Breath of Life

by April Newbell

Several years ago, a friend gave me some seeds that came from a plant in Africa. I had no idea what the plant would look like or what kind of care it would need—special soil or special food? Would it need to be kept outdoors or inside? How big would it grow?

I took the seeds and planted them in a flowerpot, watered it well, and placed it in my kitchen window to get plenty of sunlight. I watched that pot almost daily for any sign of life. I even talked to the plant. (I know. Crazy plant lady.)

One day I saw a little green shoot breaking through the soil. How exciting!

The plant grew large, forming a cone from which the leaves would sprout. On this cone there were tiny little flowers with seeds in them. When the plant became too big to keep in the window, I moved it to my sunroom.

As they say, out of sight out of mind. I forgot about the plant and no longer tended it and talked to it like I once had. As you can imagine, it died.

Life depends on breath. Plants, even though they do not have lungs, do “breathe.” They give off oxygen and take in carbon dioxide. Without breath we would surely die just like my plant. But was the plant really dead?

Spiritually speaking, we often may feel like we are dead or dying.

We can get lax in our relationship with God, not giving Him our time and attention. Perhaps we have been going through a dry season and do not feel that our prayers are being heard. Maybe there have been so many storms in life that doubt creeps in. We get weary in the waiting. Like when test results come back positive. Or when that child has not yet returned.

Is God still there? Does He hear me or see me? Why am I having to go through this? Why has He not answered my prayers?

God breathes life into these dead and dying places. He takes hearts of stone and makes them tender. He brings prodigals home. He gives hope for better things. He makes all things new. He refreshes the soul.

In the garden, when God created Adam and Eve, it is God’s breath breathed into them that gave life. Our life depends upon breath.

May God breathe new life into our spirits.

Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 37:5-6 ESV

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. April and her husband, along with their dog, live in Huntsville, Alabama.

Join the conversation: How has God breathed life into your dead and dying places?

A Different Type of Hoarding

by Terri Gillespie

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. Matthew 6:19 TLV

Guess what? I found out that I hoard of a different type. There are hoarders in my family, so I get a bit freaky when I think I’m gathering more stuff than I should—you know that moment. The moment when you think, “I can find a place for it.”

But, the hoarding I’m talking is spiritual hoarding of earthly treasures. It may sound like an oxymoron but stick with me.

In today’s verse, Jesus continues His “Sermon on the Mount” in chapter 6 (the Sermon encompasses chapters 5-7). Really, the context of verse 19 is the first twenty-four verses of chapter six.

It’s not just about treasuring treasures like property, commerce, jewels, etc. But the meaning of earthly treasures in this verse is much broader when taken in context.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before others to be seen by them; otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven” (vs. 1 TLV).

To advertise our good works is a form of storing up treasure for ourselves — we’re getting that attention for our altruism. Rather than the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing (Matthew 6:3), we’re pointing out our worthy deeds.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Amen, I tell you, they have their reward in full!” (vs. 5 TLV).

Glitzy piety — oh, don’t get me started on that one — only grabs the attention of those around them, not our Father. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good “praise party”, just so long as the focus is praising the LORD not the tech and special effects. Corporate worship is powerful.

“But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (vs. 15 TLV)

Self-righteousness is another earthly treasure. How does our self-righteousness compare to that of our Father? Filthy rags (Isaiah 64:5). Yikes! That’s like assuming we can be forgiven, but we can’t forgive others because they have offended us. Not good. The Lord doesn’t play that game. Criticism and judgment can fall into that category, too.

“And whenever you fast, do not become sad-faced like the hypocrites, for they neglect their faces to make their fasting evident to men. Amen, I tell you, they have their reward in full!” (vs. 16 TLV)

Another form of ostentatious piety. All that fasting and nothing to really “show” for it. All earthly treasures. What a waste! What are the eternal treasures? Those we can’t see or show off to others.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (vs. 21 TLV).

This is where examining our heart — our motives — for GOD’s work is so important.  The treasures of the heart are humility, gratitude, and a kind and honorable point-of-view. We seek justice for the oppressed. Set our eyes and mind on things that are pure and beautiful. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. Live a life of integrity — without seeking attention or praise.

Let all praise and honor go to our Lord and taking none for ourselves. Those are eternal treasures — treasures of the heart.

Why is it important that we store up these heart treasures? Because He first loved us. Before we gave a hoot about our Creator — our Heavenly Father — He sent His Son to demonstrate His love. To atone for the sins separating us from Him.

Really, that’s the greatest treasure of all.

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 newest novel, Sweet Rivalry, released in October. https://authorterrigillespie.com/terri-gillespie-books/sweet-rivalry/

Sweet Rivalry, the story of twins separated by a troubled mother. One twin is lovingly raised by her grandmother who owns a small-town bakery. The other sister is raised by an addict mother. They discover one another through a televised baking competition. But will rivalry break them apart again?

Join the conversation: Have you reexamined your heart lately?

Inking It In

by Rhonda Rhea

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season… Psalm 1:1-3 NASB

What do you do when you have a pen that won’t write? You sling it a few times in that stabbing motion, right? Hoping gravity will somehow jar the ink loose? Seriously, has that ever worked for anybody? After that, of course, you scribble. Then you scribble bigger and faster. You scribble hard and long. Then you scribble harder and longer. You scribble until you’ve scribbled a hole right through the paper. Then you stab the paper a few more times. That’s when you throw the pen.

You then look around to see if anyone saw you throw the pen. Then while you’re feeling silly for throwing the pen, you pick it up and put it in your pocket—as you pretend it slipped out of your hand. And flew across the room. Later when you get home, you find your pocketed pen leaked and left a giant splotch of blue on the front of your favorite shirt.

Argh, already. Pen! Why can’t you simply do your job? Consistently! Without making a mess!

I have to wonder if God ever asks that question about me. Is there such a thing as pen-hypocrisy? I’ll judge that pen all day for not consistently delivering. I’ll judge it for making messes. But if I get honest, I’ll admit there are entirely too many times when I’m not consistent in little steps of obedience the Lord has called me to walk out every day. And even though I’m not where I know I should be, or I’m not doing what He’s already shown me to do, I’m still fussing and scribbling because life isn’t unfolding the way I planned. What a mess. It’s a mess I’ve made with my own hands, mind you. I know that. The ink ends up everywhere except where it was intended. Not a pretty picture.

Life is much less messy when we stay consistent in His Word and consistent in what He’s called us to. I know, duh. No big revelation here. But sometimes it’s the simplest things that give us the most trouble. It’s neglecting those simple disciplines that can leave us frustrated at the end of the day—big ink stain and no eternal fruit. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work,” NLT.

So here are today’s lessons to live by. Lesson number one: Obey God. Number two is related: Stay consistent in doing what He’s told us to do in His Word. Then just watch. That mess you made? The hole in the paper? Confess and start again. He can redeem the mess. Even make it…art.  

Oh, and lesson number three: A cheap pen is—what? A buck? For crying out loud, just get a new one.

This article is 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: What are some of the little things that distract you from obedience?

Why Wise People Don’t Believe the Best About Everyone

by Debbie Wilson

“Debbie, thank you for your prayers. But we lost. Instead of looking at the man’s extensive record of abuse and drug addiction, the judge chose to believe the best. The man promised to do better, so the judge granted joint custody.”

Emotion choked me. How could this happen?

My years as a counselor opened my eyes to the lasting impact an abusive family holds over the children they raise. When adults use children as pawns to punish one another, the children suffer—sometimes for the rest of their lives.

Research shows childhood injuries can impact not only social and emotional health but also physical health. (Learn more about ACEs, Adverse Childhood Experiences, here.)

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’” (Matt. 19:14 NASB).

Heartbroken parents have told me, “I didn’t think my parents would hurt their own grandchildren.” Yet those same parents had abused the adults that sat before me when they were children. If they harmed their own child, why would they be different with their grandchild?

Discernment feels mean to some people. They don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. They think good people believe the best. Yet, that is not what Christ practiced.

Jesus cared more about a person’s eternal soul than their feelings. He never sacrificed the innocent to help a corrupt person feel better about themselves. He even warned God’s people against their religious leaders.

“Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them’” (Matt. 23:1-3 NASB).

When a person speaks God’s truth, we follow the truth. But we separate the truth from the corrupt person. Just because someone says something that is right doesn’t mean we can trust them to live right.

Jesus also warned the hypocritical leaders. The late Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee pointed out how Jesus used “scathing, biting, sarcasm.” Here’s a sample from the Gospel of Matthew:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. … Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. … You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? (Matt. 23:15, 27, 33 NASB).

Years after the phone call about losing full custody, the caller contacted me again. This time she was in tears. The impact of the judge’s foolish decree had played out on the child and family. They were ready to try again and prayed for a righteous judge. In other words, they were practicing biblical love which “always protects, … always perseveres” (1 Cor. 13:7 NIV).

We must stand against evil. We must fight to protect our children against wicked influences. Don’t believe the best because of what someone says. Watch what they do. Discernment is godly and good. Jesus practiced it and told us to also.

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? Matt. 7:15-16 NASB

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

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

Debbie and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Have you failed to separate what someone says from what they actually do?

Stalked by a Mountain Lion

by Linda Evans Shepherd

One summer afternoon, I found myself hiking up a mountain road alone. My young husband and friend had run ahead to secure a spot for our tents in an upper mountain valley. Paul assured me that he would return shortly.

But as the shadows stretched, I begin to worry. Where was my husband? Why hadn’t he come back for me? Had something happened to Him? At first, I was mad that he left me alone in the wilderness. But after a few hours ticked past, my anger melted into fear.

That’s when the lengthening shadows taunted me with the growl of a mountain lion, hidden in the boulders a few yards above me.

I knew I couldn’t outrun the beast, and any attempt I made to flee would tempt him to believe I was easy prey. So I did the only thing I could: I continued walking with my hands above my head, trying to look like a large, scary creature. Even though I was dizzy with fear, I added a deep growling yell to let the cat know my creature persona was not to be messed with.

At my sound, the mountain lion stopped growling, and I kept moving forward, hiking with hands up as though I was a bear. But where was my husband?

I soon found myself surrounded by darkness in a grove of trees and I was too tired to go on.  I had no idea if the lion was still stalking me and my husband still nowhere to be found.

I sat down, leaning against a tree.

That’s when someone call my name!  “Linda?” I had made it to the edge of basecamp, where I found my husband doubled over with altitude sickness, too sick to hike back down the trail to search for me. Our friend had recovered enough from this same illness to find me.

As I think about this story, I can’t help but compare it to what we are going through today. We clearly understand the dangers around us; wars, rumors of war, sky high gas prices, inflation at the grocery store, and dips in the stock market. 

Fear growls at us at every turn.  And we can’t help but wonder, Where’s Jesus?  Isn’t our bridegroom coming back to rescue us? Is He leaving us to face the darkness alone? 

In times like these we should lift our hands above our heads and use our voice to sing praises to God. As we resist the enemy in this way, he will not devour us but will flee.

Even when the darkness blinds us, God’s presence is with us. And one day, we’ll be with Him forever. In the meantime, it’s time to replace the batteries in our flashlights, because we don’t know how long this dark night will be. When His light is with us, we can always see our way to take our next step in the growing shadows.

“Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour.”  I Peter 5:8 GW

About the author: Linda Evans Shepherd is the author of 38 books, including her latest, Prayers for Every Need, and is the publisher of Arise Daily and Leading Hearts magazine. She’s the CEO of Right to the Heart Ministries.

Join the conversation: How are you handling all the fears of this decade?

The Trouble With Snakes

by Sheri Schofield

“Look, Mom!” Drew said, a harmless water snake clutched in each hand. “I’m gonna put them in my terrarium.”

“No,” I said firmly. “They will get loose in the house!”

“No, they won’t!”

“Honey,” said my husband, who had just come into the room, “I’ll fix the lid so the snakes can’t get out.”

I just shook my head and sighed. Our house was on the market, and the last thing I needed was snakes in it. But when Tim sides with our son, there was no point in trying to talk common sense to either of them.

About a week later, a prospective buyer came to see our house. I smiled and ushered the plump, middle-aged lady into the living room and spoke of the homey features. Then we turned toward the hallway to the bedrooms. There in the middle of the hallway crawled an escapee from Drew’s terrarium.

“What’s that?” the lady gasped.

“It’s just a…” I began apologetically,

“SNAKE!” she screeched, leaping three feet into the air. Gyrating toward the door in mid leap, she came down with a crash and was already out the door before I could catch my breath.

“But…but…it’s a very nice house!” I called after her. But she was gone, never to be seen again.

We didn’t find the other snake which had escaped until we moved out. It lay shriveled up in Drew’s closet, along with a flattened, dried frog. (That explained the peculiar odor in his room!)

Snakes always escape. There’s no point in trying to pretend otherwise. In the same way, the thoughts and intents of the heart also escape through our lips and actions. Trying to pretend we see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil does not work.

Jesus said, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45 NLT). Jeremiah writes, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT). Since we have fallen natures, the only way to keep our hearts’ contents good is through trusting Jesus day by day. In that way, we can guard our hearts against evil.

The Holy Spirit, living in those who believe and trust in Jesus, produces good things in our hearts. The things escaping through the lips of Spirit-controlled believers are love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (See Galatians 5:22,23, NLT.)

When I was a teenager and later a young adult, I used to pray, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips,” Psalm 141:3 (KJV). I knew my tendency to allow gossip, bitterness or complaints to poison my words. As the Lord has gradually gained more control of my heart, I have learned to live more and more in His grace. But until the day I am ushered into His presence, the battle for a godly heart will be with me. So, day by day, I surrender my heart to Him, that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart will be pleasing to my Lord. (See Psalm 19:14.)

May the grace and beauty of the Holy Spirit flow through us always!

Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 1 Peter 3:3,4 NLT

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 and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

FREE CHILDREN’S PROGRAM! Author/Children’s Bible teacher, Sheri Schofield, offers a free series of video lessons about Jesus and His salvation—for children ages 4 and up. It is available at her website www.sherischofield.com. In this video series, Walk-The-Talk Island, Sheri presents her award-winning book The Prince and the Plan, in 24 video lessons for your children, grandchildren and any others with whom you wish to share. In addition, Campfire provides devotions for children.

Join the Conversation: How do you work on your heart?

Walk in Wisdom

by Shirley Mozena

Lord, what fools these mortals be!  Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. Proverbs 28:26 NIV

I’m a reader. I love the printed word and can’t get enough of it. When I want to escape into another world, I pick up a novel. Sometimes I read one more than once if the writer is good. One book, I always return to is—you guessed it, the Bible. There is much richness and comfort in those ancient words.

It seems to me our world is going crazy. Every day, something new is taking place. What you believed would never happen, happens. Sometimes, I get afraid. Will our country last? Will we be safe? Then I get on my knees and ask God to give me strength. I ask God to give me wisdom. I ask God to help me not to fear.

Do you ever get in a crowd and wonder if you will get out? How about a traffic jam? Do you feel that you will be there forever? I imagine that’s how Jesus felt when He was constantly pressed on from every side.

While studying the book of Mark with a friend, we read about the incident where Jesus calmed the storm after a long day among crowds. He and the disciples went out onto the lake to get away. As they traveled, Jesus lay back and took a nap. He was God, but also human, and He was tired! But then a storm came up and “nearly swamped” the boat. The disciples, who as fishermen were very familiar with boats and water, were very afraid and woke up Jesus. And even though they had witnessed many of Jesus’ miracles, He now did something astounding that terrified them in another way.

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:39-40 NIV).

Can you imagine this? I know about being in a boat and being scared by waves. I’ve crossed the Columbia River Bar, entered the ocean in a small boat and felt fear. The waves were sometimes enormous and seemed like they would crash right into our boat. But the boat just rose up on the swell and came down on the other side.

The disciples were afraid too, but the rough water did not scare them as much as the power of Jesus’ words. They now understood He had power over nature. I believe they realized, yet again, Who was with them.

God.

Wow! Does that bring you back to our world like it did me? The wild waves of crazy leadership. Despots desiring more power? Lies everywhere? It brings me back to Proverbs 28:26 (NIV), which tells us “Those who trust in themselves are fools…”

Last night, I was disconcerted. Restless. I couldn’t put my finger on my emotions. I guess I’ll admit it: I was afraid. Afraid for my country. For our world. For the powerless against the powerful. And then, I reflected on the story of Jesus stopping the storm. I prayed for strength. For more belief in my unbelief. And for my fears to be banished.

Lord Jesus, help me to not fear. To remember Who is in control of our world. Who is never afraid. Who controls the wind and waves. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

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

About the author: Shirley Quiring Mozena is a writer, blogger, and national speaker for Stonecroft. She has written three books, Second Chances, Beyond Second Chances: Heartbreak to Joyand recently published, Second Chance at Love: Navigating the Path to RemarriageHer work has appeared in newspapers and magazines.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with fear?

The Quiet Place of Faith

by Christina Rose

Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. Mark 6:31 NLT

The apostles had returned from their ministry tour to share with Jesus all they had done.  The crowds were so great that Jesus suggested they find a quiet place to peaceably eat and talk. This would enable them to draw closer to God without distractions.  Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:25 ESV

When I left my high-pressure life in San Francisco for Denver a few years ago I felt like Jonah who had been spit out by a big fish.  He had landed exhausted on the shore and was ready to surrender to God’s plan.  When my sister asked me to join her one Saturday morning for prophetic word and prayer at Resurrection Fellowship church in Loveland, Colorado, I said yes. I needed hope. Linda and Joy were assigned to me; while we had never met before, I instantly sensed the peace of Christ on them.

We settled into the sofas by the fireplace, and Linda gave me a word that perfectly described the book I had just written. “You wrote a book?” she exclaimed? “Join my writers’ group!” Joy then gave me encouraging words about the refining gold of the wilderness test.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10 ESV

Linda Evans Shepherd, founder of Advanced Writer’s Speakers Association (AWSA) and Joy Schneider, a board member of AWSA, gave me fresh hope that day as they made time for me in that quiet place of faith to prophesy and pray with me. I then joined AWSA and have been a member now for five years where I have learned, laughed and loved with this wonderful Christian sisterhood. Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV

One Sunday morning, while strolling around the lakes, I saw two gentlemen sitting in lawn chairs on a quilt with Bibles. They sat under a tree with a large sign, “Wanna Talk About Jesus?  Need Prayer?” This began a weekly tradition of stopping to talk with Jay and friends to share our faith, Scripture, and encouraging words.  As I learned to say yes to spending time with these faithful brothers and sisters, my patterns of stress began dissipating.  I began to feel peace at last.  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but 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 4:4-7 ESV

When I was expecting my first child, my doctor told me, “The greatest thing you can do for your children is to spend time with them. They will forget the things you gave them, but they will never forget the time you spent with them that made them feel loved.”  Some of my greatest memories are the thousands of hours I spent rocking my babies, singing to them, praying over them, reading to them, sharing birthday parties, Christmas and going to the park and the zoo. Even though they are now young adults, old movies of those special times still melt my heart and brings me to tears today.

Giving our time and attention to others makes them feel worthy, valued, and loved. It shares the heart of Jesus, who selflessly gave his time, teaching and healing thousands, but always included those who were thought to be hopeless and unworthy. When we spend time in the quiet place of faith with others, we lead them to the love of Christ; love that surpasses knowledge so that we may be filled with the fullness of God and walk the earth for his glory.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen   Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV

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

christina rose

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, as well as 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, redemption and restoration. Christina hopes her story will encourage others who are in need of hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: How have you benefitted by spending time in fellowship?

Becoming Royal

by Ronda Wells

The Cinderella theme in movies and romance novels seems all the rage right now. An American marrying a prince is instant clickbait on social media. American actress Meghan Markle and her husband Prince Harry of England are popular, but I’m of an age to remember magazines, newspapers, and television reports about glamorous actress Grace Kelly, who became a princess after marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco.

Why does the idea of becoming a royal seem to draw us so much?

Could it be because God destined us to wear crowns?

Anyone who has ever run a committee knows you need someone in charge or little to nothing can be decided. Ancient civilizations had tribal elders and military leaders, but soon began to appoint one person or one family overall. Nations even ascribed god-like qualities to some of their rulers or directly worshipped them, as happened with Babylon, the Pharaohs of Egypt, and Roman emperors. But they all got some type of a crown.

A diadem sets royalty apart from all other leaders.

Because of peer-pressure from surrounding countries, ancient Israel demanded that God give them a king to replace their prophets and judges. The prophet Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. Many may be more familiar with Israel’s second king, David, who authored songs and prayers we call psalms.

Kings and queens still walk our earth. Not all have been replaced by other forms of governance. From the beginning of time though, kingship has always pointed to Jesus Christ, who came to earth as a king from the ancestral line of King David.

King Herod tried to kill Jesus as a child because of a perceived threat to Herod’s crown. On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode a humble donkey into Jerusalem to proclaim his right as King of Israel. The crowd went wild, paving his way with palm branches and their robes since they thought He would establish a physical kingdom and throw out Roman rule. But in his trial before Pontius Pilate, Jesus made a rather groundbreaking declaration, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36 NIV).

Perfect, sinless Jesus, the Son of God, came as our King. He promised to put His crown, a crown of righteousness, on the heads of all who followed and believed in him. Since all mankind was offered a promise of this crown, perhaps that’s why we love stories about becoming royal. After all, if we believe in Jesus—it’s our destiny.

Is it yours as well?

And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8 NLT

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

About the author: Doctor by day, writer by night—Dr. Ronda Wells is an award-winning author who has written inspirational romance and romantic suspense for over twenty-five years. She has helped numerous Christian writers with creating authentic medical scenes for their books. Her column, Novel Malpractice, can be read at Killer Nashville Magazine.

A lifelong Hoosier and preacher’s kid, Ronda is a wife, mother and grandmother who lives in Indiana and loves to travel. She writes to illustrate extraordinary faith among the conflicts of ordinary life.

Read a bonus chapter of her contemporary romance, Harvest of Hope, at www.rondawellsbooks.com.

Join the conversation: What is your destiny?

Will Anyone Miss Me?

by Shadia Hrichi

If you have ever wondered that, then you can relate to Hagar’s heartbreak.

After Hagar was used by Abraham and Sarah to conceive a son, it didn’t take long before conflict arose. Hagar was disrespectful toward Sarah; Sarah bullied Hagar, and then one day, “Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away” (Genesis 16:6 NLT).

Poor Hagar. Taken into a man’s chamber, but never into his heart; released by her mistress, but never set free. When Hagar realized her attempt to gain the upper hand did not work, she ran away. I imagine that Hagar never felt so alone. Perhaps she ran away thinking, “No one will miss me.” Or, “If I run away, then they’ll miss me.”

When Hagar was treated as chattel, she reacted with contempt. When Sarah was treated with contempt, she responded by bullying. And when Hagar was bullied, she ran away. Just as in the Garden of Eden, all the enemy needs is one person to take the first bite to set a tragic chain reaction in motion.

For Hagar, running away likely offered her the temporary illusion of being in control. Even if she did not know where she was going, at least she could feel she was the one deciding which direction to take. It is not difficult to sympathize with Hagar’s identity crisis. She was likely acquired by Sarah at a young age. By then, her homeland was a distant memory, along with its pagan gods. She had no real relationship with the father of her child, and her mistress would probably love for Hagar to simply disappear. With no real home of her own, it is no surprise that Hagar did not know how to fully answer the Angel of the Lord’s question in Genesis 16:8, “…Where have you come from and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8a ESV). 

While God does not always call us to an easy road, His ways can always be trusted. Despite how Hagar may have felt, Scripture assures us that she was never alone. God not only saw Hagar in her affliction, but He comforted her with an amazing promise. “The angel of the Lord also said to her, ‘I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude’”(Genesis 16:10 ESV).

Hagar was the only woman in the Bible to whom God personally promised a multitude of offspring. Whereas Sarah would certainly be blessed with similar and more far-reaching promises, God bestowed upon Hagar His personal blessing of “a multitude” that could not be counted.] Hagar was also the only person in the entire Bible to give God a name, “You are the God who sees me” (Gen. 16:13 NIV). 

How precious! In the midst of the wilderness and her woundedness, Hagar discovered she was known and she was loved. Her encounter with God gave her the courage to surrender control, obey His command, and return to her mistress – but she did not return the same. She had a voice. And she had a place. While she would remain the servant of Sarah, Hagar would also be known as the mother Abraham’s son, whom God Himself gave the tender name Ishmael, meaning, “God hears” (Genesis 16:11).

One minute we see an oppressed runaway slave; the next minute, we see a bold and courageous servant of God. No one can encounter the living God and remain unchanged. 

Throughout our lives, you and I will face challenges that will tempt us to go our own way. It may seem like we are in control, but in reality, that control is an illusion. We are all dependent on God for everything; even our very breath comes from Him. The truth is that when you and I resist God’s sovereignty, we hinder our own ability to experience His peace – the very thing our hearts long for the most. But praise God that He does not leave us in the midst of the wilderness and our woundedness – but willingly pursues us there!

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7 ESV)

Adapted from Shadia Hrichi’s Bible study, HAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Me.

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

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: How about you? Are there any areas in your life where you struggle for control?