A Different Kind of Christmas

by Delores Liesner

We’ve had all kinds of Christmases. Some years we’d lost loved ones and were grieving. Others were celebrated in spite of financial shortages. I was indignant as a child at Christmas, because my mother would open our gifts from relatives to assess their value, so she knew how much to spend on them. Then she would re-wrap and give them to us. 

I vowed I would have different Christmases as an adult –keeping the focus on Christ, along with fun and gift giving to many.

Our kids loved ‘adopting’ a family each year and hiding after we left a basket of goodies at their door. We had a Christmas tradition where the kids would either put on a play or puppet show to tell the Christmas story or give us a “concert.” My children carried on that tradition with our grandkids. I recall Michael, at 4 (now in his 30s), playing Grandpa’s guitar like a bass fiddle!  We always took goofy family pictures to remember those celebrations.

As families grew and funds grew thin, we exchanged homemade gifts. A couple of those years, we limited the spending to $7.50 for gifts that fit in the stockings hung on the banister. Later we divided papers with name and hints so each person had a gift to open. Older grandchildren helped the younger disguise gifts as objects like a snow shovel, a mailbox, an airplane or even a fireplace the recipient had to crawl into to find the gift.  I miss all that craziness and fun.

2020 changed up Christmas again. There were job losses, health issues, fear of what might be coming next, emotional exhaustion, loneliness, depression. It was hard not to grieve over the difference from prior years.

Hebrews reminds us: “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe” (12:28 AMP).

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” – Author Melody Beattie  

This year we’ve decided to go back to the beginning (of our marriage and our spiritual journey), to celebrate what is the SAME as we spend the day just the two of us.

Looking back to our young love we are amazed we still like each other! We came to Christ within two weeks of one another and that relationship has only grown deeper because Jesus is unchanging. Our children, grandchildren and siblings have also become trusted friends. We have a lot to celebrate after all.

Lord, I revere you, I am in awe of your love and sacrifice. Thank you for being unchanging in my changing world.

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

delores liesner

About the author: Delores Liesner loves to reveal the dynamic hope and confidence found in the heritage of our personal God. She writes from Racine, WI., is a CLASS graduate, 21st Century Grandma and Life Tales columnist. She has published hundreds of stories and articles. Check out her Amazon Author page!

Delores’ book, Be the Miracle, will deepen your walk with God, help you to notice others’ needs, and give you practice hearing and answering His call.

Join the conversation: From the ashes of Covid 19 and beyond, what do you see that remains the same, despite the turmoil?  What are you grateful for?

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

by Cynthia Cavanaugh

The past several months I’ve been working to cultivate gratitude in my life. There were too many negative thoughts swirling around from situations I couldn’t control. And certainly, I wasn’t the designated fixer! Life can be overwhelming, and sometimes my heart just hurts from all the sadness and brokenness on our planet. I realized that I could turn into a Negative Nelly if I wasn’t careful. Ouch! This is who I really don’t want to be AT ALL!

Months ago, cultivating gratitude turned into a nightly ritual.  Being a visual person, I like creative ways to be intentional especially when God has gently prodded me about something I need to change. As I slip under my feather comforter each night, I posture myself to touch each of my five fingers. Moving over each finger on my hand, I name what I am grateful for that day.

As days have turned into weeks and weeks into months a subtle, slow transformation has taken place in a crevice of my soul. Negative Nelly and her thoughts have been shoved out and replaced by a new resident, bringing thoughts of thankfulness rather than despair. I find myself looking at the world differently. Even on a hard day, windows of opportunity to be thankful present themselves and gratitude seeps through.

My new ritual is so ingrained, I can’t go to sleep without naming at least one or two things for which to be grateful. It is like taking vitamins for the soul. It keeps us healthy and changes our perspective.

I’ve read about the effects of gratitude, both in physical and emotional health. A grateful perspective has the potential to transform how we approach life. I’ve personally seen it to be a sweet balm to my broken heart. Embracing gratitude to the fullest is the best pathway to wholeness. There was a time several years back that I believed my heart could never be whole again.  It was too bruised, too wounded, too betrayed, and too weary. As I slowly surrendered, Jesus changed my heart, and I looked to Him to be my teaching healer on the journey. His ways are perfect, and his timing is impeccable.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, my heart is bursting with gratitude. It is surprising how many times it trickles out into the moments of my day. My ritual of gratitude has transformed me. My heart is healing.

I don’t know what circumstances you might be facing right now. Maybe the thought of being thankful is the farthest from your mind. I’ve been there. I pray that there will be a moment this week in between family gatherings or chaotic Black Friday shopping where thankfulness catches and inspires you to want more gratitude in your life. I challenge you: give it a try for 30 days every night. I guarantee that your tired heart will be different at the end of 30 days. Here is some inspiration to get you started:

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1 NIV

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17 NIV

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

About the author: Cynthia Cavanaugh is the author of five books and a speaker, life coach, and leadership professor at Trinity Western University. She knows nothing about coffee and is a self-proclaimed tea addict who loves connecting with women helping them to flourish. 

Join the conversation. Has gratitude transformed you?

What’s a Soul Worth?

by Shadia Hrichi

When I visited the county fair each year as a young adult, my favorite exhibit was always the pen of baby “piggies.” Just thinking back on them makes me smile.

We live in a culture that is nearly obsessed with animals. Pampered pets are everywhere. There are zoos to visit, not to mention animal movies, videos, and TV shows. In my leisure time, one of my top choices for video entertainment is nature documentaries. I’ve watched countless of shows on every kind of creature. I will simply never tire of marveling at God’s astounding creation.

It may not be surprising that some people have cast doubt on Jesus’s compassion when he allowed 2,000 helpless pigs to plunge to their deaths. The story is found in the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and Mark. Jesus had just sailed across the Sea of Galilee into Gentile territory with His disciples when a naked, crazed, demon-possessed man meets Him at the shore. Speaking through the man, the demons “begged Him not to command them to depart into the abyss” (Luke 8:31 ESV).

When we consider the power of Satan and his demons, it is almost comical that when we finally get a good glimpse into their behavior, we find hissing, cowering beggars. Picture the scene: after the demons realize that Jesus had not come to execute their final judgment—after all, it was “before the time”(Matthew 8:29 ESV)—and, because Jesus is forcing them to abandon their human host, the demons immediately look around for a new victim, for another opportunity to inflict chaos and torment on God’s beloved creation.

There on the hillside, a huge herd of pigs is leisurely grazing on grass, plants, roots, insects, and anything else it can find. Spying the pigs, the demons squeal with delight as they present Jesus with their request: “Send us away into the herd of pigs” (Matthew 8:31 ESV).  If they could not destroy the man, perhaps they could find a way to entice the entire town to curse God! After all, pigs were a lucrative business for the region’s rampant pagan sacrifices.

Jesus responds with a single word: “Go!” (8:32 ESV). All at once, the demons charge into the pigs, throwing the herd into a panic. Squealing in terror, kicking dirt and grass into the air, the pigs stampede right off the edge of a cliff, plunging to their deaths in the water below.

Pause here for a moment. Imagine that you are the demon-possessed man’s parent, child, or sibling standing nearby. For years, you have witnessed him living among the tombs, howling into the night, and cutting himself with stones. He was so violent that even iron shackles could not hold him. When the demons beg Jesus for permission to enter the pigs, how would you react. What would you say to Jesus?

God takes delight in all His creation (Genesis 1:31). The problem, however, with focusing on the loss of the pigs is that we lose sight of what matters most. If the man were our father or brother or son, we would be the ones begging Jesus to rescue the man, no matter the cost. And when He does, we would be so overcome with joy and gratitude that we wouldn’t even give the pigs a second thought. How could we, when a human soul created in God’s own image was just delivered from unspeakable torment? The reality is that Jesus is exercising the deepest compassion by declaring one lost man more valuable than two thousand pigs.

Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! Matthew 12:12 ESV

This article is adapted from Week Four of LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues Me, a Bible study by Shadia Hrichi. Copyright © 2019 by Shadia Hrichi. Published by Leafwood Publishers.

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

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

Join the conversation: In what ways can we treat people as significant and valuable?

Morning Praise

by Karen Wingate

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22–23 NIV

Before the surgery that gave me never-before eyesight, I saw a projection clock advertised in an online catalogue. Perfect! It was the whiz-bang gift my husband would like; I might be able to see the projected numbers, and we would both enjoy knowing the morning temperature first thing without accessing our smart phones.

As soon as it arrived, Jack immediately set it up. We lay on the bed together, staring at the ceiling.

“Can you see it?”

“Well . . .” I couldn’t. “Let’s try again after dark.”

Night came. All I saw was a brown tinge. I got pouty. “Happy early birthday,” I grumbled. “It’s all yours.”

After surgery, I spent my days discovering all those things I had never seen before. But I didn’t think about the clock until one morning, several months after the surgery. I woke to a quiet house. A bright red blur glowed above my head.

I wonder . . .

I put on my glasses. 6:45 a.m. 65 degrees. Jack stirred, and I grabbed his hand. “Hey, you, I can read the clock.”

Fully awake, he rolled over, telling me to read what I saw. We lay there for five minutes with me reading the numbers every time they changed. He chuckled and I cried.

Now, every morning, the first thing I see when I open my eyes are those red numbers, and I remember how God gave me new eyesight. I exhale and whisper, Thank you, God, for eyes to see clock numbers. It’s become a ritual to snuggle in the warmth of early morning blankets and revel in the miracle.

My red glow has become a kind of memorial, like the stones Joshua, Moses’s successor, gave to the Israelites after they crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. When later generations would ask about the meaning of the stones, the people were to tell the story of God’s rescue and redemption (Joshua 4:1–9).

My gratitude for every-morning eyesight was spontaneous and heartfelt. But I possessed other lifetime gifts that deserved equal praise. I got a red glow of an idea. What could I thank God for each morning?

  • A lone dove call sounding over the air conditioner’s hum. Thank you, God, that I can hear.
  • Blanket fuzzies surrounding my early morning with warmth. Thank you that I own a blanket.
  • What would I fix for breakfast? Thank you for food in our fridge and strength in my hands to prepare meals.
  • Jack let out an extra loud snort. Thank you for this dear one who has shared life with me.

Each morning turned into praise points for what I had instead of a litany of wishes for what I didn’t have.

What could act as your morning trumpet call to worship? You’re sure to find something worth mentioning, for the whole earth is filled with God’s wonders. Psalm 65:8 says, “Where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy” (NIV). The item that calls forth your song of joy can become the first of many gratitude prompts that remind you of God’s lavish love, never-ending faithfulness, and incredible goodness.

What a way to start the day.

Lord, I want to keep my eyes open to all you’ve given me and done for me. May your Holy Spirit reveal the signs of your faithfulness each morning so I can praise you once again.

Taken from With Fresh Eyes© Copyright 2021 by Karen Wingate. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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

About the Author: Karen Wingate loves to see the world, whether a visit to her grandson, or a hike through the mountains surrounding her hometown of Tucson, Arizona. A children’s ministry worker and Bible study leader for over 30 years, Karen writes for Proverbs 31 Ministry’s Encouragement for Today devotional, and she blogs at www.karenwingate.com.

Karen’s book, With Fresh Eyes: 60 Insights into the Miraculously Ordinary from a Woman Born Blind, winner of the ECPA Christian book award, invites you to discover a world you’ve never seen before. You’ll find hope and wonder as you take a fresh look at what God has done and what He has promised to do for each of us.

Join the Conversation: What can prompt you to praise God when you first wake up?

Saying Our “Thank You” Prayers

by Neva Bodin

We were out for a ride in beautiful mountain country in our new ATV. The gray-white blousy clouds sailed across the sky; the sun played peek-a-boo with us. The temperature was perfect.

Five minutes later, the fat clouds darkened, began holding hands, and shoving the sun behind them. We looked up as the wind increased and said, “We’re going to get wet!”

“Should we go back?” my husband asked.

“No, let’s keep going a bit,” I answered.

Within a couple of minutes the clouds got over their hostile attitude and parted. The sun sent a radiant smile down, and the blue sky widened. “Thank you, Lord,” I whispered.

There were now no clouds above us, but a raindrop kissed my forehead. Just one. And I knew where it came from.

I think there are many times God gives us a metaphorical kiss (that’s not wet). And busy with our thoughts or troubles, we don’t feel it.

I am sometimes good at, and other times lax at thanking God for His many blessings throughout my day. It’s good to remember. For when I make an effort to recognize all the little pats on the head, the caresses, the silent “well done”s He has sent my way, I acknowledge His presence.

I have watched parents stroke a child’s head, straighten a lock of hair on a small forehead, or reach down and pick a fearful child up, all while carrying on a conversation with someone else. Even while accomplishing another task, they are mindful of their child, no matter what they are doing at any given moment.

Our Father God is always mindful of us, willing to send us a joy or a sign that He’s thinking of us. Do we always recognize these gestures? I’m sure I don’t. “From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another” (John 1:16 NLT).

When a child says “thank you” for a gift or favor from a parent, it brings a broad smile to the parent’s face. Parents like to be acknowledged. And so does our Father God.

So I am thankful any time He blesses me with a “kiss.” I pray He helps me to recognize my many blessings and nudges me somehow if I forget to say thank you. I have already received many blessings: that the big bale of hay that flew off a truck one day on the highway landed beside my car and not on it, the presence I felt beside me when driving in fear on ice far from home, the time I coasted up to a gas pump on an empty tank while on a trip, the friend who called me or gave me a compliment at just the right moment when my heart was broken, and a thousand other heavenly touches.

Praise and thanksgiving are such important parts of prayers. I don’t want to forget them. While I look for material and concrete things to thank God for, I want to remember to thank Him for grace and forgiveness, the two most important things.

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him?” Matthew 7:11 NLT

About the author: Neva Boden writes to help us laugh, love, and understand life. She aspires to infuse readers with faith and hope, for that may be all that keeps us going at times. Publishing credits include The Gift of a Goat, Bitzy Bunny Gets a New Mama, Montana Free, and There’s a Circus in the Sky, (all available on Amazon or direct mail from the author), short stories, newsletters, poetry, and freelance articles. Facebook or Twitter.

Join the conversation: When was the last time you noticed a kiss from God?

Leaving the Season of Whack-a-Mole!

by Linda Evans Shepherd

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:1 ESV

I did a doubletake at a wall-hanging that read, “Make peace with your past.”

But when your past is filled with a pandemic and never-ending bad news, how do you make peace with that?

When you look back at this time in your life, you might feel as if you’ve had a two-year-long migraine.  You know, from a game of never-ending whack-a-mole.

I’ve seen this game played by an eight-year-old boy in a Chuck-E-Cheese pizzeria.  The kid hovered over a flat white board, holding a plastic baseball bat.  When a mechanical fuzzy pink mole peaked out of one of the multitude of holes, WHACK! 

The kid tried to crack the bat over its head as the mole retreated only to pop his head out of yet another hole.  Often the kid missed whacking the mole, but sometimes the kid successfully whacked the fluffy pink fur ball and would be rewarded by a stream of red tickets he could use to claim a prize.

But when I think about the game of whack-a-mole, I think I’ve lived the past two years as the role of the mole. 

“Covid won’t last long.”  WHACK! 

“The news will get better.”  WHACK! 

“Covid is declining, it’s safe to hang out with friends again.  WHACK! 

“I don’t even know anyone who got sick.”  WHACK! 

“None of my friends have died.”   WHACK!

It’s no wonder this season has been difficult or in the words of my husband, “Annoying.” Yes, it has been annoying in so many ways. As for me, the season led to many canceled in-person speaking engagements. My prayer team at church disbanded. I’ve stood at the graveside of a friend to give the eulogy.

So, where’s the joy in that?

I think the way to go forward from an annoying season into a brand-new year really is to “make peace with our past.” There’s only one way to do that and that is we must flip the whack-a-mole game on Its head.  What if, instead of looking at our troubles, we focused on our blessings?

God got me through one bad season! PRAISE GOD!

I exchange political pundits for inspiring books and messages on YouTube.  PRAISE GOD!

I’ve taken my expanded alone time and learned new skills and created new ways to reach people for Jesus!  PRAISE GOD!

When we change our focus on how God is turning our troubles into blessings, we can stop feeling annoyed, and find a new attitude in gratitude like it says in Psalm 136: 1: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Therefore, always maintain an attitude of gratitude.

That’s it!  What if we thank God for our difficult season and ask him to turn our past into a blessing? What if we ask God to turn our future into a miracle?

This is the kind of prayer that God loves to answer. And when we begin to pray it, we get blessed and thank Him. And the more we thank Him, the more blessings we can count on.

As for me, I’m not going into 2022 with an attitude of ‘bruised’, but with an attitude of gratitude. In fact, it’s my new word for the year; “Gratitude!” Care to adopt it yourself?

From all of us at the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Happy New Year!

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

About the author: Linda Evans Shepherd is a best-selling author and the CEO of Right to the Heart Ministries, which brings you Arise Daily, as well as Leading Hearts Magazine, Arise Esther, and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, whose authors create these devotionals for you.  Linda is delighted you are reading along with us.  www.LindaEvansShepherd.com

Join the conversation: What’s your new word for the year?

The Whistle Stop

by Kathy Howard

A train whistle always stops Lloyd in his tracks. No matter where he is or what he’s doing, when he hears the whistle blow, Lloyd pauses to thank God. Sometimes, his prayer is a simple “Thank You, Lord.” Other times, he pauses longer to praise God and thank Him for specific acts of mercy and grace in his life.

The seed for Lloyd’s “gratitude prompt” was planted long ago during happy childhood days spent on his grandfather’s Arkansas farm. One of Lloyd’s strongest memories of that time was the sound of the logging train that regularly chugged across the property. Thankfulness filled those days. Thankfulness for his strong, gentle grandfather and his example of love and family. Lloyd naturally connected those feelings of gratitude with the sound of the train.

Now, decades later, there’s another train that cuts a path across Lloyd’s Wyoming ranch in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains. Everyone that visits the ranch hears the story of the train, its whistle, and the reminder it provides to stop and thank God. From family and friends to neighbors and the Wounded Warriors Lloyd often hosts, everyone pauses to thank God when the whistle blows.

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 1 Chronicles 16:8-9 ESV

After King David rescued the ark of the covenant from the Philistines, he brought it back to Jerusalem. As he entered the city, David encouraged the people of God to express their gratitude. He urged Israel to remember everything God had done and to thank Him for all His wondrous works. Like David, Lloyd knows that purposeful gratitude fosters a deeper awareness of God and greater joy in the heart of the worshipper.

God still deserves our praise and gratitude. We can follow David’s and Lloyd’s examples by not only stopping to thank God for His marvelous works and good blessings, but by also encouraging our loved ones to express gratitude to God. We could develop a “gratitude prompt” for our own family by identifying an everyday sight or sound as a reminder to thank God for His many gifts. We could also set a regular time for our family – perhaps around the dinner table – to share these “wondrous works” with each other.

Although thanking God is not hard, Lloyd knows how easy it is to forget. “People don’t take time to stop and thank God for all He’s done. We all need a little reminder.” Lloyd’s reminder is as faithful as the train.

This post is adapted from “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith,” Kathy Howard’s new, unique devotional that combines stories of faith with practical tips for spiritual legacy and helps for genealogy research.

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

About the author: Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate and richest coffee. She searches for cherished stories of faith that still impact hearts. And, she digs deep into God’s Word, mining His eternal truths for herself and to share with others. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She has a Masters of Christian Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 10 books, including the “Deep Rooted” devotional series and “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” (October 2021).  Kathy and her husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org.

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?

The Good List

by Crystal Bowman

Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.
Psalm 117:1-2 NIV

When the coronavirus pandemic arrived on the northwestern shore of the United States, we did not know what to expect because this was out of our realm of experience. Some people were fearful and anxious, while others boldly proclaimed that we would get through this. And here we are—ten months later, still living with the pandemic threatening our daily lives.  

As days and weeks have come and gone and calendar pages have flipped, I am beginning to get weary of all I have lost. If I made a list of all the negative things over these past several months, it would be long. But here are a few items at the top of my list:

  • I am separated from my out-of-state grandkids.
  • The conferences and book events I planned on attending have been canceled or postponed.
  • I miss having lunch with my friends.
  • I miss hugging people.
  • The beautiful new coat that I bought in February still has the price tag on it!

When I am tempted to grumble and complain, I think of the Israelites in the wilderness. When God delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians and miraculously brought them through the Red Sea by parting the waters, they danced and praised God for delivering them. In Exodus 15:11 they sang, “Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” But can you believe that only three days later they were grumbling because they were thirsty? Their leader, Moses, went to God on their behalf and God quickly answered by giving them fresh water to drink.

On the 15th day of the second month after they coming out of Egypt, the whole community grumbled and complained because they were hungry. Moses again intervened for the people and God sent manna and quail. The manna rained down from heaven every morning, and the people were instructed to gather enough for one day with the exception of the sixth day when they could gather enough for two. God met their needs day-by-day, as Moses led them and prayed to God on their behalf.  

One of the lessons I have learned during 2020 is to depend on God one day at a time. I don’t know when bookstore events will return. I don’t know when I can travel to visit my kids and grandkids. I don’t know when it will be safe to hug my friends or meet them for lunch. But I know that I can trust God to meet my needs each day.

Another thing I have learned is to stop added items to my negative list and start making a “good” list. Here are some things I have on that list:

  • My husband and I are spending more time together, since neither of us are traveling.
  • I am enjoying time with my three local grandkids and helping them with virtual school.
  • I have more time to study and write.
  • I can call or email friends whom I miss.
  • I can attend Zoom conferences.
  • I am able to be a virtual guest at bookstores in other states.
  • I am reading books to my long-distance grandkids over FaceTime.  
  • I’ve gotten really good at ordering things online.

I don’t know how much longer the pandemic will be affecting our lives, but I do know that I can depend on God to provide what I need. I hope to keep adding items to my “good” list so that I will recognize and appreciate the blessings that surround me—because there are many! 

Lord, help me to trust you each day, knowing that you will lead me and provide all that I need. Thank you for life, health, and daily bread. Amen.  

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

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

Join the conversation: What is on your good list?

The Healing Power of Gratitude

by Ginny Brant @GinnytBrant

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)

The story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving is one to ponder. After the most difficult year of their lives, these Christians gave thanks to God first and then to their Native American friends. They were able to remain grateful even after terrible trials and losses. The celebration is a wonderful example of the healing power of gratitude.

Imagine being close to starvation, losing half your family members, needing warmth and shelter, fearing strangers in a new land, and at times wondering if your journey was worth the losses. Yet, these Godly people practiced daily gratitude. And so should we—even in the deepest trials of our lives.

The Apostle Paul exhorted the young church in Thessalonica to give thanks in everything. This church was growing quickly and miraculously, but the consequences of their newfound faith resulted in much persecution and significant losses. In the previous chapter, he comforts their despair by explaining what will happen to those who’ve died in Christ. Then after a series of exhortations, he closes chapter 5 with the blessed hope that gives comfort to all our hearts—the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2020 is a year most people would like to erase from their memories. I couldn’t have imagined a worldwide pandemic, raging forest fires, and hurricanes, all bringing so much destruction and loss of life. Then destructive riots and political unrest turned American cities into war zones. There seemed to be bad news at every turn. Does Paul’s admonition ”in everything give thanks” also apply to 2020?

The Bible gives us no wiggle room—in everything give thanks—for this is the will of God in Christ for you. Paul prescribes a life of gratitude for all believers. We can be grateful because we can count on God using all circumstances in our lives for His glory and our good. Best of all, no matter what lies ahead, our eternal destination is secure.

According to the research of Dr. Robert Emmons, having an attitude of gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression. Dr. Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University Medical School, proclaims, “If thankfulness were a drug, it would be the world’s best selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.” No wonder so many doctors are prescribing the practice of gratitude as a way to improve psychological, social and physical health.

Research clearly indicates that people who practice a lifestyle of gratitude are healthier and heal better. An attitude of gratitude promotes peace in the middle of life’s storms by calming the emotional brain. (Yet Paul prescribed having an attitude of gratitude over 1900 years ago before these outcomes were known!)

The art of practicing daily gratitude does not stop when bad news like cancer comes knocking at your door. Surviving chemotherapy was a blessing for me, even when I saw my bald reflection in a mirror. My husband was a wonderful gift to me, loving me unconditionally even though my appearance was less than appealing. The more I thanked God, the more I found contentment. I now appreciate that every day I’m alive is a gift.

Gratitude gives us a new story—a new beginning. Any trial, no matter how grim, will not have the final word. God has decreed eternal life for those who are truly His. This eternal perspective provides hope and healing for the weary, enabling us to bathe in gratitude, rather than grumbling. Paul’s prescription for a life of gratitude promotes healing and costs us nothing.

The Healing Power of Gratitude – Insight on #Gratitude from @GinnyBrant on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Ginny Dent Brant is a speaker and writer who grew up in the halls of power in Washington, DC. She has battled cancer, ministered around the world, and served on the front lines of American culture as a counselor, educator, wellness advocate, and adjunct professor. Brant’s award-winning book, Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World, was endorsed by Chuck Colson and featured in many TV and media interviews. Her recent book, Unleash Your God-given Healing: Eight Steps to Prevent and Survive Cancer, was written with an oncologist after her cancer journey. Cancer prevention blog and more info at http://www.ginnybrant.com.

Join the conversation: What brings gratitude to your heart in 2020?