Blue Plate Special Delivery

by Patti Richter

Give me a sign of your goodness, . . . for you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me. Psalm 86:17 NIV

Why didn’t I begin sooner?

With an out-of-town move approaching, I needed to work fast. I jettisoned extra household possessions like the old green pressure cooker, and the s’mores maker—used exactly once.

Living in the same house for ten years caused a natural build-up. But at least the sorting tasks kept me from thinking about the harder aspect of moving: giving up friends.

I conquered the kitchen and den in good time and loaded give-away items into boxes and bags. But my progress stalled when I reached the dining room.

From the china cabinet, I took out an old Blue Willow plate I’d never used but always cherished—a wedding gift from an elderly widow. The vintage plate had been used at a downtown diner our late friend operated after World War II.  I’d never wanted to let go of it, even though we never had blue décor. But it was time to pass it on.

That’s when I said a brief prayer—aloud. “Lord, I’d really like to give this to someone who would appreciate it.” I didn’t believe God wanted to micro-manage my life, but this move had me feeling as fragile as the china. I needed the Lord’s help every step of the way. I laid the plate on the dining table to think about later.

At church the following Sunday, I stood at the children’s check-in counter before teaching my class. A girl in bouncy curls and a fancy dress stopped to scan her ID. As our coordinator, Terri, walked by, she told the girl, “I love your dress! It’s my very favorite shade of blue.”

Delft blue, I noticed—the color of Blue Willow. This made me recall a lunch meeting at Terri’s house years back. My memory suggested a blue kitchen, and maybe . . .  

At home later, I wrapped the old plate in tissue paper and put it in a gift bag. But I wondered if Terri would consider the plate a strange gift.

The next Sunday, after teaching my children’s class for the last time, I went to find Terri. When she descended the nearby stairway, I waved to get her attention.

“I need to say goodbye, Terri.”

“I’m so glad you’re still here. We’ll miss you!” She sat down beside me.

 “I’ll miss everyone, too, but I have something for you.”

Terri looked surprised when I lifted the bag, and then startled as she pulled away the tissue paper. Tears slid down her face as she struggled to speak.

“Did you know I collect Blue Willow?”

With relief, I explained: “I heard what you said to the girl in the blue dress and remembered your kitchen; but I wasn’t sure.” Then I told her about the plate and my prayer.

“You don’t understand how this makes me feel,” she said. “I’ve been so overwhelmed lately and feeling like no one ever thinks of doing anything for me. I asked the Lord to encourage me.”

God is not too distant or too busy to answer our smallest plea. First Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (NIV). Terri and I had each sought the Lord in our weakness, and he showed us how much he cares.

Weeks later, as I sat in our new dining room unpacking a box, I gazed out the window at houses across the street and wondered about making new friends. Then, pulling a china plate from its packing paper, I smiled. Our move had gone so well. God had helped us—down to the very last plate.

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: Do you have an encouragement story? Please share!

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The Power of God’s Unfailing Love

by Kathy Howard

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

In August 2021, flash flood waters overwhelmed Waverly, Tennessee, killing more than twenty people. Almost two feet of rain had fallen in 24 hours—nine inches in three hours alone. The area’s network of rivers and creeks could not contain the deluge. A tidal wave of water barreled through the community like a freight train. One mother and her five children clung to a clothesline as the deep water roared through their home. But the torrent ripped her two-year-old son from her arms and carried him away. The power of the water was stronger than the mother’s arms.

In Romans 8:39, Paul beautifully assured those first-century Roman believers—and believers today—that nothing can rip us away from God and His unconditional, unfailing love.

Yes, wickedness, hardships, and threats fill this life. Sometimes we fall into deep pits with no visible means of escape. We face enemies that gain ground and push us back. In those moments, we may feel as though God has forgotten us, that we stand outside His love.

But, praise God, it doesn’t matter how dire our circumstances appear. The strength of our enemies and the size of our problems are irrelevant in light of God’s power and the nature of His love. This wasn’t just intellectual knowledge for Paul. He spoke from experience. Paul had suffered imprisonment, beatings, a stoning, shipwrecks, persecution, hunger, and a myriad of dangers (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Yet through it all God held him in His loving hands.

The Greek word translated as “love” in Romans 8 is “agape.” According to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, agape is an act of the will, not an emotional feeling. God chooses to express His love to us. Agape is not based on the merit of the recipient. God’s love flows from His unchanging holy character. We cannot earn God’s love, but He gives it freely.

God’s love is unconditional because it depends on Himself and nothing else. Therefore, we can have complete assurance in God’s love for us. Nothing can dampen, derail, or defeat it. Nothing can separate us from God’s love—not even ourselves.

We see God’s love best demonstrated in our salvation. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). This ultimate act of agape love secures and guarantees our eternal salvation. God has declared us righteous through the saving work of Christ. Therefore, no one can accuse or condemn us. There is no court of appeals. God is the final and ultimate judge.

There will be times in our lives when we don’t sense God’s presence, seasons when we don’t see Him working. In those moments, let’s reflect on this incredible truth: Nothing can separate us from God and His love. Christ has already won the battle, and victory is ours.

[This post was adapted from Kathy’s upcoming devotional book, Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Romans.]

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

About the author: Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate, richest coffee, and cherished stories of faith. She also digs deep into Scripture, mining God’s eternal truths. Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education and has taught the Bible for more than 30 years in a wide variety of venues. Kathy is the author of 12 books, including Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith and the “meaty” devotional series Deep Rooted. Kathy and her husband live in north Texas. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and one accidental dog. Find free discipleship resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Have you lost the wonder of your salvation? Maybe you’ve forgotten the abundant riches of God’s grace. The Gospel isn’t just a statement of faith. It is more than hope for eternity. The Gospel of Jesus is the power of God for your life today. Recapture the awe of your life in Christ with this 40-day pilgrimage through the book of Romans. Like the rest of the Deep Rooted devotional series, the Romans volume uses the 4-R Bible study framework to help you learn how to interact with and respond to Scripture, not simply read it. These meaty, daily devotions will increase your hunger for God’s Word, encourage spiritual growth and stability, and lay the groundwork for a life-long, spiritually-healthy habit.

Join the conversation. What do you do when you lose a sense of God’s presence?

Chazak!

by Terri Gillespie

Be on the alert! Stand firm in the faith! Be men of courage! Be strong! Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 TLV

The last several years, I’ve joined the ranks of souls who choose a word for the year. In 2021, one word rose above the others: Chazak! Chazak is Hebrew and can be translated several ways, the most common is: Be Strong!

It became my word for 2021, but sometimes, we just need to dwell in that reality a little longer than 12 months. I sure did.

“Have I not commanded you? Chazak! Be strong! Do not be terrified or dismayed, for ADONAI [the LORD] your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9b TLV

I guess, the main reason Chazak was pushed into 2022, was that 2021 was a very difficult year.

Bob and I were asked to help two Messianic rabbis (Jewish rabbis who believe that Jesus/Yeshua is their Messiah) re-establish a congregation in our little town. Hubby and I had worked and worshipped within the Messianic Jewish community in Philadelphia for twenty-five years. We knew both rabbis very well. Rabbi Scott and Rabbi Eric had both planted congregations nationally and internationally. What an honor.

We sent out an invitation to possible interested folks to meet and discuss the viability of this new work. Over fifty showed up. Many families with children. They unanimously agreed to begin this new congregation—immediately.

Of course, we were incredibly blessed and pleased, but we needed a bit more time to pull things together. Rabbi Scott’s congregation was just outside Atlanta, a few hours away, and Rabbi Eric’s congregation was in Pensacola, FL.

We would meet twice a month with the rabbis alternating leading the services until we could find a fulltime leader. The first service was the end of June of 2021, with Rabbi Eric. Rabbi Scott gave the message in July.

Two weeks later, Rabbi Scott admitted himself into the hospital with COVID. August 13th, our dear Scott was gone.

As well as losing his best friend, Rabbi Eric’s congregation suffered several unexpected deaths due to COVID and other unusual occurrences.

For Bob and me, not only were we devastated by Scott’s passing and understood that Eric needed to be with his congregation, but we were also now on our own.

Chazak?

When Joshua spoke Chazak to the Children of Israel, Moses had died, and the leadership of millions of people were in his hands— at a historically pivotal moment. The Children of Israel were finally going the enter “The Promised Land.”

But GOD reminded Joshua, that while his mentor, Moses, was no longer with him, the Creator of the Universe would be.

Back to today’s verse written to the Corinthians. Paul exhorts the believers strongly. For the first time in Israel’s history, the Jewish people were going to the nations. Not like Joshua to conquer the land, but to be emissaries of the Good News. Then Paul moved on and these new believers were tasked with this holy mission.

GOD’s words to Joshua and Paul’s words to the new emissaries saw Bob and I through some crazy challenges—still does. But today, our little congregation meets weekly with a new shepherd who truly cares for this little flock.

Chazak may be my word again for 2023. But whether it is or isn’t, I know where this exhortation comes from . . .

Paul’s seemingly simple good-bye blessing, carries thousands of years of history and meaning. My word to you today is my blessing to you: “Chazakchazakve-nit chazek” (Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened!)

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

About the author: Award-winning author and speaker, Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, messages, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, because of His Son Jesus. Her book, Really Bad Hair Day won the 2022 Golden Scroll for Contemporary Novel of the Year.

Really Bad Hair Day (Book 3 of The Hair Mavens series) The Mavens bring their sense of style of really good hair out into the community and to the homeless. But as much as the ladies want to help others, they discover they need help, too or they may lose a maven. And, yes, the final book answers whether or not Shira and Jesse get married.

Join the conversation. When has God called on you to be strong?

Breakthrough Listening

by Terri Gillespie

Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger—  James 1:19 TLV

Apparently, not much has changed since those two souls were kicked out of the Garden. We’re even now still slow to listen. At least I do. How about you?

With more venues to “listen” and “speak” than ever before, have you noticed the dark funky cloud of anger hanging over the world lately? Have we contributed to that cloud? Have our fuses shortened to the point we blow up at the least offense?

Are those offensive folks responsible for our anger? Or could we be responsible for others’ anger?

As followers of our Savior, we’re going to offend some folks. No getting away from that. However, do we have to leave the offense there to fester? What if we at least attempted to listen—even if we vehemently disagree, and feel completely justified in opposing their beliefs, words, or actions?

The problem with vehemently opposing someone is that we end up mimicking the inappropriate actions of those who come against us.

“Loved ones, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.” 3 John 1:11 TLV

When someone cuts me off while driving, my default response is anger. I might even honk my horn. Sad to say, when someone cuts us off while hubby is driving, I have been known to reach over and try to honk out of offense for my husband! Instead, all I did was amp up the anger in our vehicle.

Guess what, self-righteous indignation is not a Biblical principle. What Scripture does say is:

For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteousness is like a filthy garment, and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away, like the wind. Isaiah 64:5[6] TLV

So, now that our self-justified—and most likely wrong—behavior is defined, how do we listen? Truly listen when we know we’re right and someone else is wrong?

Breakthrough Listening. Well, that’s what I call it. It’s taking my offense out of the mix and trying to find common ground to truly communicate—not react. It’s the opposite of finding a quick biting retort.

Keys to Breakthrough Listening can be:

  • Listen to be able to process what the other person is saying — or attempting to say.
  • Pray to hear what common ground to build on, without compromising our faith and integrity. (BTW, that’s also listening.)
  • Pray for wisdom. (Also listening.)
  • Ask the person questions for clarification.
  • Then speak.

When words abound, transgression is unavoidable. but whoever restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10:19 TLV

When we finally do speak, try to avoid “building a clock,” rather than just telling the time. In other words, address the simplest theme of common ground, before ever approaching the disagreement. Don’t overcomplicate with so many words that muddy the real issues.

Then repeat the process: listen to their response, be slow to speak, stay calm.

… for human anger doesn’t produce the righteousness of God. (Proverbs 10:20 TLV)

If an impasse persists and the other party only gets angrier, we must depart in shalom—in peace—as best we can. Someone who doesn’t offer us the same respect we show them, most likely won’t listen — at least not yet. Walking away is not a compromise to our faith. And it’s not our job to defend God. Because the last time I checked, He can take care of Himself. I’m sure glad about that.

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

About the author: Award-winning author and speaker, Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, messages, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, because of His Son Jesus. Her book, Really Bad Hair Day won the 2022 Golden Scroll for Contemporary Novel of the Year.

Really Bad Hair Day (Book 3 of The Hair Mavens series) The Mavens bring their sense of style of really good hair out into the community and to the homeless. But as much as the ladies want to help others, they discover they need help, too or they may lose a maven. And, yes, the final book answers whether or not Shira and Jesse get married.

Join the conversation. How do you show someone you are truly listening?

When All Is Lost

by Marcia Clarke

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:12 NIV

Looking back on the past two years, when our nation had no choice but to be still `the pandemic, I began to think about how much worse it could have been. Imagine arising one morning and everything was gone. Everything that you’d diligently worked for lost.

When the COVID-19 virus took over our lives, our lives turned upside down. We had to adjust to the loss of family or friends. Our children were educated through a computer screen. Families struggled with learning to communicate in limited space. We found ourselves experiencing things like depression, increased anxiety, worry, and fear. There was no telling when it would ever end.

The pandemic is a great example of how at one moment we can have it all and in the next lose it. Paul wrote, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty” (Philippians 4:12 NIV).

Paul was humbled by his experiences. He had learned to embrace both abundance and scarcity. To Paul, the only thing that mattered was his work in reaching out the God’s people. Despite his circumstances.

As I write, I am experiencing the harsh wilderness myself, waiting for the fulfilment of God’s promises. Ironically, my passion is to motivate others to trust and hope in God for all things. But honestly, I would love to fold up in a corner and cry day and night in hope that something would change.

Like Paul, I know that God will meet all my needs according to his riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). I need to remember that while I am working and waiting, God is working behind the scenes to move me through the wilderness to a place where I can drink in His refreshing presence and continual love. There is no drought in the presence of God, only water to restore your soul.

What about you? Did you lose something or someone during the pandemic? As we continue to experience inflation, job loss, and the likes, let us hold fast to the word of God and allow it to permeate our hearts. God provides in all kind of seasons. He is the way-maker and the promise-keeper. When all is lost, God, your compassionate God, will restore you, picking up the scattered pieces (Deuteronomy 30:3).

Let us not loose heart. Let’s not take anything for granted. We have so much to live for. Most importantly, let us live our lives for Christ.

Father, we give you glory and honor for your continual presence in our lives as we trust in you in and through all things. When tough seasons hold us bound, we look to you where all our help comes from. When all is lost, help us to remember that you are the God who restores in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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

About the author: Marcia Clarke writes daily encouragement for meditation and spiritual enrichment. Writing to help people through difficult seasons is her greatest passion. She loves sharing encouragement and practical devotion through her daily blog and enjoys the practice of meditation, yoga, and daily affirmation to create balance in her life. Marcia is the author of Journey to Abundance with content-rich affirmation for your meditation experience. Marcia’s most recent book, Thirty Days of Grace contains prayer for every season. Visit her at her website for more information.

Join the conversation: Have you needed restoring after the pandemic?

Why You Need to Use Your God-Given Discernment

by Debbie Wilson

Are you using your discernment? When I was seven, my uncle brought his fiancé to meet the family. She was striking in appearance and wore a big smile. But something about her made me uneasy. “I don’t like her,” I confided to my mother.

After my uncle married, this woman’s cruel nature came out. My mother then remembered my words and wondered if children pick up clues that adults can miss. I’ve thought about that when I’ve tried to talk myself out of uneasy feelings. Because trusting feels loving. Believing the best seems kind. Yet, over the years, my instincts have often proven true.

How do you handle wary feelings? How do you respond when your child doesn’t like someone? Sometimes, well-intentioned parents tell their children, “Now, we’re supposed to love everyone,” incorrectly equating love with trust (John 2:24).

Jesus told us to be discerning (Matthew 7:15-20; 6:16). When He warned against casting pearls before swine, He was talking about unsafe people, not livestock.

“Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you” (Matthew 7:6).

God placed an internal radar in us. Proverbs, among other books, provides wisdom on awareness. Sometimes we ignore warnings, such as displays of tempers (Proverbs 22:24) or manipulative charm (Proverbs 31:30) because discernment feels judgmental. However, as a fire alarm sounds to protect us, so internal warnings alert us to danger.

Our radar may not tell us what’s wrong. It just tells us to beware. We don’t have to understand why. We just need to heed it. In some cases, our safety depends on a swift response. Other times we can take our time to process our feelings and gather more data.

A friend traveling overseas stepped into an airport elevator. Three men followed her inside. Her internal alarm sounded. She stepped out of the elevator even though she was rushing to make a connecting flight. She doesn’t know what would have happened if she’d stayed in the elevator, but she heeded her alarm and returned home safely.

When I worked as a counselor, people who’d suffered harm from someone often recalled warning signs they’d ignored because they wanted a job, a relationship, or something else to work. They hadn’t wanted the hassle of explaining their change of heart or risk losing something that might turn out good. But the ensuing heartache made them wish they had been less trusting.

Sometimes uneasiness rises because an old wound is tapped. If we discover we’re reacting because someone reminds us of someone else, like finding your smoke detector needs a new battery, that info is still helpful. And that old wound may have heightened your discernment.

A former Navy Seal who runs a training program to help children and adults prevent assaults shared some chilling statistics. He said nearly eighty percent of attacks come from people we know. He teaches women to listen to their creep factor feelings.

Tuning in to your radar is one of the best ways to protect yourself from harm. It’s not ungodly to pick up negative vibes. Don’t let the fear of feeling mean, guilty, or foolish stop you from using discernment.

The spiritual person judges all things.  1 Cor. 2:15 ESV

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

About the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman with an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie writes and speaks to connect sojourners to the heart of Christ. She and her husband Larry founded Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit ministry offering life and relationship counseling and Bible studies. Despite time in Boston, the Midwest, and Southern California, she still says y’all. Her family, which includes two mischievous standard poodles, calls North Carolina home. Find free resources to refresh your faith and connect with Debbie at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: What warning signs have you heeded in the past?

Embrace Your Season and Share                                                              

by Dana Peters-Colley

Fall. Leaves turn bright yellow, orange, and red announcing a change in season. Harvest festivals and cooler temperatures are abundant. We snuggle into our fave sweaters and enjoy crisp, golden mornings.

Seasons are a set up for us to pay attention. They are signs acknowledging change. Rain drenches, and we grab our puddle boots and fall jackets to conquer the elements. We adjust and cope.

But in our spiritual lives, being out of season can bring calamities. If we hold to the former, and don’t move forward the way God designed, we can end up stuck in the mud. The best way to avoid that is to embrace each new season and let go of the old.  

I confess, I’ve been guilty of not getting on with it at times. But Jesus is clear when He says, “Put your hand to the plow and don’t look back…” Luke 9:62. Our gaze must be fixed on Jesus, the one whom we follow, not on our past successes or failures.

Look forward. No matter your time. No matter your season. There’s sweet embrace that comes when we accept and adjust to the season God has us in. When we’re young, we dash through decisions and directions swiftly. When we are middle aged, we embrace what we’ve done and continue to build. In our latter years, we hopefully will have enough wisdom to help others in their season of life.  

Seasons.

In the Bible, God created cycles and seasons to help us understand where we are. He sets warnings so mankind comes to their senses and see what’s happening. Joel 2:30 states, “…I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath…”

We are now being splashed with so many signs it’s a wonder anyone is missing it. Yes, our Savior Jesus Christ is coming soon. Yet, our instruction is to occupy until He comes and share Jesus with everyone.  As the season of fall brings colors that soar over our heads, let’s remember to be neighborly and reach the lost with His message. As we stir our pumpkin spice lattes and enjoy our fireplaces, let’s remember to be love to the world around us.

As things seem to crumble and the news blasts ominous happenings, don’t get swept away by the turmoil. We are Kingdom people. We are to advance Jesus on the earth while in this season.

I was recently in a grocery line with a quick breakfast while on a short vacation. Yogurt and a banana. In front of me was a kid about twenty. I said hi and asked if he knew Jesus. He shared he was baptized in Jamaica as a child.

Remember, it’s the love of God that draws us. It’s the love. So, I added how he needed to talk to Jesus, to hang out with Him. I told him Jesus really wanted more of a relationship with him. He was important to God. His eyes blinked, and he was changed, encouraged. A wide smile appeared. It was that simple.

To share Jesus is simple. So, let’s put on our rain boots and get marching. Let’s look in their eyes and ask the Holy Spirit what they need. Comfort? Healing? Kindness? The world is dead and we are the answer. So, shake a few branches this fall and bring some water. Humbly. Friendly. Authentic. You won’t slip. Jesus is the umbrella over you. Happy fall my beloved friends. Enjoy your lattes! And share Him!

…Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15

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 have you worked Jesus into your conversations?

God Can Handle Our Questions

by April Newbell

When I was a child, I was constantly asking my parents questions. I am sure this was probably annoying, especially if they were busy. My daddy would often ask me (because I was asking so many questions) if I was studying to be a lawyer. I suppose I just had an inquisitive mind and wanted to know the why’s and how’s of everything.

After recently losing my husband to a tragic motor vehicle accident, my heart and mind are again filled with so many questions. Why did this have to happen? How do I go on without him? What do I do now?

I have often heard it said that we should never question God. When times are tough and senseless things happen, we should just have faith and never ask God the reason.

I do not believe this is true. He is a big God and He can handle our questions. He is like an earthly father who wants us to come to Him with everything: not just victories but our questions, fears, and hurts as well.

Remember Job, who lost so much: his children, his property, and his health. To make matters worse, his wife and his friends were not much help to him, either. He was so filled with grief and suffering, like any of us would, he questioned God.

I will say to God, “Dont declare me guilty; tell me what you are accusing me of doing. Does it seem good to you that you oppress me, that you reject the work of your hands and cause the purpose of sinners to shine? Do you have physical eyes; do you see like a human? Are your days like those of a human, your years like years of a human, that you search for my wrongdoing and seek my sin? You know that Im not guilty, yet no one delivers me from your power.” Job 10:2-7 CEB

God answers Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?” Job 38:4-5 CEB

God shows Job (and us) that His ways and thoughts are higher than Job’s. He alone is God, and we as His creation have limited understanding. God knows our beginnings and our endings and everything in between.

We may never have all the answers, but we can trust the One that does. We can trust God to hold us close to him and strengthen us. He sees. He knows. He cares.

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

About the author: April Newbell is a retired office manager for a family medicine office and an aspiring writer. She has previously published two devotionals on christiandeovtions.us. She enjoys writing devotions to which everyone can relate and apply to their lives. April and her husband, along with their dog, live in Huntsville, Alabama.

Join the conversation: What questions do you have for God?

Turn Over the Work Attitude

by Rhonda Rhea

Hear me out. A blanket fort. Only instead of blankets, puff pastry. Slumber party—and in the morning? Turnovers!

I’d work on that fort. I came up with this idea while pondering whether there is anything in the world that would not be better with puff pastry on top of it. Or under it. Or wrapped all around it.

Turnovers have to be the best puff pastry application ever. A turnover is like a pie…that you don’t have to share. All wrapped up in flakey layers. How brilliant. Incidentally, I can eat an impressive number of turnovers. That’s not what’s meant by a high turnover rate, is it? I guess that’s one more pastry point to ponder.

Sometimes I probably do a little too much pondering. But I also do a lot of doing. Sometimes I also dough a lot of doughing.

On a less flakey note, whatever I do, I genuinely want to do it well. Paul said, “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people” (Colossians 3:23 CSB).

Of course, Paul was only talking about responsibilities and assignments that are easy as pie. Oh no, wait. He wasn’t. He was referring to the fun tasks, the mundane tasks, the tough tasks, the cinchy tasks, the awful tasks, the thankless tasks, and probably even the flakey tasks. All the tasks. In Ephesians 6:7, he says again, “Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to people” (CSB).

How do we do that? How can we blanket the work we do with a good attitude?

The secret is in the “for” in Colossians 3:23. It’s in not working enthusiastically and with positivity only because the Lord is watching—though He certainly is. Or because people are watching. But positivity and enthusiasm happen organically, as we remember, understand, and really internalize the fact that we’re doing the work for Him. That “for” radically changes the way we view every undertaking. It changes the way we do the work, giving it more energy, more heart. Giving it more party than slumber. Because there’s a whole new joy in heart-working.

As we work for Him “from the heart,” our work can become sort of like a prayer, a praise—even like worship. Every big job and every little job—the glorious and the inglorious—is made sweeter by this kind of doing. Sweet as pie and sweeter still. Working for the Lord out of love for Him can dignify even an undignified assignment.

There’s a related assignment regarding related assignments in Philippians 2:14-16. “Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life” (CSB).

Our assignment is to work shiny—not so much flakey. It’s a truly brilliant thought. Doing our doing without the grumbling causes us to shine like stars. By working from a heart full of love for Jesus, as a bonus, we can win the opportunity to shine for Him, to hold onto and hold out “the word of life” and share the message of Christ with those who desperately need Him.

Let’s do it. Let’s work shiny for Him. Brighter than stars. Bigger than the sky. Better than pie. Brighter, bigger, better than any pie in the sky.

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

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: How do you make your work an act of worship?

Dedicated to the Master

by Kathy Howard

 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people. Colossians 3:23 NASB

He may be the most famous artist you’ve never heard of. The master craftsman Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesú ranks among history’s greatest violin makers. Though the Stradivarius is more well known, many great virtuosos prefer the robust sound of a Guarneris.

Giuseppe Guarneri was born into a family of violin makers in Cremona, Italy in 1698. His grandfather, Andrea Guarneri, apprenticed alongside Stradivari under the master luthier Nicola Amati. Although Giuseppe learned his craft from his family, he worked to develop his own unique style, creating instruments that are worth millions of dollars today.

Its powerful tone is not the only feature that makes a Guarneris violin unique. In 1731, shortly after the death of his father, Giuseppe began inserting an emblem to identify his work. Although using labels with the name of the head of the household was the customary practice, Guarneri’s label featured a monogram formed from three Greek letters. This “nomina sacra” represented the phrase “Jesus Savior of Man.”

Guarneri committed both his life and his life’s work to his Savior. Guarneri recognized that the Master he loved had formed him with the talent and ability to create a masterpiece. The violin maker’s purposeful intent to give God the glory earned him the nickname “del Gesú,” which means “of Jesus.” Yes, the man who dedicated his work to Jesus, was himself fully dedicated to his Lord.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 ESV

Giuseppe’s example should inspire us to dedicate everything we do to the Lord. God has uniquely gifted each of us and calls us to serve Him with these gifts. God calls all His children – from master violin makers and church pianists to CEOs and homemakers – to do everything in the name of Jesus, committed to bringing glory to our Master Craftsman.

We can also pass this vital truth along to our children, grandchildren, and loved ones. Help them recognize the spiritual gifts, talents, and life experiences God has given them. Together, brainstorm about how God might want to use all these to serve others and glorify Him.

Thank You Father, not only for the gifts you’ve given me, but also for the opportunities to bless others and glorify You with their use. Help me be a good steward. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

This post is adapted from “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith,” Kathy Howard’s new, unique devotional that combines stories of faith with practical tips for spiritual legacy and helps for genealogy research.

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, richest coffee, and cherished stories of faith. She also digs deep into Scripture, mining God’s eternal truths. Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education and has taught the Bible for more than 30 years in a wide variety of venues. Kathy is the author of 11 books, including “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” and the “meaty” devotional series “Deep Rooted.” Kathy and her husband live in north Texas. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Find free discipleship resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: How do you think changing our motivation could affect the outcome of our efforts?