Enlarge My Territory

by Sheri Schofield

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request (1 Chronicles 4:10, NIV).

My heart has always been focused on reaching children for Jesus, beginning at age thirteen when I helped with a Back Yard Bible Club with Child Evangelism Fellowship. I poured myself into children’s ministries after that. My focus for the future was on serving Jesus overseas. Eventually, the door opened for my husband Tim and me to head for Latin America. But just before we left for that work, one of my uncles angrily demanded, “Why are you going overseas when you are so effective here?”

I tried to explain. “If I am not effective here, I will not be effective overseas. So I’ve done my best to serve God well and effectively at home first.”

After one year serving overseas, Tim and I had to return to the States. I remembered that conversation. Apparently, God wanted me to serve here.

I poured myself into the children at church, and drove around the Helena, Montana valley praying for the children outside the church walls. I wanted to reach them for Jesus, too! But I  had no idea how to do that. I was inspired to ask God for one of the same things Jabez asked: Enlarge my territory.

In 2014, I saw how parents—even those in our church—struggled to explain salvation to their children. Also, on a mission trip to Mexico, I received a note from a children’s ministry teacher saying she had no materials to use in teaching. Could I help?

Over the next three years, I wrote and illustrated a book to meet that need, both in the USA and Mexico, in English and Spanish. The Illustrations represent people of all nations. The Prince and the Plan became our vehicle for reaching children for Jesus. The Lord helped us give away about 4,000 books to children on our Montana reservations and in Helena, plus 1,000 books to our contacts in Mexico, with instructions to give them not only to the churches of our group, but also to the immigrant families coming across the border. If God was bringing little ones north, then we would meet them with the gospel.

Things began to wind down for our outreach. We’d saturated our town and the reservations with The Prince and the Plan. My husband started talking about retiring. I wasn’t ready! I felt there was follow-up work to be done. But in July, Tim decided we should move closer to our son, Drew. He decided we would move to Wyoming, where the deer and the antelope are supposed to play. (Actually, all they do is eat!)

I drove all over Wyoming looking for a house, but they all sold before I arrived. Before my last trip, the Lord told me to write down exactly what I wanted in a house. There were seven items. Then I said, “Lord, if you are taking me away from my beautiful mountains, I can be at peace with this.” I pictured a shade tree in a small back yard with a wooden fence and a flowering bush.

Upon reflection, that didn’t sound like me at all! But God led me to that house. The backyard view was what I’d pictured, and the house had all the other seven qualities I’d asked for. God had put that view in my head to guide me. Confident of God’s leading, we bought the house by faith.

It was then we discovered this town is 30% children! Ten percent of the population is Hispanic. This town is full of young families!

God has just given me what I asked: He has increased my borders. Again!

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

About the author: Sheri Schofield, award-winning author and Bible teacher, has added a new way to share faith in Jesus: Her latest book, Before You Find Me, is a contemporary romantic suspense featuring a strong Christian who faces a crisis that tests her courage. Tara, a freshman at West Texas A&M whose parents are dead, learns that her younger sister witnessed a murder. To protect her siblings, she must spirit them out of Texas before the murderer learns there was a witness to his act. Tara has one day in which to act. Can she do it? She remembers a family ranch in Montana…and Ben, the boy next-door, who captured her heart once. Will he still be there? Will he help her protect her family now? This book entertains while it presents godly responses to danger and struggles. Sometimes fiction can draw people closer to God when they will not be drawn by nonfiction. Before You Find Me is available at http://www.sherischofield.com.

Join the conversation: Have you asked God to increase your borders?

Prisoner of Hope

by Ava Pennington

A few years ago, I began the practice of choosing One Word for the year. But when the word hope kept coming to my attention in December 2016, I dismissed it. Our health and finances were in fairly good shape. Why would I need to focus on hope as a daily activity for the next twelve months?

I didn’t have to wait long to learn why hope was not only my word for 2017, it was for my husband as well. The first week in January, Russ entered the hospital with sharp abdominal pain. Tests confirmed pancreatic cancer.

While we waited in the ER for the admission paperwork to be completed, a nurse placed something in my hand and closed my fingers around it. “Here,” he said. “Hold on to this.” I opened my hand to reveal a glass stone with the word hope etched across it in gold letters.

If ever a diagnosis called for hope, it’s pancreatic cancer. In ten months, Russ experienced two surgeries, a multitude of doctor appointments, tests, chemotherapy, radiation, and more chemotherapy. Through it all, we trusted our Savior and hoped in Him.

The subject of hope came up again during a recent lunch with a friend. She asked me how to become a “prisoner of hope,” (Zechariah 9:12). How is it some people live in hope, while others—no matter how hard they fight against it—sink under waves of despair?

My experience showed me that my ability to live in hope rests in the object of my hope. All too often, I hear people say things such as:

I hope I get a raise.
I hope the weather clears.
I hope my friend is healed.

Problem is, in each of these (and similar) situations, the object of their hope is the desire they seek. And a string of unfulfilled desires can cause us to wallow in hopelessness. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of hoping in the gift instead of the Giver.

But consider what happens when our hope is placed in God, Himself. The more we understand what He has revealed about Himself, the more we realize He is always at work for His glory and our good. Regardless of the outcome—whether we receive what we want or not—it will always be for the best, even if we can’t see it now.

So the answer to the question of why some people are “prisoners of hope” while others are mired in hopelessness might be simpler than we think. If we hope in the thing we want, we’re bound to be disappointed on a regular basis. But if we hope in the Giver—the One who is our heavenly Father and Savior, we will always be satisfied.

Perhaps that’s a simplistic approach to hope. Or perhaps we try too hard to complicate the word.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13 ESV 

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

About the Author: Ava Pennington is an author, speaker, and Bible teacher. She’s also a freelance editor, and a certified coach for writers and speakers, and she teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class. Ava is the author of Reflections on the Names of God: 180 Devotions to Know God More Fully (Revell Books, 2022), an abridged gift book edition of the one-year devotional, Daily Reflections on the Names of God. Three devotions for each name/attribute explore who God is, and how this changes us and our relationships. Visit her at www.AvaPennington.com to learn more.

Join the conversation: What are you hoping for?

A Fresh Start

by Cindi McMenamin

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!  2 Corinthians 5:17, CSB

By noon today I was wishing I could have a do-over.

Because I woke up late, I was running behind all morning. Then, because I was running late, I didn’t go to God’s Word first to soften my heart and settle my soul before interacting with others. It was all downhill from there. As a result, I spoke a harsh word, instead of letting gentleness flow out of me. And I found myself complaining instead of seeing the best in a situation.

“God, is there any hope for me?” I prayed.

It’s a good thing that the God of Heaven is a God of fresh starts and new beginnings.

Second Corinthians 5:17 tells me that the past is forgotten and everything is new when I am in Christ. That doesn’t just mean I become “new” when I initially come to Christ and surrender my life to Him. It means I can experience new beginnings every day – every time that I blow it. Every time that I see the need to start over. Every time I want to make it right with Him again.

Because we are human, we still sin. Even when we love God and set out to do what’s right, we still mess things up at times. Yet, a new start awaits. It’s available for the asking.

“God, create a clean heart for me…” David prayed in Psalm 51:10, after a pretty disastrous series of events that included lusting after a married woman, committing adultery with her, murdering her husband, and then continuing in his deception to save his image as king. Yet, as his sin found him out, this broken man cried out to God:
“Renew a steadfast spirit within me….Restore the joy of Your salvation to me,
and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit” (verses 10-12 CSB).

King David asked for a new start after messing up big time. And God, in His mercy, gave him one. When you and I ask God for a fresh start, He gives one to us, too. And He makes everything new. Everything. Our minds– to think pure thoughts. Our bodies – to live purely once again. Our mouths – to speak words that heal, not wound. Our hearts – to seek after a path that is straight and right.

Do you need a new beginning today? Would a fresh start put a fresh wind in your sails? Then ask God for a fresh start and a new beginning, as David did, and watch Him create a new you, right before your eyes.

Lord, please cleanse my heart and give me a fresh start in You. Make me new and spotless in Your eyes once again.

A Fresh Start – thoughts when your day needs a new beginning from @CindyMcMenamin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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 130,000 copies sold) and Twelve Ways to Experience More with Your HusbandFor more on her books and ministry, or for free resources to strengthen your marriage, parenting, or walk with God, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Join the conversation: Do you need a new beginning today?

I Will Be with You

by Christina Rose

God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”  Exodus 3:12 NLT

While God had prepared Moses for years to lead the Israelites to the promised land, he still felt inadequate. Years of testing had humbled him and left him with a stutter that he believed disqualified him from leadership. But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Exodus 4:10 NLT

God assured Moses that He would be with him and provide whatever he needed to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God calls those who know they are not able to accomplish what God asks on their own. This ensures God will get all the glory. Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”  Exodus 4:11-12 NLT

When I was recently called back to California, God gave me constant visions of speaking to others. While this task seemed overwhelming, I knew He had prepared me through many years of testing. It instilled great faith and obedience in me. It also instilled a profound humility that ensured God would get the glory.

The first night in our new San Francisco home, we had a fierce thunder and lightning storm. I stared in awe at the sky as if God were casting ceremonial fireworks over the Bay. As the storm cleared, a giant white cloud in the form of angel wings appeared above me. Just as Moses had signs and wonders, sometimes He does that for us.

Faces of people I knew started appearing in the sky. Each of them were wealthy and successful by earthly standards, and believed all they had accomplished was done by their own might. They were also parents whose children were not raised in faith, and some of those kids were struggling at home and in school. With each face, I felt a calling: God was asking me to pray for each one and help lead them to faith. “But the Lord says, The captives of warriors will be released, and the plunder of tyrants will be retrieved For I will fight those who fight you, l and I will save your children.” Isaiah 49:25 NLT

When I saw one face in particular, I muttered, “Nothing will crack that cranky old nut.” Immediately I saw a giant hand in the sky throw a nut to the ground with such force that it shattered the earth and in seconds a giant tree grew up to the heavens.  While I then repented for my unbelief, I was puzzled that the nut I saw in the vision was a walnut. I had thought an acorn would have been more significant in that it would produce a sturdy oak instead of a walnut tree. After pondering this for a few moments, I chuckled. I recalled this cranky old nut lived on Walnut Avenue. It was clear to me that God wanted this particular nut saved and wouldn’t leave him behind.

God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it. Thessalonians 5:11 MSG

As I type this devotional a glorious sunrise of pink and gold is streaking over the sky as  birds soar over the bay. God wants us to feel as free as the birds and in the palm of His hand. Just as He was with Moses, He is with us to help others to freedom.

So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 NLV

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 is God calling you to do? How has He shown you?

 “Gobsmacked” by His Truth

by Tama Fortner

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.  Psalm 19:14 NLT

It’s likely that we’ve all had a verse gently nudge our hearts in the right direction at one time or another. And, chances are, we’ve also had a verse step on our toes, because we were a little off-course. But have you ever had a verse just absolutely and completely rise up and gobsmack you?

(Just in case you’re unfamiliar with gobsmacking, according to Merriam-Webster, it means to be “overwhelmed with wonder, shock, or surprise.” I thought it might be a chiefly Southern word, but turns out it’s British. Who knew?)

Well, gobsmacked is exactly what happened to me early one morning. You see, I’ve gotten into the habit of reading a verse from a Bible app first thing every morning before I even get out of bed. (One of the better habits I’ve developed, unlike my obsession with flavored coffee creamers and constantly checking my phone.) Reading even just one verse always gives me something to think about, and I like knowing that the first thing I put into my brain each morning is God’s Word.

On that particular gobsmacking morning, the verse for the day was one I’ve read at least a thousand times. In fact, it’s one I often incorporate into my prayers.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14 NLT

So why the gobsmacking? Because I suddenly realized—or rather, the Lord pointed out to me—that I’ve been focusing on the first few words of the verse and then skimming over the next bit in order to jump to the promise part. And while I’ll never claim to have the words of my mouth completely bridled, I’ve been a little proud of the way I’ve been battling to wrestle them into submission, along with my facial expressions. (Though, my left eyebrow seems to have a will of its own and often shoots up like its own little “nonsense detector” before I can squash it down.)

But that meditation of my heart part? I confess I’ve been neglecting that. So on that gobsmacking morning, God pointed that fact out to me in no uncertain terms, making it crystal clear that I’ve got some serious work to do.

Because while, yes, I’ve been working on schooling my words and my face—and have even managed to send my left eyebrow into a time-out or two—the meditations of my heart have skipped around like a chaos of kids on the playground. I’ve rehearsed conversations in my mind, filling them with perfect replies and satisfyingly sharp retorts. I’ve held onto hurts and hardened my heart against those who delivered them. I may have smiled on the outside, but in my heart? I’ve sinned. Forgive me, Lord.

When God gobsmacked me with His truth that morning, I realized that He wants better. Expects better. And, in His infinite graciousness and patience, He will help this child of His to do better.

How? By turning it all over to Him. The challenging relationship. My perceived wounds. My perfect replies and sharp retorts.

When I entrust all those things to Him, He will help me stand strong against the temptation to (mentally) tear others down. He’ll give me the desire and the discipline to truly love my neighbor and my enemy as myself. And He will equip me to make the meditations of my heart pleasing to Him.

Thank You, God. And sorry I needed such a gobsmacking.

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

About the author: Tama Fortner is an ECPA award-winning and bestselling author with more than fifty titles to her credit, including her latest God, I Feel Sad: Bringing Big Emotions to a Bigger God, written with co-author and licensed counselor Michelle Nietert. To learn more, visit http://www.TamaFortner.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever had a verse cause a gobsmacking moment? Please share!

Panic, Peace, and Paradise Found

by Patti Richter

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven. 2 Corinthians 5:1 NIV

My heart beats faster as Cinderella realizes her fairy-tale evening is over. I share her panic as she runs down the castle steps while the clock strikes midnight.

I recall two long-ago episodes of my own real panic, which both involved the same child. When my three-year-old son suddenly left my side in a large department store, I endured some dreadful minutes before finding that he had made his way back to the paint department and found his father. Then, at age five, he climbed a cliff that bordered a new friend’s backyard; the two of them became lost in Albuquerque’s high desert mesa. Along with the other boy’s mother, who had the local police searching, I was0 frantic until the boys found their way out to the main road two hours later.

We typically panic when the wheel of life spins out of control, especially when our plans for the future—or today, or the next hour—are endangered. Our personal world can be altered in a moment, like those victims whose lives are shattered by events that appear in the daily news. The distressing scenes we see confirm the world’s lack of control over… the world.

My husband and I once endured a turbulent flight in a small commuter plane. The storm-tossed aircraft jerked up, down, and sideways—like a vintage amusement park ride. All the passengers remained silent during the worst of it, but I couldn’t help turning to Jim with a question: “In case we only have a minute to live, is there anything you’d like to tell me?” With perhaps a two-second lapse, my calm husband replied, “See you in a few minutes.”

Faith in Christ results in such assurance to believers. Our natural fear at the possibility of impending death is alleviated by the hope of eternal life.

Dread surely overtook the two thieves who hung on a cross next to Jesus. Dying beside the man believed by many to be the Son of God did not immediately console either of them. One thief mocked Jesus, saying, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39 NIV). But the other one, recognizing his only hope, admitted his sinful condition and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom (v. 42). While the first man’s words yielded no response from the Lord, the repentant man received the Savior’s comforting promise, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43).

When the clock strikes midnight—as it will for each of us—the good news we’ve placed our hope in will overcome any distressing news. God’s promises through Christ will turn our panic to peace.

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.

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 made you panic in the past?

Love Requires Sacrifice

by Mel Tavares

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 NAS

“It’s not about you.”

I will always remember the first line of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. Any time I am tempted to live selfishly instead of reaching out to help a friend in need, I am reminded that life is not about me. It is about other people and the purposes of God.

We are reminded that there is no greater love than laying down our lives for friends. This passage refers to the sacrificial love Christ offered to us as an example. While most of us will not be called to literally lay our lives down in the physical sense, we should all strive to be sacrificially laying our lives down for others each day.

Becoming Christ-like requires sacrifice which often times does not come naturally. For example, a friend may need a listening ear at a time you planned to be out for the day. Perhaps God would ask you to forgo your outing to be there for a friend. Certainly, if you are a parent, you understand the meaning of sacrificing your time, hobbies, and desires for the greater good of your children. Ministry projects within and outside of the local church also require giving sacrificially of time, talents, and resources.

When we read John 15:13 in context, we see the entire chapter is devoted to Jesus teaching His disciples about the necessity of staying connected to the vine. He is the vine, we are the branches, and true life is only found through Him. Jesus was speaking of agape (unconditional) love that knows no limits. Little did His disciples know that Jesus was also speaking of THE pending event—His laying down His life for the sake of us all.

The above examples of sacrifice each require a deferring of our own desires to meet the needs of others. While these acts are sacrificial, when viewed through the lens of all Jesus did for us, including laying His life down on the cross, they are diminished in comparison.

Abiding in Christ will cause us to emulate His love toward others. When we abide in Him, we will not turn a blind eye to those in need. In fact, we will often be compelled to action, whether it be feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the widows and orphans, or setting captives free from bondage.

What is God calling you to do as a sacrificial act of laying down your life for others? Have you felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to speak to someone at a time when you were in a hurry to get to an activity? Have you ever pushed away the thought of inviting a lonely friend over for a cup of coffee? Can you remember a time when you saw an overwhelmed parent and ignored the thought of offering to help?

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for willingly laying your life down for me. Please show me ways that I may extend your love to others, and help me to willingly sacrifice my desires in order to meet the needs of another person.

This article brought to you by the Advance 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. Has God ever directed you to a sacrificial act?

Blessed Are the Meek

by Julie Zine Coleman Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? Hebrews 12:9 NASB My husband Steve was on his way to Bible class, walking behind his favorite and well-respected professor, who shuffled painfully down the walkway. A fellow student came running by, on the run from a fellow student playing a prank on him. When he risked a quick look backward, the guy smacked right into the elderly teacher, knocking him to the ground. Everyone on the sidewalk froze in horror. But the old man slowly picked himself up, and with a look of chagrin, faced his offender. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “I  must have zigged when you had zagged.” Did the professor have the right to be angry at the careless boy? Surely he deserved more respect than his student had afforded him; he was faculty, after all. In light of the old man’s physical limitations, the offense was even more egregious. I’m guessing that none of the witnesses there would have had trouble with the professor responding to the boy’s carelessness with anger. But the teacher chose to submit himself to the needs of the student. He forgave without even being asked, and bore the fault of the incident as his own. Ironically, his humility was a far more profound lesson to all of all who witnessed the scene than if he had responded in anger. For Steve, it was an unforgettable lesson in meekness. The same meekness once attributed to Moses, who is said in Scripture to be the “meekest man on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3 ASV). In the Scriptural narrative of Moses’ life, we frequently can find the commentary: “Moses did everything just as the Lord commanded him” (Exodus 40:16, Numbers 27:22 NIV, for example). Please note: meekness is not a door-mat mentality. It is a decision to voluntarily place our power under the constraining hand of our Heavenly Father. It is putting God’s purposes above our own, willing to do whatever it takes to be selflessly obedient. When we do so, we align ourselves with His agenda. We’re never sorry when we choose God’s way. He will reward our determination to put ourselves aside for the good of the other. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5 NIV). Lord, help me to choose to respond to offences with meekness, putting the other’s need above my angry reaction. I want to remember that Jesus modeled meekness for us as He willingly died for the people who hated Him most. Amen. This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the authorJulie Zine Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or crafting. More on Julie can be found at her new website JulieZineColeman.com and Facebook.
Many Christian women are torn between the church’s traditional teachings on gender roles and the liberty they experience in secular society. But what if the church’s conventional interpretations aren’t really biblical at all? Julie’s new book, On Purpose, is a careful study of the passages in the Bible often interpreted to limit women in the church, at home, or in the workplace. Each chapter reveals timeless biblical principles that actually teach freedom, not limitation. On Purpose was recently named the Golden Scrolls 2022 Book of the Year. Join the conversation: Have you witnessed someone choosing meekness? Please share!  

That’s All I Want!

by Crystal Bowman

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Psalm 23:1-3 NKJV

I heard the story of a young girl who had worked hard to memorize Psalm 23. When she was sure she could quote it from memory, she was eager to share it in her Sunday School class. With as much confidence as she could muster, she stood up and began reciting the passage. In her best voice she said, “The Lord is my shepherd—that’s all I want.”

Though humorous and sweet, that statement is packed with truth! And sometimes I need to ask myself, “Is God all I want?”

There is nothing wrong with wanting a nice home, a loving family, and purpose in our lives. We work hard to achieve those things. However, in everything we do and everything we seek, we need to keep God at the center of our lives. This is more than just putting Him first. Going to church, reading the Bible, and praying should not be a segment of our lives. If we are to live fully and completely, with undivided hearts, then God will be the central figure in everything.

King David’s first occupation was that of a shepherd, and he deeply understood the relationship between a shepherd and his flock. It’s from his experience in the fields that he penned Psalm 23, the most well-known psalm in the Bible. Just as a shepherd lovingly and sacrificially cares for his sheep, God cares for His people, the sheep of His pasture. He provides for us and protects us. He leads us and guides us. He continually pours out His goodness and love upon us. He laid down His life for us. And if one of His sheep goes astray, He will search for it until He finds it. Then He carries it in His arms and brings it home (See Matthew 18:11 – 14).

When we need direction in our lives, God is our guide. In times of sorrow—when our grief and pain are greater than we can bear—He is our comfort. When we are weak and frail, God is our strength—the rock we can cling to. God is our hope when we are discouraged and can’t see past tomorrow. He gives us rest when we are weary and burdened. He gives us peace when we are troubled and anxious. He gives us joy in the midst of our circumstances. He gives us forgiveness when we confess our sins. And God invites us to give Him all our cares and worries so He can replace our troubled hearts and minds with His grace and mercy.

Only God can meet all our needs all the time. If we belong to His pasture, we will be in need of nothing.

May the Lord our Shepherd be all that we need and all that we want.

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!

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See the Fox?

by Nan Corbitt Allen

There’s a fox in our neighborhood—maybe two. And I don’t mean that metaphorically. There’s a real red fox…roaming around. Do you know how I know this? Hearsay. I’ve never seen the fox even though there are many in the community who have and even took pictures of it.  My husband has seen it.  I’ve seen evidence of it in overturned sealed plastic bins on my back porch where we keep bird seed.

On our neighborhood network, there was chatter about these sightings.

One said, “This is a real threat to our small dogs!!!”

Another added, “I wonder if the city can set a trap and move them somewhere else out in the country…”

Another replied, “We live in the country.” 

And finally, “We encroached upon their habitat.”

Foxes have gotten a bad rap over the years. When someone is cagey and up to no-good, they’re said to be sly as a fox. Even the Bible demeans this animal. Song of Solomon says that “little foxes come in and spoil the vines.” Then there’s the saying about a fox in the hen house… but I digress.

No matter what is said about foxes, I’m skeptical of their existence…at least in my back yard. I haven’t seen a one. Not yet anyway. So do they exist if I don’t see them?

If seeing is believing, as the adage suggests, then why are we implored to believe in Him we have not seen? It’s not clear whether Jesus was chiding Thomas when he refused to believe that Jesus was resurrected without personally seeing Him alive. The Lord said to the others, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29 NASB).

Other Scriptures tell us:

Romans 8:24 NASB “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?”

2 Corinthians 4:18 NASB “….while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Hebrews 11:1 NASB “Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:3 NASB “By faith we understand that the world has been created by the word of God so that what is seen has not been made out of things that are visible.”

I may not believe in foxes in the neighborhood, but I do in the One who created them.

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

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books. Nan and Dennis retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

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Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: What do you believe in, without having never actually seen?