Blinded by Distractions

by Candy Arrington

Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. Luke 24: 31 KJV

Have you ever been so distracted by circumstances that you weren’t able to see the obvious?

Cleopas and his traveling companion were headed home on the road to Emmaus after a tragic weekend of loss and grief. As they walked, they discussed the events. Suddenly, a man appeared and joined them on their journey. But Cleopas was distracted. He was so busy discussing current events and focusing on his own disappointment and emotional turmoil that he failed to realize the Lord walked right by his side.

Although Jesus was physically present with him, Cleopas was so upset he didn’t notice. Aren’t we the same? Often, we allow ourselves to be so overcome with emotion and burdened by the weight of perceived problems that we leave Christ out of our struggles.

While Cleopas whined about things not turning out as he expected, Jesus had already provided the ultimate solution to mankind’s problems. However, Cleopas was blind to what Jesus accomplished on the cross. He was disappointed that Jesus hadn’t done what he expected—redeem Israel from Roman oppression. He, like many of Jesus’ followers, was looking for the wrong kind of rescue.

We often miss Jesus at work in our lives because we’re expecting something different. We’re spiritually distracted, thinking up remedies to problems on our own, while missing the obvious God-solution.

Perhaps you feel the oppression of a secret sin, abuse, divorce, job pressure, financial concerns, or perceived expectations. Jesus is ready and available to walk the road beside you and provide solutions even when things seem overwhelming and impossible.

Like Cleopas, when we’re dealing with difficulties, we sometimes separate ourselves from the body of believers. Cleopas and his companion left the fellowship of believers for the seclusion of home. When we’re troubled, it’s best to seek the counsel and wisdom of trusted Christian friends rather than try to figure things out on our own. Our emotions can blind and overwhelm us. Others may be able to provide a clearer picture, while praying with us for wisdom.

When Cleopas and his companion finally recognized Jesus, they were engaged in an everyday event. As they sat at the table, Jesus broke bread and blessed it. Suddenly, distractions fell aside, and their vision cleared. Jesus was right there with them!

Think of your own dinner table and how often laughter, discussion, confrontation, and revelation occur there. Although Jesus was frustrated they hadn’t seen the obvious when on their journey he explained the fulfillment of prophecy, in a comfortable, familiar setting, recognition filtered through their confusion and grief and their spiritual eyes were opened.

Jesus wants to do the same for us. He offers comfort, love, salvation, and hope despite our doubts and distractions. Will you allow Jesus to be your life’s traveling companion and open your spiritual eyes?

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: How have distractions kept you from seeing God’s answers?

Whiter than Snow

by Candy Arrington

Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; Cleanse me, and I will be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:7 NASB

Although Christmas is a special time of year, full of music, color, lights, worship, gifts, food, and celebration, I find it refreshing to put away the decorations, remove the Christmas tree, and vacuum up the remnants of the festivities. The house is uncluttered again, the pressure is off, the schedule is less harried, and the new year usually brings snow.

January is one of my favorite months. Part of the lure of January is the idea of new beginnings. No matter what happened the year before—illness, heartaches, challenges, mistakes—here is a chance to start fresh. The new year is ripe with the promise of possibilities. Anticipation and hope mingle to propel us forward into the unknown.

Just as snow blankets the ground and covers its uneven contours, so the new year stretches into the future like a nice, white, blank piece of paper. We can choose, in part, the story to be written on that blank paper. We have the opportunity for a do-over, the option to confess sins, make adjustments in attitudes and actions, and implement life changes.

When King David penned Psalm 51, he felt the full burden of his sin, transgressions against God and man. David acknowledged his sin, stated God’s qualities of compassion and unfailing love, and asked for forgiveness.

Hyssop, a pungent, aromatic herb, was used in Hebrew purification rites. David understood the depth of his sin and wanted deep cleansing, a purging with hyssop, blotting out his sin, leaving him whiter than snow.

God is the God of forgiveness and second chances. When we admit our areas of failure and turn from past wrongs, God’s forgiveness gives us a fresh start. As the writer of Lamentations wrote: “The Lord’s acts of mercy indeed do not end, for His compassions do not fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NASB). Each new day brings opportunity for putting the past behind and looking toward the future. We have the option to re-evaluate, change old patterns, and move forward with fresh determination.

Have you been truthful with God about cherished sin in your life? Have you measured your life against the bright purity of the Savior? Jesus Christ is waiting to blanket your life with forgiveness and redeeming grace. All you have to do is honestly confess sin and acknowledge God’s power to forgive and cleanse. Then you will experience a fresh start and covering for sin that is whiter than snow.

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: Do you need a fresh start?

Discovering Gratitude

by Candy Arrington

I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God. Psalm 9:1-2 MSG

Have you experienced a time when you really wanted something, prayed constantly, did everything humanly possible, and still things didn’t turn out as you’d hoped? It’s difficult to express gratitude when dreams go unfulfilled, and prayers seem unanswered.

Hannah’s story in the Old Testament is one of wanting, suffering, trusting, and answered prayer. In Hannah’s time, a woman’s self-worth depended largely on her ability to have children. Hannah’s husband loved her and was concerned about her, but no matter how understanding and loving her husband, Hannah still felt like a failure, because she was childless.

While you may not be able to connect with Hannah’s situation, we’ve all experienced times of disappointment, frustration, and defeat. When we focus on what we don’t have, gratitude is far from our thoughts.

Following Hannah’s example, we can discover and cultivate gratitude by:

Worshiping Wholly

Despite her sorrow, Hannah understood worship. The Bible tells us the Holy Spirit prays for us in our weakness with groans too deep for words (Romans 8: 26). That’s the kind of intense worship and prayer Hannah expressed, even in her disappointment.

Often when we go through a time of emotional upset or difficulty, we fail to worship. Even if we attend church, we’re not totally there mentally or spiritually. Our minds drift to imagined scenarios of what we wish would happen. In times of difficulty, worshiping God totally requires intentionality.

Eliminate Envy

Hannah potentially had a major source of envy in her life – her husband’s other wife, which sounds a little like the title for a daytime drama! Peninnah possessed what Hannah wanted most – children. Peninnah seized every opportunity to make Hannah feel worse by taunting her.

Steer clear of the envy trap. Envy robs us of joy and leaves us with an attitude that can sour our whole outlook on life. Although it’s hard to do, praise God for how he’s blessed you, and stop looking at others and envying their situation. You can be sure there are difficulties in their lives of which you simply aren’t aware.

Recognize Blessings

Often, we choose to focus on hard circumstances rather than blessings. To redirect your thoughts, consider starting a gratitude journal. As your blessings list grows, notice how your thoughts track toward positive aspects of life.

Once Hannah shifted her focus to praise and thanksgiving, Peninnah’s jeers faded. Ultimately, Hannah’s prayers were answered, but even before she had that assurance, she praised God. Our lives transform when we learn to recognize and give thanks for blessings.

Live in the Present

Like Hannah, we sometimes get so involved in the wished-for future we forget to enjoy life today. Hannah modeled some practical steps we can adopt when we’re discouraged and not feeling grateful.

First, Hannah prayed. She honestly poured out her fears, frustrations, and hurts to God. Second, she told Eli, a trusted church leader, her situation. Eli listened, prayed for Hannah, and encouraged her. Sometimes, we need encouragement and help from someone else to get an objective view of our situation. Third, Hannah stopped feeling sorry for herself and trusted God. She left her unfulfilled dreams at the altar, dried her tears, ate a meal, and went home with a smile on her face.

We can do the same. By making an effort to discover gratitude, we gain a new perspective that provides joy today and hope for the future.

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: Have you allowed gratitude to influence your attitude towards unanswered prayer?

Avoiding Big Fat Trouble

by Candy Arrington

Suddenly, they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace, near the lampstand. The king himself saw the hand as it wrote, and his face turned pale with fright. His knees knocked together in fear and his legs gave way beneath him. Daniel 5:5-6 NIV

My three-year-old grandson spent the day with me several weeks ago. Shortly after he arrived, he announced he would not be taking a nap that day.

“You’d better take a nap,” I said, “or I will be in big fat trouble with your mommy.”

He grinned in his charming way, and said, “Now I’m definitely not taking a nap, because I want to see you get into big fat trouble!”

Unlike my grandson, God doesn’t want us to get in trouble. In fact, he goes to great lengths to encourage us to follow his directives and live lives that keep us on the right path. God speaks to us by many means: through Scripture, in dreams, by the Holy Spirit, and through others, but often, we ignore his prompting, continuing actions that are ultimately to our detriment.

The Old Testament recounts many stories of kings who didn’t follow God’s instructions, doing only as they pleased. King Belshazzar was one of those kings. He had many advisors, including wizards, astrologers, and sorcerers, whom he relied upon to provide insights and interpret dreams. But when a disembodied hand appeared in his banquet hall, and wrote words on the wall, Belshazzar was terrified and none of his advisors could decipher the words or their meaning.

The queen remembered Daniel, a Hebrew captive, as a man of intelligence and wisdom. He summoned him to the banquet hall. Daniel’s translation of God’s words on the wall was not what the king wanted to hear, because it foretold his demise. Because Belshazzar dishonored God, he found himself in big fat trouble. That same night, Belshazzar lost his life.

God may not resort with this type of high drama with us, but sometimes it does take extra measures to get our attention. Often, we allow our own plans, and the words of unwise advisors, to prevent us from following God’s leadership. His plans and purposes for our lives are the best for us, but in our humanness, we frequently think our way is a better way.

How can we avoid finding ourselves in big fat trouble? Honor God. Seek him. Listen to him and obey his voice. Then, you will have no need to fear the future and will experience God’s blessings.

Be sure you obey all these instructions I’m giving you. Then things will always go well for you and your descendants because you will be doing what the LORD your God considers good and right. Deuteronomy 12:28 GW

This article 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: How do you avoid Big Fat Trouble?

Death’s Sting—Death’s Victory

by Candy Arrington

And, when we are all redressed with bodies that do not, cannot decay, when we put immortality over our mortal frames, then it will be as Scripture says: Life everlasting has victoriously swallowed death. Hey, Death! What happened to your big win? Hey, Death! What happened to your sting? 1 Corinthians 15: 54-55 VOICE

Following a family weekend at the beach, we stopped on the way home to see my husband’s only living uncle and aunt. We hadn’t seen them since December of 2019 because of health issues and COVID precautions. At one point, I thought we should skip the visit. Our daughter and young grandson were with us, and our arrival at home would be late, but an internal urgency prompted both my husband and me to take the time to stop for a visit. I’m thankful we did.

The next day, a text message informed us my husband’s uncle was in the hospital. A massive blood clot had developed and was inoperable. Two days later, my husband’s uncle made phone calls to tell friends and family members goodbye. Those were hard calls, yet what a blessing to have the benefit of expressing love and thankfulness and to reminisce. A week later, this beloved uncle transitioned to his heavenly home.

Most of us don’t like to discuss death. It’s a subject we avoid because it places us face-to-face with our mortality. Yet, for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, death is sweet release for the cares, concerns, pain, and hardships of this world. Still, death is difficult, even for Christians.

A family member once said, “I don’t fear what comes after death. I know I’ll be with Jesus. What I fear is the process of death.” His comment was reasonable and normal. Our human perspective often involves fear, even for the most committed believer.

How, then, do we look beyond fear and uncertainty and see the positive aspects of death?

Jesus provided a glimpse of the life to come. In John 14:1-3, Jesus encouraged us not to be troubled by death, and gave the assurance of preparing a place for us in his Father’s house of many rooms. As the daughter of a builder father, I identify with and take comfort in these verses.

The apostle Paul also addressed death in Scripture, instructing believers to take courage and to realize that when we are away from our earthly bodies, we will be with the Lord. So he urges us to walk by faith and be assured of our eternal home in heaven.

Are you frightened by death? Don’t be. Jesus has already claimed victory over death and secured a place in our heavenly home.

We know that our body—the tent we live in here on earth—will be destroyed. But when that happens, God will have a house for us. It will not be a house made by human hands, instead, it will be a home in heaven that will last forever. 2 Corinthians 5: 1-2 NCV

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 about death particularly scares you?

The Subtle Deception of Sin

by Candy Arrington

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Matthew 7:3 NIV

In recent years, various celebrities have pled guilty to wrongdoing after vehemently denying charges, and sports figures have admitted cheating to win. When I read these accounts, my first response is indignation. How could these public figures set such a bad example and maintain a seeming lack of remorse?

And then, as is often His way, the Lord whispers, “You are the same.”

“Me? No, I’m not!”

“Remember high school Latin class?”

“Oh, that.”

It began innocently, although cheating is never innocent. There were only four of us in the class and our teacher was old and partially blind. One day we were surprised by a pop quiz, and one of the girls slid her open book into her desk and looked up the answers. Soon, the others were doing the same. I resisted until a day when I hadn’t studied the vocabulary. I was going to fail the quiz…unless. Everyone was doing it. Why shouldn’t I?

Soon, an open book in my desk was commonplace. Then, prior to the exam, which we all were to be exempted from because of our high, ill-gotten grades, the one who began the practice of cheating outed us all. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and mad. Why had she exposed us without warning, without giving us a chance to stop? I’d been caught, and my sin was out there for all to know.

Satan is a sly guy. He convinces us sin is fine, as long as we don’t get caught. He whispers, “Go ahead. You’re safe. No one will find out.”

So, we reason there is nothing wrong with tiny sins—jumping a turnstile, running a red light, fabricating excuses, enhancing the truth. We look at others, measure our sin against theirs, and think what I’m doing isn’t that bad. But don’t be deceived by the father of lies. Sin is sin and all sin is equal. There is no grading scale—no this-sin-is-less-bad-than-another. Every sin has the same effect—separation from God.

Perhaps the greatest deception of sin is the lies we tell ourselves to justify our actions and attitudes, and the only way to avoid deceiving ourselves is to actively work to stay off the slippery slope of lies. You see, sin has a snowball effect. Once you lie, to yourself or someone else, you usually have to tell another lie to cover the first one.

My grandfather was a wise man. One of his life precepts was: If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said. In other words, if you lie, you must remember the lie so you can make sure you re-create it later. Most of us aren’t smart enough to juggle many lies for very long. So why try?

Start today. Make a conscious effort to change the things in your life that you consider “tiny” sins. Ask God to help you. One of the first steps in overcoming sin is admitting what you’re doing is sin and that it’s wrong. Then repent, which means to go in the opposite direction, making an intentional about-face.

While we may be indignant about the sin of others, we’re all just as tarnished. Admit it, and then move forward with honesty, believing you can change through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit within. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but He does expect us to make an effort to be more like Him.

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: Are there “tiny” sins you tolerate in your heart?

A Good Father

by Candy Arrington

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. Psalm 16:6 ESV

Recently, a cousin and I had a conversation about the blessing of growing up with good fathers. As adults and having interacted with many types of people with very different father experiences, we are reminded afresh what a gift it is to have had godly fathers.

Father’s Day is bittersweet for me. My father died thirty years ago this year. I loved him, and I miss him, but in many ways, he is still with me. I can hear his soft southern drawl, see his lopsided grin, and envision his strong hands. Daddy is with me most in the lessons he taught me about life and faith.

My father was a builder, and I often walked job sites with him. One of the first life lessons I learned is things are not always as they seem. During the “stake off” portion of building, the footprint of a house often appears smaller than its true size. The wooden stakes and ditches dug before constructing the foundation are somewhat deceptive in conveying the actual size of the house. Likewise, our view is sometimes skewed regarding people or opportunities. Only with wisdom, experience, and God-perception can we learn to see beyond appearances.

A second lesson I learned from my father was the importance of a level, firm foundation. Builders who don’t take time to do the necessary site work, wait for the dirt to settle, and pause to measure to ensure a level, plumb, straight foundation run into problems later in the building process. My father likened this  to building a sturdy faith foundation through prayer, Bible study, and spiritual growth.

A third lesson my father taught me comes straight from Scripture, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10 ESV). I witnessed my father “do good” to the men who worked for him. I especially remember one hot summer day when he came home and took clothes and shoes from his closet and drawers and asked my mother what cooking items she could part with. When I asked Daddy what he was doing, he said, “The house of one of my men burned last night and he needs help.” Doubtless, that help also included financial assistance.

Following my father’s death, I heard many stories of ways he had helped others in need. His giving was practical, without fanfare, and service-oriented, like voluntarily re-screening a widow’s porch, or maintaining rental properties in town for missionary families overseas. Daddy’s heart for service taught me to notice needs and give graciously according to the ways God has blessed me.

Perhaps you do not have pleasant memories of your father or know him at all. If that is your experience, look to your Heavenly Father as your example for love, grace, forgiveness, and relationship.

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 Well, provides insights on learning from and growing through a time of waiting.

Join the conversation: What lessons for life did your father teach you?

Accepting and Utilizing Your Gift

by Candy Arrington

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 NLT

Have you ever encountered someone who was hesitant to receive gifts? In my lifetime, I’ve known a few people who didn’t want to be given gifts. Initially, I thought being given a gift embarrassed them in some way, but later determined it was because they didn’t want to be obligated to the giver, feeling they had to repay in kind.

Years ago, my husband and I participated in an in-depth Bible study that included a spiritual gifts inventory. Not only did we each do a personal assessment, the group members also assessed each other. When I tallied my scores, and the highest was in the category of prophecy, I was upset. I was even more upset when everyone in the group also scored me in the prophecy category. When I heard the results, I looked around the room and said, “But I don’t want to be a prophet!”

The leader replied, “But you are. That is your gift. Receive it.”

Historically, prophets were unpopular. In Scripture, prophets were ostracized, criticized, and sometimes killed for delivering God-given messages.

Why couldn’t my spiritual gift be something happy and heartwarming like hospitality or mercy? Why was I given the un-fun, unwanted gift of prophecy?

At the time I took the inventory, I didn’t fully understand what the gift of prophecy meant. I envisioned standing in a group of people delivering messages about the future that no one wanted to hear. I didn’t realize God had other ways of using me to speak His messages.

Several years after I learned my gift, our group re-gathered for a retreat. Early the second morning, God woke me. Words swirled in my head, forming phrases. I got up and could hardly get my notebook and pen in hand fast enough to capture the sentences that were pouring from my mind.

Later, when I shared what I had written with the group, many asked for a copy of my words. That weekend, I began to realize how God planned to use my spiritual gift. I wasn’t supposed to forecast the future. Rather, I was called to write God-given words of hope, encouragement, and help for readers, right now.

Like me, perhaps you’ve been hesitant to use your spiritual gift. Maybe you don’t like your gift or feel uncomfortable accepting and implementing it. Don’t worry. The gift God gave you is uniquely designed for you. If you’re willing to accept it, God will equip you to utilize your gift for your benefit, the church’s benefit, and for his glory.

Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be use in the service of others. So use your gift well. 1 Peter 4:10 CEV


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

Candy Arrington

About the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). 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 book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: What is your calling?

Honored, or Forgotten?

by Candy Arrington

But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. 1 Peter 3:15a AMP

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that it is a lot more fun to select, set up, and decorate a Christmas tree than to undecorate and dispose of it. Similarly, emotions of Christmastime: the excitement, joy, and anticipation, can be difficult to maintain after the fact, especially when a year is full of challenges.

One year, as I sat in the sunroom, I noticed our Christmas tree standing tall and erect in a secluded corner of our deck. There was nothing unusual about this, except it had been three months since Christmas. We pulled the tree out onto the deck early in the new year, intending to dispose of it later, and then forgot about it because it was not in a location easily seen.

Looking at the tree, I thought how it was a focal point in our home just a few months before. Selecting the tree was an anticipated family event, its decorating a family activity. It was a central part of our celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Now it languished on our deck, forgotten. Although no longer ornamented, it was still beautiful, retaining its green color and shapely branches. The tree was a reminder of the joy and focus of the Christmas season.

Seeing the tree, I thought about how we sometimes push Jesus aside, out of view, in the same way. On Sunday, we honor Him with our time and attention in worship. We sing songs of praise and offer reverent hearts. Then, for the rest of the week, our Bibles are tucked neatly away somewhere, to emerge again the next sabbath, an ornament to our Sunday attire.

In the midst of our busy lives, we sometimes relegate Christ to a secluded corner of our hearts, while we frantically engage in the urgent, forgetting he is the source of wisdom and strength. Some nights, we fall into bed exhausted without spending time in Bible study or prayer.

Perhaps this year has made it even more difficult to maintain proper focus, giving Christ due honor. A pandemic has kept us away from places of worship for many months. What felt odd at first now seems commonplace. Fear and frustration seeped into our lives, diverting our attention. Yet our Creator and Sustainer patiently waits for us to seek him, to turn our attention toward him, and honor him with our time.

Decide today to make Jesus the focal point in your life every day, not just on Sunday, or at Christmastime. Commit to time alone with him each day and keep the joy and peace experienced at Christmas alive in your heart year-round.

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

Candy Arrington

About the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). 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 book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: How do you keep Jesus front and center every day?

The Wise Still Seek Him

by Candy Arrington

When Jesus was born, some wise men from the east came to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the baby who was born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. Matthew 2:1-2 NCV

Several months ago, I looked online for an unbreakable nativity set. I wanted one my young grandchildren could touch, hold, and rearrange. However, I discovered that most sets do not include the wise men. Although they likely arrived long after the night of Jesus’ birth, the wise men are an important part of the Christmas story.

Some of what we believe about the wise men is based on speculation rather than Matthew’s account. Were they kings as the familiar Christmas carol states? Do three gifts indicate only three visitors? Were their names Melchior, Balthasar, and Gaspar?

The word “magi” most often referred to wise men rather than kings. The Bible says they came from east of Jerusalem, which was perhaps Persia or Babylon. They may have been scholars who studied the prophecies of a coming Messiah. (Daniel, living in Babylon, wrote of the coming king.) Or God may have revealed Jesus’ birth to them in a more personal way, in a dream or vision. Whatever the case, they were intent on finding Jesus and asked King Herod for directions.

In addition, a star guided them. When it stopped, they were overjoyed because they had reached their destination. “When the men went into the house and saw the child with his mother Mary, they knelt down and worshiped him. They brought out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and presented them to him.” Matthew 2:11 CEV

Notice the wise men came to “the house,” not a stable, and Jesus is referred to as a child, not a baby. Can you imagine the scene as these weary travelers bowed down before a toddler and presented him with gold and sweet-smelling spices? And what were Mary’s thoughts as she watched this scene unfold?

Although we don’t know if the Magi spent the night at Jesus’ house, in a local inn, or camped under the star that guided them, we can assume they slept because they were warned in a dream not to return to give Herod the information he requested. They obeyed and went back to their country by another route.

Despite speculation about who they were, where they came from, and how many were in the group, here’s what we can learn from the wise men that we can apply to our lives:

  • They were seekers. Some people today want God to reveal himself in some miraculous way. Instead, the wise men left the security of their homes, traveled many miles, and persisted in their quest until they found Jesus.
  • They worshiped with joy. Many times, we forget that joy is one of the benefits of knowing Christ and living a life focused on him. We get caught up in issues beyond our control or difficult life circumstances, and waste energy and time feeling disappointed or unhappy. Knowing Jesus and worshiping him brings joy.
  • They gave gifts. Often, instead of giving to Jesus, we expect him to give to us. Sometimes, our prayers resemble a Christmas gift list. We want God to do for us, but aren’t willing to offer our time or talents in service to him. The wise men presented gifts to Jesus, with joy, and asked for nothing in return.
  • They were obedient. When God spoke to them in a dream, the wise men obeyed. Perhaps their gifts funded Jesus’ family’s sojourn in Egypt, and their obedience in not revealing the family’s location ensured their safety. Likewise, when we decide to obey God, it is always a wise choice.

No matter how you view the wise men, realize they experienced the joy of seeking, finding, and giving to the King.

If anyone longs to be wise, ask God for wisdom and he will give it! James 1:5 TPT

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

Candy Arrington

About the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). 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 book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: How has God shown Himself to you after you sought Him?