Embracing the Future

by Rebecca Barlow Jordan

As January rolls around each year, I always hear the term “embrace the future.” Because God wired me with a positive personality, I’m usually eager to do that. But some seasons present greater challenges than others. How do you embrace an unknown future?

Since life in the last couple of years has resembled a roller coaster, it’s easy to wonder if the ride will ever end. I’m not alone. Some are emerging like ants from their underground tunnels, still spinning and reeling with pandemic emotions. Losses hang in the air like early morning fog, and we may be asking God to heal our wounds and remove any unwanted baggage that’s weighing us down.

At the beginning of each year, I usually spend intentional time with God simply to re-evaluate and invite His perspective on my life. This year is no exception. I’m asking God to sweep away any foolish mistakes, wrong decisions, or any harmful habits I might have collected in the past year that cloud my vision and prevent me from seeing the beautiful opportunities He is preparing for me.

Embracing the future means I’m choosing to leave the past behind. I refuse to beat myself up or second-guess any mistakes and misconceptions. Instead, in my prayer to God, I’m asking: “Lord, like the yard art in my backyard, would you recycle those into beautiful, positive lessons I can learn, actions that will propel me forward, not backward?”

And He is doing that. But God is also teaching me the value of remembering. I will not make idols of good things from the past, of accumulated credentials, or God’s surprise blessings amid uncertainty. Those tracks of God’s faithfulness will continue to humble me and lead me into a questionable future with joy and trust in the One who is good and who works all things out for our good (Romans 8:28).

I don’t want to let the past define me. Instead, I’m asking God to use it to refine me. As long as God gives me breath and life, I can choose to believe the best and let His hope influence my attitudes for the present and in the future. God is still the God of the impossible, and He not only wants to transform me daily, but He promises to finish the work He started in me (Philippians 1:6). That’s a truth I want to remember and celebrate daily.

Will that be easy? No. Some days I may question what to do, or ask Jesus what He is doing. But I know that faith keeps going, reaching, and believing that Jesus is in control. For me, embracing the future means welcoming whatever Jesus wants in my life to make me more like Him.

As I close my evaluation time and my prayer to God, He reminds me of one more thing. While forgetting the past and remembering the past and present are so important, God’s Word also whispers to me to reach forward and keep my eyes on the right goal—Jesus. When I do that, He will help me discover the life for which I was made and uncover the purpose for which I was created.

One day, hearing His “well done” will make “embracing the future” all worthwhile.

One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV

About the author: Rebecca Barlow Jordan is a day-voted follower of Jesus who helps others find intimacy with God. She is also a bestselling author of eleven books, and winner of the Serious Writers 2021 Book of the Decade. With the pen of a poet and the heart of a disciple, Rebecca encourages others from years of Bible study and teaching experience, in over 2000 greeting cards and other inspirational books and articles, and through her website and blog at rebeccabarlowjordan.com, visited by guests in over 170 countries.

Join the conversation: What does embracing the future mean to you?

Reflecting on the Wonder of Christmas

by Debbie Wilson

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV

One year, my daughter and I flew to Chicago a few weeks before Christmas. Because Ginny works for an airline the flight attendant bumped us up to first-class. We flew coach on our return home. Let me explain the difference between our flights.

  • In first-class, four seats filled a row (two plus two). In coach, five seats were crammed into the same amount of space (three on one side, two on the other).
  • In first-class, a console separated our roomy seats. In coach, we fought for elbow space.
  • In first-class, they provided a steamy washcloth before a hot meal. In coach, they offered pretzels and a soft drink.
  • In first-class, after our meal, the attendant passed out warm chocolate-chip cookies. In coach, after the pretzels, well…that was it.

My cousin flew from San Antonio, Texas, to Washington, DC, a few days later. Young soldiers being deployed overseas filled her packed plane. When the captain announced the soldiers were on the first leg of their trip to an unsafe region of the world, the other passengers applauded.

But one man did more.

A flight attendant from first-class walked back to the crowded coach section and picked an especially young, slender guy, and ushered him into first-class. A couple of minutes later a large man lumbered out of first-class and crammed his bulk into the soldier’s coach seat.

The Wonder of Incarnation

It touched me to think about these young soldiers leaving the safety of home and comfort of their families at Christmas to protect us and the large man surrendering his first-class seat for a soldier he didn’t know. Their sacrifices provide a small picture of what Jesus did for us.

  • Before Jesus filled a manger, His presence filled the galaxies. Jesus left the expanse and glory of heaven to be confined on one planet in a human body.
  • Before Jesus was an infant, He was the Almighty. He spoke and worlds were created. He set aside His power to become a helpless baby. The Creator became a creature.
  • Before the incarnation, Jesus knew everything. He set aside His omniscience to become like us and grow in knowledge.
  • Jesus did not move from first-class to coach. He moved from heaven to earth—to hell on the cross—so that we could live in heaven. He took our shame and guilt so we could share His glory.
  • He died in weakness so we could live in the power of the resurrection.

Have you pondered what Jesus did for you? When we do, we discover strength, comfort, and joy, not for just a season, but for a lifetime.

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

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 God and 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]

Debbie 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: What about the Christmas story fills you with wonder?

 In Doubt or Disappointment: Trust in the Gift-Giver

by Patti Richter

How can this be? Luke 1:34 NKJV

The girls’ faces fell an inch apiece after opening their mutual birthday present. Our small audience of parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles had expected a more enthusiastic response. While the eight-year-old dutifully recovered in time to produce a polite smile and a “thank you,” her six-year-old sister summoned the courage to swallow disappointment.

My granddaughters’ gift included mere words and images in a brochure that promised a future event—one whole month away. Family members jointly contributed to this bigger-than-usual present: one week of summer horse camp. Considering the girls’ ages and interest, it seemed to us like the perfect choice. And, sure enough, the camp soon delivered days of happy smiles, and the girls appreciated the wonderful gift.

Meanwhile, however, the girls had to get over the loss of their expected toys and trinkets. They needed to learn the details of the coming event—and trust their gift-givers!

In a similar way, the Gift of Christmas has come to hopeful souls across the ages. God offers us Heaven, but we crave the things of Earth. Does an audience of winged creatures wonder at our lack of joy?

Gender-reveal parties are always exciting. Friends and family members of parents-to-be come together to discover the expected child’s gender, typically through a sudden burst of pink or blue balloons, confetti, silly string, or smoke. These events are something like God’s “reveal” of the Son he sent to the world. Except God’s means of surprise included sudden bursts of bright angels.

The Gospel of Luke provides “a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled”(Luke 1:1 NKJV). Luke begins with two long chapters full of amazing details surrounding two sets of parents-to-be and the greatest event in history: Christ’s birth.  

In Chapter 1, we see Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, who is too old to conceive. Then, an angel of the Lord named Gabriel brings glad tidings of a son who would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Though Zacharias doubted, Elizabeth “brought forth a son,” and, according to the angel’s words, they named him John (Luke 1:11 – 20; 57 – 63 NKJV).

Gabriel next appears to a virgin, saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary . . . Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God will give him the throne of His father David . . . and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:26 – 33 NKJV).

 Mary’s face may have fallen a bit. Though she trusted God, Mary was engaged to Joseph, and she needed more details. Gabriel explained, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke:1:35 NKJV).

Luke, Chapter 2, begins with Jesus’ birth, after Joseph, “of the house and lineage of David,” traveled with Mary to Bethlehem under a decree of Caesar Augustus to register “each to his own town” (2:3, 4 NKJV).

An angel soon announced the Savior’s birth to shepherds in the fields, “and the glory of the Lord shone around them . . ..  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:8 – 14 NKJV).

The shepherds accepted the good news of God’s Gift. And they were not disappointed.

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. She volunteers for Arise Daily, using her editing expertise.

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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: To what are you looking forward this Christmas?

The Christmas Feels and the Christmas Fills

by Rhonda Rhea

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot

That Christmas feeling. All year long. Because Christmas movies. All. Year. Long.

I have a high threshold for these things. I watch them all. So when Christmas rolls around for real, I get excited. Christmas movies—at Christmas!

I’ve seen enough of them to know that to experience the season well, you have to fill it with the proper Christmas components. Christmas cookie-baking (spoiler alert: the secret ingredient is love), decorating the tree while singing loud carols (possibly falling off a ladder), ice-skating, brushing something off someone’s face, and of course, making snow angels. We don’t always get a good Christmas snow outside of the movies. For the record, dirt angels are not the same. And Christmas laundry could also become a thing.

I had a little trouble last year. Not with the dirt angels, but with the tree-decorating/ loud singing part. A dozen extra packages of tinsel and too many extra-loud choruses of “Joy to the World” and I got the worst sore throat. Pretty sure I had tinselitis.

There’s a different kind of loud message around this time of year though. It’s both loud and subtle—and not funny. It’s a message to fill the season. Fill it with stuff. Fill it with busy and merch and different kinds of hustle and bustle—and the fullest lists. Lists on lists on lists. Fill it with chaos and stress and nary a silent night, much less sleep in heavenly peace.

I’ll tell you exactly what I do not want my season filled with. Regret. That’s what happens when we let our focus drift to the wrong fillings. There’s a beautiful filling that happens, however—as weird as it sounds—in the proper emptiness. An appreciation of Christmas, and life itself, blossoms as we fill life with…sacrifice. Fill it with surrender.

As we surrender to Jesus, life is filled with purpose. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25 CSB).

I can fill up with the temporary—money, fame, success, power—whatever this world might offer. Gaining it all. Losing myself. The ultimate regret. But surrendering to the Lord, holding nothing back, opens the door to full life. Joyful. And joy-full.

We were never meant to fill ourselves with joy. We weren’t built to wrangle purpose out of our existence. Trying it leads to joylessness—and regrets on regrets on regrets. 

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King.”

Jesus came to bring joy to this world, fully knowing what it would cost Him. What a glorious example of sacrifice. He set aside heaven and His rights as God-King, trading them for suffering—and all for the joy of closeness with us.

We can trust that when He asks us to abandon all and follow Him, He does it with our good in mind. If we let go and grab on to Him, we will always find that His plans for us are bigger and better than anything we could’ve dreamed up. This is a King I can follow without reservation.

That thought fills my heart with singing. Year-round. Though from here on out, I might do the actual singing (with a bit more reservation).

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

rhonda rhea

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

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Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation: How do you keep yourself from regret at Christmas?

The Only Celebrity Who Matters

by A.C. Williams

Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice? No, for all the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket. They are nothing more than dust on the scales. He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand. Isaiah 40:14-15 NLT

Do you know any celebrities? I’ve met a handful of famous authors, but for the most part, I just watch celebrity interviews on YouTube like everyone else. 

I follow a few actors on social media who I truly believe are the real deal. They live out a true, authentic faith, and from what those around them say, their faith has had an impact. They are great people. 

When I hear about someone who is great, I like to spread the word. Watch this movie. It’s great. Read this book. It’s great. Listen to this speaker. He’s great.

When you encounter greatness, don’t you feel the need to share it with others?

So… when was the last time you told someone how great God is?

I’m asking myself, too. Because I’ll be the first one to help promote a book or an entertaining movie, but when it comes to shouting about God’s greatness, I often get really quiet.

I don’t like conflict. I don’t enjoy rocking the boat. So I generally avoid topics that can potentially cause a stir. And God is really good at causing a stir (Luke 12:51). 

I won’t hesitate to tell someone I just met about the great book I just finished. But can I tell that same person that God put air in my lungs this morning, gave me taste buds to enjoy my coffee, legs to walk around and marvel at the beautiful autumn weather? Can I tell that person that God made the sun, the moon, the stars, caused the birds to sing and wind to blow (Isaiah 40:26)? That He keeps the Earth spinning like He keeps my heart beating, and that He cares about them both (Psalm 8:3-8)? 

You guys. God is great. He’s the only one who truly is. I apply the term too liberally. Only God deserves it (Mark 10:18).

Do you ever stop to think about His greatness? Do you ever take time to tell Him, to acknowledge how great He is? Do you ever marvel at His endless creativity, His unconventional sense of humor, and His relentless love? 

I don’t. Not as often as I should. And that’s got to change. As the times grow darker and the end draws near, the louder we need to be about His greatness. That doesn’t mean we should be obnoxious. But we also shouldn’t cower like trembling, fragile flowers. 

Christians, we are daughters and sons of God. He has redeemed us. He has given us a new life, a new hope, and an everlasting future. He knew my worth before I knew my name, and He’d already decided to do whatever it took to save me (Isaiah 53:10). 

God is great. In Him, I have all I need, and He wants a big family. That’s the thing about great people. They’re always looking for folks they want to bless. The doors to God’s house are wide open, and He wants everyone to experience the peace and joy that we can only find in Him. 

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

About the author: A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if she isn’t, her socks won’t match. She has authored eight novels, two novellas, three devotional books, and more flash fiction than you can shake a stick at. A senior partner at the award-winning Uncommon Universes Press, she is passionate about stories and the authors who write them. Learn more about her book coaching and follow her adventures online at www.amycwilliams.com.

Join the conversation: In what ways is God great to you?

Two Things

by Dana Peters Colley

At churches I have visited in my area, I have heard needs shared, both big and small. One pastor proposed beginning a center to help children in the foster care system and the needy. At another church, a lady shared her woes with me in the parking lot. She’s sixty and was married long ago for a short time. She just needed an ear, another believer to walk with her. She had reached out at that church and was directed to counseling she couldn’t afford. Now, the Lord gave me a meeting with her in the parking lot at the end of service.

In these times, when so many are struggling, with so much scary news, some days it’s a wonder any of us slap two feet down on the floor in the morning. Yet, our instruction from the Lord is not to hide in bed but to occupy until our Savior comes. We’re to put on the whole armor of God and be love to a chaotic, dying world. That world may come at us in our families, our churches, our jobs, or wherever we are.

What has helped me in my times of loneliness and struggle are two things. You possibly already know what I’m talking about. You’d think I’m going to say prayer, right? Of course, we need close contact in prayer. Oh – I LOVE to pray. It’s what we are instructed to do. Submit all our requests to the Lord.

But what I’m suggesting is something beyond prayer. It’s to find two things we love to do. For me, it’s to write and paint. Those two things have saved my life more than once.

Do you have two things beyond your close encounters with our Savior that you enjoy?

I found, years ago, at the beginning of a prodigal season with my two youngest, that working on a story where the characters were wholesome and loving to be immensely helpful. That book, after years of writing, is close to finished. I also reworked a book that had loads of Scripture in it.

Eventually, I picked up my paintbrush. Where I found I needed the right head space to write, I could caress a canvas under all sorts of duress. I began to revel in the joy I found taking brush to canvas to create beautiful scenery. The Lord knew where to meet me, how to strengthen me, and bring me further. He wanted me to experience “life and life more abundantly.” He wants that for all of us!

Remember that woman in the parking lot? I asked her about art. It turned out she had had other believers speaking into her life about her doing just that. It took her mind from where she is to what the Lord wanted her to experience. She opened up a bit, and we had a few moments. Not sure what my next steps will be with her: a meal, paints, or to listen again. But it’s so important for each one of us to find the love of Jesus each other. So, go forth, my friend, and think about two things you can do to celebrate this life Jesus died to give us. And search for the ones God wants you to love as well.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James 1:27

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

About the author: Dana Peters-Colley is a creative who loves Jesus. She has been tucked away developing a brand of Christian parable books, faith-based fiction, and inspirational books as well as screenplays. Dana holds a B.A. in journalism, studied screenwriting at U.C.L.A., and is a former long-time Disney creative leader and producer. When the Lord got ahold of Dana everything marvelously changed. She is developing a heavenly-inspired brand line that brings stories to build family, inspire discovery, and teach kingdom ways. See danapeterscolley.com to connect to her spiritual blog and gaze at her adventures.

Do you have a friend you want to receive Jesus into their lives? Do you want to receive how much God loves and values you? Do you want to be empowered to do the impossible? Then, you have to know who you are! Treasure will take you into the realization of God’s love for you as you discover you are His treasure.

Join the conversation: What are the two things you enjoy the most?

What Makes You Smile?

by Shirley Quiring Mozena

…The Lord made the heavens. Strength and majesty are before Him, strength and joy are in His place.  1 Chronicles 16:26-27 NASB

A couple of days ago, Jim and I were on our usual morning walk. Our usual path takes us along a busy railroad track. The tracks often hustle with Amtrak trains that zip by with passengers peering out the windows. Freight trains move slower with long loads of oil and coal. We say to each other, “Let’s wave to the engineer!” Sometimes he acknowledges our wave with a wave back, but on Monday, when we each gave a vigorous wave, he rewarded us with two short beeps in the familiar triple tone whistle. I was as excited as if I’d hit the jackpot. He honked! We smiled for the remainder of our walk. 

Often in early evening, we stroll our front and back yard to check new growth, pull a few stray weeds, and admire our plantings. “Look here,” I might say, “The Hyacinth has another bloom!”

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all splendor was dressed like one of these (Luke 12:27 NIV).…their glory is like the flowers of the field” (Isaiah 40:6b NIV).

Jim says,“That’s great!” with true excitement in his voice. That makes me smile. Joint joy in simple things. But what happened next really made us smile.

We finished “inspecting” the front yard and turned to walk into the house when right above our heads, a bald eagle slowly wheeled his wings through the skies, most likely looking for prey. He was low enough we KNEW he was an eagle. His white head and tail assured us he was for sure our national bird. Big smile! “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint “(Isaiah 40:31 NIV).

I’ve been thinking about those brief smile moments that produced bits of joy into my life. All of them were part of God’s creation. The human encounter with the train whistle. The beauty of a flower. The soar of an eagle soaring confidently in the air with scarcely a ripple of his wings. God is an awesome Creator!

Human contact is a beautiful thing. A smile lifts our spirits. A touch brings joy. And the train whistle? It makes our hearts beat faster.

What makes you smile? Keep your eyes open for the little things that will bring you joy, too.

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

About the author: Shirley Quiring Mozena is a writer, blogger, and national speaker for Stonecroft. She has written three books, Second Chances, Beyond Second Chances: Heartbreak to Joy, and recently published, Second Chance at Love: Navigating the Path to Remarriage. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines.

Join the conversation: What has made you smile recently?

Blessed

by Susie Crosby

adj: enjoying happiness; favored, privileged, fortunate

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope…” Matthew 5:3 MSG

Religious-sounding words make me cringe sometimes. Maybe it’s because they get overused, or can seem insincere. Or maybe it’s because I haven’t understood their true meaning.

Blessed has been one of these awkward words for me.

“Bless you.”

“God bless.”

“Blessings!”

Everything in me feels weird when I say or hear or read words like this. I can’t help it.

Years ago, I impulsively bought a beautifully framed wooded sign that states: “We are so blessed.” It fits beautifully above our dining room mirror and works with the decor. But I can’t look at it without an uncomfortable feeling–wondering if it comes across as prideful or self-righteous or possibly inauthentic to people who visit.

But Jesus said, Blessed.” Many times, in the Beatitudes part of the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew. The upside-down truths that He shared that day surprised the crowd and brought them to cheers. They make me want to know more about what Jesus meant when He used this word.

When Jesus spoke on that hillside, He said we are blessed when we’re at the end of our rope, blessed when we’ve lost what is most dear to us, blessed when we are humbled, blessed when we have worked up a good appetite for God, blessed when we care for others, blessed when our hearts are pure, blessed when we work for peace, and blessed when we are left out and lied about–mistreated for doing what is right.

When Jesus calls us blessed in the midst of suffering or working or trying to do good, it doesn’t sound contrived or fake. And it doesn’t sound like pride. It sounds like he’s giving us something we desperately need but cannot earn.

Beatitude: a feeling or state of well-being and contentment; blissfulness, gladness, joy.

Blessed.

Maybe it means taken care of. Not simply happy or lucky, but attended to and held close by God Himself–our loving Father, by Jesus–our savior and friend, and by the Holy Spirit–our strength and comfort.

Every Sunday at the end of the church service, our pastor prays this blessing over us that God gave Moses and Aaron to bless the Israelites:

The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make his face shine on you

And be gracious to you;

The Lord turn his face toward you

And give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26 NIV

If it means that God will keep us, make his face shine on us, be gracious to us, turn his attention to us, and give us his peace; then maybe “bless you,” isn’t such an awkward thing to say after all.

Sit with Jesus on your own hillside for a moment. If you are at the end of your rope, look into His eyes. Invite Him in. Let Him bless you with His attention, His peace, His strength, and His grace for the struggle you face. He sees you, He knows you, and He will honor and take precious care of your heart for Him.

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

susie crosby

About the author: Susie is a grateful mom of two (almost) grown boys who currently live and go to school in Honolulu, Hawaii. She and her husband live in a seaside town in the Puget Sound region called Mukilteo. They love to hike and kayak, they are huge Seattle sports fans, and they mostly love hanging out at home with their little dog Koko. Susie teaches P.E., Art, Technology, and Music at an all-kindergarten school which keeps her busy full time. Her passion and joy is sharing encouraging words with the people she loves. She is an active blogger and speaker, and she is the author of Just One Word: 90 Devotions to Invite Jesus In. She is always on the lookout for fun coffee shops, inspiring books, remote beaches, and farmers’ markets. Connect with Susie at www.susiecrosby.com.

Join the conversation: How has God blessed you recently?

Everything to Lose/Everything to Gain

by Rhonda Rhea

Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it. Matthew 10:39 CSB

I’m always so sincere when I say I’m only going to eat one of your fries. Like, I really do believe it. I think I believe it right up until I grab that next fry.

Most of the time, I don’t blame myself. Is it okay if I blame the fries? French fries are almost obnoxiously good. Cupcakes? Same thing. So it’s not my fault.

Saying no to fries and cupcakes is not my best thing. But yesterday I stepped on the scale and the scale hurt my feelings really badly. So I’m pondering the need to get better at it. At least a little more balanced. Or perhaps I should just cut off any dealings with the scales. Those mean, mean scales.

It’s probably not helping that my favorite diet routine is the one where I pin a couple of salads on Pinterest and then eat half a chocolate ice cream pie.

I don’t blame the chocolate ice cream pie either. I can’t think of any time it’s ever been anything but sweet.

As followers of Christ, we have the sweet life available to us. Sweet, sweeter, sweetest. Real life. We can grab it all. Life abundant, full, and satisfying. Ironically, we get in on that life as we willingly give up…everything. It’s the strangest balance. Or is it the absence of balance? I’m not sure. Because in giving up that…everything, we gain more than everything. We gain joy, purpose, hope, direction, peace, satisfaction, and love. More! There’s freedom. Freedom from emptiness, guilt, unrest, and discontentment.

As He was commissioning His disciples to proclaim the message of this abundant life, Jesus said to them, “Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it” (Matthew 10:39 CSB).

Six chapters later, Jesus told His disciples again, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25 CSB).

Want to find life? Lose it. Want to have it? Give it away.

Real life is not found in possessions or fame or feelings or the most obnoxiously good earthly treat you can think of. We find spiritual life that transcends all that as we give all to Christ.

Give Him everything—when circumstances are great and you’re on top of the world, and give Him everything when it’s a mess and life is hard.

Those messy circumstances will not be able to touch the joy and satisfaction you’ll find in that place of surrender. And frankly, the glory you might experience when you’re on top of the world is not glory at all—not without The Glorious One.

So give it. All. You can do it as He empowers it. Sometimes surrender is about saying no to self. I don’t just mean the fries. I’m talking about saying no to anything in this life I might be tempted to hold onto tighter than I hold onto Jesus. Belongings, esteem, relationships, habits—He gives grace to let go of those things that hold us back and that keep us from experiencing the sweet, abundant life He has for each of us.

By the way, I’m still working on balancing the sweets on the physical side. Well, sort of working on it. I recently set a goal to lose 10 pounds in 60 days, and guess what! I only have 12 more pounds to go.


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

rhonda rhea

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

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

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

Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: What does the word surrender mean to you?

Watch the Children

by Nan Corbitt Allen

He called a small child and had him stand among them. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-3 CSV

I hear this verse a lot.  But I’ve personally never used it in regards to babysitting or keeping children. Watching them was not something I considered the essence of the assignment. But recently I heard the phrase again, and so I decided to really watch children to see what Jesus is talking about.

One group of kids I observed, obviously on a school field trip, seemed to find joy in something as simple as walking. Even in a straight line. With the teacher leading like a mama duck, the little ones were following in single file. However, each “duckling” had his or her own style of walking. Some skipped, some twirled, some stepped over cracks in the sidewalk. Some even walked backwards. I remember asking myself.  When did I lose the sheer joy of just…walking? At my age, I consider walking a chore rather than a pleasure.

In this group of children, I saw no one who seemed to be anxious about who was going to pay for the outing or who was going to transport them safely home. Someone older, and perhaps, more responsible, had made all of the arrangements. The leader’s main chore was to keep up with her charges, often counting heads and reminding them to stay with the group. This configuration had incorporated a buddy system, giving each child a little responsibility, but only for one other person.

Paul wrote to ancient Corinth, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things” (1 Corinthians 13: 11 CSV). Here Paul is alluding to childishness as immaturity and carelessness. An unsavory trait.

But Matthew recorded this: “[Jesus] called a small child and had him stand among them. ‘Truly I tell you,’ He said, ‘unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2 CSV). The innocence and trust of a child will usher one into the Kingdom of God.

Childish behavior is wanting our own way, dishonoring those in authority, and dismissing the consequences of our actions. But childlikeness? Oh, this involves trusting Him who is in charge and finding joy in everyday things.

A few years ago I wrote this.

Of Such Is the Kingdom

He dances with joy on a summer day

He sings with “heart” the songs of play

He laughs at every rhymes he makes

Because he is a child….

She skips to tunes she feels inside

She patiently counts the stars at night

She never tires of asking why

Because she is a child….

So I wanna dance

I wanna sing

I wanna laugh

I wanna be

Like the little child again.

I wanna run into my father’s arms

The one I trust with all my heart

Of such is the kingdom

The Kingdom of God.

Watch the children. They might teach you something that will change your life, or it will at least remind you of things you already know.

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

Nan Corbitt Allen

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

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

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

Join the conversation: What have you learned from watching the children?