One Thing I Want

by Cindi McMenamin

I recently went to God with my shopping list.

I asked for His provision over a financial matter. I asked for His healing over my daughter’s medical condition. I asked for His peace over a situation that was causing me to become restless. I asked for His wisdom in an issue that my husband and I weren’t in agreement upon.

My list was long, and I was exhausted after recounting it all to God.

Then my devotional reading that morning took me to Psalm 27 in which the Psalmist said:

“I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple” (Psalm 27:4 CSB).

There were lots of things I was asking of God that morning. But the Psalmist asked for only one thing: to dwell in God’s presence and gaze upon His beauty.

I realized, then, that if seeking God had been my one request – my only request – I would not have needed anything else I’d been praying for:

  • If His presence was what I sought first, I would’ve had the confidence that He is my Provider, both financially and otherwise.
  • If His character was all that I sought, I would’ve had the peace of mind that He is the Great Physician for whatever my daughter’s medical condition.
  • And if His glory was my chief desire, I would’ve had the perspective that He is the Healer of hurts and the Redeemer of all things, when it came to my disappointed, restless heart and the matter that was robbing me of peace.

Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

The rest of my prayer that morning became: Simplify my heart, Lord, to have just one request: to know You and dwell with You intimately.

Can you simplify your long list of requests to include just one — to know Him and dwell with Him intimately? When He becomes all that you and I want, we will have all that we’ve ever needed.

Lord, trim my list. Bring me into focus with the one thing that truly matters – my relationship with You. Help me to be satisfied with You alone and to realize that when I have you, I have everything I could possibly need.   

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

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindi

About the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 16 books including When Women Walk Alone (more than 120,000 copies sold), God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart, and Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her books and ministry, and free resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Join the conversation: What would you name as your number one prayer request?

Cornbread and Faith

by Crystal Bowman

For more than a decade I was a mentor for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). I loved meeting with moms who were facing the challenging role of motherhood. I tried to encourage them with words of advice, affirmation, and some much-needed hugs.

Those young moms arrived sleep deprived and hungry for both food and fellowship. Our gourmet breakfast spread with egg souffles, French toast casseroles, yogurt parfaits, and cranberry muffins was the best way to kick off each meeting. The moms took turns bringing the food; and as a mentor, I would often get a last-minute phone call to please bring a dish since one of the moms (or her child) was sick. I kept a stash of mixes in my pantry just for that reason.

One morning, I received the 911 call that more food was needed for the breakfast table, so I opened my box of cornbread mix and added the milk, oil, and eggs. In a few minutes the cornbread was in the oven and soon the sweet aroma engulfed my kitchen. The moms will love this, I thought as I pulled the Pyrex dish from the oven and headed out the door.

I placed the 9×13 glass dish on the buffet table and set a table knife beside it. If my cornbread could talk, it would have said, “Help yourself.” But here’s the thing—almost nobody did. I went home later with nearly a full dish.

A few months later I received the call once again. My pantry stash was running low, and the only thing I could whip up in a hurry was another dish of cornbread. This time, however, I tried something different. Rather than placing the Pyrex dish on the table with uncut cornbread, I cut the cornbread into squares and neatly arranged them on a silver platter lined with a paper doily. I placed a small card next to the platter that read, “Mama’s Southern Cornbread.”

I went home with an empty platter!

The cornbread was exactly the same, but the presentation made all the difference. And that got me thinking about my life and how I live out my faith.

The Apostle Paul instructed the early Christians to imitate Jesus. Crowds had followed Jesus because they were drawn to Him and the way He treated everyone, even sinners, with love and compassion. He reminded those in Ephesus, You are the children that God dearly loves. So follow his example. Lead a life of love, just as Christ did. He loved us. He gave himself up for us. He was a sweet-smelling offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIRV).

If non-believers see our lives as dull, unfriendly, or uninviting, why would they want to know more about our faith? But if we follow Jesus’ example of loving others with kindness, gentleness, and authenticity, others may be drawn to us and interested in learning more about our faith in Him.     

Living and loving as Jesus did is not something we can learn to do overnight. To live like Him, we need to know Him more. As we spend time in the Word and pray for the Holy Spirit to fill us with power and wisdom, our faith will grow—and it will show in the way we live.

So, the question I ask myself is this: Am I serving my faith in a Pyrex dish that says, “Help yourself,” or is my life of faith an irresistible, sweet aroma served on a silver platter?

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 NIV

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

About the author: Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books including, Our Daily Bread for Kids.She and her husband have three married children and seven huggable grandchildren.

When a child’s grandparent or great-grandparent is afflicted with dementia, it’s difficult to explain the disease in a way that helps the child understand why the person they love is not the same. I Love You to the Stars–When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembersis a picture book inspired by a true story to help young children understand that even though Grandma is acting differently, she still loves them–to the stars!

Join the conversation: How has your faith grown in the past year? How has your life reflected that growth?

Enough, Already!

by Nancy Kay Grace

Whom have I in heaven but you? Earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25-26 NIV

The cooler weather beckoned me to go outside and sit at my patio table to journal. Seems simple enough, but first I had to clear the table of flowerpots, put away cleaning supplies, and wipe off the table. Thirty minutes later, I had a pleasant outdoor workspace.

I opened my journal to write down thoughts about our recent vacation, recalling the sights we’d seen and things we’d experienced. Only a few words were on the page when the distraction happened. Barking.

The neighbor’s dog continually woofed at me through the slats of the fence.

Looking toward the fence, I shouted, “Stop it!” (As if I had command over the dog!)

Of course, it didn’t work. More barking.

“Quiet! Enough, already!” The illusion of my control continued.

Louder barking. I had failed as the dog whisperer.

A dog I couldn’t see was derailing my plans for productive writing. For more than fifteen minutes, the nonstop barking ten feet away kept me distracted. I had no control over the dog.

Aggravation replaced any peacefulness in my spirit. I thought clearing the table to work outside on a beautiful day would bring satisfaction. It didn’t. Then I thought I would be satisfied if I outlasted the barking. But how satisfying and peaceful is it to try to outlast a barking dog?

Ummm . . .  not very.

Eventually he moved to the other side of his yard; but it took a while for me to regain a peaceful frame of mind. Finally, I enjoyed a short time at the table with the cool breeze, my thoughts, and my journal.

Even a beautiful day can be robbed of satisfaction if we let it. Unexpected distractions can steal our inner peace. The challenge is in changing our perspective to look at God, trusting Him in a deeper way instead of focusing on the interruption. Most distractions are temporary, yet they can derail our best intentions. Only by looking to God do we find true satisfaction.

Psalm 73:25-26 provides an in-course correction for our perspective: “Whom have I in heaven but you? Earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (NIV).

When I’m tired, God is my strength. When I fall short, God fills the gap with His love. When I need peace, He calms my heart and mind.

Are you needing soul satisfaction? God is enough, already.

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

About the author: Nancy Kay Grace is the speaker and award-winning author of The Grace Impact, a devotional about God’s grace. Her website, blog, and GraceNotes newsletter sign-up are found at www.nancykaygrace.com. As a cancer survivor, she writes about hope, perseverance, and God’s grace. Nancy enjoys hugs from grandchildren, playing worship songs on piano, hiking, and travel.

Join the conversation: How do you move past distractions?

Monday Morning Blahs

by Terri Gillespie

ADONAI [the LORD] delights in those who revere Him, in those who trust in His lovingkindness.  Psalm 147:11, TLV

Ahh. Mondays. For many, it is the beginning of the workweek. The weekend’s relaxation or fun activities are but memories and posts on social media. Time for the drudgery of work, eat, bed, then repeat. All the while counting down until the upcoming weekend.

That’s one perspective of Monday—or whenever your workweek begins.

Did you know the Scriptures only have one day of the week with a name? Shabbat — the Sabbath. According to the Bible it’s the seventh day of the week and begins Friday at sundown and ends sundown Saturday (Genesis 1:5; Leviticus 23:1-3).

What about the other days of the week that we’re accustomed to? The names of the seven days of the week in most Latin-based languages come from the Roman calendar, which related each day with seven celestial bodies considered to be gods: the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. There are other pagan influences that sneak into the names, too.

But according to ancient Jewish tradition, each day of the week is more like a countdown to Shabbat. Sunday is known as “Six Days to Shabbat”, Monday, “Five Days to Shabbat,” and so on.

That simple act shows not only a reverence for God’s very first Biblical festival (Genesis 2:2-3; Leviticus 23:3), but joy and anticipation. Shabbat. A festival celebrated every week. Which is cool.

My parents had friends who were Orthodox sheliachs—emissaries or messengers—from Israel. Yossi and Michal and their children were sent to America to encourage the Jewish community to make aliyah (immigrate) to Israel. It was shortly after the Yom Kippur war, and, well, the locals were not interested. In fact, they ridiculed our new friends and treated them poorly.

Surprisingly, Yossi and his family became good friends with our family—Christians and Gentiles. As a result, they welcomed us into their world and taught us so much about the Biblical feasts. Especially Shabbat.

Once Shabbat was over—on our “Sunday”—Michal was already planning for the next Shabbat. Everything from menus, cleaning, and what fun activities and lessons to teach their children about the love of God. Each day of preparation was special and readied their hearts, minds, and homes for the upcoming festival.

There were no “blahs,” just excitement and discovering new ways to honor the LORD and bless their families, at the next Shabbat.

Now that’s a paradigm change. Every day before Shabbat is an anticipation to rest in the LORD, to praise Him, to fellowship with family and loved ones. We’re not only revering the celebration but revering our Creator — our Abba. This could include walks or visits to the beach to take in God’s creation. Reading. Games. Bringing a meal to someone in need.

According to today’s verse, GOD delights in us with this shift in our priorities to Him. We delight Him!

Have you ever noticed it is difficult to doubt our Father and praise Him at the same time? We can share the whirlwind of our concerns from the week, but our landing place — our resting place — can be praise and celebration in Him.

Praise takes us out of our heads and turns our minds to reverence and trust that He’s got whatever is troubling us. No matter how many times it takes to remind us, our Heavenly Father has us. Perhaps that’s why He set up a weekly reminder—the Sabbath.

And when we rest and praise and worship and celebrate His festival and His family, the Creator of the Universe smiles. I like 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 newest novel, Sweet Rivalry, released in October. https://authorterrigillespie.com/terri-gillespie-books/sweet-rivalry/

Sweet Rivalry is 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: How do you make the Sabbath special in your family?

Get Ready for the Ride

by Shirley Mozena

“Do you think we’re too old to do this?” Jim asked.

“Nah, we can do it.” I said confidently, then I backpedaled, “But I’ll do whatever you want to do.”

”Thanks a lot! You’re leaving it up to me!”

We were at Sea World. It was the end of the day. I was tired of walking in spite of the fun sights everywhere. I had been amazed at the variety of sea animals in the aquarium and the power and size of the dolphins and killer whales. But it was a warm day and I was ready to be done. Here we were, in a long line to the roller coaster with a guarantee to get wet, snaking through many grids of ropes with signs promising we’d soon be there. Of the 500 or so people in line, we were obviously the oldest ones.

We had at least 45 minutes to change our minds, as we followed the line through the covered area. We got acquainted with a mom and her son standing behind us. By the time we reached the ride entrance, we were fast friends with Matteo and Aisha. We ended up in the same boat. They sat in the very front, and we sat two rows behind them.

The ride? It was exhilarating! After splashing down the bottom of a steep hill, we heaved a sigh of relief. Slowly we floated to what we thought was the end of the ride when we realized we had another segment to go. After a steep climb, we swooped downhill, splashing water on ourselves and anyone near the splash zone who was watching the riders. We screamed with terror and fun. Our clothes and hair were soaked.

Deciding to take a risk is something we do nearly every day. Headlines in the newspapers. Disasters everywhere. Unemployment up. Gas prices up. Food prices soaring. It is all quite frightening. But risks are nothing new. The prophet Joel noted this in the first chapter of his prophecy. Joel was writing during a terrible plague of locusts in the land:Lord, help us!” (Joel 1:9a NLT).

The risk situation seems very grave in so many areas of our world. Just as Jim and I were trapped in the long line, waiting for a scary big splash, there really is no way out. We just trudged ahead. Took a deep breath and enjoyed the ride.

Sometimes life throws lots of doubts and fears as we look around us, helpless and uttering a feeble cry, “Lord, help us!”

Later in Joel, there is a promise:  “… I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
  Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.
But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, for some on Mount Zion in Jerusalem will escape, just as the Lord has said. These will be among the survivors whom the Lord has called” (Joel 2:28,32 NLT).

It’s comforting to me that in the end those who “call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

As for our wet and wild ride? We felt refreshed and invigorated! Before the ride, I was tired and a little grumpy. After the ride, I was ready for more. Those endorphins and shock of splashing water took away any tiredness I felt.

Get ready for the ride!

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: What risk have you taken lately? How did it all turn out?

Can I Hear God?

by Cheri Strange

“I can’t hear you!”

This fearful expression invades my thoughts when I feel I’m missing the target or that I’ve taken a wrong spiritual turn. I think I can hear God and discern His voice in my life. Before stepping out, I read His Word and wait for His lead. But sometimes, even when I do, it seems nothing flourishes. I fail at virtually everything I attempt in His Name.

God’s hand appears to be guiding and directing other people inside my circle and beyond. I seem to be alone in my defeat. If His presence is evident everywhere else, why is it not in my life? I wonder.

When these thoughts cover the landscape of my reality, they impede any notion that I can distinguish God’s voice from my own. Instead, all I see are the times I have stepped out in daunting or risky endeavors only to be rejected. And there I sit, fruitless. Me. A person charged with leading others to become, well . . . more fruitful. Before I know it, I conclude I can’t. I must have heard wrong.

It’s taken more years than I would like to admit to navigate and eventually dismantle this negative thinking; to manage to keep the forward momentum toward becoming my most vibrant and invincible self. But in those years, I have developed a few skills for when I think God’s gone silent.

Remember, you are not alone in feeling out of step with God’s voice. Neither am I.  Abraham banked his future on promises that God seemed to be breaking. He asked God how his vast inheritance could become a reality when he had no heir (not to mention he was almost one hundred and his wife was decades post menopause).  See Genesis 15:2-3.

Continue the conversation. When it wasn’t working out like Abraham thought it would, he didn’t walk away. Even if we don’t feel we hear today, the lesson from our patriarch is to continue crying out to God anyway. When things look bleak, we can bear our disappointed hearts to the Lord, express our lack of understanding, and communicate our concerns, whether or not we feel heard. God will respond. Expect it.

Look to God’s Word for His response. God’s primary method for speaking into our lives today is through His Word, illuminated by the Holy Spirit. But we can’t recognize it if we are not reading it. So, look for God’s response. Wait for it. This is what Abraham shows us next. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir,” (Genesis 15:4 ESV). God gives Abraham an understanding to glimpse the impossible that He planned to make possible in his life. It is enough for him to believe. (See Genesis 15:6.)

What God did for Abraham, He will do for you and for me, in ways we can understand, at the time we need it. Sometimes it will be through a resource or a person. It might be an opportunity, a timely word spoken, or possibly a closed door. Even a testimony of one who has gone before us can work miracles. Whatever method He chooses, it will be sufficient to move you and me forward and believing yes, we can hear God.

Amid the cacophony of voices bidding us to quit, pronouncing our insufficiency, screaming we aren’t enough—God assures us of something different. 

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21 ESV

Adapted from her new release, Can You See Me, Now? Good news for the lonely, left out, and less than from Bold Vision Books.

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

About the author: Cheri Strange has helped over 700,000 women redefine their worth through her writing, speaking, and highly popular YouVersion Bible reading plans. She is a national speaker, visionary of She Yearns Ministries, and the author of Life Principles for Living Out the Greatest Commandment, from AMG. Cheri holds a Ph.D. from Baylor University and lives in Houston with her husband, Chad, their eight children, and her Maine Coon cat. Find her on the YouVersion app, her website www.sheyearns.com, or Instagram.

Join the conversation: How do you hear from God?

The Long Goodbye

by Amy L. Harden

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you. Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT

My mother took 13 years in her long goodbye. The last time my sister and I saw her, we were the “lovely ladies” who came to visit. Mother sat in her chair, staring into the void. Sadly, there was no coming back from this journey home. We were grateful my father didn’t have to experience her vanishing away. Mother’s inability to recognize her loved ones would have broken his heart.

As hard as the long goodbye was for us, it allowed my sister, brother, and me time to come to terms with issues we had with our mother. God, in His amazing grace, gave us time to regain our understanding of the person who was melting away. We needed to rely on His grace and mercy throughout those years. On some days, it was all He gave us.

My mother had become angry and belligerent in her final months, hitting and throwing things. The last time I saw her, I tried to comfort her as she lay in bed, but she angrily hit and hissed at me. Heartbroken and crying, I left the room.

I wondered, Wasn’t this always the way it was with my mother? I never measured up in her eyes, and we had constant battles. Yet, God reminded me of one visit a few years prior when a window in the void had opened.

My visits up north had been few since my mother moved into the memory care unit. The responsibilities of raising five children consumed me; finding time to break away from home for an eight-hour trip proved impossible—besides trying to afford a hotel stay. However, a time opened for me to travel, and my siblings gifted me with a three-day stay at a lovely bed-and-breakfast near my mother.

As my sister and I drove to the hospital, she said Mother hadn’t recognized her in many months and probably wouldn’t know me either. Yet, when we walked into Mother’s room, recognition swept across her face, and she said, “Amy, my sweet Amy. You have come to see me.” She reached out and pulled me toward her as she had never done when I was a child.

That was my window of love and warmth after years of resentment, bitterness, and anger. It was the opportunity God provided for complete forgiveness, mercy, and grace. All the memories and filters that had kept Mother and I from being authentic with one another were demolished. As I rested in her arms, I felt the purity and innocence of the moment.

Standing in the hallway that day, I realized God had gone before me. He told me to remember this moment, not the previous visit that brought anger and resentment. That healing moment gave me a new perspective to share with my brother and sister so they could forgive Mother before she passed.

The reality of the long journey is that you mourn twice—first when dementia steals your loved one’s mind, and again when God claims their body. We should never abandon or fail them. And if we’re attentive to the Lord’s presence, we’ll capture memories, and perhaps healing and restoration for all.

To learn more about Alzheimer’s and Dementia, please go to https://alzfdn.org.

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

About the author: Amy L Harden is an author, wife, mother of five children, and Nanny to four grandchildren. She has written for Guideposts, Focus on the Family, Christian websites, and blogs. Amy is presently working on her first novel. Connect with Amy at her website – AmyLHarden.com, or on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the Conversation. What healing moments has God given you?

The Still Voice Above the Noise

by Dr. Mel Tavares

 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. John 10:4 NIV

God speaks to people every day and desires every one of us to hear Him. There is no magic formula to hearing His voice. He speaks in many ways, including in our mind, through chapters we read in the Bible, and through conversations with other people. Sometimes He speaks through dreams or visions. Our problem is that we live in a noisy world and are often too busy to listen, or haven’t developed the ability to recognize His voice.

God Speaks to Our Mind
God speaks to our mind, but we may interpret His voice as a thought of our own, because we don’t recognize His voice. Although some people report hearing an audible voice of God, more often it will be a ‘still, small voice’ we will hear. He desires to communicate with us throughout our days, much the same as if we were communicating with a friend or spouse. When we read the Bible or pray, thoughts will enter our mind. The more connected we are to Him, conversing throughout the day, the more easily we will recognize when He is talking to us.

God Speaks to Us Through Others
God uses other Christians to speak to us. We may have been seeking an answer from God about a specific situation and later converse with another Christian. We might bring up the situation and the other person will give wise counsel. Or we might randomly bring up a Bible verse or a life principle in conversation that supplies the exact answer you were looking for. Rest assured; it was no coincidence. It is God providing the answer for you if you have an ear to hear.

God Speaks to Us Through Circumstances
There are times when God uses dramatic means to get our attention. If we are not in close communication with Him and not listening for His voice, God might speak to us through financial insecurities, housing insecurities, employment struggles, relational problems, and other trials. How often do we cry out to God when we encounter hard times? It is during a crisis that many open their ears, desperate to hear from God if only to get the answer to “Why is this happening?”

The Importance of Hearing God Speak
The importance of recognizing God’s voice cannot be overstated. We must learn to hear God’s voice if we want answers to your questions and prayers. He can and does speak to us but we must recognize His voice and discern that it is God, not Satan, or our own thoughts, or the well-meaning input of strangers.

Just one word from God can change everything. Sometimes it is one word, sometimes it is an ongoing conversation that God has with us. The important thing is that we don’t miss His voice. The voice of God speaking can transform our marriages, give us financial direction, speak to our illness and heal our disease, or give insight into a complex situation at our jobs. 

I pray you will recognize the voice of your shepherd, and that He will give you answers, direction, and guidance each day that you need.

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

About the author: Mel Tavares is an accomplished writer and speaker/teacher, both in ministry and in her career. She is passionate about encouraging and teaching writers. Her target market is women who are hurting and in need of Biblical hope. In addition to ghost writing and authoring her own books, Mel is a contributing author to several books, including the recently released DaySpring “Sweet Tea for the Soul: Comfort for Grieving Hearts.”  She writes for several online Christian communities, teaches classes online, conducts Facebook Live series, and is a podcast guest as opportunities arise. She is a wife, mom to seven, and grandma to ten.

Join the conversation: Have you heard from God lately?

God in the Ordinary

by Julie Zine Coleman

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 NASB

Many of us have stories of God’s intervention in our lives. My husband and I sometimes recall the times God’s hand was obvious, like the unexpected twenty dollars left as a gift by my aunt when were just about out of baby formula, or a “chance” meeting that changed the direction of my career. These kind of things were blessings easily discerned and continue to serve as poignant reminders of God’s faithfulness and involvement.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day looked for God to do the extraordinary, proving His presence and involvement. They would not believe Jesus was the Messiah because he was so ordinary in many ways. They believed that the Messiah would somehow mysteriously “appear.” The fact that they knew Jesus’ family, his birthplace, and hometown in which he was raised was enough to keep them from acknowledging Him as the Son of God (see John 7:27).

We tend to look for the extraordinary. But we miss so much of God’s activity in our lives when we only look for the miraculous. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 NASB) The privilege of working at a job which results in a paycheck, the love and laughter of normal family life, the tender concern expressed by a dear friend, the food we eat, or the roof over our heads all may be ordinary every-day occurrences. Yet each good thing is provision from the Lord. Proof of His care and involvement.

My friend Beth had a group of middle-school girls meet weekly in her home for several years. Included in their weekly activities was “I Spy God,” when Beth would encourage the girls to remember times they saw God’s hand in the previous week. No great miracles were reported. Just the growing awareness of His presence in their lives.

When we can find God in the common, the ordinary, we will better understand His constant presence and involvement. We do not live in a world in which God only occasionally invades. Rather, Scripture reminds us we will never experience His absence. As David wrote: “Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there, if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139: 7-10 NASB).

The faithfulness of God should not only be measured in the miraculous. While those moments are important and obviously confirming, we lose so much if we ignore the everyday evidences of His presence and provision. It is why we bow our heads at each meal. It is just one moment in our day when we acknowledge His activity on our behalf.

“Morning by morning new mercies I see, all I have needed, thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.” (from Great is Thy Faithfulness)

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

About the author: Julie Zine Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or crafting. More on Julie can be found at her new website JulieZineColeman.com and Facebook.

Many Christian women are torn between the church’s traditional teachings on gender roles and the liberty they experience in secular society. But what if the church’s conventional interpretations aren’t really biblical at all? Julie’s new book, On Purpose: Understanding God’s Freedom for Women through Scripture, is a careful study of the passages in the Bible often interpreted to limit women in the church, at home, or in the workplace. Each chapter reveals timeless biblical principles that actually teach freedom, not limitation. On Purpose was recently awarded the Golden Scrolls 2022 Book of the Year.

Join the conversation: Please share something from the ordinary that reassures you of God’s presence.

The Connection

by Fran Caffey Sandin

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15: 5 ESV

A warm summer breeze off Michigan’s Lake Superior greeted us as we gazed upward to a huge grey rock formation resembling a battleship heading out to sea. Enjoying a sightseeing cruise around beautiful Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, my husband and I were enthralled by the red 180 foot Indian Head rock and a 70 foot waterfall.

Vibrant colors of orange, gold, and green decorated numerous coves. The cruise moderator explained they were formed from a combination of limestone and the seepage of minerals such as copper, manganese, and tannic acid. The breathtaking scenes were a photographer’s dream.

However, the scene that most captured my attention most was a lone pine tree atop Pulpit Rock, a giant stone resembling a church pulpit, located several feet from the mainland. The interesting feature was its tree roots resembling large ropes that draped across the gap to the mainland. The green tree appeared well-nourished and healthy but if those roots ever got disconnected, the tree would surely die.

Immediately my thoughts turned to the description of Jesus as the true vine when He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for without Me, you can do nothing” (John 15: 5 NASB 1995).

To abide means to dwell, stay, and remain—so if we want to have a vibrant and fruitful life, we must be connected to Jesus Himself. He is the source of life and truth as opposed to a counterfeit, and He is the vine from which the branches receive nourishment. Just as the root provides support and nutrients, so the branch can flourish, Jesus does the same for us when we are at home with him. Although diverse in opinion or dispersed in location, all true Christians centered “in Christ” have a unity of purpose, and that is to glorify Him.

What if the branches do not produce any fruit? On my Grandpa’s farm some limbs on the fruit trees appeared like others, but buds and fruit never appeared. Likewise, people who profess to be Christians but do not exhibit the fruit of the spirit of God in their conversation and lifestyle are like the fruitless branch. The unproductive branch is useless to the farmer. Likewise, the person who disregards Jesus and his Word cannot be fruitful in the family of God. Being attached to the root of our faith is vital to an abundant daily life. We need Him.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you that when we choose the salvation you have provided through Christ, we can receive spiritual nourishment through studying your Word, through prayer and obedience, and fellowship with other believers. May we share the good news with others and through your grace produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that only you can provide. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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

About the author: Fran Sandin is a retired nurse, organist, mother, and grandmother living in Greenville, Texas. She and her husband, Jim, have traveled to many countries and states. Her latest book, Hope on the Way, Devotions to Go– contains 52 devotionals for those who love to combine faith and adventure. Visit her website to order with a click on the home page fransandin.comHope on the Way has been nominated by Joy and Company in Arlington, Texas, for the Henri Award (for outstanding Christian Literature) both in the Devotional and Christian Living sections.

Join the conversation: What do you do to stay attached to the Vine?