Healing Takes Hope

by Robin Currie

[He] implored Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live.” Mark 5:23 NASB

“These things just take time,” the surgeon told me. “Come back in six months.”

Six more months of balancing medication, physical therapy, back braces. Six more months of working, studying, raising kids and writing – things I loved – but always working around unrelenting pain. I woke up many mornings praying, “Let the pain be gone today!” But it never was.

Six months turned into two and then five years, then a decade. A new surgeon, new hope, new fear. With a week to go before that second back surgery, I could no longer pray. “What if…”

I reached out to faithful friends and confessed I needed help. I did not have words or even coherent thoughts. And having asked for help, I found myself quietly accepting whatever the outcome. Upheld by their prayers I just relaxed into the arms of God.

 And six months later I head the amazing words: “This surgery was successful. With a few limits, you can now lead a normal life.”

I cried all the way home.

Recovery from physical, mental or spiritual distress seems to take forever. How do Jesus’ acts of healing speak to our life challenges? In Mark 5:21-43, Jesus seems to be multitasking! He is on his way to heal a twelve-year old girl, and gets stopped to heal a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years.  There are a couple of things revealed about Jesus in these healings.

First, Jesus does things that were defined by the religious establishment as wrong. Touching a sick woman or a dead person made Jesus unfit to enter the Temple in Jerusalem until he had been cleared by the priests.

But Jesus is not made unclean by these acts of compassion. Rather, His touch makes the one he touched whole again.

Second, the purpose of the acts on Jesus’ part was not to convince anyone he is Son of God or gain disciples to follow him. These were acts of pure, selfless compassion. Both miracles simply restore a person to life by the touch of Jesus.

We do not know what the woman and the girl did with the lives Jesus gave back them. We hear nothing more of them in the Bible. Before he healed them, the lives of these women seemed over, but now they have just begun. Their personal stories were a testimony to the power of Jesus’ love. They lived no longer defined by disease but known to be healed by the miracle of Jesus’ touch.

Like those women, we are not required to pay back anything, but to live our lives healed. We have been set free from guilt and shame. We are healed of pointless anger and grudges against hurts that happened long ago. We are healed of all that separates us from God and other people. We are healed to share our stories of hope with others.

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

About the author: Rev. Dr. Robin Currie learned story sharing by reading the parables of Jesus. She perfected story telling techniques by sitting on the floor, in children’s sermons and library story times. Robin has sold 1.7 M copies of her 30 Bible storybooks and writes stories to read and read again!

Join the conversation: How has Jesus healed you since you came to know him?

Thankfulness as a Sacrifice

by Elaine Helms

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15 NASB

I was having one of those mornings when I just didn’t feel like saying thank you for anything. It wasn’t just a bad hair day; I was running late for work. When I turned onto a two lane road by the river, a car darted around me in a no passing zone, and then slowed down.

My attention was immediately drawn out my window to the daffodils beginning to bloom next to the road. I suddenly said out loud, “Lord, thank you for the beautiful flowers!”  I started to laugh and prayed, eyes open, “God that was You! You are working in my heart.” It wasn’t that long ago that in a similar situation, I would have started fuming that someone was in my way and slowing me down.

My whole mood changed as other things to be thankful for entered my mind. I began to praise God for my health, a comfortable car with heat, paved roads, and traffic lights so I could get across a busy intersection. The slow car in front of me actually turned right at that intersection, so I thanked God for that, too. I even thanked God for the job that I was rushing to get to.

My spirits began to rise, and I began to pray for the day ahead, the people I worked with who might also be having my kind of Monday morning. The projects we were working on that week were my next topic of prayer. I arrived at my destination before I could even finish praying for all my co-workers! Spring wasn’t completely here, but I noticed a spring in my step as I walked to the building.

With just a little gratitude, my attitude had completely changed. God knows us so well, He created us after all. When He gives a command like “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God,” it’s for our good. Gratitude equals joy – that inner joy that is not based on our circumstances. I am a child of God and I have much for which to be thankful.

The verses in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, NASB came to mind, “Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It does make sense that in my walk with Jesus, there is opposition – my flesh wants control. It is a challenge to make my flesh submit to the Holy Spirit within me, but that is the goal.

Once inside the building, I was shocked to see in passing a mirror that my hair didn’t seem that bad. I had a smile for those I encountered on my way in, and I invited my secretary to join me in my office to pray about our busy week ahead. What a difference a little thankfulness had made in my day.

Maybe that’s why Jesus told the disciples and us in Mark 14:38 (NASB), “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

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

About the author: With her passion for God, humor, vulnerability and spiritual strength, Elaine Helms encourages audiences and readers to draw closer to God and live the abundant life Jesus came to give His followers. Prayer Coordinator for the Southern Baptist Convention for 10 years and for My Hope America with Billy Graham for two years, Elaine has 30 years of experience in church, national, and interdenominational prayer leadership. www.ChurchPrayerMinistries.org or erhelms@bellsouth.net

Prayer 101: What Every Intercessor Needs to Know

Prayer 101, What Every Intercessor Needs to Know, is a comprehensive guidebook for discovering how to pray as God intends. You’ll journey through Scripture, find inspiration in the stories of others, and learn simple and effective principles for prayer. An ideal resource for groups, Prayer 101 includes review questions for each chapter and a prayer ministry guide for churches eager to put prayer into action.

Join the conversation: For what are you thankful today?

Like Thanksgiving without the Turkey

by Patti Richter

Some memories stand out within the annals of holidays past—for better or worse reasons.

I recall my first Thanksgiving holiday away from home due to threatening weather. My college friend and housemate, Rhonda, could not drive the distance to join her family either. So we hatched a plan for our own little feast on Thursday—the very next day. We thought to invite a friend from our Bible study group who would otherwise be alone. Kirk surprised us in return, saying, “I could bring the turkey! My company just handed them out to all the employees.”

Kirk planned to come early and hang out with us while the turkey roasted. Meanwhile, Rhonda and I—novice cooks at best—planned to prepare some basic side dishes and a pumpkin pie to complete the traditional menu.

On Thanksgiving Day, we set the dining table with 1970s green and gold dishes as the fragrance of cinnamon wafted through the house. Kirk arrived, and with a pleased smile, he handed us a heavy bag containing the turkey—still in its wrapping and frozen solid!

Our little triangle of young adults, suddenly subdued, must have resembled those well-known TV characters: wide-eyed, disbelieving Lucy; disappointed, slump-shouldered Ethel; and poor old Fred, wishing the girls had given him better instructions.

The disappointment of missing that central dish of Thanksgiving gave way to an abundance of laughter for days. It further provided an enduring remembrance of a holiday, and it possibly served to sharpen each of our critical thinking skills.

Although I went on to better success in the kitchen, I still have instances where a meal goes wrong. It’s usually when I’m distracted. My oldest granddaughter recalls one of my mishaps and still teases me if she knows I’m preparing chicken casserole: “Don’t forget to add the chicken, Grandma!”

The main ingredient of most recipes is so obvious that we assume we’ll remember it. Thanksgiving can be this way too—not only concerning dinner items but regarding the reason behind the celebration. Neglecting to offer thanks to God on the occasion specifically dedicated to this purpose is something like forgetting to prepare the turkey.

A wayward culture attempts to redirect our Thanksgiving focus by urging appreciation for those who serve us. Romans 1:21 speaks of this departure from acknowledging our Creator: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him” (ESV). Even worse, we commonly hear public prayers addressed to departed loved ones instead of to God, in the name of the One who rose from the dead. Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25 ESV).

One way to keep a right focus at Thanksgiving is by thanking God each day, not just at mealtimes but at every opportunity. The apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always,” and “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4, 6 ESV).

Thanksgiving is one big opportunity to share our faith with families and friends through offering gratitude to our Provider. Let’s not forget this main ingredient.

O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth . . . You visit the earth and water it . . . You crown the year with your bounty. –Psalm 65:5, 9, 11 ESV

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

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

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

Join the conversation: Does your family remember to thank God at Thanksgiving? Do you have a tradition on that to share?

Inconsistent Thanksgiving

by Carol Ogle McCracken

 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 1 Chronicles 16:8 NIV

Mom and I sat in the hospital waiting room again giddy from lack of sleep and a huge sense of relief. My husband Rich was no stranger to hospital visits, given his heart issues. But this time he’d had to undergo emergency surgery.

 He had been in the hospital for eight days because his doctors could not locate the cause of the excruciating pain that immobilized him. Test after test failed to provide answers. Rich was so frustrated he was ready to leave. Then finally, one of the tests yielded an unexpected result. He had thrown a blood clot, and it had become lodged, compromising the blood flow to his large intestine. His organs were in danger of shutting down.

Mom and I were chuckling on a waiting room couch, bemoaning the fact that my husband would have to be still, which was not his strong suit, and recover from yet another surgery. He had almost died twice, and yet here he was, stubbornly alive and kicking.

The doctor came out and told us the surgery was successful. What he neglected to tell us before the procedure was that only twenty percent of the people who had this surgery survived. This wiped the giddiness right out of the situation. We knew surgery was serious; what we didn’t know was the risk we faced. There had been no choice but to go forward with the surgery, for without out it, my husband would die. The clot could not self-correct. But how close he came to possible death was not on our radar. Rich had now almost died a third time. Praise God for this gift He had given us. What great things our God can do!

I think King David and his fellow Israelites felt a similar sense of thanksgiving as David oversaw the return of the captured ark of the covenant. King David had properly prepared a place after God previously had taken Uzzah’s life for mishandling the ark. As a Levite, Uzzah should have known better. David had initially been angry at the Lord’s wrath, but David grew in his relationship with and understanding of the Lord.

As a result, there was a significant advance in Israel’s worship. Musicians were appointed, burnt offerings were sacrificed and fellowship offerings were blessed. David appointed Levites to thank and praise the Lord. At least eight ways to praise and glorify God are recorded in 1 Chronicles 16 to proclaim what God had done.

We would need to remember this reason for thanksgiving as Rich again recovered. Satan tried to defeat us many times in the waiting. Crankiness and lack of patience reared their ugly heads. Facing mortality is challenging for all concerned. I do not have an exemplary bedside manner. Just ask Rich. “Suck it up,” were not the words he wished to hear from his loving wife. What can I say? I prefer to heal in a solitary state. Perhaps something more sympathetic like, “Thank God you are alive” was more what he wanted to hear!

But God is worthy of our praise and thanksgiving all the time. Even in the waiting, we are to proclaim His name. Even in giddiness, relief, anger, crankiness, and absence of patience, we are to make known what He has done.

So, join the Israelites and me in the never-ending cycle of highs and lows as we try to consistently give praise to God for what He has done. Praise Him no matter what you are feeling. He is worthy.

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

Wisdom: Where To Find It If You've Lost, Forgotten, Or Never Had It

About the author:  Carol McCracken has been a Bible teacher for over twenty years. She currently serves on church staff as Adult Discipleship Minister. Her passion is to make the Bible come alive for women and connect it to a real relationship with Jesus Christ in today’s busy and demanding world. She is an AWSA and Destin Word Weavers member. She serves as volunteer staff at Wholly Loved Ministries. Carol is a contributor to ChristianDevotions.us, Arise Daily, Arise Daily to Peace and Mustard Seed Ministries. Her book Wisdom: Where to Find It If You’ve Lost, Forgotten, Or Never Had It is available on Amazon. Connect with her at CarolMcCracken.com or on social media. Carol Ogle McCracken can be reached at: 614carolm@gmail.com

Join the Conversation: How has remembering to give thanks been helpful to your walk with Jesus?

Daily Bread

by Janet Holm McHenry

My faithful car of ten years gave up the ghost a couple weekends ago. I was headed to a retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains, when the car would not shift into an upper gear. The transmission then pretty much died on a busy freeway in Sacramento. I somehow I hobbled my way back a half dozen miles to my sister and brother-in-law’s home.

“Is there any way I could borrow a car?” I asked.

Fortunately, they had one available vehicle, but it was one of their two giant, 15-passenger daycare vans. With quick instructions and a prayer, I climbed up into the driver’s seat and continued on my way to the Santa Cruz Mountains for the three-day event. Two days later, my dear husband brought his car hauler down and hauled my car home one hundred miles over the Sierras to the car boneyard on his ranch.

So now, temporarily, I am driving a 1997 Cadillac two-door Eldorado. In other words, I am your grandmother cruising down the highway with her bottom almost touching the road. It’s a decent car, really, but not one that will do well when winter hits. And snow has already fallen on the Sierras a few times in the past week.

Normally I would be freaking out, but I have a sense of peace about the next car God will provide, because I know God is in the business of daily bread.

When Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount, more than once he taught principles about prayer and even provided a model prayer for the disciples:

“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13 KJV).

Tucked in the center of that prayer is a simple request: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus was teaching that it’s okay to ask for the simplest of needs—even food for the table. If I need money to pay the bills, it’s okay to ask. If I need money to pay my kid’s tuition, I should seek after him. If I need a new car that will navigate snow, I should just pray for it.

So here’s my prayer: “Lord, you have always provided for me. I do not need anything fancy and trust you for whatever vehicle you want me to have. And I thank you for hearing my prayer.”

And while I believe in a God who does BIG things, I am not going to do a name-it-claim-it kind of prayer. It’s just a car. And I will be thankful for whatever God has for me.

Prayer is simple. We just ask. Nothing fancy. Nothing dramatic. No visions of grandeur. And when I pray these daily bread prayers, I always say, “Your will be done”…and then wait for him to answer, which he always does.

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

About the author: Janet McHenry is a national speaker and the author of 24 books—six on prayer, including the bestselling PrayerWalk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength and Discipline and her newest, The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus: What Jesus Prayed and How It Will Change Your Life Today. She is the director of the prayer ministries of The Bridge Church in Reno, Sierra County (CA) coordinator for the National Day of Prayer, and creator of Prayer School, an online course in prayer. Janet loves to hear from readers: www.janetmchenry.com.

The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus: What Jesus Prayed and How It Can Change Your Life Today

Join the conversation: What needs have you prayed about recently?

Mapping Out the Day

by Rhonda Rhea

You guys and your fancy-schmancy words you like to use when giving directions. Like “Northeast.” And “left.”

I admit it, I have no sense of direction. North, south…and whatever those other two are? I don’t have them. There’s probably not enough space in my brain for a compass. Maybe because I filled a lot of brain space with a big list of foods that would be better covered in chocolate pudding. It’s not my fault that there are just a whole lot of things that needed to be noted.

I’ve had this sense of direction problem longer than GPS has been in existence. That means I’m all the more thankful for my phone. Having GPS and all its beautiful maps and finders and directions means I’m not forced to roll down my window and ask a stranger what state I’m in. Any more.

I’m still one of the few people on the planet who can get lost, however, even while instructions are being spoken to me. When I’m heading out of a parking lot with my directions all plugged in and ready to go and the GPS lady tells me to “head north,” I suddenly realize she doesn’t get me at all.

Recently I was chatting with a friend who said she was feeling a little “lost.” She told me she felt rather directionless, like she couldn’t seem to get a good handle on her joy, and she didn’t know why. I asked her how her time in Bible study was going, and she rolled her eyes at me. But she rolled them with a smile. She said, “Wow, I should’ve known you were going to ask me that. And I should’ve known to ask myself.”

As we chatted, she preached herself a little sermon. It was adorable. She started with, “That’s it, isn’t it.” It was a statement, not a question. She ended her sermon with a response to her own invitation, determining to set her course at the first of every day.

We met again the next week and I was amazed to see the difference in her demeanor. Talk about being back on the right road. She said the change wasn’t immediate, but it was dramatic. Oh, the difference God’s Word makes in our every day.

The battle for control of our internal compass—our spiritual direction—is a fierce one. The enemy fights to turn us onto a fruitless path. Our own flesh wars against us, too. But we can’t get to a victorious life of purpose without plugging in the right directions. The Psalmist got it. “Keep me from the way of deceit and graciously give me your instruction. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set your ordinances before me,” (Psalm 119:29-30 CSB). If we want to win the battle against the enemy’s lies and against our own sinful desires, we need the truth of God’s Word.

I had to smile when I read a paraphrase of verse 35: “Guide me down the road of your commandments; I love traveling this freeway!” (MSG). Life’s journey really does take a happier turn when we’re traveling according to God’s direction and by the wisdom and instruction we find in His Word. Sometimes it’s a state of joy we didn’t even realize we were missing.

And by the way, if I do ever again feel the need to roll down my window to ask what state I’m in, there’s no reason why I can’t do it in a state of joy.

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

rhonda rhea

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

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Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation: Has God’s Word guided you in your walk with Him recently? Please share!

Through the Worst of Times

by Kathy Howard

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! Philippians 4:1, NIV

War shakes a man’s faith. Without a solid foundation and encouragement to stand firm, it can even shatter it completely.

Jean Grace Elliot may not have gone to war, but she served in the trenches alongside the young men she’d taught in Sunday School. Although a schoolteacher, then a principal, by trade, Jean’s lifelong passion was teaching the Bible. Each week, Jean faithfully taught boys—including her own three sons—how to love and follow Jesus Christ. As the years went by, the lads she discipled grew into teenagers, then young men.

When War World II broke out, Jean’s sons and several of “her boys” enlisted in the armed forces. These young men may have left Toronto to serve their country, but Jean did not leave them. She faithfully wrote letters to each of them, including one who was captured and sent to a concentration camp in Germany. Jean encouraged them to stand firm in Christ. She filled her letters with Scripture to bolster their faith. She prayed that their faith would not simply survive those desperate times, but that it would thrive.

Jean’s efforts bore fruit. Through the later years of her life, she received many thanks from those men for being a devoted teacher and encourager. Although Jean passed away in 1963 at the age of 77, her legacy of unshakeable faith lives on in her students, her own children, and their children.

Jean faithfully followed the example of the apostle Paul. In his letter to the persecuted believers in Philippi, Paul encouraged them to cling to Christ no matter the circumstances. Paul knew suffering, but he also knew the strength and comfort of Christ was more than sufficient. No matter the struggle, no matter the outcome on this earth, believers can experience unshakeable faith, even through the worst of times.

Father, when my family encounters trials, remind them of Your truth. You see them, You care, You are working, even in the midst of their worst of times. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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

About the author: Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate and richest coffee. She searches for cherished stories of faith that still impact hearts. And she digs deep into God’s Word, mining His eternal truths for herself and to share with others. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events.

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Kathy has a Masters of Christian Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary and is the author of 10 books, including the “Deep Rooted” devotional series and Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” (October 2021).  Kathy and her husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: Have family members that have gone before you left a legacy of faith? Please share!

A Lesson from the Elephants

by Crystal Bowman

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Romans 12:15 ESV

My husband and I were away on a weekend business trip and found ourselves with free time on a Friday evening. As we drove through town looking for something interesting to do, the local museum advertised a showing of Elephants in Africa in their state-of-the-art IMAX theater. We parked our car, bought tickets, and then entered the massive theater with a wrap-around screen and surround-sound audio.

The National Geographic-type film documented the day-by-day experiences of a clan of African elephants as they moved from one place to another in search of water and food. As we watched from the center of the theater, we felt like we were in the middle of the jungle with the camera crew!

Since elephants can walk within hours of birth, a newborn calf ambled on wobbly legs closely behind his mother. As weeks passed, the baby grew larger and stronger and began playful interaction with the other elephants. After a while, however, food and water became scarce, and the calf grew weaker and weaker until it toppled over and died. The mama used her powerful trunk to poke and prod her baby to help him stand up. When her efforts failed, she realized his fate and stood over him, refusing to move as she mourned. During her time of grieving, all the female elephants from the clan surrounded her and stayed by her side for three days until she was ready to travel.

I couldn’t help but see this as a beautiful picture of friendship and caring for those who are hurting. We often don’t know what to do when someone we know is grieving. In our best efforts we may offer a meal, some encouraging words, or a small gift. But perhaps the best thing we can do for someone is to just be there.

Galatians 6:2 (NIV) says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” What is the law of Christ? The answer is found in Mark 12:30-31 (ESV), “‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And in John 15:12 (ASV) we read more words of Jesus, “This is my commandment that you love one another, even as I have loved you.”

Loving your neighbor, friend, sibling, or anyone else in your social circle is not always easy, and sometimes it takes a sacrifice of time to be there for them. But being with someone in their time of need speaks volumes even if we say nothing.

Our current pandemic makes it more challenging than ever to be physically with someone who is hurting, but modern technology allows face-to-face connection with iPhone, Skype, and Zoom. When a long-distance friend of mine lost her husband recently, the Holy Spirit prompted me to call her to see how she was doing. We talked for more than an hour, and she said my call was exactly what she needed that day.

Comforting a friend who is going through a difficult time—whether it’s a divorce, the loss of a loved one, a rebellious child, or something else—is not an easy thing to do. But I have learned a lesson from the friends of that mama elephant. When a friend needs me, I’ll just be there!

Lord, help me to be intentional about reaching out to a friend who is hurting. Help me to weep with those who weep so I can love others the way you love me. Amen 

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 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: Practically speaking, what do you do to carry someone’s burden?

Autumn Leaves that Sparkle

by Kelly Wilson Mize

You made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to set. Psalm 104:19 NLT

Autumn has arrived, and for this Alabama girl, it’s an exciting time of year! The sweltering weather begins to cool, football season is in full swing, pumpkin-spice-flavored everything suddenly appears (like it or not!), and the excitement of Christmas is just around the corner.

In my lifetime, the tradition of decorating for fall seems to have exploded in popularity. I remember as a child begging my mother to put up the Christmas tree before mid-December. No one I had ever heard of decorated for any other season. But these days, it seems that pumpkins, hay bales, and scarecrows adorn every home and business this time of year. And count me in! Starting in late September, my house becomes a sea of orange, yellow, and burgundy.

A couple of years ago, I found a treasure in a craft store: a bouquet of sparkling leaves in beautiful fall colors–it was love at first sight! I’ll admit the fake, glittery leaves are probably a little tacky, but when I look at them my heart feels happy. They glisten in the sun, brighten up the cloudy days, and illuminate my little autumn world—my home and my mood—as the days get shorter and the world seems darker.

Over the years (as a result of too many trips to the craft store), the sparkly leaf bouquets have multiplied. Each fall I spend hours moving them all around until I find just the right spot, not even minding all the glitter that gets strewn over every inch of my house. The autumn leaves God created aren’t plastic and glittery like the ones I use to decorate, though they do indeed sparkle in the sun, but isn’t it fun to commemorate the changing of seasons?

Every part of the year is incredible in its own way, and the unique qualities of each were precisely calculated. It was God’s perfect plan for trees to sprout green leaves in the spring and transform into vivid colors in the fall. But ultimately, the lovely colors fade, and the leaves fall to the ground and die. And that seems like the end. But did you know those dead brown leaves serve a vital purpose? When leaves fall to the ground, they eventually decompose, providing nutrients for the soil. What seems like their demise is actually the beginning of new life! The dead leaves form a layer that helps the ground absorb water and allows plant growth in the spring.

How beautiful it is when God’s creation illustrates important spiritual concepts for us! All life has meaning, and death is not the end.

Psalm 104 paints a beautiful picture of nature as evidence of the presence of God: plants and animals, light and darkness, life and death–all subject to His authority. With meticulous care, He orchestrated the workings of our entire universe: days, nights, seasons, years, and all eternity. Isn’t there tremendous security in knowing that our God is a God of order and consistency, and that He alone remains always in control? 

In these troubling, sometimes heart-wrenching times, when we have no idea what new disease or disaster could be around the next corner, we can truly depend only on Him!  The sun will rise and set each day; winter, spring, summer, and fall will come and go, just as He planned. We can praise God for His steady hand upon His marvelous handiwork –and for the way He lovingly cares for each element of His creation—you and I included! His power and creativity are aweinspiring, unlike anything man-made could ever be. And so much better than my beloved plastic leaves.

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

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About the author: Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother of two young adults, and former educator with a master’s degree in education. In 20 years as a published author, she has composed numerous articles, interviews, curriculum projects, and devotions, and has contributed to eight traditionally published books. Credits include Lifeway, Bethany House, Guideposts, (in)courage, and others. Kelly’s first full-length publication, a picture book for all ages called The Beautiful Story Within Me is available now wherever books are sold!

Join the conversation: What do you learn about God through nature?

Shine like an O Star

by Cherrilynn Bisbano

I love a clear night. 

The stars intrigue me. God’s speckled lights bring me joy as I admire how He orchestrated patterns for our enjoyment. The twinkle of a star is a God wink to me.

For fun, I researched star classifications. After all, God created them, and His Word states we will shine like stars: “…then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” Philippians 2:14 (NIV)

I love the thought of being light in the darkness.

I derived information from Atlas of the Universe: Stars are given classifications according to their surface temperature and brightness. The classes are O, B, A, F, G, K, and M. The O stars are the hottest, M stars the coolest. O stars are rare but bright. M stars are numerous but dim.         Our sun’s classification is somewhere in the middle.

I took the liberty and used these classifications to represent Christians as stars. Since O is the hottest and most rare, I classified it as Obedient. Complete obedience to God is rare—I know it is for me. Oh, to always be obedient to the Master, a bright light to lead many to righteousness.

“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3 NIV).

The more numerous yet weaker stars are M-Mediocre. No one wants to be mediocre when serving God. Notice the word mediocre begins with the word “me.” I was a complacent believer focused on self. I chose mediocrity instead of obedience.

I knew God wanted me to call a friend to see how she was doing. I loved this girl and spent hours on the phone listening and trying to comfort her. I was tired and did not want to speak with her, because she complained and recited the same stories. Years with a counselor did not help her. 

Do you have a friend like that?

I sent an email instead of calling. An email was safe. You need to call her, the Spirit echoed in my head. I ignored his prompting. Call her!

“Lord, I don’t want to hear the same stories over and over.” A few days passed. Call her now! I said, “But Lord…”

The Spirit interrupted, I did not ask you to heal her, that is my job. Just listen, like I listen to you. I wanted to cry. I blatantly disobeyed and tried to justify my half-hearted attempt with an email. I remembered my pastor’s words, “Partial obedience is disobedience.”

I called.

She recited the same stories, but my attitude had changed. I wanted to listen to her like the Lord listens to me. God loved her through me, and she was thankful someone cared.

I prayed before all my conversations with her and the Holy Spirit empowered me with patience, kindness, and love. Complete obedience also brought peace and joy to my heart.

When it comes to serving God, I desire to serve with a wholehearted devotion and a willing mind, giving my best because he gave his best for me. I still fall short- I praise God for His grace and mercy.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my continued journey from mediocrity to obedience—the Holy Spirit gives the power to obey. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” 2 Peter 1:3 (ESV).

Now, when I observe the evening sky, I’m reminded the Creator of those stars loves me and empowers me to shine like an “O” star.

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

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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: When has God called you to be a friend to someone?