Marriage—Something to Celebrate

by Patti Richter

At the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ . . . they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. Matthew 19:5-6 NIV

How should we celebrate?

I chew on that question yearly in view of my wedding anniversary, especially ahead of those big ones, which seem to call for something out of the ordinary.

After more than 40 years of marriage, I’m amazed that “as long as we both shall live” has turned out to be quite a long time. And so much has changed over those decades.

A few months before we married, Jim bought his first new car, a Pontiac Sunbird, for approximately $3,000. The leaded gasoline for our honeymoon trip cost around 50 cents per-gallon. A year later we bought our first home, a small white stucco house priced at $27,000.

But increases in the cost-of-living aren’t the only big changes. The young bride and groom in our photos hardly look familiar—even to us! And while we’ve transformed both inwardly and outwardly “for better or for worse,” the culture around us has likewise morphed.

The understanding of marriage as the union of a man and woman joined together by God(Matthew 19:5-6) has suffered from the effects of radical social changes. The institution of marriage has taken an unholy trajectory, and Christian families aren’t immune from the fallout.

Celebrating a decades-long wedding anniversary is now less common than it should be, which is lamentable. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate it, with thanks to God, who ordained marriage and sustains it.

I realized on our fortieth anniversary the significance of such a span of years. The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert before entering the Promise Land. And King Solomon enjoyed a glorious 40-year reign over Israel before he died. The nation soon divided in a hostile divorce after his death. God’s people had gone from poor to rich and from depending on God to trusting in horses and chariots.

Marriages can follow a similar track and leave everyone wondering what went wrong.

Success in marriage depends upon God’s help but also benefits from viewing one another as best friends for life. And though the Promise Land in marriage might be in our golden years, it still won’t be heaven. In his book, The Songs of Jesus, Timothy Keller says, “Christian marriages can display a small bit of the joy that awaits us in heaven.”

But even a small bit of heaven is surely something to celebrate.

This article brought to you by the Advance 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: What are some creative ways you have celebrated an anniversary?

Rejoice in the Night

by Jessica VonRoekel

“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy” (Psalm 65:8 NIV).

Spring rolls in slowly in the Midwest. The sun shines warmly, but the wind blows cold. Frost coats baby blades of green grass. It can rain and snow in the same fifteen-minute window. But one thing is constant. . . the persistent lengthening of days and the birds who flock to my yard. The mourning doves return first, then the robins and common grackles, and finally the goldfinches. They all seem to raise their voices as loudly as they can just before sunset and sunrise.

I marvel at the cacophony in the evening and predawn. It pulls me from the distractions of the day and causes me to look up from my problems. Their noisy song wakes me fully from a fitful night’s sleep in the moments before dawn. It makes me wonder whether I praise or cower when dark times overtake my life. Do I forget to praise when the night grows too long, and I question whether morning will ever come?

The Psalms teach us how to rejoice when we’re holding sorrow and pain. They help us see raw emotion through a lens of faith in a faithful God and bring our hearts to praise during unwanted circumstances. When we spend time with the Psalms, we can learn how to express our deepest hurts and rejoice in the God whose consistent presence in our lives is a comfort.

Paul says it best when he writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NIV). Rejoicing is not dependent on our circumstances but separate from them. We rejoice because it aligns our heart with God’s heart. It pleases him when we rejoice in him despite the darkness looming in our lives.

James 1:2 places an emphasis on rejoicing and to count it all joy when we face trials of many kinds. I don’t know about you, but I seem to grumble and complain before I remember to praise. But grumbling leads to fretting and fretting leads to worry, which leads me away from trusting God. And when I don’t trust God, I can’t seem to find my song. Choosing to rejoice despite how we feel about our circumstances brings our hearts back to trust.

There are times when we see storm clouds brewing above the landscape of lives, like the slow setting of the sun. Let’s sing songs of joy, trusting in God. He goes before us and makes a way when there seems to be no way. He carries us close to his heart as he guides through dark valleys. Because of him we can rejoice, no matter what we face. Will we choose to sing louder right before sunrise like the birds do?

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

About the author: Jessica is a worship leader, speaker, and writer who writes at www.welcomegrace.com giving hope-filled inspiration addressing internal hurts in the light of God’s transforming grace. She believes that through Christ our personal histories don’t have to define our present or determine our future. Jessica lives in a rural setting with her husband and family. You can connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

Join the conversation: What thought about God enables you to rejoice despite hard circumstances?

Whine or Wine?

by Cherrilynn Bisbano

The effects of original sin permeate every crevice of our world. Trials, tribulations, illness, sexual immorality, and debauchery are some of the effects of this unwanted invader. There is no escape while sojourning on earth, so God sent the Holy Spirit to give us strength and wisdom amidst the storms.

Jesus is the perfect example of how to live with the effects of sin. He acted in wisdom and love. He never complained. I want to glean from His actions and walk in the power of the Spirit.

Jesus was crushed for our sin. “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace…” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV).

When I read this verse, I think of grapes. I know it seems irreverent and a bit silly, but bear with me. When grapes are made into juice for wine, they are crushed. We reap the rewards when they are pulverized. A fragrant aroma arises only when they are pressed.

Jesus’ body was beaten, yet he said, “Father, forgive them.” His sacrifice reconciled the world to God.

So what happens when we are crushed? People watch when we go through trials.

One day at work, a few co-workers ridiculed me because I said I was offended by their dirty jokes. I found a quiet corner to sulk. Eyes were still on me. My heart broke; they knew I was a Christian. Why would they say such nasty things in my presence, then make fun of me?

The taunts continued.

“Oh, Cherrilynn’s here, we’d better be good, she’ll tell God on us,” Mike stated.

“God wouldn’t like our jokes, either would he?” Steve said.

“You guys are idiots!” I said as I left the room.

Laughter echoed throughout the office and followed me down the hallway as I escaped their harassment. I prayed and asked for wisdom. (I wanted God to call down lightning on them.)

But the Holy Spirit impressed this verse upon my heart instead: “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15 ESV). The Spirit continued, your choice is to whine or be wine when you are crushed. Do you want to complain or be a fragrant aroma?

I returned to the office. “I’m sorry for calling you idiots.” Mike and Steve’s mouths opened wider than their eyes.

“We thought you’d never talk to us again,” Mike said with his Cheshire grin.

“We accept the apology, and we will warn you next time we tell those kinds of jokes,” Steve said.

“Thanks, guys,” I said.

After the apology, the dirty jokes stopped. They even came to me privately to ask for prayer.

I’m not always a fragrant offering when I go through trials and tribulations, but God is there to lovingly remind me not to whine.

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

About the author: Cherrilynn Bisbano is an award-winning writer in both fiction and non-fiction. She is a coach, ghostwriter, editor, and speaker. She is honored to be a member of AWSA.You can find her published in several online magazines and blogs along with books.  Her latest book, Shine Don’t Whine, released in October 2020. Cherrilynn proudly served in the Navy and Air National Guard. She lives with her son, Michael, Jr., and husband of 22 years. Cherrilynn loves Christ, Chocolate, coffee, and Cats. You will often find her on the beach sea glass hunting.

Join the conversation. Do you find yourself complaining when you are crushed?

Help! Someone Is Complimenting Me About my Child

by Kathy Collard Miller @kathycmiller

Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.  Proverbs 31:31 NASB

I’ve often been perplexed as to how to answer when someone compliments me about my child, especially as she’s now an adult. Of course, I’m thrilled my child is being acknowledged, but it feels like I am being invited to stand on the edge of quicksand and not know if I should step out or step back…or stand still.

No wonder hearing my friend’s words feel uncomfortable. Do I take credit? Do I try to convince my friend I actually wasn’t that great of a mom? Do I point out my good choices or my bad actions? How do I credit God even when I did depend upon His empowering to grow as a mom? Will I come across as humble or proud depending upon what I say?

In those moments, I feel paralyzed and confused.

If you’ve ever felt similarly, you and I can take encouragement and courage from an interaction Doctor Luke recorded.

While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that carried You, and the breasts at which You nursed!” But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and follow it.” (Luke 11:27-28 NASB)

The woman’s comment is both a compliment to Jesus’s mother and to Jesus himself. She is saying, “Your mother must be so happy to have a son like you. You are wonderful.” She might even be insinuating Mary must be a special kind of mother to have raised such an amazing son who had the courage to correct the Pharisees in front of the crowd and deliver a man from an unclean spirit (Luke 11:14-26).

Interestingly, during Jesus’s ministry, Mary, along with Jesus’s half-siblings believed he had lost his mind (Mark 3:21). We can only wonder if in truth Mary was embarrassed to have a “son like him.” Thankfully, the truths told to Mary at Jesus’s conception and birth won out, and Mary and several of Jesus’s half-siblings believed in Him as Savior and became a part of the early church.

Jesus’s response to the woman in the crowd indicates He didn’t depend upon her recognition of His goodness, or how He was a blessing to His mother. And Jesus didn’t go into a detailed explanation about whether His mother was a good mother or not—or even whether He was a great son. Only upon His Heavenly Father’s acknowledgement.

Jesus’s dependence upon His Father’s recognition can strengthen us. We don’t have to be puffed up with pride hearing compliments about ourselves or our children. Jesus’s focus is on those who follow God’s Word. The change in other people is what thrills Him and is the ultimate blessing. If we can have the same focus, we will be strong in not depending upon the comments of others—whether positive or negative, especially about our offspring.

Of course, we should acknowledge the comments from others. This is not wrong. God most likely was prompting our friend to bless us through compliments about our child. We can courageously receive His support.

So what to do? Courageously reply with a simple sentence and joyfully receive God’s encouragement. Ultimately, the best compliment we and our children will ever hear is God’s encouragement, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Copyright and excerpted from Heart of Courage: Daughters of the King Bible Study Series

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

About the author: Kathy Collard Miller loves to show how Scripture reveals God’s wonderful nature, is relevant to daily life, and empowers us to trust Him more. Her 59th book was published in March, 2022, and is entitled: Heart of Courage: Daughters of the King Bible Study Series, a 10 lesson women’s Bible study for groups and individuals. Kathy is also an international speaker, wife, mom, and grandma. She and her husband, Larry, (co-author on many books), live in Boise, Idaho, and speak together on marriage. They were high school sweethearts and married in 1970. Visit Kathy at www.KathyCollardMiller.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/KathyCollardMillerAuthor, Twitter: @KathyCMiller, Pinterest/Kathyspeak, Youtube: https://bit.ly/2SwiL03, Instagram: @kathycollardmiller

Join the conversation: What have you found to be the best way to respond to someone complimenting you because of your child?

Where Does Jesus Stand in Our Moments of Shame?

by Mary Beth Powers

When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” John 8:10 NKJV

In the story of the adulteress woman, can you imagine how afraid she was to answer for her sin in front of the religious leaders and Jesus?

I imagine her standing with her head bowed in shame after being dragged through the streets and into the temple. The religious leaders shouted accusingly, “Look what this woman has done! What will you do about this, Jesus?”

They were trying to trap Him. If He quoted Mosaic Law about punishment for adultery, the Romans would come after Him. If He failed to condemn her act, the Jews would go against Him. So he answered their clever ruse with a simple statement: “Let the one who is without sin throw the first stone!”

We use that verse to push back when we feel judged by others. But I find a bigger application, because I resonate with those feelings of shame.  

Some days I would just like to insert whatever failure I experienced that day into this Scripture. Things like words of condemnation I might have spoken over my spouse or the dismissing of a friend’s pain. Maybe even feeling sorry for myself. Some days I feel like a complete failure.

But I am certain I do not stand in my shame alone.

If I imagine myself standing in the presence of Jesus in my shame, what would he say to me? Because of his radical love, I imagine it would go something like this….

As we stand alone in the dirt, I am sure my feelings of inadequacy would rise in full force. I would feel exposed. Jesus would take off his cloak or robe and place it around me. I imagine standing in His shadow as He stands next to me. He will not leave me standing alone. He would stand with me. In those moments, close by His side, a feeling of safety would flood my soul.

“Like a shepherd, he tends his flock; he gathers up the lambs with his arm; he carries them close to his heart; he leads the ewes along” (Isaiah 40:11 NET).

This is not the first time God has wanted to cover us in our shame. Go back to the first time Adam and Eve mess up in the garden, and you will find Him covering them for the first time as they stood feeling exposed and in shame.  

“And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.” Genesis 3:21 NLT

There are many times throughout His word He simply just wants to wrap His robe or yet his arms around us leaving with His peace, not shame. Jesus bore our shame on the cross. He covers us with His Righteousness is not the creator of shame.

It is our nature to want to hide from God, but we should never be afraid of standing before Jesus.

He does not dismiss the sin. It is in the presence of Jesus where our sin dissipates, and we become free of sin. Only through Jesus is where real forgiveness takes place.

The next time you feel shame in your sin try standing naked (vulnerable or humble) before Jesus and let Him cover you.

“And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 NET

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

About the author: Mary Beth speaks and writes with an open heart. She believes there is freedom in sharing our brokenness with each other. She loves to share her story of real heart transformation to freedom in Christ. Mary Beth and her husband are enjoying their new season of being first time grandparents.

Join the conversation: Have you ever felt the Lord’s presence during a shameful moment?

Black & White

by Dana Peters-Colley                                                                       

Black and white. When things are, it’s pretty clear. What did Jesus say about these times we are in? The last days will be like the days of Noah when He returns (Matthew 24:37).

I looked at the passages about Noah and discovered something I hadn’t seen before. And it was black and white. It’s hidden in plain sight. It’s revealed with the two birds Noah sends out from his amazing float boat, the Ark.

Did you know Noah’s name translates to mean rest? Isn’t it like God to place this man, Rest, into a disaster with a ticket to the other side? Doesn’t sound too restful, does it? Yet, our God put Noah’s and his family on a boat with all the creatures to save them.

Do you feel creatures impacting you these days? They aren’t the ones you want to save, but Jesus might. It’s hard to navigate that when evil is called good and good is called evil. It’s crept into our culture and can blind us to what is truly good.

Yet, we are to love the sinner but hate their sin. We are down here, in a place not our home, instructed to occupy until our Savior return. We are here to be salt, to determine when to speak out and when to hold our tongues. We are called – important – this is so important – to be the Bride. We are to abide with Christ. We must choose when to offer grace and when to bring accountability. Not always black and white, is it?

What is black and white is that there is so much at stake. Eternity, in fact.

When I studied Noah, I discovered he did something. It was after creation drowned. He spent one hundred-and-fifty days out in the water. Then, Noah released two different birds. The raven, a black bird, was set free. It was followed by the dove, a white bird. Black and white. There it is!

And the importance? The raven went to and fro until the waters dried. The first dove returned to the safety of the Ark. The symbolism. Black can represent judgment. White can represent purity, holiness, and the Holy Spirit. Judgment continued to travel around the earth, but purity and holiness returned to the safety inside. And Rest was there to pull the bird in.

As judgment swirls around the world, we’re to abide in Christ and find that rest. Our job is to be like Noah.

I’ve been greatly troubled lately. Concerns were on my mind when I opened my shutters on a recent spring morning. As I peered out, a woman down below walked two dogs. Can you guess their colors?  Yes, black and white! And what was strange was the black dog spun in tiny circles. The white dog just stood. Judgment is circling. The white stands.

The day before, I heard a gentle whisper inside my heart, ‘Stand’. And here was the instruction. Black and white.

Isn’t God good? He says we’ll be followed by signs and wonders. Our job is to be open to see what He reveals. We enter that Ark of rest. We await our Savior’s return. And yes, things can be very black and white.

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Hebrews 4:9-10 NASB

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

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: How do you know when something is truly black and white?

The Marriage Cycle

by Andrea Towers Scott, Ph.D.

Marriage is much like a rose. When it starts, the bloom is beautiful and everyone can smell the sweet fragrance of love. Over time, the bloom naturally falls off the rose. As the seasons change, the leaves sometimes fall, too. What’s left are thorns. They’re not much to look at.

Other, more beautiful flowers that look and smell so sweet begin to capture our attention. We wonder if we are stuck with thorns forever. We wonder if anything is happening to bring the beautiful blooms back. We water and fertilize. And wait.

If we use the right food and water, the kind that comes from the Word of God, then the roots are soaking it up. Over time buds begin to appear that will become leaves.

We put effort into that seemingly dead plant. We water and provide food. have more energy to provide food and water to our rose plant. Eventually, more blooms appear. Once again, we enjoy the beautiful and fragrant blossoms. However, we know that a time will come when we are left with thorns again. This time of re-blooming reminds us that the bloom will always leave and come back if we continue to feed and water our rose. Other flowers have their own cycle, so we can’t compare the rose’s cycle to theirs. Even other roses may be blooming when ours is thorny. That’s just our season.

Marriage is probably the hardest relationship God has given us. We can gain hope when we remember the cycle of our rose bush. We experience times of blooming and times when we wonder where the happier feelings have gone. But as the seasons change, we again experience more connected times. So we feed ourselves from the Word of God, and over time, both spouses are drawn closer to God and thus to each other. And as the relationship improves, we see that we really ARE more than just thorns.

The thorny seasons can feel very lonely, though, especially if we look around at all of the other marriages that seem to be blooming so beautifully. But we aren’t really alone. We aren’t the only ones to experience this balance of blooms and thorns. Everyone has their seasons.

Joseph certainly did when he was thrown into the well, falsely accused, and then jailed. But he trusted in the Lord, continued to live in obedience to Him, and eventually, he was assigned to be Pharoah’s second in command. He ended up saving his entire family and his relationships with them were restored (Genesis 37:1 – 49:28). Ruth, a Moabitess, married an Israelite who died. She ended up leaving her people to follow her mother-in-law to a strange land. They were practically destitute until God provided food for them through the good will of a kind man named Boaz. He became her kinsman redeemer and she became the great-grandmother of David and the ancestor of Jesus Christ (Ruth 1:1 – 4:22). Paul thought his season of blooms as a Pharisee was forever until Jesus approached him, made him blind, and commanded him to serve the very people he was killing. He bloomed again when he finally walked into the calling Jesus had for him (Acts 9:1- 22).

Our lives are in constant change as different seasons come and go. Knowing that makes it possible to withstand the hard times in expectation they will not last forever. The same is true for  our marriages: our relationships are simply seasons of blooming and waiting through the thorns.

Here’s to many seasons of blooms!

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace…He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11 NIV

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

About the author: Andrea Towers Scott is a professor of successful relationship communication. She’s also the author of www.WriteSpeakRelate.com whose mission is to equip couples and families with the skills they need to thrive. She uses sound Biblical wisdom to ground her teaching and coaching. Andrea has been married for 27 years to an amazing man and they have two wonderful teenage boys. Their family also runs a working farm in Florida.

Join the conversation: What season are you in at the present?

Embracing Spring

By Doris Hoover

When crocuses pop up through snow, they’re the first sign that the harsh conditions of winter are passing and a new season is arriving, a season of sweet smells and pastel colors. Daffodils, hyacinths and forsythia accompany a promise of spring.

While reading the last two chapters of Luke, I saw a stark contrast between the winter and spring seasons of life. Chapter twenty-three tells the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and death. It’s a chapter of cruel bitter winter conditions. Then chapter twenty-four tells of a season of rejoicing when Jesus rises from the dead. He bursts forth from the tomb in His spiritual form, bringing joy and hope to His grieving disciples.

During the harsh season, Jesus survives the cross by committing Himself to God’s care. After that season of pain and trials ends, He is laid in a tomb.  

Chapter twenty-four begins with these words, “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning…” On that day, God brings about a new season. The tortured body of Jesus was gone. He had risen from the grave. For His grieving followers, sadness was turned to joy, despair to hope. The resurrection of Christ ushered in a new season for all mankind.

In nature, spring only comes after the harsh conditions of winter pass. Life can be like that also. Jesus had to endure bitter trials before passing into His new season. Sometimes, we also must endure winter trials before entering a season filled with spring joy.

I experienced a long winter season. During that time, the Lord was my constant companion. He sheltered me and gave me comfort. He became my cherished friend who never left my side. All the while, He worked in my circumstances to bring about change. Like the crocus that emerges with a promise of spring, I saw promises of change popping up in my situation. I had committed myself to the Lord’s care during my winter season. In His perfect timing, the Lord brought about a new season in my life. My winter passed and spring arrived.

You’d think I’d rejoice and run out to embrace my spring season, but I didn’t. I hesitated to step away from my winter shelter. I was afraid I would lose the intimacy I had shared with the Lord while I leaned on Him for comfort. But Jesus gave me a gentle shove and told me to go embrace this new season.

I took a hesitant step into my new life, checking behind me for Jesus. But He wasn’t behind me—He was right beside me. He grabbed my hand and we leaped and twirled and laughed. As we sat down, breathless, I leaned against my best friend. I realized the closeness we shared during my difficult times was here in my new season of life.

Intimacy with the Lord is constant. It lies behind as cherished memories of God’s ever-present help during our trials; yet when the trials pass, the Lord remains close. We can confidently embrace our season of spring because the Lord stays beside us. He wants our lives to be filled with joy in every season of our lives. In Proverbs 3:4 we read there is a time for everything, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.

 Jesus is a constant friend who never leaves our sides. He holds us when we’re sad and celebrates with us when we rejoice. He’s the comfort in our winters and the joy in our springs.

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

About the author: Doris Hoover can be found somewhere between the Sunshine State of Florida and Sunrise County, Maine. Most likely, she’ll be outside collecting ideas for her writing. Her passion for God and her love of nature inspire the devotions she writes.

Doris is a mother of three and a grandmother of five. She and her husband Tim enjoy traveling and visiting family in their previous home state of NJ. Besides having devotions published online and in various compilations, Doris wrote a devotional book, Quiet Moments in The Villages, A Treasure Hunt Devotional. You can visit her website and blog at ANatureMoment.com.

Join the conversation: What season are you in right now?

A Culture of Temporary Relationships

by Jennifer Slattery

Is our culture creating the “walk-away kind”?

Granted, relationships have always been tough—to form and to keep, and sometimes we do need to sever unhealthy ties, especially if a particular person routinely steals our joy, effectiveness, or peace. But with all of the “toxic people” graphics I’ve seen in my social media feed the past few years, I worry we’ve learned to label every unpleasant interaction with imperfect people as poisonous. That we’ve found ways to justify remaining planted within our comfort zones surrounded by those who tell us what we want to hear.    

The other day, a friend shared recent interactions with her adult daughter. The two had issues to work through, false perceptions to correct, and misunderstandings to clear up. Initially, both parties appeared interested in seeking resolution and health, until my friend began setting boundaries and speaking truth regarding past issues. Having read the texts, I knew she’d chosen her words carefully and presented them with gentleness and love. In essence, she was inviting her daughter into something beautiful and whole. But to reach that place, they both needed the courage to be honest with themselves and with one another.

The latter comes much easier, doesn’t it? Admitting we’re broken and a bit of a mess, however, tends to prick some of our deepest insecurities and fears, primarily because few of us truly understand how to live anchored in grace. Unfortunately, most of us have had way too much experience with the converse. Living in our profoundly broken world among profoundly broken people, we’ve grown accustomed to others cutting us off, rather than inviting us close, when we fail to meet their expectations. This is especially true for those, like my friend’s daughter, who don’t know Jesus.

This should not, however, be true of you and I. Because here’s the thing—if responding to others with Christ-like love came easily, such interactions wouldn’t leave our watching world confounded. Yet, Jesus, the One who laid His life down so you and I might live, stated without any disclaimers, that others would know us by our love. True, healthy, honest, and growing love.

The type that takes work, humility, incredible bravery, and perseverance.

In Acts 2:1, the Bible says the first century Christ followers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (NIV).

This passage may read familiar to you. It did to me, only this morning one word I’d previously skimmed over grabbed my attention. These men and women devoted themselves to one another and grew together in Christ. Theirs weren’t casual interactions they engaged in when convenient or conversations felt comfortable. They remained steadfast and diligent, persevering with “intense effort” and at times “despite difficulty.”

No doubt there were many times when it would’ve been much easier to walk away. Just as it will be for us today.

We will often find it easier to:

  • Self-protect and isolate than to deepen our relationships and risk getting hurt.  
  • Feed our pride than to cultivate the humility necessary to break down barriers, resolve conflicts, and heal hurts.
  • Hide behind our well-rehearsed, cheery Sunday morning smiles and slogans rather than  allowing others to see our imperfections.
  • Attack rather than receive, defend rather than hear, and isolate rather than grow. 

But none of those behaviors will bring the relationship depth our souls crave. To the contrary. When we choose to live like the world, we tend to find ourselves in the same lonely and fearful places into which everyone else has fallen. We begin to experience the abundant life that Christ promised, however, when we push past the fears and sinful tendencies that keep us in bondage to boldly seek Jesus, His people, and His ways.

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2 NIV

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

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites.

Faith Over Fear (podcast) - Jennifer Slattery, Jodie Bailey and Shellie  Arnold | Listen Notes

In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.

Join the conversation: Do you have a relationship that has moved past the shallow into something deeper? What made the difference?

A Better Inheritance: The Lamp

by Patti Richter

No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV

My husband unloaded his treasure from the car and carried it downstairs. The large box held dismantled pieces of a crystal lamp that once adorned the homes of both his parents and grandparents. Jim hoped we could find a place for it in our home—some day. For now, his inheritance needed to wait in a corner of our basement.

Several years later, after we moved to a house with a spacious dining room, the box rested in a more hopeful corner. “The lamp will look great in here,” Jim said.

But the room already had a crystal chandelier. In fact, I could hardly walk by without admiring its delicate prisms. So I wasn’t so disappointed when Jim’s attempt to assemble the lamp was unsuccessful. Its sterling silver fittings had compressed from supporting heavy crystal sections for a half-century. Yet he was determined: “Maybe we can find a lamp repair shop.”

When a repair shop opened just down the road from our house with a small notice in the window that said, “We also do lamp repairs,” Jim loaded his big box into my SUV. The man behind the counter looked wide-eyed when he saw what I’d hauled in. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

Days later, I couldn’t wait for Jim to see the resurrected lamp. I set it on the dining room table and stood back for a better look. With afternoon light streaming in through the windows, the lamp’s thick prisms sparkled with colors of the rainbow. But I noticed something else. The chandelier hanging above it now looked inferior by comparison.

C. S. Lewis observed that we content ourselves with lesser things because we don’t know of better ones. “We are far too easily pleased,” he said.

I’d been in no hurry to see the inherited lamp because I had no idea of its beauty. Maybe it’s the same way with heaven. We are not anxious to go there if we’re clinging to this present world.

The last book of the Bible provides glimpses of some hidden things that await God’s people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” who’ve been redeemed by “the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 5:9, 12; ESV).

The city we’ve yet to behold is described as “pure gold, clear as glass . . . The foundations of the wall of the city . . . adorned with every kind of jewel . . . the twelve gates were twelve pearls . . .  and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass . . . And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:18, 19, 21, 23 ESV).

And all other lamps will be forgotten.

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 is it about heaven that you are most excited about?