Pass The Salt, Please!

by Sheri Schofield

Winter has come to Montana, along with its ice and snow. It’s time to start putting Ice Melt on the slippery patches between the back door and the car so that nobody will fall going in and out. I’ve been avoiding putting it on the steps, though. The edges of the steps are already chewed into rounded shapes because the bunnies, mice, skunks, and deer love the salty flavor! It is a great temptation for them, much like chocolate is for me.

With January snows approaching, I know I will see many little paw prints and hoof marks clustered around the back steps every morning. The animals usually eat breakfast before daylight then return to their cozy dens and lairs for naps. Except for Mopsy the bunny. She runs laps on the snow-covered lawn after breakfast. I steadfastly refuse to find a lesson in that for me!

The creatures of the forest find the salty Ice Melt irresistible. It’s as welcome as an ice cream truck coming down the road. Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth. We are to be irresistible, too! I’ve been looking for ways to be salt in the lives of those I meet.

The pandemic and its limiting of contacts has narrowed my outreach. But there are store clerks that I see often. I’ve heard some of them say that customers have become more gruff and harsh now that they are hiding behind masks.

I’ve made it a habit over the years of learning the names of each clerk at every store I enter. At the counter, I ask about their lives briefly, and I remember what they say. The next time I see them, I ask about what they said before. Sometimes we talk about faith, too. This is one way I can be salt in my world during this time of great separation and isolation.

In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus told a parable about a man who was traveling. Bandits attacked him, took all his clothes and possessions, and beat him up and nearly dead. The man lay bruised and broken alongside the road. A priest walking down the road, saw the man … and crossed the road to the opposite side. Next, a Levite, someone who worked in the temple, chanced to walk by. He saw the wounded man, pulled his cloak closer around him, and scurried by as well.

Finally, a Samaritan came down the road. (The Samaritans were despised by the people to whom Jesus was speaking.) But the Samaritan stopped when he saw the wounded man. He showed compassion. He cleaned and anointed the victim’s wounds, helped the man onto his own donkey, and took him to an inn, where he cared for the man. The next day, the Samaritan gave some money to the innkeeper for his continued care for the wounded traveler. He agreed to pay any cost necessary to help the man. Then he went on his way, promising to return.

The Samaritan was an example of the salt of which Jesus spoke.

In the coming year, I am asking Jesus to show me new ways to be salt to those around me. Where will there be wounded souls along my path? How can I help them? How can I touch their hearts with Jesus’ love? During this time of great trial, how can I lift up those whose pathways I cross?

Pass the salt, please! I want to flavor my world with love!

Then [Jesus] said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Matthew 9:37, NIV

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

sheri schofield

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

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

Join the conversation: How are you flavoring the world with love?

I Don’t Like Feeling Stupid

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

I don’t like not knowing. I don’t like not having an answer or an opinion. Not knowing or not being able to reply makes me tense. And dare I say it? I feel stupid.

Even sillier, I will give an opinion even though I’m not sure I’m right—so that I can avoid saying, “I don’t know.” That’s pretty bad. My. My. I’m not like Zechariah.

In Zechariah 4, the prophet Zechariah has been shown a vision of a lamp stand and several other things. He asks what the items mean and the angel speaking with him replied : “Do you not know what these are?” And [Zechariah] said, ‘No, my lord.’”

If I had been Zechariah, I wouldn’t have asked what the things are because then I would reveal my … there’s that word again … stupidity. And then when the angel asked, “Do you not know what these are?” I would have bluffed my way into some sort of answer (said as if I’m Rocky Balboa), “Well, sure, I know what it is. Whatcha think I’m stupid, or somepin’?” Or since the angel woke him up, he could have defended himself saying, “Hey, I just woke up. Let me sit up first and think.”

So I’m admiring Zechariah. He has the humility to admit he doesn’t know, and he is willing to be instructed. I need to remember him as my inspiration. It’s OK to appear to be stupid, because it doesn’t matter what other people think of me. What matters is God’s view of me, and he already knows when I don’t know. And he would much rather I admit my lack of knowledge and ask to be informed.

Because Zechariah was willing to say “I don’t know,” he heard God’s word of wisdom: “Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts’” (4:6).

God’s wisdom is encouragement for the disheartened Israelites as they face obstacles reconstructing the temple. Just as God is supplying mysterious oil for the lamps in the vision, God promises to supply the strength to finish God’s assignment.

You and I will be more receptive to understand God’s truth when we understand the tone of the angel. And since Zechariah calls the angel “Lord,” most commentators believe this is a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. And knowing Jesus, we can safely say the question is not a reproof of Zechariah’s ignorance but an invitation to reflect on the message of the mystery of the vision.

When Zechariah admits his ignorance, God uses him as an encouragement for our growth in humility. If our motive is to protect ourselves from being seen as stupid, we won’t be able to humbly trust Jesus’s loving callings.

Whether the “assignment” is a far-reaching project or a moment-by-moment abiding requiring our humility, we can be assured God is an encouraging God who wants to enlighten and empower us.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10 NIV

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

About the author: Kathy Collard Miller’s mission is to inspire Christians to see how trustworthy and reliable God is. This post is from her and her husband’s book God’s Intriguing Questions: 40 Devotions Revealing God’s Nature. Kathy is the author of over 55 books and has spoken in 9 foreign countries and over 30 US states. She and her husband are parents, grandparents, and lay counselors. Visit her at: https://linktr.ee/kathycollardmiller

Kathy’s Her most recent book is study of the many characteristics of God: God’s Intriguing Questions: 40 Old Testament Devotions Revealing God’s Nature. She is the author of over 55 books and has spoken in 9 foreign countries and over 30 US States. Reach her at: Facebook: www.facebook.com/KathyCollardMillerAuthor
or Pinterest/Kathyspeak. Youtube: https://bit.ly/2SwiL03 Instagram: @kathycollardmiller

Join the conversation: To what degree do you avoid being seen as stupid—or some other identity?

Creation Worships

by Joanne Hagemyer

 For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them He has set the world. 1 Samuel 2:8 NIV

I spent a lot of time outside as a little girl, and specially loved the woods and fields of Rochester, New York, where I went to camp. I learned how to catch salamanders in a rippling brook using only a blade of grass. I caught frogs in the lake, mirrored buttercup flowers under my chin, and watched Queen Anne’s Lace flowers turn brilliant colors in cups of water and food dye. I loved the soft pussy willows and the cheerful smiles on all the pansies. I learned that morning glories only bloom in the morning, and honey suckle really does taste sweet.

Every week we would take an overnight backpacking trip, gather wood to build our own fire, and sleep under the stars. I loved to watch the sun rise on those early dawns, sitting in my warm sleeping bag, on the cool, dewy grass.

On Fridays, we made taffy and spent a half hour or more pulling the warm, gooey molasses mixture back and forth to give it texture before we ate it. Then we would all jump in the lake and swim with the minnows and ducks.

Sunday mornings we walked over to the chapel next to our camp house to sing hymns and hear a sermon. My favorite hymn was “Fairest Lord Jesus,” because it made me think of Jesus being with us outside.

Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands, robed in the blooming garb of spring; Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer, who makes the woeful heart to sing.

Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight, and all the twinkling starry hosts: Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer, than all the angels heav’n can boast.

At the end of Revelation, Jesus said to John, “It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16 NIV). This name for Jesus reminds me of how I loved watching the rays of earth’s bright morning star, our sun, tint the dawn’s skies with rich purples, pinks, golds, and blues. How much more, especially in a dark day can Jesus, God’s Son, fill our inner person with the richness and freshness of his glorious light.

David wrote: “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of world” (Psalm 19:1-4 NASB). They say a picture is worth a thousand words. One sunrise, one delicate flower, or one star-filled night can increase our understanding with no words at all as to how beautiful and great He is.

O Lord, all creation loves You and worships You, for You are the fairest of all there is. You shine brighter and purer even than all the angels in the sky, who announced your birth. May you make our sorrowing spirits sing, even during our own dark days.

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

About the author: Joanne Guarnieri Hagemeyer, retired Teaching Leader and Area Advisor with Bible Study Fellowship, now teaches at Grace and Peace, Joanne, and serves on the pulpit teaching team of New Hope Chapel, Arnold, Maryland. She is a member of the Board of Directors for Lay Counselor Institute and the Biblical Archaeology Forum and has participated in two archaeological excavations, at Tel Kabri and Tel Akko, Israel. She is currently a Masters in Theological Studies student at Portland Seminary and author of Love Feast (January 2020) and Broken, Searching, Trusted, Powerful (July 2020). To learn more about Joanne, please visit GraceandPeaceJoanne.com, watch a lecture on YouTube, or visit her on Facebook.

Join the conversation: What have you found in nature that reveals God to you?

Clean Jars

 by Deborah McCormick Maxey

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. Colossians 3:23 NKJV

I love new beginnings: a new store, class, book, craft, or skill. I still get a new notebook every fall and organize it with colorful dividers. And don’t expect me to downsize my big stack of blank journals, because they all have the potential for a new beginning.

But I had to learn to face beginnings I didn’t like. The summer I turned eight, my grandmother had exactly that lesson in mind. Involving my nemesis…. spiders.

When I “sassed,” her about a chore, she was ready. I followed her outside as she opened the door to a crawl space and pulled out a galvanized tub filled with old canning jars. Without tops, they were filthy with, dirt, bug parts and…dead spiders.

As I helped her move the tub to the sidewalk, keeping my arms stiff to create as much distance as possible, she gave me my instructions. “You are going to get these jars to sparkle. And I’m going to be listening for the most important part, you’ve going to pray out loud the whole time you’re doing it. Talk to God. Find ways to thank him.” Looking up she saw my scowl. “You can ask Him for strength or courage or whatever you need. But talk to Him. And Deborah…you’re not coming back inside until it’s done.”

We unloaded the jars on the sidewalk and carried the hose, hot water, and detergent to the tub. She left me sitting on the sidewalk pouting, believing she was torturing me just to get her jars clean. Glancing at the spider parts gave me major heebie jeebies. Granny poked her head out of the back door to make sure I was praying out loud, so to elicit sympathy and reconsideration I prayed for help. (Okay, there may have been some drama involved. Just saying.)

I was stubborn, but so was Granny. I knew I was going to have to clean those jars. So, I offered a sincere prayer for help. The next thing I knew I realized I could take the hose and squirt out the jars before I loaded them into the soapy water. I’d never touch the bugs!

That started prayers of true thanksgiving. I thanked him for the bubbles and soapy water, the way I could splash and make a mess, the warm sunshine, the shiny clean jars that could hold His beautiful flowers or the delicious fruit He gave us to make jelly. Happily, I talked to God in a continuous stream.

When I called Granny outside to see my finished chore, she asked me what I learned.

“Well…not to sass you back.”

“And?”

“Even with an icky job once I got going and saw I could do it, it turned out to be fun.”

“And?”

I was stumped. But as I started to speak, I started to understand. “Oh…I never felt alone. When I stopped complaining and started thanking Him, it felt like He was right there with me, like a friend. And He was having fun too.”

“Yes. Now load them back in the tub and we’ll put them back where they came from.” The depth of her teaching started to dawn on me. She didn’t need the jars. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23 NKJV).

Just like the water hose idea came after prayer, He would always show me where to begin. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3 NIV).

Granny was big on memorizing verses and this is the one she gave me afterwards: “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV).

“That’s what it’s all about,” she said. Her lessons have lasted a lifetime.

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

About the author: A licensed therapist, Deborah McCormick Maxey retired from her counseling practice in 2020 to joyfully invest her energy in writing Christian fiction, devotions, and her website that focuses on miracles.  

The Endling: A Novel by [Deborah Maxey]

Deborah’s first novel, The Endling, will be released by Firefly Southern Fiction/Iron Stream Media early spring 2021. Native American Emerson Coffee is the last surviving member of her tribe. When US Marshals inform her she’s being hunted by a mob hit man, Emerson declines their offer of witness protection. But when three innocent children become caught in the crosshairs, Emerson must decide if she will risk it all—her mountains, her heritage . . . even her life—to secure their safety. 

Join the conversation: Did you have a relative that was a good influence on you in your developmental years?

Psalm 103 is Reminding Me

by Dawn Scott Damon

Praise the LORD, I tell myself; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.  Praise the LORD, I tell myself, and never forget the good things he does for me.  He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. and surrounds me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! Psalm 103:1-5 NLT

Sometimes we need to give ourselves a good talking-to. That’s what Psalm 103 is all about. It’s a praise-prayer in which David, the shepherd turned king, counsels his own soul and reminds himself to “bless and thank the Lord” and “forget not all his benefits.”

These words encourage me! David’s purposeful habit to stir his own heart and commune with the depths of his soul reminds me to do the same, and teaches me two important principles: I must develop godly self-talk, and I must choose gratitude.

King David tells himself to be grateful.

“Praise the Lord I tell myself!” vs.1, 3

Gratitude and thankfulness don’t come naturally to most of us. It’s been that way since the fall of man. What does come naturally, at least for me, is to complain, grumble, and recite all the negative aspects of my life. Just like the thorns God warned would automatically spring up from the earth after the first sin, so ingratitude and selfishness arises from every heart that is not intentionally cultivated with thanksgiving. There’s no need for a self-help book entitled, “How to Tap the Power of Negativity: A Guide to Complaining your way to the Top!” No, griping and moaning are automatic and all too easy. We’ve got that one nailed!

David said, “I tell myself to be thoughtful and intentional, and I determine to choose gratitude.” He speaks to his own soul and regulates his attitude. As a result, David nurtures an appreciative spirit and renews his mind. Instead of allowing his human default setting to operate, he interrupts it and tells himself a true biblical story—God has been good to me!

King David tells himself to be grateful.

David’s life-giving self-talk stirs his heart to become grateful and deeply thankful for all of God’s blessings and benefits in his life. He reflects on God’s goodness and declares;

  • I’m thankful you forgive my sins.
  • I’m thankful you heal all my diseases.
  • I’m thankful you redeem my life from the pits.
  • I’m thankful you surround me with love and tender mercies.
  • I’m thankful you fill my life with good and beautiful things.

After reminding himself of God’s wondrous gifts and relentless faithfulness, David’s soul is energized. He ends his prayer of gratitude with an exuberant crescendo when he basically says, “Praise God! I am a renewed man. My spirit is refreshed and soaring like an eagle. I’m like a young man again.”

I love this.

David’s “before and after” condition shows me there is a way to uplift my own soul and renew my heart, my energy, my attitude, and my perspective. What is it? Gratitude. It’s superior to jazzercize, cheaper than health food, swifter than weight watchers, and altogether less arduous than jogging. We simply can’t have bitterness and gratitude at the same time.  

So, like David, let us remind ourselves to draw on this principle daily. At the dawn of every new day, make gratitude a purposeful moment of focus. Tell yourself to be thankful and then practice gratitude throughout your day. Recite your blessings and refuse your complaining; reframe your perspective and renew your soul.  Sit up and smile and then declare, “Hey me, don’t forget, God’s been so so good to you.”

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

About the author: International Author, Speaker, and Pastor, Dawn Scott (Jones) Damon began her ministry and writing career after finding freedom and healing from the childhood trauma of sexual abuse. Dawn’s first book, When A Woman You Love Was Abused: A Husband’s Guide to Helping Her Overcome Childhood Sexual Molestation, won the Reader’s Favorite Gold Medal Award in 2013.

The Freedom Challenge: 60 Days to Untie The Cords That Bind You by [Dawn Scott Damon]

Dawn is a favorite keynote speaker at Women’s Conferences, bringing in-depth teaching along with heartfelt honesty, laced with side-splitting laughter. In her latest book, The Freedom Challenge: Sixty Days to Untie the Cords that Bind You, Dawn shares compelling truths in a sixty-day interactive Bible study that identifies and confronts eight cords that keep many believers bound. These practical and powerful biblical tools will give you a new mindset, a fresh beginning, and a clear direction for a positive future. Take the Freedom Challenge and become an active participant in your own emotional and spiritual transformation. 

Join the conversation: What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you tell yourself to be grateful?

Diana’s Lamp

by Debora M. Coty

I was six years old and in big trouble. I’d done something horrible.

It happened at the house of Diana, my nine-year-old neighbor, a tall, gentle girl who was kinder to me than all the other big kids. A bunch of us were playing in Diana’s room when gravel crunching in the driveway announced the arrival of Diana’s father, a grizzly bear of a man – towering and burly, with a deep military voice. He was very strict and often barked orders to Diana and her little brothers, who knew they had better obey immediately.

We all knew.

When he drove up that day, everyone suddenly remembered a reason to go home. I saw the sad look on Diana’s face as the other kids fled, so I stayed.

After tiring of board games, Diana picked up her baton and suggested we go outside to twirl; a hard-and-fast rule allowed no batons or balls inside the house. I grabbed my baton and couldn’t resist trying to impress Diana by whirling it around my neck.

The sound of shattering glass froze my heart as Diana’s bedside lamp crashed to the floor. Then the huge shadow of Diana’s father filled the doorway.

Diana intentionally stepped between her father and me as his face turned crimson and a large vein on his forehead began to pulsate. “Who’s responsible for this?” his voice boomed as he eyed the shards of ruined lamp on the floor.

Immobilized by fear, I stared mutely at the mess, unable to breathe. Diana held up her baton and answered, “It’s my fault, Daddy.” She gently pushed me into the hallway and closed the door behind me.

I listened outside the door, quivering, as Diana’s dad shouted about rules, learning responsibility, and paying for a new lamp with her own money. When I heard the stinging lashes of his leather belt, I couldn’t take any more. I blindly ran, not stopping until I was in my own room, sobbing on my bed. I knew Diana was at that moment receiving the worst kind of punishment in my place. I deserved that belt, but she willingly took the pain for me.

I had to do something. I shook my piggy bank and gathered the handful of coins that fell out. Still weeping as I ran, I stumbled back to Diana’s front door. Diana answered my knock with red, puffy eyes. Yet she smiled. I was forgiven. It made my heart hurt.

I held out my pitiful offering, knowing it wouldn’t be nearly enough to pay for the lamp. But Diana shook her head. “No,” she said softly. “Keep your money. It was an accident. It’s all over now, so let’s not talk about it anymore.”

And we didn’t. Not that day. Not ever.

But I’ve never forgotten. Even now, decades later, a warm tear escapes when I think about Diana’s lamp. My friend willingly sacrificed herself on my behalf through every lash of that belt.

I realize now that in her selfless actions, Diana exemplified what Jesus did for me – and for you. He sacrificed Himself in our place, accepting our rightful punishment and loving us through every lash of the whip and pounding of nails into His flesh.

Even unto death.

How, then, can we not be moved when we consider the Sacrificial Lamb suffering so that we might have life everlasting?

“He was beaten that we might have peace; he was lashed – and we were healed.” Isaiah 53:5 TLB

About the author: Debora Coty is an inspirational speaker, columnist and award-winning author of 200+ articles and over 40 books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series, with over 1.3 million copies sold in multiple languages worldwide. A retired orthopedic occupational therapist, Debora enjoys teaching piano, mountain hiking, choco-scarfing and smacking a little yellow ball around a tennis court. Debora lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband of 42 years and five feisty grandpals who live nearby. Deb would love to have you join her fun-loving community of BBFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com

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Debora’s newest release, Too Blessed to be Stressed for Momsaddresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: Has anyone ever sacrificed on your behalf?

Go to Your Happy Place

by Rhonda Rhea

Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. Colossians 3:2, HCSB

I hate it when I’ve been cleaning the house all day long, and then realize it’s only been fifteen minutes.

I’ll admit, cleaning is not my happy place. Of course, I had five kids in seven years and “clean” has always been a bit…well…relative. Mostly because it would somewhat depend on which relative was doing the cleaning. Not that we allowed food in the kids’ rooms or anything [clearing throat], but I do remember having to say to a teen at least once, “Son. You have to clean your room. We’re out of spoons.”

When my three boys were teenagers, they shared a bathroom that they “cleaned” themselves. Three. Teenage. Boys. Every once in a while, I would go in to check on it. I would stare for a few minutes, fighting back hyperventilation. Then I’d think: Yeah, maybe a controlled burn. Then I would quickly exit and head to the kitchen for sanctuary with a really strong pot of coffee.

Ah, the coffee pot. Anytime someone tells me to go to my happy place, I still instinctively head there. And who doesn’t want a happy place?

Happy places might actually be rather relative too. When Jesus began His Sermon on the Mount, the first thing He taught was the list of Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). Twelve beautiful “blesseds.”

The Greek word translated “blessed” is makarios, which means contented, blissful…happy. But when we look at the list, we see the very first two are poor in spirit and mournful. His list takes us all the way to “persecuted.” Sounds like anywhere but a happy place.

What Jesus was speaking was revolutionary. It changed the way people saw and understood happiness. People who don’t follow Christ think happiness means doing whatever they want, whenever they want to do it. They think it means having money and fame and power. Maybe even a clean house and a full pot of coffee. But Jesus taught that we won’t find happiness there. If we want “blessedness”—happiness—we need to think differently than the world does. We need to think like Jesus does. It means engaging an entirely different mindset.

Paul said, “So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth,” (Colossians 3:1-2, HCSB).

Our happy place? It’s where Jesus is. Not where circumstances are perfect and clean and caffeinated. That Greek word “makarios” speaks of being happy in a way that doesn’t depend on our situation. That makes sense, since our ability to be truly satisfied comes as we understand that our soul is impoverished apart from the righteousness we have in Christ, and we mourn our sin—the first two Beatitudes. Knowing Jesus makes us look at every one of those Beatitudes in a different light.

Lord, help us set our minds on you and think differently than the world does. Show us every place pride and worldliness has crept into our thinking and behavior. Make us look more like You. May we experience happiness exactly the way You’ve designed it, all for Your glory.

Living His way. I’ve learned that’s the only truly happy place.

And on a side note, I also learned when my kids were teens that before I took on their bathroom, I should make sure I had plenty of coffee. Also all my immunizations.

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

rhonda rhea

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.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

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.

Join the conversation: Where is your happy place?

Like A Robert Redford Double Take

by Nan Corbitt Allen

Even a child is known by his doings… Proverbs 20:11 KJV

Everyone is known for something. A physical attribute. A personality trait. A character element. A power. A weakness. A quirkiness. A good or bad deed. When someone you know is mentioned in conversation, you might think or say, “Oh, he’s that guy/girl who…”

Well, I notice quirkiness, repeated behavior, and verbal recurrences. And I tend to label others by some trait or behavior. For instance, every time I see the actor Robert Redford on the screen, I already know that he is going to do a “double take”—or several. (Double take means a delayed reaction to a surprising or significant situation after an initial failure to notice anything unusual.)

Redford is notorious, at least in my book, for his repeated, but endearing, reactions to a character or line of dialogue. In his movie Sneakers—my all-time favorite film—I’ve counted eleven double takes. There may be more, but no matter. That’s what I think of when I see him.

Have you ever wondered what you’re known for?

Some of our Bible heroes were known for what they did, not necessarily for who they were. For instance, Moses had a temper. It drove him to kill an Egyptian soldier and then hide his body in the sand. Later, Moses was angry with the nomadic Israelites when they complained (which was often) about their lack of water. God had given Moses the command to speak to a rock and water would come out. Once before, Moses had struck a rock for water, but this time the instructions were different. He was to speak to the rock. Moses, in a rage, struck the rock. Yes, water did come out, but God held him accountable for that for the rest of his life.

Moses isn’t known for his displays of temper, however. He’s best known for receiving the Ten Commandments and leading his people out of Egyptian slavery. Known not for his flaws, but for his moments of obedience.

Noah, that guy who built an ark, was a heavy drinker. Jacob, the one who started the Israelite nation with his 12 sons, was a deceiver. David, the man after God’s own heart, was an adulterer and a murderer. Elijah was a pouter, but he kept his people from being corrupted by false gods.

Maybe I’m pushing it too much to mention Robert Redford and Moses on the same page, but still it brings up the question—what are you known for—your physical quirks, your failures and weaknesses, or your moments of obedience? It’s something to think about, and something you may not know for sure. Others may perceive you differently than you see yourself. You may evaluate who you are by what you’ve done in the past. Others may revere you for overcoming a checkered past. You may see yourself as a hero for something you’ve done, but others may see you as being arrogant and boastful about one action.

It’s interesting that Jesus asked His disciples what others were saying about Him, like He didn’t already know. Their response was that some of the people thought Jesus was the reappearance of a long-dead prophet or maybe John the Baptist. Then surprisingly, He asked them what they thought of Him. Peter answered “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 NASB).

Well, Peter got it right, but it didn’t keep him or the others from distancing themselves from Him when times got tough. Peter denied. Thomas doubted. Judas betrayed.

Now three things come to mind:

1) Be careful that your actions reflect who you truly are.

2) Don’t judge someone else by one isolated deed. Remember Paul persecuted Christians and then became one of the most dedicated and revered believers in history.

3) Don’t let someone else’s opinion become your reality. Remember God sees you differently.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NIV)…and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…(Romans 8:17 NIV).

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

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

Nan and Dennis retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

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Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: How would others identify you? How does God see you?

Let the Nation Be Glad

by Patti Richter

In the days after the latest presidential election, with the outcome still uncertain, folks were wringing their hands. As the week dragged by, a large percentage of the populous drooped like Super Bowl attendees wearing the losing colors.

There is more at stake in an election than in a football championship, however. And beneath the disappointment faced by supporters of a losing candidate, fear may reside. We fear the “other side” holding the reins of our nation the next four years. We fear a leftward or rightward societal shift and a loathsome trajectory. We fear the unknown.

Our cultural landscape features mostly mountains and valleys with a narrow Desert of Uncertainty in between. Most of us lean to the extreme in our political preferences.

Jesus warns believers to be “either cold or hot” rather than lukewarm and indifferent (Revelation 3:15 – 16 ESV). However, his words apply not to our national fervor, but to our loyalty to Him as his followers. No other passion should compete with this greatest one: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 ESV). And though our political zeal may be connected to our love for God, we can avoid misplaced affections by keeping in mind the second greatest command: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39 ESV).

It’s curious that we might distain the socio-political opinions of a neighbor down the street yet hope they will attend the clubhouse pot-luck because they always bring great barbecued brisket. Or that we don’t mind our doctor’s and dentist’s political affiliations as long as they provide us with satisfactory treatment. The love of self often serves as a circuit breaker for our hot-button concerns. However, I’ve observed that my love for God has an even greater effect on my view of “the enemy.”

I encountered a serious rival in high school. The girl never knew I hated her (for my own selfish reasons), but God knew it. After I surrendered my life to Christ a year later, my animosity for this girl surfaced like a deep-seated thorn ready to be extracted. I couldn’t love God and hate her. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20 ESV).

Are we excused then for our contempt of the other team and their fans in the political arena? While this animosity is understandable in worldly contests, God’s people should not be seeking to make this nation our perfect homeland but to “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16 ESV).

Hundreds of years before wise men followed a star in search of a king, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed Christ’s coming, “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders” (Isaiah 9:6 ESV). The prophet Zechariah also saw God’s kingdom coming and urged his people to “Rejoice greatly…. Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9 ESV).

While the chants and fight songs of teams and parties all fade away, God’s Word endures forever (Isaiah 40:8 ESV) and reminds us that we all need the Savior of the world, “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10 ESV). Therefore…

 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy. Psalm 67:4 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.

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Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: How do you keep your focus on the Kingdom of God?

The Soul-Reaching Power of Listening

by Jennifer Slattery

So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:3-4 NIV

My daughter could’ve become a statistic, part of the growing “unchurched” population, many of whom left not due to unbelief, but rather, hurt; wounds caused by those who claim to follow Jesus but behave nothing like Him.

The problem is, you and I rarely know what lies beneath the surface. As a result, we often attack symptoms, rather than taking the time to get to the root.

Like a tender flower nurtured or trampled, faith blossoms or dies in the heart. This, therefore, is our target. To reach it, we must listen well, a skill in which I’m sorely deficient. As a result, I’ve hurt others and have shut down eternally significant conversations. In my failure to truly hear (both the person and the Holy Spirit within me), I’ve created barriers, not only between myself and another person, but I fear between them and God as well.

I almost did that with my daughter during her teen years. I knew once she left the home, (a day that was rapidly approaching), she could walk away from the faith for good. In fear, I began to push. Thankfully, my husband remained sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting. After watching our interactions and the tension growing between my daughter and I, he urged me to stop. To pull back before I pushed her away.

So I did. I dropped conversations regarding God and surrendered our daughter to Christ.

Surrender reminds us that God does indeed know best how to reach the hearts He created. Trusting this to be true with my daughter, I turned every anxious thought to prayer. I prayed He’d soften her heart, speak to her in ways only He could, guide me daily in how to respond, and give me the strength and courage to obey. To truly live as an instrument of His perfect, brilliant, life-changing love and grace.

And in the meantime, I waited and loved, with an ever-attentive ear to Christ and everything my daughter was and wasn’t saying. While this felt frightening at the time, God taught me that beauty and healing unfold when we are “quick to listen [and] slow to speak” (James 1:19 NIV).

For my daughter, it took about a year and a half of listening, waiting, and praying before the truth came out. Contrary to what I’d thought, she wasn’t pulling away out of disbelief. It wasn’t all her secular influence that had captured and deceived her heart. It was God’s children, those who had spoken judgement and condemnation, that had.

As a result, pain had become tangled with faith, causing every church service, worship song, and family Bible reading to trigger those wounds buried deep within.

And I almost missed it.

I’ve since discovered, my daughter’s experience is far from unique. So many of the people we interact with each day, maybe even try to share our faith with, appear angry on the outside, but inside, they’re wounded.

But we belong to a God who “searches and knows” us. Who actively plunges the depths of the human soul, uncovering those deeply hidden hurts no one else sees, or perhaps, has even taken the time to uncover. And Scripture says we’re His ambassadors, His representatives and image-bearers. That we are to act as instruments of healing, because Scripture tells us it’s His kindness, not our rebuttals, that lead to repentance.

God truly does have the power to change lives and save souls. That’s not to say we should never speak truth, but rather, that we do so always and only as God leads.

May you and I stop throwing up road blocks and begin paving loving, safe pathways instead.

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

Jennifer Slattery

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites.

In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.

Join the conversation: How do you show someone you are listening?