It’s Never Too Late: Surprised by Love

by Patti Richter

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Song of Solomon 2:4; NKJ

Heart-shaped chocolate boxes abound for Valentine’s Day, and some can be found in senior-living communities, though romantic couples are hard to spot. But one residential center I visited a few years ago was abuzz over a pair of love birds in their 80s.

The couple, Jim and Marion, had avoided public displays of affection, like hand-holding, “since people talk,” Marion said. But they couldn’t hide their joy, especially from those familiar with their pre-courtship behavior: Jim was withdrawn; Marion mostly kept to herself.

Marion, my mother-in-law, said it all began with a game of bridge. She’d lived alone for 25 years and preferred independent activities like exercise, prayer, and Bible reading, but she also enjoyed playing bridge, and she knew her way around the table. “It keeps an old mind sharp,” she explained. Her otherwise limited social life consisted of attending Sunday worship services and providing Christian mentoring to several women.

Providence brought Jim to the bridge table. His wife of 57 years had died unexpectedly only weeks before their planned transition to assisted living. Grief and stage-four pancreatic cancer kept the otherwise sociable man from caring about his new surroundings. The former engineer who once flew helicopters remained holed up in his apartment for nearly a year, surfacing only at dining room hours. Jim’s daughters pleaded with him to get out and meet people, and he finally complied by signing up for bridge.

On a summer day, shortly after Jim rejoined the living, Marion noticed him walking toward the courtyard bench where she sat reading. He seemed glad to see her, saying, “I’d like to learn some tips on the game.” (He later admitted that Marion’s voice and personality delighted him and made him want to spend more time with her.)

Marion’s initial interest in Jim was limited to his soul. She learned he’d faithfully attended church all his life without ever reading the Bible. After she invited him to study the Bible with her, she realized Jim was brilliant. He asked compelling questions that led to meaningful discussions between them. As the weeks passed, his flame of interest in God’s Word became a fire of desire to know God in a personal way. Jim soon fell in love—with Marion, and with Jesus, his Savior.

Marion observed how this naturally kind and compassionate man went out of his way to assist others. She came out of her shell around Jim and realized she’d been lacking in the love department by keeping to herself. And her heart warmed to him.

The depth of love the two began to enjoy surprised and overwhelmed them. Marion, who’d felt unlovable for most of her life, described it as “a gift from God, heavenly, more than I could comprehend.”

By late fall, Jim and Marion hosted their families for dinner in the private room of an Italian restaurant. We all met and interacted awkwardly until Jim rose from his seat, which took a while. In wide-eyed wonder we watched him struggle to pull a ring box from his suit pocket and ask for Marion’s hand.

By Valentine’s Day, the couple’s spring wedding plan took a back seat as Jim’s cancer moved to the front. Their love story would close in the same way it had begun, focused on God’s Word. In the hours before Jim’s peaceful departure, Marion sat beside him reading from Romans:

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5 NIV

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: What’s your favorite love story?

My Valentine to God

by Lee Ann Mancini

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

Today we celebrate love. Love for our significant other, love for our children, and love for extended family members and friends. Hallmark even has a card for you to express your love to your dog. Imagine that? I chuckled thinking a person would actually purchase that card.

I would love to have a Valentine Day card to send to Jesus and the opportunity to do so. I know you are thinking that sounds crazy, but I love Jesus so very much that I not only want to tell Him, I want to show Him. So, if I can’t send a card, what can I do?

This year, I have decided to take every thought captive. I mean every thought. It’s a new year, and Ephesians 4:23 says to “be made new in the attitude of your minds; ….”

After that decision, I was on the phone for over a half-hour waiting to speak with someone about my internet problem. It was hard for me to understand the person as English was not his native language. After we hung up, a negative thought squeezed into my mind: “Wow, that person really needs to go to school and learn how to talk or get another job.” Now, I know that wasn’t a horrible thought, but I immediately asked God to forgive me immediately and to bless that person.

I had always felt that I entertained nice thoughts. After all, I am a nice person, 95 % of the time. However, I am in shock at how many negative thoughts I have. “I wish this lady would hurry up; she’s taking too long… How dumb can you be?… If he asks me one more time, I’m going to lose my mind.” Can you relate?

If I want to show my love for Christ, I have to remember that we are all created in His image (see Genesis 1:27). And if the person is saved, the Spirit of God lives in them. I need to respect them as a child of God, therefore, which will honor the Father. 

Honoring others is the way we exhibit love in action. This month, I am going to make sure I express my love for others, and by doing so, I will be expressing my love for the Father and all He has created. While I am at it, I will also show my love for the Lord by hating sin, praying more, being more fearful as not to offend Him, and aggressively look for opportunities to tell others about Him.

We are wise to memorize this verse, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV). And for those hearts I have hurt with my words or actions, I pray they will remember this verse and extend grace to me.

The greatest love of all is the love of God. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16 NIV ), and there is no greater love than “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NIV ).

How will you express your love on this day? Candy, cards, or poems? Candy is tasty, cards and poems are sweet, but the message of salvation or helping others to grow in their faith will last for all eternity.

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

About the author:  Lee Ann Mancini is an adjunct professor at South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary. She is the executive producer of the Sea Kids animation series https://seakidstv.com that helps children to build a strong foundation in Jesus.

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Lee Ann’s books, The Sea Kids series, has won over 25 awards, and is a favorite among teachers, parents, and especially children! In I’m Not Afraid!, Susie and her friend go to the Undersea Amusement Park. After  saying a prayer to Jesus, she rides the roller coaster and her fear turns into faith! She learns that praying to Jesus during difficult times and having faith are all she needs to overcome her fears!

Join the conversation: If you wrote a Valentine for God, what would it say?

My True Love

by Janet Perez Eckles

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again…” Jeremiah 31:4-5a NIV 

A few years back, two girlfriends and I relaxed in the balcony of a hotel room, chatting about groups popular in the 1970’s. We swayed to the oldies, singing the lyrics with the same gusto as the year we wore bell bottoms.

We confessed: every one of us back then looked for The True Love. Each of us had a list of requirements for the husband of our dreams.

Back then, all traits on the list seemed crucial. Now, the fact that Mr. Right needed to be built with muscles of a football player seems sadly shallow. But whatever our secret list held, we all questioned: “Did we marry the man of our dreams? Are we sharing our home with the husband who displays true love?

How unrealistic. How immature of us to expect that the true love would be inside the man who said, “I do” at the altar. If any of us were tricked to thinking the perfect man wore that tuxedo beside us in church, disappointment was as sure as dirty dishes in the kitchen.

That delusion is the reason that happiness faded away in the darkness of long nights. And married bliss was lost in the hamper of dirty clothes.

The only true love comes from the man who wore but a cloth and displayed muscles ripped by lashes on the way to Calvary. And when we make Jesus our only true love, our husbands play the perfect role–our mate, our companion, and lifetime friend.

While swaying to the music of God’s divine, true love, in expectation we sing with joy. The exquisite blend of love and reassurance only Jesus brings echoes through our hearts. It’s the formula, divine and true, that brings peace to storms. Logic to life. And gives a colorful hue to married life.

And that life shines when we read what was tucked in the Valentine card God signed with His promise: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again…” (Jeremiah 31:4-5a NIV).

Father, when life is broken, desires echo with emptiness, and we wonder how to find true love, your reassuring commitment soothes the anxiety and your reminder brings a new song to my life. Thank you for the love no one else can give and the promise no one else can keep. In Jesus’ name I thank you. Amen.

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

janet perez eckles

About the author: Janet Perez Eckles helps thousands to look beyond circumstances and overcome fear. She is a best-selling author and international speaker. Her writing and virtual  presentations help thousands turn their trials to successful, joy-filled lives. 

Janet’s book,  Hola, Happiness: Finding Joy by Dancing to the Melody of God’s Word is a brief Bible study to nudge you to the next level of triumph and joy. It is packed with deep reflections and answers from God’s Word. No matter what you face–disappointment, fear, heartache, shame, insecurity, sorrow–you will say “Hola” to happiness, peace, and the joy for which God created you.

Join the conversation: Whose promise of love fills your heart? Whose love do you count on?

Follow the Man

by Stacy Sanchez

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1:6 NIV

Thirty-three years ago, a young woman stood alongside her handsome groom and in front of one hundred witnesses vowed her undying devotion. The weather was perfect for an outdoor winter wedding: the sky a crisp, cerulean blue, the birds sang their melodies from the aviary, and a rainbow appeared above the happy couple as if cued by a Hollywood set designer. Could it have been more perfect?

As the naïve bride proudly announced, “I do” the vocalist began the song chosen to solidify their union: John Denver’s “Follow Me.” In this ballad, the singer beckons his beloved to take hold of his hand and follow him wherever he may lead her. If he goes up, she goes up. If down, she goes down. If he goes all around, she’s, well, dizzy? He even goes so far as to ask her to make herself a part of him so she could follow more closely. “What a beautiful sentiment for a wedding. Of course, I will follow you, my love.” she pledged.

Isn’t that the sweetest e.v.e.r.? Gag.

I promise, I tried. I dutifully followed my husband’s leading. When that didn’t work, he followed mine. When that didn’t work, we wondered why the heck we even got married if all we were going to do is argue about who to follow. It took a few years of butting our stubborn noggins together, but we finally figured out what worked for us. We weren’t supposed to be following each other, we were supposed to be following the Lord and submitting ourselves to His leading. Sometimes, God would speak through John. Sometimes, He spoke through me. Other times, He didn’t speak at all; either John or I would throw a prayer shawl over our shoulders and pray until we felt like we knew the Lord’s direction.

This took a lot of practice, and we didn’t always get it right. Occasionally, we thought we heard God’s voice, but it turned out our voices sounded too much like His to tell the difference, and we were back to leading ourselves.

“This is what the LORD says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow” (Isaiah 48:17 ESV).

One year we took a vacation to Canada to visit our dear friends. On a day trip to Banff, I found a souvenir Inuksuk we now use as a reminder to not follow our own leading, but to follow the Lord’s.

An Inuksuk is a statue made from stacked stones erected to look like a person. Long before Google Maps, the Indigenous peoples of North America built them as directional markers. Numerous Inuksuit can still be found across Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. The Indigenous peoples of North America used them as helpers to point the way to food, shelter, and a communal meeting place. When hunters went out into the frozen tundra to look for food, an Inuksuk was their lifeline to safety. The hunter would search for and “follow the man” on the path to find the way home.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me”(Matthew 16:24 NLT).

In thirty-three years, my husband and I have searched for and followed the man, Jesus, on our marriage journey. Like everyone, we’ve had some extremely hard ups, downs, and all arounds. Thankfully, Jesus stands on the path to show us the direction to go. His word is a light to our feet and guides our path. When in doubt, the Inuksuk sitting on my bookshelf reminds us to take hold of each other’s hand and follow the Man. Jesus will make our pathways straight. He, alone, is our hope and safety.

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

stacy sanchez

About the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: What works for you in your marriage?

Watch the Rear

by Terri Gillespie

The prudent see danger and hide, but the naïve keep going and pay the penalty. Proverbs 27:12 TLV

A friend of mine is a counselor who uses horses for therapy. She has worked successfully with PTSD patients and those with developmental and emotional disabilities. A few years ago, she began working with “ordinary” folks who want to learn how to identify issues they may struggle with, in order to overcome them — to be more of the person GOD created them to be.

I like horses — from a distance. They are magnificent creatures. I respect the work she does. However, I have a fear of horses. I come by that fear from past events — my mother-in-love died of a heart attack chasing one of their horses, and my grandfather had a horse fall on top of him and subsequently died.

So, when my friend “blessed” me with a complimentary retreat, you must know that I loved her and trusted enough to consider the gift. Nevertheless, I only agreed once she assured me the session did not include riding. All exercises with the horses were with everyone’s feet on the ground.

Was I still nervous? Yes.

One of the exercises was to move a tethered horse with the light touch of your hand on their backside. The horse will only move if you were calm and gentle. I was amazed when the horse actually moved at my touch.

My friend then said to go to the other side of the horse and move the horse back to his original position.

My first thought was, “Don’t walk behind the horse. It’s dangerous.” And what did I do? I ignored that thought and proceeded to walk around his ample rump. My friend calmly stopped me and said, “I know we didn’t discuss not walking behind a horse, but it’s not a good idea for an inexperienced person to do so.”

At that point, I confessed to having had the warning thought. She asked me, “Why did you ignore your own warning?”

My friends, at that time I had no clue. Why would I deliberately ignore the warning? Not trust the wise internal counsel?

Those questions I took to my Heavenly Father, where He showed me things from my past that caused me to not trust the discernment He had given me. Mostly, the root comes from my insecurities. My default is to doubt I’m special enough to hear from Him. I mean, really, “Why me?”

But that is a lie. Over time the Holy Spirit identified the lies and helped me yank them out. Without the lies, I can better hear GOD’s truth.

The practice of doing this is part of my sanctification process.

Have you ignored those little warning messages from the Holy Spirit? Over the years I’ve learned that when I do, and there is a negative outcome, I take note—not to beat myself up about it, but to have Him help me identify the root of my inability. I need discernment to know He is showing me something to keep me from of harm.

One thing has become clear, the difference between prudence and naivety is whether we pay attention or ignore GOD’s voice of wisdom.

May we pay attention to GOD’s warnings, my friends. And no more “walking behind the horse.”

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 to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus. She no longer walks behind horses.

Making Eye Contact with God is a women’s devotional that will enable you to really see God in a new and fresh way. Using real life anecdotes, combined with Scripture, author Terri Gillespie reveals God’s heart for women everywhere, as she softly speaks of the ways in which women see Him.

Join the conversation: When is the last time you walked behind the horse?

Depression: You are Not Alone

by Monica Schmelter

For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin. Hebrews 4:15 AMP

For 25 years I’ve had the honor of hosting the Bridges television program. My guests have ranged from the famous to the girl next door. No topic is off limits – and the Bible is our guide. I’ve been intentional about discussing mental health on a regular basis.

Why then was I surprised to find myself struggling with depression? I tried to shake it off. I stepped up my daily Bible reading and prayer. I followed the experts’ suggestions like frequent exercise, proper rest, and nutrition. I visited a Christian counselor. I counted my blessings. None of my efforts seemed to make a lasting difference.

When I spoke with a friend she mentioned talking to my doctor about an anti-depressant. Since nothing else seemed to be working, I followed up on her suggestion. Thankfully, my Dr. recognized that I needed help and wrote a prescription.

As I journeyed forward, Hebrews 4:15 AMP spoke volumes to me. I am not alone, and neither are you. I am grateful that our High Priest, Jesus Christ, is well acquainted with what it’s like to be human. Whether it’s the pain of betrayal or false accusations or any other human trial, He’s been there, and He understands. My depression didn’t catch Him by surprise or disqualify me from being His daughter. He saw the trauma I experienced, the betrayal I encountered, and He heard my every single prayer for relief.

As I committed this Scripture to memory, I began to appreciate more fully how His sinless life gives us endless hope. He is our High priest, our Advocate, and our example. This means whether it’s a sunny day, or a dark season, He is there with compassion and the power to rise above it all.

The power to rise above it all didn’t make my bout with depression dissipate immediately. What it does provide me is the comfort of knowing I am never alone and never without hope. The same is true for all who put their trust in Jesus Christ.

In our culture we celebrate instant results and quick fixes. If given the choice, I’ll take a suddenly over a slowly any day of the week. I would love to tell you my season of depression is over – but it’s not. I still have hard days, and sometimes I cry at the most awkward moments.

What I can share with you is that I am growing closer to our Savior. You can too. As we see Him as our compassionate Savior, we can open our hearts to Him with complete honesty and zero shame.

As I have opened my heart to Him more fully, He has  blessed me with a deeper sense of His presence. He is healing my hurting heart over time. He has been so patient, and He has graced me with the ability to continue to love and serve my family and work in Christian Television.

Since He is no respecter of persons, He will do the same for you. Whether it’s depression or some other malady, He stands ready as our Compassionate High Priest to receive you. You don’t have to justify or explain your humanity. He understands. Will you call on Him today?

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

About the author: Monica Schmelter is the General Manager of WHTN, Christian Television Network and host of daily television show Bridges. When people ask her why she smiles and nods so much while she’s interviewing guests she replies, “Oh that’s simple I am trying to think of what to say next”. You can watch Bridges on demand at monicaschmelter.com

Join the conversation: Have you struggled with depression? What has God taught you in that hard place?

Silent Love

by Kelly Wilson Mize

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

“The silence was deafening.” 

There is great truth in that ironic expression.  Silence is powerful. Sometimes the sound of silence can be a difficult state of existence, awkward and unwelcome. Quiet can imply sadness, loneliness, or boredom. Silence can also be wonderful–even “golden,” as they say. But when communicating with others, most of us would prefer at least some actual noise. In our fast-paced world, we deal in quick information, and want unmistakable (sometimes loud!) confirmation–We want our voices heard, so we can get the answers we think we need. And we want those answers RIGHT NOW.

While waiting on God, the last thing we usually want to be is silent. Instead, we want to clearly express our feelings to Him in a way that ensures there is no doubt that He understands. And God does welcome our words. But He can also work mightily when we choose not to use any.

I used to teach middle school, and one of my pet peeves as an educator was being interrupted while giving instructions to the class. Many times, while I was talking, a hand would go up (or not) and a voice would impatiently call out:

What if?Can we?But what about?

All while I was in the process of explaining everything completely!  The students would sometimes be so eager to find out what they were supposed to be doing that they would jump ahead. In a classroom setting, only when the class is “tuned in” and listening, can it collectively arrive at a place of true understanding.  And effective listening usually involves being quiet.

There is definitely a time for questioning, but preceding those important questions, there is silence.

Waiting on God is sometimes so difficult. We want to KNOW exactly what he wants from us, what He plans to do for us (if anything at all), and when and where He’s going to do it. But sometimes while we wait quietly, a beautiful thing happens: We begin to feel God’s presence in a fresh, new way.

Psalm 46:10 (NIV) describes the beauty of it: “Be still and know that I am God…”

Most versions of that passage say “Be still.” Other translations have a slightly different explanation:

Stop Your Striving, and recognize that I am God…” (NET)

Be in awe and know that I am God…” (ISV)

Stop your fighting–and know that I am God…” (HCSB)

And perhaps my new favorite:

Let go [of your concerns]! Then you will know that I am God.” (GW)

Each variation ends with a reassuring promise: IF you do this–You will know, without a doubt, that God is exactly who He says He is.

Sometimes, as much as we want to jump ahead and ask question after question, like restless middle school students, we should instead be still– respectfully in tune with God’s presence and listening attentively for His direction. Only when we are silent before God (physically, mentally, and spiritually), can we truly hear what He has to say. The stillness provides an environment where we can experience His authentic presence, allow Him to minister to our spirits, and feel His LOVE for us.

We know that love is patient, kind, and never-failing. But sometimes, that perfect love is also silent. 

  • Think of a time you felt God’s presence. Most likely it was at a point where you had “let go” of your own agenda and surrendered to His leading. Even amidst your busy schedule, make every effort to include that invaluable quiet time. 
  • Are you waiting on an answer from God?  Take the time to “Be still and know.”

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

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 writer, she he 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. 

Join the conversation: When is the last time you stopped striving?

The Town and Country Church Mice

by Patti Richter

The church of the living God… a pillar and buttress of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:15 ESV

One rainy and near-freezing Sunday morning in January, it seemed unwise to make the hill-and-dale journey to church in the next town. Instead, we drove a short distance to a neighbor’s church that we’d never visited before.

My husband, Jim, and I quickly warmed to the friendly congregation and their down-to-earth older pastor. We also appreciated the classic worship style, although the song selections took us back a few years—maybe a few decades.

Our move to the country two years ago brought plenty of changes, which we expected in our retirement adventure. Grocery stores are smaller. Gas stations don’t join price wars. No restaurants on every corner. Churches, however, are everywhere, and many are easy to spot by their white, pointed steeples and stained-glass windows, including the church we visited that wintry day.

Before the cold weather hit, we had little concern about trekking 10 miles to attend church in the nearest town. Our son and his wife lead worship for the growing congregation that consists mainly of young families and singles who gravitate to the trendy, downtown area. We love the contemporary worship music at this church and appreciate the relevant, through-the-Bible preaching style of its young pastor.

In one sermon, the town-church pastor supplied a sobering statistic: only 14 percent of residents in our county attend church. This fact made me look harder at all the quaint looking churches we passed on our Sunday morning drive. I noticed many of their parking lots were mostly empty.

In our subdivision, I began to realize that few neighbors attended church. It’s a new development, and we’ve enjoyed meeting other newcomers at small clubhouse get-togethers. Discussions have led to nearly every aspect of personal life except for faith and politics, which seem to make folks clam up and reach for the finger food.  

I wondered if one neighbor, Jane, might be a fellow believer. I noticed her kind smile and a light in her eyes that suggested friendship with God. Then, a few weeks before Christmas, I saw a sign in her yard: Live Nativity. Her church’s name and address were familiar since Jim and I had seen the beautiful sanctuary on a hill during a country drive.

Jane was surprised and delighted to see us on that bad-weather Sunday. After the service, she introduced us to the long-time pastor and some of her friends. Jane also expressed her desire to invite fellow neighbors who, like us, were new to the area.   

Jim and I are now regular visitors to the country church. We plan to commit fully to just one church in the near future, though neither of these seem a perfect fit for us. Like the country mouse of Aesop’s fable, we are slightly out of our element in the trendy downtown church. And like the city mouse in the same tale, we might inwardly sniff at the comparatively simple fare at the country church.

In one important way however, we’re a perfect fit for both churches. Like countless others, they faithfully offer the gospel. Both congregations provide what we most need: participation in Christ’s body, which he “gave himself up for… that he might sanctify her… that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:25 – 27; ESV).

The church is God’s dwelling place in this troubled world. And whether the setting is contemporary or traditional, in a mega-facility or a tin-roofed hut, the church is where we belong.


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: How does your church meet your needs?

Arise Under the Sun

by Christina Rose

“I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity, a futile grasping and chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:14 AMP

King Solomon asked God for wisdom when he ascended to the throne, so that he could rule the people justly. God favored Solomon by giving him more wisdom and wealth than any other king of the earth. During his 40-year reign, Solomon wrote many proverbs and songs, amassed tons of gold, completed many building projects, including the Jewish temple, and built a fleet of ships.  Unfortunately, among the 700 wives and 300 concubines he had were many foreigners who led him into idolatry in his old age. This became a diversion that he reflected upon as he neared the end of his life.

Solomon considered his many accomplishments and the years of earthly striving. “But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere” (Ecclesiastes 2:11 NLT).  He had finally realized that after a lifetime of chasing everything the world had to offer, obeying God and fearing his word was the only thing that made sense. Once we put God first, we are free to enjoy the gifts of life he has bestowed upon us.

“So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15 NLT

In the early years of my career, I enjoyed a glamorous life in San Francisco. I worked in one of the most prestigious offices in the city and was treated to extravagant restaurants, parties, and events. One evening on a dinner cruise under the Golden Gate, I noticed the colorful sails of windsurfers racing back and forth. Within weeks I had signed up for lessons, and before long, I was flying across the waves under “The Gate,” where I met and married another surfer. We were addicted to the thrill of chasing the wind under the sun until we learned we were expecting our first baby. My carefree life changed instantly when I was confined to bedrest out of concern for her. I was now slowly turning into a baby whale while I laid in bed, often alone, praying for my baby’s safe arrival. In the silence, I relentlessly searched for God and asked for his help.

Labor completely humbled me. I thought I had been so fearless surfing the waves, but as Solomon points out, there was a vanity in chasing the wind. It was easy to be fit and strong for all to see, but now I was a vulnerable, young mom in labor, hooked up to a monitor, dependent on those around me to help me give birth. Hours later when I laid eyes on my new daughter was the moment that I knew God was real.  There was no other explanation for such an exquisite miracle. Her birth was the beginning of learning to understand the greatness of God which continues to be an amazing journey each day, many years later.

Over time, many of my windsurfing friends stopped windsurfing.We came to see that we were just going back and forth across the waves but not accomplishing anything of significance.  Those years long ago of youth and adventure are glorious to remember, but having that life ripped out of my hands and confined to bedrest made me rethink everything. It was during those times of darkness and doubt that I searched for God and prayed for his help. He answered me with a perfect baby daughter that was a blessing far greater than the life I had been living.  

During this time of the Pandemic many, lives are being drastically altered. People are searching for answers in darkness and doubt, just as I did many years ago. They may be wondering if God is real and if he hears them. For those of us who know that he is real and hears our every cry, we are being called to arise to be a light to help others walk through this time of uncertainty.  In the process, God will birth something new and wonderful that one cannot see in the darkness as he draws us into his light.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Isaiah 60:1-3 NIV

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

About the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer and speaker certified by the John Maxwell Team of Leadership.  She is a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. She is a world traveler, surfer, foodie, cappuccino loving chocoholic and a devoted mom to kids and dogs and auntie to many nieces and nephews who live around the world.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story. With her young family on the verge of falling apart, Christina finds herself in a desperate situation with no resources other than herself.  After appealing to heaven, the Lord takes her on a journey of awakening and miraculous empowerment. That power is available to us all, especially those who need hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: For what answers are you searching in this season of darkness?

Living In Victory

by Sheri Schofield

Snow fell unexpectedly here in Montana’s Rocky Mountains. It was over a foot deep at our house and very wet. Then came a freezing rain and rapidly dropping temperatures during the night. The next morning as I worked around the house, I could hear the sound of great bundles of ice-covered snow falling from the trees. Many of the trees’ branches were broken under the excessive weight, and some trees in our forest fell. The burden was crushing.

Sometimes the enemy of our souls drops a crushing burden on our hearts, much like that heavy snowfall. How do we get through such times, when our hearts are broken?

Many push God away, angry that he has allowed such suffering. They ask, “If God is good, how could he allow this?”

We tend to forget that we are living in a world still ruled by Satan. The Bible calls him “the god of this world”. The Apostle Paul wrote: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV).

But you thought that when Jesus paid the price for our sins at Calvary, he defeated Satan! So why then do we still suffer under Satan’s rule? Why does the devil still have the power to hurt us? Where is the freedom from our enemy?

Yes, Christ defeated Satan at Calvary. But this deliverance works a lot like an election. In the United States, the votes are cast in November, but the new officials do not take office until the middle of January. Those who were defeated still rule until the new leaders are sworn in to office.

In the same way, Satan has been defeated, but he has not yet lost his position. He can still kill, steal and destroy— for Jesus has not yet returned to earth to claim his kingdom. However, while we await Jesus, we have been given the Holy Spirit to help us combat the devil. Our King Jesus has given us a great weapon, power in prayer, to overcome the devil’s works. We may not always stop our enemy if he takes us by surprise, but many times we are able to reverse his injuries and intentions by the power of prayer. It is our greatest weapon. Through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, we bring God’s might against the evils of this world and the devil.

But there is a day coming when heaven will declare, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down” (Revelation 12:10 NIV).

Are you struggling with a crushing burden? Remember that you are part of an army! You have a team of other believers! Call your Christian friends and have them do battle for you in prayer! We are not to fight the enemy alone.

If you are not struggling at the moment, remember that you have brothers and sisters who are. Let’s not let them down by neglecting to pray for them in this time between Calvary and the return of Jesus! Let us hold each other up so that the great burdens we sometimes have to bear do not crush us. In this way, we can live in victory.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV.

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

sheri schofield

About the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator. She was named Arise Daily Writer of the Year in 2020, and Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Sheri also writes devotions for children at her website: www.sherischofield.com in “Campfire”, and is in the process of developing a children’s program on her YouTube site. Questions welcomed!

Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.

Join the conversation: Are you shouldering a burden that we can pray about on your behalf? Please share!