need of Biblical hope. In addition to ghost writing and authoring her own books, Mel is a contributing author to several books, including the recently released DaySpring “Sweet Tea for the Soul: Comfort for Grieving Hearts.”  She writes for several online Christian communities, teaches classes online, conducts Facebook Live series, and is a podcast guest as opportunities arise. She is a wife, mom to seven, and grandma to ten.

Join the conversation: Where do you go to commune with God?

Morning Praise

by Karen Wingate

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22–23 NIV

Before the surgery that gave me never-before eyesight, I saw a projection clock advertised in an online catalogue. Perfect! It was the whiz-bang gift my husband would like; I might be able to see the projected numbers, and we would both enjoy knowing the morning temperature first thing without accessing our smart phones.

As soon as it arrived, Jack immediately set it up. We lay on the bed together, staring at the ceiling.

“Can you see it?”

“Well . . .” I couldn’t. “Let’s try again after dark.”

Night came. All I saw was a brown tinge. I got pouty. “Happy early birthday,” I grumbled. “It’s all yours.”

After surgery, I spent my days discovering all those things I had never seen before. But I didn’t think about the clock until one morning, several months after the surgery. I woke to a quiet house. A bright red blur glowed above my head.

I wonder . . .

I put on my glasses. 6:45 a.m. 65 degrees. Jack stirred, and I grabbed his hand. “Hey, you, I can read the clock.”

Fully awake, he rolled over, telling me to read what I saw. We lay there for five minutes with me reading the numbers every time they changed. He chuckled and I cried.

Now, every morning, the first thing I see when I open my eyes are those red numbers, and I remember how God gave me new eyesight. I exhale and whisper, Thank you, God, for eyes to see clock numbers. It’s become a ritual to snuggle in the warmth of early morning blankets and revel in the miracle.

My red glow has become a kind of memorial, like the stones Joshua, Moses’s successor, gave to the Israelites after they crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. When later generations would ask about the meaning of the stones, the people were to tell the story of God’s rescue and redemption (Joshua 4:1–9).

My gratitude for every-morning eyesight was spontaneous and heartfelt. But I possessed other lifetime gifts that deserved equal praise. I got a red glow of an idea. What could I thank God for each morning?

  • A lone dove call sounding over the air conditioner’s hum. Thank you, God, that I can hear.
  • Blanket fuzzies surrounding my early morning with warmth. Thank you that I own a blanket.
  • What would I fix for breakfast? Thank you for food in our fridge and strength in my hands to prepare meals.
  • Jack let out an extra loud snort. Thank you for this dear one who has shared life with me.

Each morning turned into praise points for what I had instead of a litany of wishes for what I didn’t have.

What could act as your morning trumpet call to worship? You’re sure to find something worth mentioning, for the whole earth is filled with God’s wonders. Psalm 65:8 says, “Where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy” (NIV). The item that calls forth your song of joy can become the first of many gratitude prompts that remind you of God’s lavish love, never-ending faithfulness, and incredible goodness.

What a way to start the day.

Lord, I want to keep my eyes open to all you’ve given me and done for me. May your Holy Spirit reveal the signs of your faithfulness each morning so I can praise you once again.

Taken from With Fresh Eyes© Copyright 2021 by Karen Wingate. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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

About the Author: Karen Wingate loves to see the world, whether a visit to her grandson, or a hike through the mountains surrounding her hometown of Tucson, Arizona. A children’s ministry worker and Bible study leader for over 30 years, Karen writes for Proverbs 31 Ministry’s Encouragement for Today devotional, and she blogs at www.karenwingate.com.

Karen’s book, With Fresh Eyes: 60 Insights into the Miraculously Ordinary from a Woman Born Blind, winner of the ECPA Christian book award, invites you to discover a world you’ve never seen before. You’ll find hope and wonder as you take a fresh look at what God has done and what He has promised to do for each of us.

Join the Conversation: What can prompt you to praise God when you first wake up?

Off to Italy

by Fran Sandin

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27 ESV          

What an amazing adventure! My husband, Jim, and I joined the Christian Medical and Dental Association group for a spring tour of Italy.

On our first night in Venice, a ride on the Grand Canal boat taxi highlighted gorgeous views of glowing domes, the famous Rialto bridge, restaurants, hotels, and old, ornate buildings. The following day included a tour of St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, and a glass blower demonstration at the Original Murano Glass company. A gondola ride along the back canals revealed colorful side-by-side apartments and quaint shops.

A guided tour of Florence helped us appreciate the Renaissance works of Michelangelo, Machiavelli, DaVinci, and Botticelli. Their artistic details were so breathtaking we could only gaze upon the masterpieces as from God, the giver of exceptional talents.

Rome’s famous Colosseum loomed larger and more massive than we ever imagined. We drove by the Mamertine Prison where the apostle Paul was incarcerated before his death, and we learned he had walked six miles from there to the place he was beheaded. A chapel built on that location houses the memorials of Paul’s demise and a large painting of Peter being crucified upside down.

We eventually arrived in Assisi, the home of St. Francis, who was born in 1181 into a wealthy family, his father being a silk merchant. As a young man, Francis was handsome, witty, and gallant. He loved parties and bright colored clothes. In 1202 he joined a military expedition and was taken captive. During a year in prison, Francis became ill, felt the Lord was speaking to him, and his spiritual journey began.

When released from prison, Francis returned to Assisi with a different view of life; he was more interested in helping the poor than in making money. Since he no longer wanted the world’s ways, he and his father parted.

Wealthy friends could not understand what had happened to Francis. In his early 20s, Francis used to hate the lepers, but his heart had changed; now he loved them. He wanted to help the poor, spend much time in prayer and meditation, and admire nature, which he believed was a mirror of God. He felt God was telling him to rebuild the church and live in poverty.

The life and faith of St. Francis of Assisi has been honored through the years for his work as an Italian Catholic, friar, philosopher, preacher, and the founder of the Franciscan order. He died in 1226 at the age of 44, quoting Psalm 142, a psalm of refuge, as he breathed his last. He was canonized as a saint in 1228.

The life of St. Francis is a testimony to the fact that we must make peace with God before we can experience the peace of God.

My mother-in-law, Jean Sandin, displayed on her living room wall a lovely, framed calligraphy of one of St. Francis’ most memorable writings, a prayer for each of us to ponder:

LORD, make me an instrument of Thy Peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon.             Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.         

O DIVINE MASTER, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; To be understood, as to understand; To be loved, as to love; For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

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

About the author: Fran Sandin is a retired nurse, organist, mother, and grandmother living in Greenville, Texas. 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. Visit her website to order with a click on the home page fransandin.comHope on the Way has been nominated by Joy and Company in Arlington, Texas, for the Henri Award (for outstanding Christian Literature) both in the Devotional and Christian Living sections.

Join the conversation: How have you made peace with God? Are you able then to bring peace to others?