Thanksgiving Boulevard

by Fran Caffey Sandin

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.   1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

When devastation touches our lives, responding with a thankful heart becomes a challenge. Everyone has a story. Mine began when our seventeen-month-old, Jeffrey, became ill on a Sunday and died on Thursday. Bacterial meningitis. Everything medically possible had been applied. Many prayers for Jeffrey’s earthly healing remained unanswered, but I know I will see Jeffrey in Heaven.

Years later, we said goodbye to our forty-three-year-old son, Steve, a godly physical therapist who spent his life serving and helping others. He passed away after a fourteen-year struggle with cystic fibrosis and kidney failure. My heart still aches, but I cannot live in constant grief knowing Steve will greet me in Heaven.

So, the question becomes: How can we be thankful when grieving such great losses?

I once heard singer Joann Shelton say, “Praise moves me from Complaint Avenue to Thanksgiving Boulevard.” I found the four-lane divided parkway beneficial.

  1. Thankfulnesssoothes our distresses as we recall joyful memories from the past. It is comforting to recall the times we enjoyed with our loved ones and thank God for those blessings.
  2. Thankfulness—helps to allay anxiety. God is in control, and we do not have to live in fear. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV).
  3. Thankfulnessheightens our hope. Remembering God’s past faithfulness and mercy causes us to look to the future with hope. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23 ESV).
  4. Thankfulnessstrengthens us for endurance. After the crisis and adjustment time has passed, we look toward what the Lord has for us to do, and we become the person He wants us to be. We press on and will remain on earth until our work is done. No one else can complete the unique assignment He has given to us.

When I think of the apostle, Paul, who endured shipwrecks, beatings, hunger, sleepless nights, imprisonment, and weary days, I marvel that he wrote I Thessalonians 5:18. He did not mean that we thank God for bad things that happen. But we can say, “Dear Lord, even in this heartache, I believe You are working things out for my good and for Your glory.”

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12 ESV

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

About the author: Fran Caffey Sandin is a retired nurse, wife, mother, and grandmother in Greenville, Texas. She has authored See You Later, Jeffrey, and Touching the Clouds: True Stories to Strengthen Your Faith. This devotional is an excerpt from her new book, HOPE on the Way, DEVOTIONS to Go, published by Roaring Lambs Ministries in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. For more information visit Fran’s website: www.fransandin.com.

Join the conversation: On what “street” are you living?

I Choose Peace

by Joan Benson

Have you noticed how life can run on parallel tracks? I recently saw a photo of a beautiful blooming redbud tree covered in the purest white of a heavy snowfall. What an analogy to life. Imagine bursting forth in your best show of blooms, to find yourself shivering under a pile of freezing fluff.

In our daily humanity, we may recognize layers of goodness while being struck with a serious loss or disabling event. Laying in a hospital bed, recovering from a painful surgery, I heard a sweet voice singing along with a praise song playing on my cell phone. I was miserable and half-asleep, but the sweet voice sounded like an angel. That nurse’s kindness and love deeply touched my heart. I chose to feel God’s presence and peace.

When my dog experienced multiple health crises during our short out-of-state vacation, a kind veterinarian spent thirty minutes reading the health reports and deciding on a course of treatment. We were to leave for home the next morning. When we checked out, he had not charged me for anything except the medication. I felt tears well up in my eyes. It was not the money saved, though that was a blessing. It was his compassion. I knew God was pouring His grace out on us.

People who are most successful in navigating pain, loss, and devastation don’t jump up and down to embrace their dark trial. They will say with honesty, “It was hard.” But somewhere along the way, they are able to pass from grief to gratefulness when they recognize God’s provision along the journey.

Yes, it may be a freezing jolt to our once-comfortable life, but in recognizing God’s mercy and grace, we find hope for the sorrows.

God’s peace is promised to us in Philippians 4:6-9. However, with that promise comes an expectation. We are told to not be anxious. How does that work, you may ask? “I just lost ____, and I’m not supposed to feel the sad?” Your spouse left you after years of marriage. A family member died suddenly without any advance warning. You or a loved one receives a diagnosis of a fatal illness without a remedy. Your child breaks off relationship. The list of possible tragedies goes on and on.

However, as believers, God asks us to pray through those challenges, to tell him what’s on our heart, praying/petitioning with thanksgiving. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV). We can choose His peace.

What a relief it is to let go of the spirit of heaviness and release it to the One who loves us most. God is a Father of compassion who comforts us in all our troubles. We know in Heaven there will be no more sorrow, no more tears. Everlasting joy!

“Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV

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

His Gift by [Joan C. Benson]

About the author: Joan Benson is a freelance writer, a former (K-8) classroom teacher and reading specialist, and a wife and mother of four adult children and eight cherished grandchildren. Joan has produced devotional materials for CBN.com and written numerous magazine articles. She developed Sunday School curriculum for over twelve years for LifeWay. Joan’s historical fiction novel, His Gift, was released in July 2020. Joan and her husband, Jan, live in Chesapeake, VA, with their two Bichon Frisé pets.

Join the conversation: Have you been able to choose peace in a challenging circumstance?

The Immeasurable Power of a Story

by Patti Richter

The phone rang as I sat proofreading articles in the office of a monthly publication in South Texas. I was alone in the office—in the right seat at the right time.

Martha Fanning, the wife of a locally well-known pastor, was calling to find a writer for an unpublished personal story she had shared at women’s gatherings for years. With the editor’s permission, I began to write about the season Mrs. Fanning endured bedrest due to a back problem.

Martha explained to me that she had felt desperate one day, wishing for a quick recovery in order to resume responsibilities for her children and church. She admitted asking the Lord if he had even heard her prayers. But after making that plea to God, Martha gazed out her bedroom window to the backyard, and she saw what looked like a fallen bird’s nest.  

Martha said she got out of bed that day feeling “unreasonably compelled” to go outside. Finding the empty bird’s nest, she disregarded her weakness and bent to pick it up. Having never held a bird’s nest, she admired the meticulously woven branches. Then, in amazement, she noticed a piece of paper pecked down to line the nest. Feeling again compelled, she gently pulled out the bit of paper, “strangely hoping it might hold meaningful words.” Martha was further amazed that the tiny piece of newsprint with burnt edges—”likely from our own chimney”—contained a prayer published by the Dallas Morning News.

The lines of the poem titled “Air Prayer,” by Julien C. Hyer, remained mostly legible:

Dear Lord, across expanse of sky, as now I set me out to fly,

I pray that Thou will be with me, that I may in Thy keeping be.

And may I feel Thy presence near. And if at anytime I fear,

let me [remember] to trust in Thee to [care] for my dear family…

Martha believed those lines were a clear message from God—”and so fitting for a bird!” The prayer made her recall Jesus saying, “Your Father” knows about every sparrow that falls… “So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to him” (Matthew 10:29, 31 NLT).

The article I wrote for Mrs. Fanning, “Message in a Bird’s Nest,” was published years before Internet and social-media sharing opportunities. Even so, we received feedback from readers who’d needed an assurance of God’s love.

One woman wrote of the anguish she’d faced before her son’s East Coast graduation. She couldn’t drive the distance yet feared flying. Mrs. Fanning’s story encouraged her to pray for heavenly help. Afterward, she decided to fly and take the “Air Prayer” with her. Flying and attending the event “seemed like a miracle,” she wrote.

Another woman, recently widowed, had been unable to erase distressing images of her husband before his death. The bird’s nest story led her to ask God for comfort. Afterward, she felt inspired to clean out a disorganized kitchen drawer, where she unearthed an unmarked and never viewed video. Instead of tossing it into the trash, she popped it into her VCR. Her husband, healthy and smiling in the days before his illness, filled the screen, “like a visitor from beyond the grave.” He appeared exactly the way she wanted to remember him.

The Lord used Mrs. Fanning’s bird’s nest article—the first article I’d ever written—to show me the power of sharing faith stories.  

And I suppose that if all the other things Jesus did were written down, the whole world could not contain the books. John 21:25 NLT


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: Has someone else’s story positively influenced you?

Selah Serenity

by Pam Farrel

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. Psalm 42:7 NIV

I love strolling the beach, because the waves beating rhythmically against the shore reminds me of the faithfulness of God. I love pushing pause to think in a deeper, soul-refreshing way about Him. The Psalmist calls these valuable moments, Selah, expressing a pause to ponder, a rest note in the melody of life.

In today’s uncertain days, we need to cultivate these Selah moments. Ever feel like you are drowning in bad news? Tough times are coming at you like a torrential down pour?; Negativity making you feel like you are caught in a riptide? That is exactly how the author of Psalm 42 felt.

Life is Hard

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

Deep calls to deep is a reference to all the water in the world—and reminds us that God’s hand of mercy is holding back! In other words, things could be worse! We can thank God for what He is protecting us from. The roar of your waterfalls references the power of water to keep us down and under– those times we feel like circumstances threaten to drown us. During a particularly stressful year in our life, my prayer was, “Help God! I can’t breathe!” Been there too?

All your waves and breakers have swept over me is a word picture of being caught in the crushing and crashing waves hitting the shore. Swept over me is both a cry for rescue and the comfort of knowing eventually the waves will sweep past us. This verse gives us hope!

God is Good

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.

Here is a two-part solution for getting out of the waves and out from under the blows of the downpouring life waterfalls.

Pray expectantly, Pray believing that the Lord is directing and dispatching his steadfast love to you. Believing that even when life is bad, God is good brings a heavenly perspective. If you continue to read Psalm 42 and 43, you will see a repeating statement:

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God

This reinforces that in the many times we feel downcast, depressed, discouraged, disturbed and even desperate, when we put our hope in God, and praise Him, we will gain inner strength and ability to stand firm.

My definition of hope means to wait patiently and expectantly for God to show up and show off in your life for your good and God’s glory. But how do we hope expectantly?

Praise repeatedlyDuring the day, I thank God for His traits and attributes and for being with me. At night, when times are tough, I go to sleep with praise songs, hymns, and the audio Bible playing. When I accumulate praises of God during the day (in my Selah journal), then add in songs of praise as I fall to sleep, it moves me little by little. My paradigm shifts, and I can envision the difficulties being used by God to better me or my life. If I keep praising, I move even further away from the desperation, and the spray of the waterfall becomes a mist of refreshment, because I am I anticipating how He will  “work all things together for my good” (Rom. 8:28). Charles Spurgeon captured this sentiment: “I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages.”

Find a quiet place near water: a fountain, a pool, a lake, the ocean, or your own bubble bath— a Selah setting to pause, ponder and praise the goodness of God.

This article first appeared in Just Between Us magazine for Women.

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

About the author: Pam Farrel is the author of 50+ books and the co-author (with Jean Jones and Karla Dornacher) of the Discovering the Bible series of creative Bible studies (Harvest House Publishers). She and her husband, Bill, make their home on a boat docked in Southern California. To download your Selah in the Psalms Creative Guide and other resources, go to www. Love-Wise.com.

Join the conversation: Have you experienced the crushing waves of disappointment and despair? How did it work out for you?


Holding onto Hope When Winter Lingers

by Grace Fox

Winters are long, gray, and soggy where I live in southwestern British Columbia. Lack of sunshine for extended times can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) characterized by depression, lethargy, and irritability. Those who struggle with it find October through April particularly difficult.

I haven’t experienced SAD, but winter brings challenges of a different sort my way, because I live on a sailboat. For instance, condensation is a problem despite our running a dehumidifier around-the-clock. As a result, I’m constantly on a seek-and-destroy mission against mildew inside cupboards and around our mattresses. Doing the laundry means backpacking our dirty wash to the marina facilities a city block away—in the rain. And walking on slippery docks and steep ramps requires extra caution. Twisting my ankle and doing a face plant taught me that lesson.

This year, amidst damp cold and increasingly tight pandemic restrictions, I began feeling as though winter came with no expiration date. Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered pink blossoms on a leafless tree in early February. The sight lifted my spirits. I stood and stared at the flowers in awe and wonder. I couldn’t resist posting a picture on Facebook. “This is not fake news,” I wrote. “Spring is on the way. There is hope after all!”

Sadly, an Arctic blast swept through our province a couple weeks later. Temperatures plunged and the flowers froze. But despite their sad demise, my anticipation of spring lingered. Their presence had reminded me of warmer, sunnier, longer days ahead. They’d given me hope, and an Arctic freeze could not take that from me.

Life occasionally hands us seasons that resemble long, dreary winters. We begin to wonder whether our circumstances will ever improve. We spend our energy trying to persevere and praying for what feels like forever without seeing progress or change, and we begin to lose heart.

Sometimes we experience an Arctic blast. Winds of sudden change blow, bad news chills us to the bone, and we wonder whether we’ll survive to see warmer days ahead.

No matter how difficult our situation, the truth remains: God’s presence and promises bring hope.  

The apostle Paul knew what it meant to suffer. As a minister of the Gospel of Christ, he’d experienced slander, criticism, beatings, and imprisonment. He’d learned how to thrive despite the storms, and he shared his insights with the Corinthian believers so they might learn to do the same.

Paul encouraged them to not lose heart, and then wrote, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV).

Paul’s words still apply to us today. Our difficulties—our winter of the soul—might linger longer than we wish, but the Holy Spirit’s presence within us renews us and gives us strength to persevere. Our troubles might appear to have no expiration date, but rest assured, they will eventually pass. The purposes that Christ is achieving through them, however, will last forever. Therein lies hope.

Like the pink blossoms in mid-winter lifted my spirits, so God’s truth brings hope in seasons of hardship. Hold on, my friend. An eternal glory that exceeds imagination lies ahead.

Grace Fox co-directs an international missionary sending agency, speaks at women’s events overseas and across North America, and has authored ten books. She’s a regular contributor to Mornings with Jesus (Guideposts) and a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries. Her new devotional Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos is available wherever Christian books are sold. Connect with Grace on her website, blog, or on Facebook.

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

About the author: Grace Fox co-directs an international missionary sending agency, speaks at women’s events overseas and across North America, and has authored ten books. She’s a regular contributor to Mornings with Jesus (Guideposts) and a member of the First 5 writing team (P31 Ministries). Her new devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos is available wherever Christian books are sold. Connect with Grace on her website, blog, or on Facebook.

Join the conversation: Have you seen God at work within you during these difficult times?

Love Never Ends

by Linda Ray Center

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV

Each morning my mother, Claire Ray, faithfully drew close to the Lord. She often sat in her favorite wingback chair before breakfast to prepare her heart for prayer. Her routine began with one of her devotional books, then finished with a chapter or two from her Bible. Claire went through several Bibles in her ninety-four years. She always penned the date on the cover page after she finished reading through her Bible. Her total was forty-eight times.

Mother loved and trusted Jesus more than anything. On her hospital bed last November, before she took her last couple of breaths, my sister overheard her whisper, “Jesus, what is taking you so long? I’m so ready for you to come and get me.” Mother’s words told me she anticipated going to a place where everything that is best remains. What a tremendous relief to know she looked forward to embracing the loving arms of her Lord and Savior. His divine love surrounded her as she prepared for her heavenly departure.

 Later, a friend sent me a condolence card. In the card was an outline for a “Letter to Heaven.” I used it to write a letter to honor my mother and another to honor my deceased husband. As I filled in the blanks, I caught sight of heavenly hope.

Since Valentine’s Day is in February, you might wish to remember a special someone who has left earth to reside in a place where everything lasts forever. Write why they were special to you, maybe a favorite memory or thing you miss most about them. Remind yourself that some day you will see them again and spend eternity together in the presence of the Lord.

Heaven is a place where love fills every heart. Scriptures tell us to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Scripture is God’s love letter to us. It contains so many promises and expressions of His love, like these:

On earth, my dear child, as it is in Heaven, you can love because I first loved you. (1 John 4:19)

You can depend on My goodness, and that I will always do the right thing for you. (Psalm 23:6)

Nothing can separate you from My love. (Romans 8:28-39)

As I curl up in Mom’s favorite wingback chair, I’m renewed by Scripture:

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:7 ESV

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

Crystal Discovers The Glow by [Linda Ray Center]

About the author: Linda Ray Center is a writer and inspirational speaker. She writes nonfiction for women and fiction for children. She has published The Relationship Dance and Crystal Discovers The Glow. She is also a contributing author to Abba’s Answers, 2020 Florida Writers Illusion Collection, Whispers of Grace and SuperBudZ. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as Good News, Joyful Living, Keys for Kids, and Unlocked. She encourages women and children to follow God’s design in their life experiences. Linda resides in charming Chattanooga. Connect with her at lindaraycenter.com or on Facebook and Instagram.  

Join the conversation: How does your heavenly hope affect your here and now?

Detours—No Camping Allowed

by Terri Gillespie

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 TLV

Are there scriptural passages that are painful to read for you? I have a few. The above is one of them. Why? I have several “deferred hopes” — people and situations I’ve prayed about for many years. Answers that haven’t come to fruition. These are not wants or desires—like a Christmas list—but heart hopes of an eternal nature. Salvations. Deliverances. Restoration. Family.

Sometimes, it feels like deep holes in my heart, that for whatever reason, our loving Heavenly Father has left unfulfilled. Sometimes, I feel isolated with my discouragement — out there in the dark of doubt. Do you know what I mean?

So, knowing the longings are there and not knowing when, or if, they will be fulfilled can get a bit disheartening. And there are times when I am heartsick. But I can’t “camp” there.

A painful detour . . .

When my heart takes a detour, it’s generally caused by some area in my life that is weak. Those things that remind me that my heart hope is still longing. I must be especially vigilant to not get lost but find my way back to the path of faith.

One of the ways I do this is to focus on GOD’s truths. Verses that re-direct me into His loving arms — reminders of His sovereignty and love. Reminders of His love for those I love. As I come across them, I add them to my journal.

Here are a few passages meaningful to me [emphasis mine]:

  • Looking at them, Yeshua [Hebrew for Jesus] said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God!” Mark 10:27, TLV
  • Fulfill Your word to Your servant, which leads to reverence for You. Psalm 119:38 TLV
  • I am sure of this very thing—that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of Messiah Yeshua. Philippians 1:6 TLV
  • And the shalom [peace] of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua. Philippians 4:7 TLV
  • Chazak [Be strong]! Let your heart take courage, all you who wait for ADONAI [the LORD]. Psalm 31:25(24) TLV
  • Never snatch out of my mouth a word of truth, for I hope in your judgments. Psalm 119:42 TLV
  • When my troubling thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations comfort my soul. Psalm 94:19 TLV

I’m sure you have your own passages of hope — verses that shift the focus from waiting for an outcome to trusting in the Father, come what may.

While I would love to see my heart hope fulfilled in my lifetime (Psalm 27:13), but like Abraham and the fathers and mothers of Scriptures, not all lived to see their promises fulfilled (Hebrews 11:13). And, I must be okay with that.

Once I return to that understanding, I’ve exited the detour and am back on the right path.

Have all your heart hopes been fulfilled? Or are some still deferred? Just know we don’t have to take the detour of discouragement, and camp alone in the darkness—at least not for very long. Because He gives us plenty of reminders of that love, we just need to pay attention.

May we trust and remember the goodness of our Father, my friends—and may our detours be avoided or brief.

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

About the author: Award-winning author and speaker Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus. She tries to avoid spiritual detours.

Terri’s weekly devotional, Making Eye Contact with God, for women only, enables you to really see God in a new and fresh way. Using real life anecdotes, combined with scripture, author Terri Gillespie reveals God’s heart for women everywhere, as she softly speaks of the ways in which women see God.

Join the conversation: What passages are your go-to when you are discouraged?

Hope for a Broken Mess

by Nancy Kay Grace

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1 NIV

I ordered a gift for a family member, expecting it to be delivered in time for Christmas, so I could wrap it in bright paper. I imagined it was the perfect gift for the person.

When it arrived, I shook the box and heard pieces rattle on the inside. Something was wrong; the corner of the box was crushed. Upon opening it, small pieces of porcelain fell to the floor. The special gift was a broken mess; my hope of giving it crumbled.

Often we find ourselves in the broken mess of life, sifting through pieces of shattered dreams. We expect things to be perfect, but they end up a disaster. Expectations fall apart.

The world is a broken mess on a large scale, as we’ve seen this year with the many challenges that have made us weary. Individuals are broken mess on a smaller scale with physical or mental health problems, financial troubles, or relationship difficulties. The result is the same, no matter how large or small the scale—pain, disillusionment, and hurt. discouragement and loss of hope abound.

The good news is, that in the middle of our mess, God brings hope.

At just the right time in history, God intervened with a redemption plan for all eternity through the birth of a baby who would be the Messiah. His plan brought a different kind of hope, an eternal hope.

God became like one of us. Jesus came to bring hope to the broken mess of sin in the world. Jesus left the majesty and splendor of heaven to enter our sinful world, for us—to breathe our air and walk on our soil. To redeem our hurting lives from pain and bring us hope in our mess.

The prophet Isaiah spoke of Jesus Christ coming into the broken world.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1 NIV).

Jesus read these words from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah at the beginning of his ministry and stated they were fulfilled (Luke 4:18-21 NIV).

What does the prophecy and purpose mean for you and me? When I am poor in spirit or lacking provisions, I can turn to the Savior for hope.

I can rest in the Messiah’s love when I am brokenhearted. God’s word offers comfort. When I need recovery from spiritual blindness, the Lord opens my eyes to see his truth. Jesus offers freedom and forgiveness from the chains of past mistakes and hurts. The love of God reaches us, right where we are, bringing hope to our broken mess.

Whatever you’re facing, may you look to Lord to find hope. It’s one of perfect gifts from the heavenly Father.

About the author: Nancy Kay Grace is thankful for the gift of hope in the broken mess of life. She is a speaker and award-winning author of The Grace Impact, a devotional about the touch of God’s grace in our lives.  

Please visit https://www.nancykaygrace.com to sign up for the monthly Grace Notes devotional newsletter. https://www.facebook.com/nancykaygrace https://www.instagram.com/nancykaygrace/

Join the conversation: How has the Lord directed you in the past?

Out of Tragedy God Brings New Life

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

I called my friend Nikki, anticipating her lively voice and was shaken to hear her sob, “Debbie, we just found out our son died.”

I’d called in response to an earlier text. That was not why she’d texted me. But God had timed my call perfectly. Even though I couldn’t take away my friend’s pain, I could share in those initial moments of shock and grief.

Nikki felt the need to contact Justin’s birth mother. The woman was devastated. She’d never be able to meet her son on earth. She wanted to fly across the country for the service. With Nikki’s permission I share what she wrote about their meeting.

For the first time ever, we met on Thursday. Both of us felt extreme emotions about this meeting, but together we walked, and together our hearts connected in ways only God could have worked. We saw each other, our hug was 33 years long, our embrace was extreme in love, joy and compassion for each other. This Holy moment that God ordained since the beginning of time, was fragrant and beautiful, pure and Holy. Nothing could ever surpass the delight that came from our hearts in those first moments.

Justin’s memorial service was Saturday. Nikki shared that not long after having their daughter, she had to have a hysterectomy. “I asked God one time for a child we could adopt. But then I left it in His hands. I thought, How could I ask for another woman’s child?”

Thirty-three years ago, God completed their family with Justin. Nikki told us, “Justin came just in time.”

Pastor Chuck recalled funny and poignant stories of Justin’s escapades. Then he shared the hope those who know Jesus have of heaven. He invited all who didn’t know Jesus to receive Him as their Lord and Savior. As he closed, he asked those who’d invited Jesus into their hearts to stand.

“I’ll count to three,” he smiled. “One, two, three.”

One person stood—Justin’s birth mother.

Overcome, Pastor Chuck covered his face and turned aside. Because of Justin’s untimely death, the woman who’d chosen life for the son she could not keep will enjoy him for eternity.

Texts to Nikki and her husband revealed two internet attenders who also stood and gave their lives to Jesus—including a ninety-year-old cherished friend!

So much in our world is broken. Untimely death, pain, and loss have marred 2020 for many. We need to remember, this is not our home. And as Pastor Chuck proclaimed after he’d recovered his composure, “If it ain’t good, it ain’t over.”

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV

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Out of Tragedy God Brings New Life – encouragement from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big Godand Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever witnessed God changing tragedy into good?

In the Bag

by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty

“But Jonah ran away from the Lord.” Jonah 1:3 NIV

In my role as the preschool Bible Story Lady at church one Sunday, I told the story of Jonah and the big fish to the four-year-olds.

The hard part wasn’t bringing the bit about Jonah deliberately running away from God down to the their level: little people who still get their fannies smacked when they run away from adults. No. They got that all right.

The hard part was how to tell it so they’d understand that some grown-ups are silly enough to think they can hide from an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God. Not even a four-year-old would believe that.

So I asked how many of the children like to play hide-and-seek. Every hand went up.

“Have you ever picked a really bad hiding place like this one?” I put my hands over my eyes and said, “Okay. I’m hidden. I can’t see you so you can’t see me either, right?”

The kids laughed hysterically.

“Or how about this one?” I tried to squeeze my jumbo adult body behind an itty-bitty kiddie chair. “Can you see me now?”

They howled.

“Or maybe you’ve been here.” I returned to center stage, carefully unfolded a paper bag, plopped it over my head, and reached out with both hands – searching, groping, even becoming a little tearful as I fell to my knees.

“Did you leave me?” I called out in faux panic. “Oh no! I’m all alone in this cold, dark, horrible place. And I’m so scared! Won’t someone help me?”

No laughter this time. Something had resonated with those little people.

I hadn’t expected this. Silence, so thick you could cut it with a knife. I wasn’t sure what to do next.

The kids apparently identified with my aloneness, with Jonah in his disobedience. With all humankind when we choose to dig a hole of disrespect to our Creator, then lie in it, isolated … frightened … confused.

Suddenly a little voice piped up. A warm voice heavy with empathy. “It’s okay, Miss Debbie. We’re still here. Don’t be afraid. You’re not alone.”

And then I heard footsteps mounting the stage and felt a tiny hand take mine. Then dozens of small hands found me, surrounding me with comfort and hope.

There I was, kneeling on a stage with a brown paper bag over my head and a huge lump in my throat, swarmed by a horde of uninhibited children who understood what it felt like to be alone and afraid – and didn’t want it to happen to me.

I was incredibly moved.

Running from God is something we silly grown-ups do, isn’t it? We actually think that secret sin of ours is secret and an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God somehow doesn’t know about our hidden shame.

So we isolate that part of ourselves and try to hide it in a cold, dark spiritual place that reeks like the innards of a gutted fish. We feel alone. And scared. Because our heavenly Father isn’t there.

But He is. He is. Like Jonah, we only have to call for help to be heard. “Then Jonah prayed to his God from the belly of the fish” (Jonah 2:1 MSG).

Then Papa God’s warm, comforting hands will reach out from the darkness, enveloping us in forgiveness, redemption, second chances … hope.

That flash of blindness with the preschoolers truly opened my eyes. It was one of those rare teachable moments of adulthood that knocks your well-ordered world off its axis and cracks open the door for a glimpse into a higher realm.

Maybe I should carry a head bag around with me all the time.

Now let your unfailing love comfort me, just as you promised me, your servant. Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live, for your instructions are my delight.” Psalm 119:76-77 NLT

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In the Bag – encouragement from @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debora-coty-250x250About the author: Debora Coty is a speaker, columnist and award-winning author of 200+ articles and over 40 books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series, with over 1.2 million copies sold in multiple languages worldwide. Besides donning her floppy flowered hat as the Bible Story Lady, she enjoys teaching piano, mountain hiking, choco-scarfing, and playing tennis. Debora lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband and five feisty grands living nearby. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BBFFs (Blessed Blog Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

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: Have you had a rare teachable moment with God lately? Please share!