The God of Much More

by Sue Likkel

Amaziah asked the man of God, “But what about all that silver I paid to hire the army of Israel?” The man of God replied, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”  2 Chronicles 25:9 NLT

Somewhere between being a naturally frugal person and struggling with financial fear, I sit snuggly. Not deviating from those two spaces, I weigh purchases carefully—sometimes with trepidation. Growing up, I wasn’t poor, but I remember things being tight and the anxiety it caused my parents.

Our third child’s birth necessitated my taking time off work, and at the same time, a job opportunity came for my husband that he couldn’t pass up. However, this meant our checking account was dangerously low for years. I watched my spending even more closely, and many times the Lord provided just what we needed on the very day we needed it.

During that time, my gas tank was once on fumes and I didn’t know where the money was going to come from to fill it, but then I was asked to make something for someone who was willing to pay more than it was worth. (My gas tank was filled because of a quiche that day.) Many times, my debit card was declined at the grocery store, yet we never were without food. Sometimes a friend just showed up with gallons of milk. Thankfully my kids could wear hand-me-downs from relatives, and my boys were blissfully unaware of the brand of shoes they wore.

I can relate to Amaziah having spent lots of money but getting no return. Seems a reasonable question to ask: What about the money I spent? But the response is so beautiful: You have no idea how much more God can give you.

In my lean years, I often visualized an enormous heavenly warehouse. The floor of the warehouse had a huge trapdoor and frequently God would rain down material needs. I saw it in real time, not just with me but with others, too. He is a God of bounty.

I admit that every once in a while, I forget that visual. It’s true that I don’t always need to “get.” The Lord knows when a “no” is the best answer, but He also knows that I think too small most of the time. He is able to give “much more” than I expect.

Authors and speakers encourage us to dream big! It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s awfully scary, isn’t it? I mean, what if we fail? Or we’re rejected? Maybe these things will happen, but God has our back there, too. Mostly, we think too small, and God is wanting to give us the world.

A lovely image has floated around the Internet for years. A little boy is clutching his teddy bear, face down, saddened that the man kneeling in front of him wants to take it. But we can see this is Jesus, and behind His back is a bigger, newer teddy bear, one of great value.

Jesus stretches out His hand to us, too. He has something wonderful for us, if only we’ll trust that what we are clutching isn’t all He has in store for us. Maybe it’s not raining teddy bears, but certainly, whatever it is that we’re clinging to, He wants to give us much more.

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

About the author: Sue Likkel is a reader, writer, speaker, and teacher. A lover of words, she has spent decades in the classroom teaching English to middle and high schoolers. A child of God, she’s humbled and grateful for all He has done for her, like guiding her through challenges and blessing her with rich experiences. Native to Michigan but residing most of her life in the Pacific Northwest, she enjoys both the beaches and mountains with her husband, kids, and grandkids.

Join the conversation: What can you turn over to the Lord, so He can do exceedingly more than we can think to ask?

Advertisement

Unexpected Forgiveness                                                           

by Toni Campbell

I rounded the corner, approached the crosswalk, then saw movement out of the corner of my eye. A woman had just stepped into the roadway. I tapped my brakes, making a split-second assessment of the situation. Judging the distance between myself, the pedestrian, and a car behind me, I decided it was safest to proceed forward.

I glanced in the rear view and was surprised to see the other car follow me through the walkway. The pedestrian almost walked into it. Yet another backward glance and my heart sank at the sight of flashing lights.

“License, registration and insurance card please.”

“Can I ask what I did?”

“You went through the crosswalk with the pedestrian in it.”

“I saw her, and even tapped my brakes, but there was a car behind me. Can I ask why you didn’t pull them over instead?” I was trying to politely defend my actions.

“I felt you had the better field of vision.”

A protest of It’s not fair went through my mind, but I held my tongue. Instead, I prayed, Please God, let him come back with a warning. No such break. As he walked away, my eyes welled with tears at the cost of the fine: $230!

I thought about challenging the ticket, but I kept coming to the same conclusion. The judge might ask, “Was there a pedestrian in the crosswalk?” and “Did you drive through the crosswalk?” And I could only answer “yes.” By the letter of the law, I was guilty.

A few days later, I went to the payment website and saw something strange. When I plugged in my information, this popped up: “Fee: $0. Ticket addressed.”

As I dialed the court for clarification, I thought, Are you crazy? If it’s a clerical error, you’re alerting them to the mistake! But I informed the clerk about what I’d seen.

A few minutes later, she returned. “That’s correct. You owe nothing. The officer rescinded the ticket.”

“Really? I…I really am a good driver” I said weakly.

“Well, the officer must have decided not to pursue it,” she said.

The mercy and forgiveness extended to me was unexpected and undeserved. Likewise, God’s gift of forgiveness, offered freely through His Son, is undeserved. And His continued mercy to us is renewed each day.

By the letter of God’s law, we are guilty. We can try to compare our sins to the person behind us and think, I’m not as bad as they are! But we all fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and deserve to pay the penalty (Romans 6:23). We can try to blame our circumstances on the actions of others, but we are responsible for our own actions. We can even try to justify ourselves with, I’m really a good person. But we can never be perfect 100% of the time.

When we finally come to grips with the fact that we’re guilty and can’t escape the penalty for those sins on our own, God hears our tears of repentance. He exercises His mercy when we acknowledge that Jesus died to take on our guilt and act as the sacrifice for our sins. Then He rescinds our ticket to hell and grants us admission to heaven. It’s not a clerical error, oversight, or mistake. God deliberately decides not to pursue it.

I am forever grateful for the love and mercy extended to me so that the Book of Life reads, “Fee: $0. Ticket addressed.”

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

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

About the author: Toni Campbell is passionate about serving others and is employed full-time as the Benevolence Director at her church. She loves to share ideas through speaking engagements and her award-winning book: Jesus Has Left the Building, which is filled with ideas any church can adopt and adapt to impact their community for Christ. Visit tonicampbell.org to learn more!

Join the conversation: Have you ever been given unexpected forgiveness?

Wrestling for Blessings in the Dark

by Tina Yeager

A sentry of pines and brush obscure my view of the horizon from home. If I wanted to rise early enough to observe the sunrise, my shrouded lot would not allow it. Rather than greeting the morning, I’m more inclined to pull the covers over my head, telling myself I might as well put off my futile struggles for purpose until noon.

The dawn of a new year approaches during a similar wrestling match with the darkness. Despair over past disappointments fights the calling in my heart. Risk of another failure threatens to overtake my desire to serve the light. The shadows behind me declare I don’t have what it takes to succeed. I shield myself from the dangers of hope and avoid facing the unseen future as long as possible.

Only a power greater than my emotions can wrangle my soul to move forward.

Like Jacob in Genesis 32, I find myself wrestling with the Lord at the threshold of a new land. I cannot see whether peril or potential await. I want a word, prophecy, or some sign I will succeed this time. Yet memories of unmet goals, profitless work, and deferred dreams beat back my motivation.

Flawed like that patriarch, I worry the Lord has lost patience with me. Perhaps the next part of my journey holds consequences for my frailty instead of hope. The threshold of 2023 terrifies me. So, I dig in my anxious heels and refuse to budge until Christ promises to bless me.

My demand could result in a limp. I might lose everything, even myself, in the struggle. Yet I also realize I have nothing of true worth to hoard when facing the presence of Almighty God. Just as Jacob released all of his belongings to the Lord’s will, so must I.

With all laid out before Jesus, I ask for his mercy. I plead for a measure of hope he will bless me to fulfill the calling he put on my heart. His response to my struggle differs from the ways he has answered others. I do not receive a word of the year, a prophecy, or a clear sign.

Instead of signs or prophecies, the Lord offers an end to the wrestling match. Like he did for Israel, he can permanently change my walk and identity. The Holy Spirit declares his covenant with me by reminding me of the promise in his word. In Ephesians 1:3, the Lord reveals he has no need to give me a blessing when he has already given “every spiritual blessing.” It is up to me to live in the power he has already granted to me.

I had assumed success meant income or outcomes. Neither are measures of a faithful heart or accomplishing the will of Christ. My worldly perspective on achievement had limited my faith potential. It’s time to let go of my old battle strategies. No more shrinking back or striving for the wrong things and calling them goals for God to bless.

Instead, I will rise to meet the dawn of 2023 with confident peace. Though I cannot see what lies ahead, I believe in the heart of the Father who called me to meet my destiny. This year, I move forth in victory over the darkness. Abundantly blessed.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Ephesians 1:3 NIV

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

About the author: Award-winning author, speaker, and life coach, Tina Yeager hosts the Flourish-Meant podcast and Flourish Today on Christian Mix 106 and publishes Inkspirations Online, a weekly writers’ devotional. She has been licensed as a counselor since 2005.

Her book, Beautiful Warrior: Finding Victory Over the Lies Formed Against You, helps women fulfill their Christ-centered purpose. Check out her newest release, Upcycled: Crafted for a Purpose (Bold Vision Books).

For life coaching tips or to book her as an event speaker, check out tinayeager.com.

Join the conversation: How is God changing your walk and identity?

Choosing to Trust God in Tough Situations

by Grace Fox

The blizzard that swept across the continent at Christmastime paralyzed the international airport near my home. My husband and I had purchased airline tickets to travel to our youngest daughter’s home for the holidays, but as the news told of countless delayed and canceled flights, we began to wonder whether we would be able to go.

We went to the airport on the morning of our scheduled departure, checked in, and seated ourselves near our gate. Hundreds of other passengers waited for their flights, too. One by one, those flights were either delayed or canceled.

One woman, stranded for five days, shrugged her shoulders and said, “There’s nothing I can do.” Her eyes brimmed with tears.

A young man said, “I’m going to charter a bus and fill it up with other passengers trying to get to the same destination.”

Many people handled their disappointment and stress well. Others, not so much. They expressed frustration with the airlines and accused gate attendants and crew members of being irresponsible.

Life being what it is, we encounter tough situations over which we have no control. We observe the goings-on around us and make judgments. Trouble is, we can’t see or know everything that’s happening behind the scenes to affect our situation. So, based on incomplete information, we develop incorrect assumptions that lead to bad conclusions. Worse, in the stress of the moment, we forget that God is sovereign over every detail of our lives. We focus only on our immediate circumstances that are not going well, and we end up frustrated, angry, dejected, or hopeless.

This happened in the Bible story about Jairus, the father of a little girl who became ill and died. When faced with tragic loss, Jairus’ family and friends focused only on the circumstances beyond their control and lost hope. But Jesus had a different perspective. Here’s what the passage says:

“While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, ‘Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher anymore.’ But Jesus on hearing this answered him, ‘Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.’

“And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child.And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.’

And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But taking her by the hand he called, saying, ‘Child, arise.’ And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat.” (Luke 8:49-55 ESV)

Jairus’ friends and family focused on the facts as they saw and understood them. The little girl was dead. End of story.

But Jesus knew what the people didn’t. He knew every behind-the-scenes detail involved in this situation, and He had a plan.

The next time we face difficult circumstances, let’s pause to remember that God knows infinitely more about them than we do. He knows what’s happening behind-the-scenes in the spiritual realm, and He has a plan. Nothing can thwart His purposes. He is wise, good, and sovereign over every detail of our lives, and we can trust Him.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)ber of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries, and co-host of the podcast “Your Daily Bible Verse.” Her new devotional Fresh Hope for Today: Devotions for Joy on the Journey is available wherever Christian books are sold.

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

About the author: Grace Fox is a career missionary, the award-winning author of 13 books, and a popular Bible teacher at international women’s events. She’s a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries and co-hosts the podcast “Your Daily Bible Verse.” Her new devotional, Fresh Hope for Today: Devotions for Joy on the Journeyis available wherever Christian books are sold. Visit Grace’s website to subscribe to her monthly update and receive free printables to enhance your Bible reading and prayer time at gracefox.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever made incorrect assumptions about a difficult situation? What did you find out later the helped you make sense of it all?

God Goes Ahead of Us

by Susie Crosby

Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you. Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT

(Part one of this story is titled: HELP, God. If you haven’t read it, you can find it here:

In HELP, God, I shared how my husband and I were recently rescued from a rip current in Kauai. The memory is still fresh, my heart is still tender, and I’m still discovering things through all that happened about the way God takes care of his people.

Whenever I think about how differently our near-drowning story could have ended, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and relief. And a bit of guilt, too. Hundreds of people have drowned in rip currents–several even at that very beach. Why some people get a miracle rescue and others do not is always going to be a hard question for me.

And angels? Aren’t they supposed to have a bright or holy aura about them? I just don’t know what to think anymore. I refer to Jeff as our “angel,” but he seemed like an ordinary (yet heroic) kind of guy. He even had a beer and went back to reading his book after it was all over.

As I reflect and question and share about our experience, I’m learning that God is so much more involved, so much more powerful and creative and compassionate than I let myself imagine most of the time. Everything that happened shocked me into realizing (once again) that God is in control, and I am not.

You see, I like to worry about things quite a bit. I’m pretty good at thinking about all the things that might possibly go wrong so that I can prevent them. My kids tease me, but I know I’m not alone in this struggle (and its almost debilitating anxiety) to keep everyone I love safe and close. It’s my job to keep everything in control, right?

I’m learning (often the hard way) that it is actually God’s job–not mine. My worrying, my planning, and my own strength is never going to be enough. When Bob and I were in those waves that day, there was nothing I could do to save us. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that I should worry about needing to be rescued from a rip current, but God knew ahead of time. He knew we were going to end up in trouble, and he prepared a rescuer in advance for us. God went to that spot before we did, and I absolutely believe that his presence was further out and deeper down in the water than we ever were.

He had everything under control, and He always will.

As He told the prophet Jeremiah: “I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27 NASB). The loftiest ideas, the greatest thing we can imagine about God, are woefully inadequate to describe Him. He is able to focus on the big things yet pay attention to small seemingly insignificant details. 

So when we get anxious about the people we love or worried about all the things that might go wrong, we can remember that God is going ahead of us. He knows what is going to happen, and he knows exactly what we are going to need. The above promise reminds us, too, that God will never leave us on our own. We really can count on him.

Thank you, Jesus, that everything ahead of us is in your hands, and you are already there. Amen.

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

About the author: Susie Crosby has loved books and Jesus for as long as she can remember. She writes because life is often harder than she’d like it to be, and faith can sometimes be a struggle. By sharing God’s Word in simple and relatable ways, Susie pours refreshment nd hope into discouraged hearts.

Susie has taught children in grades Pre-K through 8 for over 33 years. She currently teaches music, physical education, art, and technology at an all-kindergarten school. She is the author of Just One Word: 90 Devotions to Invite Jesus In (Harvest House, 2018), and the children’s poem Moon Wonder (Mighty Kind Magazine, Issue 2, 2020).

Together with her ministry friend Angie Baughman, of Steady On Ministries, Susie enjoys co-hosting Bible Talk, a monthly podcast where they have way too much fun discussing one word and one verse at a time. Susie is a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association, the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and the Red House Writers Collective. Her weekly blog and more encouragement can be found at   www.susiecrosby.com. Instagram:  @susiecrosby, Facebook: /susiecrosbyauthor

Join the conversation: How has God exceeded what you have imagined about Him?

HELP, God! (Part 1)

by Susie Crosby

“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he rescued them from their distress. Psalm 107:6 NLT

I gasped as my eyes found my husband. The look on his face sent a lightning bolt of fear from my head to my toes. The waves were getting bigger and rougher; and as we both struggled to stay afloat, he was drifting farther and farther away from me and out to sea.

“I’m not going to make it,” he said. His voice was weak and resigned, and I knew he meant it. My best friend, the love of my life, the father of my boys was drowning, and I could not save him.

In a frozen moment of terror, a million thoughts raced through my mind:

I should try to get to him and hold him up, but I don’t have the strength. We will both go under.

I should try to swim to shore and call 911, but he won’t be able to last that long.

I cannot watch him drown. If he dies, I don’t want to live.

How had we gotten into such a desperate situation?

I was sure it was my fault. I wanted to swim one last time before we flew home. But something was different—I could tell right away. After a couple of waves had crashed over our heads, my feet couldn’t touch the sand. We were moving rapidly away from the beach, and we couldn’t get back. I turned to tell Bob I was getting scared, and that’s when I realized how far out he was and how exhausted he had become.

Panic took over and my body went completely weak. I had only seconds to make the hardest decision of my life, and both choices led to tragedy.

All of a sudden, a burst of strength came from somewhere deep inside of me. With an energy and volume that I didn’t know I had, I yelled, “HELP! HELP!” toward the shore. There were no lifeguards at this spot, and I couldn’t see the beach; but I was daring to hope that some of the people we had seen earlier were still there. Maybe someone would call 911?

That’s when God sent “Angel Jeff.” He got to us in what seemed like an instant, put Bob on his back, and swam us at an angle out of the rip current and back to shore. He saved us both.

Jeff, a snorkeler with years of experience swimming in strong currents, was a selfless guy who wasn’t afraid to jump in and help. At first, I wondered why he had chosen that particular beach to set up his chair and read his book that afternoon. But I believe with all my heart that it was no coincidence. God knew that we were going to get caught in that dangerous rip current at that exact time. And he knew that we would desperately need someone to rescue us from that very spot. This loving God of ours put his “Angel Jeff” in the right place at the right time to answer my desperate screams for help.

Psalm 107 reminds us:

He hears and helps us when we are lost–not sure what the next step is.

He hears and helps us when we are alone, in trouble, and bound by things that hurt us.

He hears and helps us when we are knocked off our feet and deeply afraid.

Sometimes, HELP is the only word we can say.

And sometimes, it is the only word we have to say.

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

About the author: Susie Crosby has loved books and Jesus for as long as she can remember. She writes because life is often harder than she’d like it to be, and faith can sometimes be a struggle. By sharing God’s Word in simple and relatable ways, Susie pours refreshment nd hope into discouraged hearts.

Susie has taught children in grades Pre-K through 8 for over 33 years. She currently teaches music, physical education, art, and technology at an all-kindergarten school. She is the author of Just One Word: 90 Devotions to Invite Jesus In (Harvest House, 2018), and the children’s poem Moon Wonder (Mighty Kind Magazine, Issue 2, 2020).

Together with her ministry friend Angie Baughman, of Steady On Ministries, Susie enjoys co-hosting Bible Talk, a monthly podcast where they have way too much fun discussing one word and one verse at a time. Susie is a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association, the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and the Red House Writers Collective. Her weekly blog and more encouragement can be found at   www.susiecrosby.com. Instagram:  @susiecrosby, Facebook: /susiecrosbyauthor

Join the conversation: Have you ever desperately called for help?

God’s Severe Mercy

by Sheri Schofield

Montana is lovely and dramatic, with its towering, snowcapped mountains and green valleys. When driving across it, I often sing America the Beautiful, and pray as I sing, “God shed his grace on thee.” It distresses me to see the increasing crime, to hear the twisted reasoning of the world, and to see the broken lives of those who do not know or honor God.

Lately, I’ve found myself praying, “God save America” rather than “God bless America.” For God only blesses those nations that honor and obey him. Our entire world is sick with sin. My heart has grieved over this increasingly.

When Covid flooded the world, I wondered whether or not this was a judgment from God. Many people were frightened. Many died, and pain and grief filled our hearts. But as this plague progressed, I began to see that God had been answering prayers in ways I didn’t expect. 

The government shut down churches and schools, in addition to businesses. Results? Parents were suddenly forced to be intensely involved with their children. Many families grew stronger. School lessons were done online, and parents suddenly saw the perversions being taught in classrooms. They rose up and demanded change. The home school movement grew tremendously because of what parents learned about education in the public schools, and many parents took back their role as teachers to their own children.

Churches, which had been conducted much the same way for centuries, were forced to move forward with the times and broadcast their services on YouTube in order to survive. The results were that many more people have heard the gospel around the world. Good, solid Bible teaching is now available, training new leaders, developing Bible knowledge wherever YouTube is available.

God raised up a man whose heart is searching for truth. Elon Musk has stood up to the evil flooding social media, bought Twitter, and has declared it shall be a place of free, open dialog, without undue censorship, a place where people can share their ideas. He did this to preserve democracy. Twitter is becoming a modern day version of Mars Hill in Athens, where the Apostle Paul once presented Jesus as the “Unknown God.” We can present Jesus on Twitter now and reach the world.

While he is searching for truth, Musk has broken down barriers so truth can be told. God is using him, whether or not Musk knows this, just as God has used others like King Cyrus in ancient days. Cyrus, though he did not know God, ordered Jerusalem to be rebuilt and reestablished the Jewish nation in its homeland.

Covid, which once looked only like a judgment, is beginning to look more like an answer to the prayers of the saints to save not only our nation, but also the world. I sense we are just at the beginning of God’s response to our prayers.

Sometimes what seems to be a judgment from God is in reality his severe mercy. He loves the people of this world too much to allow us to go unchecked into self-destruction.

Yes, there is a time coming when God will remove all restraints and allow mankind to self-destruct. But it could be that he is offering us one more chance to turn to him first.

So I continue praying, “God, save America…and this world…for your own glory.” It is a new year. Let there be a new beginning.

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:13, 14 NIV

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

About the author: Sheri Schofield, award-winning author and Bible teacher, has added a new way to share faith in Jesus: Her latest book, Before You Find Me, is a contemporary romantic suspense featuring a strong Christian who faces a crisis that tests her courage. Tara, a freshman at West Texas A&M whose parents are dead, learns that her younger sister witnessed a murder. To protect her siblings, she must spirit them out of Texas before the murderer learns there was a witness to his act. Tara has one day in which to act. Can she do it? She remembers a family ranch in Montana…and Ben, the boy next-door, who captured her heart once. Will he still be there? Will he help her protect her family now? This book entertains while it presents godly responses to danger and struggles. Sometimes fiction can draw people closer to God when they will not be drawn by nonfiction. Before You Find Me is available at http://www.sherischofield.com.

Join the conversation: What evidences of God at work have you seen in recent days?

A Time to Cast Away

by Patti Richter

Watching the Inauguration Day coverage of a U.S. President once inspired me to head for my bedroom closet. The new First Lady had worn a powder blue dress that looked familiar to me. I scanned the nether regions of my wardrobe where a few ghosts of my past resided. Soon enough, I found my beautiful blue wool dress peeking out from behind some holiday velvets.

Years earlier, after moving into a new home, I had reloaded an empty box with clothing I didn’t wear anymore. Maybe no one else would want the out-of-style items, but it was time to pass them on since my side of the closet could only hold so many decades’ worth of clothing. But that elegant dress was special, and I wasn’t ready to part with it.

The dress had been a gift from my mother-in-law when she worked in the couture department of a Saks Fifth Avenue store. I’d never had such a well-made dress. Now, after seeing the First Lady in a similar dress, I felt vindicated for saving it from an unfortunate fate (such as 80s night at the local high school). Even so, maybe the time had come to let it go.

The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes examines the vanities of life. In a well-known passage, the writer says there’s a time for everything, including “a time to cast away” (Ecclesiastes 3:6ESV).

In a brief but compelling booklet titled My Heart—Christ’s Home, Robert Boyd Munger provides anallegory of the body as a house. He tells the story of Christ visiting every “room,” even the hidden places guests seldom see, especially the “closet,” with “things leftover from the old life.”

As that story continues, the homeowner realizes he has no strength to rid himself of things he should have parted with long ago. Instead, he implores Christ to help him, saying, “You’ll have to open the closet and clean it out.” And Jesus replies, “This is exactly what I came to do. You can’t live out the Christian life in your own strength…. Let me do it for you and through you.”

The Apostle Paul instructed believers that through Christ our bodies are temples where God dwells. He urged us to offer our bodies “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God….” (1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV). This is much harder than giving away favorite old clothes—unless we rely on the One who helps us.

 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 ESV

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

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

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 clutter do you need to clear out of your life?

Teach Us to Pray

by Candy Arrington

Pray, then, in this way. Matthew 6:9 AMP

During the years Jesus was with his disciples, he equipped them with everything they needed to live an abundant life once he returned to his Father. In Jesus’ instructions on prayer, he taught his disciples to find a quiet, private place to be with the Father, and to present their needs to God in a straightforward, simple manner.

“And when you pray, do not go on and on, excessively and strangely like the outsiders; they think their verbosity will let them be heard by their deities. Do not be like them. Your prayers need not be labored or lengthy or grandiose—for your Father knows what you need before you ever ask Him” (Matthew 6:7-8 VOICE).

Jesus also reminded the disciples that although God already knows our needs, he wants us to talk to him and spend time with him. Prayer is a way to develop a deeper relationship with God.

Sometimes when I pray, my mind wanders. I start off focused, but midway through my prayer I start thinking about something else. Later I realize I stopped praying, started daydreaming, and never finished my conversation with God. How rude!

To help stay focused in prayer, I use the A.C.T.S. acrostic. It draws on elements of the model prayer Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew 6: 9-13.

ADORATION – Address God as Father. He wants to have a personal relationship with us, one in which we think of him as a loving father. Another word for adoration is praise. Praise God for who he is, for his power, and his purposes. Acknowledge his control and trust him to work things out for your good. As part of your adoration, read a Psalm aloud that names God’s good qualities, or spend time looking up some of the names of God and call Him by those names as you pray, such as Adonai, Yahweh Ro’i, El Shaddai.

CONFESSION – This is probably the hardest part of prayer but the most necessary. Sin can be a hindrance to our relationship with God. Until we admit the things in our lives that are out of step with God, he may withhold blessing. Be honest. You know what you’ve done wrong or when you’ve failed to obey. Admit your sin and ask for forgiveness. God will receive you with open arms.

THANKSGIVING – We have much for which to be thankful. Because Jesus provided a bridge to God by his death on the cross, we have fellowship with the Father. Prayer is a privilege. The opportunity to talk directly to God would not be possible without Jesus’ sacrifice. Start by thanking God for your salvation. Then think of other ways he’s blessed your life.

SUPPLICATION – This is a big word for requests. Tell God the needs in your life and ask him to work things out, even if the situation seems impossible. God is capable of more than our minds can imagine. Don’t forget to pray for others during this time. Notice the “asking” part of the prayer comes at the end—after praise, confession, and thanks. The first three set the context for what we request. We are able to ask in faith when we have reminded ourselves of who God is and how we have seen Him act in the past.  

Using the A.C.T.S. acrostic in prayer is a great tool to remind us that there is more to prayer than listing out our needs and wants.

If focusing while praying is still a problem, try writing your prayers in a private journal between you and God. Date entries, and don’t forget to later note the dates your prayers are answered, keeping a record of how God faithfully meets your needs.

Start today to give prayer a place of priority in your daily schedule. God will bless you for it.

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

About the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals on faith, personal growth, and moving through and beyond difficult life circumstances. Her books include: Life On Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books),  When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H Publishing Group). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s new book, Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Wellprovides insights on learning from and growing through a time of waiting.

Join the conversation: What do you do to keep focused in prayer?

When I’m Old and Gray

by Crystal Bowman

I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power, though I am not skilled with words.I will praise your mighty deeds, O Sovereign Lord. I will tell everyone that you alone are just. Psalm 71:15-16 NLT

My mother lived to be ninety-seven and a half years old. Just like young children add “a half” to their age when they reach it, some seniors do the same. A half year is important when you are young or old. What was more important to my mother, however, was not her age, but how she could continue to serve God while she still had her life on earth.

Mom was strong and healthy until she reached ninety-four and a half years. During the last three years of her life, she became weak and unable to walk without assistance. At times, she sunk into a feeling of helplessness and wondered why God hadn’t taken her home. But every morning, as she sat in her recliner with a cozy throw, she opened her Bible and met with God one-on-one. Mom talked to God, and He talked to her.

One day, as she read Psalm 71, the Holy Spirit reminded her that He still had a purpose for her life. Even with her physical limitations, she could continue to tell other about Jesus as she had done in her younger years. In that passage, the Psalmist cries out to God to be the rock he can always go to. The Psalmist praises God for being his hope since he was young. And in verses 17-18 he says, “O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do. Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God.
Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me”(NLT).

My mom claimed that verse for the rest of her life. She praised God and spoke about Him to everyone—the aides who cared for her, other residents in her retirement home, the hair stylist, and friends and family who came to visit her. But her deepest desire was to pass on her legacy of faith to future generations.

Every day she prayed for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren by name. She prayed that they would know Jesus and follow Him all the days of their lives. She prayed for them to have wisdom, guidance, and good health. She prayed for good friends, future spouses, and protection from evil. She prayed for a baby to grow in my daughter-in-law’s empty womb, and God answered that prayer three times!

Mom has been in heaven now for three and a half years. Now it’s my turn to carry on the legacy she passed on to me. As I pray for my children and grandchildren by name, every day, I pray that they would know Jesus and follow Him all the days of their lives. I pray for them to have wisdom, guidance, and good health. I pray for good friends, future spouses, and protection from evil.

I do not have gray hair, and I don’t feel old, even though “old” is only a short decade away. But like the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 71, I want to proclaim God’s power to a new generation and tell of His mighty miracles to all who come after me.   

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

About the author: Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books including, Our Daily Bread for Kids. She and her husband have three married children and eight 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. What legacy do you hope to leave behind?