Consider the Clock

by Nan Corbitt Allen

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV

We have a clock. Well, we used to have a clock in our bedroom. It was lovely and decorative, perfect for a blank space on our wall. However, for as long as I can remember, that clock could not keep good time. It seemed to always be 10 minutes fast. We tried fixing that by resetting it to the correct time, changing the battery, and then setting it ten minutes before the actual time to compensate—to no avail. It still displayed the wrong time. We don’t know if the clock was defective, or if we had not set it properly. Either way, to us, the clock was not living up to its original purpose—to show us the correct time.

I can relate to that. I sometimes feel like I don’t know my purpose, or that maybe I never even had one. I mean, at least a clock has a definite reason to exist. It says so right on its face. So, what about me?

According to the creation story in Genesis 1, Man was created to be fruitful and multiply, to take care of the rest of creation, to cultivate the ground (Gen. 2:5), and to name the animals (Gen. 2:19-20). Woman was created to rule alongside Adam in his dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:28).

But we can’t leave the search for our purpose there in the book of Genesis, can we? Obviously, humankind is more than gardeners and procreators.

I think a lot of people believe that “purpose” is a career path—doctor, lawyer, pastor, teacher. Purpose might include jobs and relationships (marriage and children). But is that all it is?

Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life is when you’re born and the day you find out why.” I think that is clever, but I also think it’s incomplete. I don’t believe that one day we wake up with an epiphany as to why we were created, and from that moment on our path is set.

I truly believe our purpose in life is not so much a destination but a journey. This is not an original thought; I think Ralph Waldo Emerson said it first. If this is true, then our purpose on earth is “a moveable feast” (thank you, Mr. Hemingway). And that makes it hard to nail down just one purpose. Unlike the clock, we are changing and growing and learning. Shouldn’t our purpose change, too?

Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?” is a book I’ve read before, but I went back to read it again. It both convicted me and convinced me that I have it all wrong. Warren bases the book around five purposes regarding God’s plan for each of us. Essentially these are: 1) to bring God pleasure; 2) to be a part of God’s family; 3) to become Christ-like; 4) to be shaped into God’s service; 5) to complete a unique mission given to each one of us. Using these as guides, it doesn’t matter what my vocation or hobby or daily pursuit is; my purpose can be lived out in whatever direction I go.

My direction may vary, but my purpose does not. Purpose is not what I do, but who I am. And who I am will determine what I do. If who I am is a clock, then I will keep correct time. But as a creation of the Almighty One, my life (according to Rick Warren again) is a test, a trust, and temporary—a dress rehearsal for eternity.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Ephesians 1:11 MSG

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg

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: Which of the purposes listed above is most important to you?

Don’t Steal My Thunder

by Nan Corbitt Allen

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 NASB

Steal my thunder. I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase. It means to take someone else’s idea, using it for your own advantage, or to preempt someone else’s rhetorical impact. (Another literary word for this is plagiarism, which, unfortunately, I see sometimes while grading college essays.) I digress.

Most adages, like this one, have curious origins. This saying came from a not-so-successful eighteenth-century British playwright named John Dennis. Seems the guy had developed a new offstage sound effect for his play, Appius and Virginia, that simulated the sound of thunder. The play itself was not well-received. It closed quickly.

Then a director, using the same theatre, took Dennis’ idea and used it for his production of Macbeth. John Dennis happened to be in the audience of this production when he heard his sound effect being used. Mr. Dennis was incensed and stood up in the theatre and shouted, “They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder.”

During storms that have passed our way lately, I thought of this idiom. I realized how often we take credit for what God has done. How we try to steal His thunder. But we’re not the only ones who have done this. There is, of course, a biblical precedent for it.

Remember the Tower of Babel? You can read about it in Genesis 11.

The story starts like this: (quotes from Genesis 11:1-9 MSG) “At one time, the whole Earth spoke the same language.” Everything was great, right? Then the people became arrogant and decided to build a tower to elevate themselves with a building that would reach to heaven. And here is their reasoning “They said, ‘Let’s make ourselves famous so we won’t be scattered here and there across the Earth.’” This did not please God, of course, and so He scrambled their speech so that they couldn’t understand each other. So “from there God scattered them all over the world.” That’s why there are so many languages today.

I’m not sure of their purpose in all this. Not only did God’s people think that building a tower (or fortress) would make them famous—but that it would keep them from being scattered. The only thing I can figure out is that they were comfortable with their circumstances, warm and cozy, and they didn’t want that to change. They also had a built-in work ethic. They didn’t mind hard work, apparently, but their contentment led to boredom; they became self-absorbed, letting the can-do attitude take their eyes off of their Creator. This is something about which we all need to be careful, even if it is in doing God’s work. It’s too easy to look at our accomplishments and forget under whose power it was done.

Paul writes “The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. We couldn’t carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it—even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials”  (Philippians 3:3 MSG).

James speaks to those who have veered off course and are now hitting rock bottom. He writes, “Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet” (James 4:10 MSG)

Next time it thunders—remember—it is not your thunder. Neither is your strength your own. “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am” (Phil. 4:13 MSG).

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg

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: Have you inadvertently taken the credit for what God has done?

This Really Happened.

by Nan Corbitt Allen

Years ago, when we were serving in a small country church, a lady stood up in the Wednesday night prayer meeting and requested prayer. It was not for herself, she said, but for Laura. Seems Laura was going through a difficult time and needed God’s touch. Well, the church member went on to describe Laura’s woes. It seemed that Laura had a premonition that something bad was going to happen and it did. A friend of Laura’s was shot by a deranged acquaintance, Mickey, who has had amnesia since he returned from the Korean war…

Wait. What?

It didn’t take long for the rest of the congregation to realize that this prayer request was for characters on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. The pastor looked at the lady with sympathetic eyes, and, finally realizing what the rest of us understood, he prayed for Laura while most of us snickered under our breaths.

But for most of us, it was a time to realize that the truth can be skewed by a perception—even a sincere belief.

Many years ago, I heard this story that has stuck with me:

The three-alarm fire started in an upstairs bedroom. By the time the first responders arrived, the building was in full blaze. A young couple and their three-year-old son stood outside huddled together, all sharing a blanket.

“My baby, my baby is still in there!” the mother shouted. “She’s still in her crib.”

The brave fire fighter rushed into the burning building, battling the smoke and flames. Finally, he saw the infant’s crib. Quickly, the man grabbed the child, wrapped it in a blanket, and prayed that he’d make it out of the house alive with the baby. Outside, the mother rushed to the fire fighter, grabbed her baby, and began to thank the man for the rescue. But then, her relief turned to horror. As she peeled back the layers of the tiny blanket, she didn’t see the beautiful face of her child, but the artificial features of a life-like doll that had also been lying in the crib. The fire fighter truly believed that he had picked up the child, but he had been mistaken. A classic case of being sincere, but being sincerely wrong.

Sincerity and even honesty are revered in our culture. In fact, these are admirable traits in a biblical context as well. Paul writes in Philippians 4:8-9 “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (NIV). How do we know what is true? It will align with what the Bible teaches. Period.

I later found out that the lady in prayer meeting had a history of dropping out of reality, and I was truly sad for her. Yet sometimes, we can make the same error by assessing a situation before having all the facts or by accepting a half-truth as the whole. That’s how gossip and spiritual tangents develop.

Paul addressed this in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV), “…[take] every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…” To me this means that we should test everything that we hear or read before we start to believe or internalize it. Many core beliefs are not based on truths (those found in Scripture), but on what we want to hear, “…wanting to have [our] ears tickled …”  (2 Timothy 4:3 NIV).

It’s easy to mistake sincerity for Truth. So, test everything. Pray about everything. Don’t believe everything you hear.

P.S. As for Laura and Mickey, I’m sure they figured it out. We prayed for them anyway.

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg

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 truth has been skewed in the past for you by a misconception?

Unity Vs. Harmony

by Nan Corbitt Allen

I love music. Always have and always will. My mother told me that I could hum the tune to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” before I could talk. Part of my affection for the art is hereditary (my dad sang in a gospel quartet) and the other part is just an inborn ability that I was encouraged to cultivate.

I remember singing hymns in “big church.” I still love and remember so many of those great, old songs.  But we sang in Sunday School, too. Now every Sunday I sing a little tune I learned there, and the words that go like this:

Sunday morning/clear and cool, I meet my friends at Sunday School. Friends of mine/are friends of Jesus. He’s a friend to me.

I have no idea who wrote it, but it has been a part of my Sunday routine for over 60 years.

As I got a little older, I became a part of a children’s choir at my church. (Oh, that we would revive this tradition!) I learned there that when everyone sings the same note at the same time, it’s called unison. Then, as I got even older, unison meant that, yeah, we sang the same note, but the boys sang it an octave lower…ideally.

Next, I learned about harmony. First, it was alto. Someone sang the melody, the “lead,” and someone else sang another note below it. My dad taught me how to hear that alto note and sing it. Then, in youth choir, (again, that we would revive this tradition!) I started hearing “boy notes”—tenor and bass. Imagine, everyone singing a different note and it sounding beautiful. (Well, most of the time anyway.) When I got to college and sang in the university chorale, we added many more parts and it became down right heavenly.

All of this to say that it dawned on me recently that when we strive for unity in the world or in the church, that’s a good thing, even though men and women actually have different takes on that, just like in unison singing. Oh, that we would see things exactly the same way—what a world that would be!

However, just as wonderful would be to live in harmony. Each singing a different note, but blending and making an incredible sound. Why can’t we do that? Why not blend ideas and passions? Can we not hold our own pitches and let others do the same and together make beautiful…well, you know?

I don’t believe that unity in the world is feasible. There’s too much hate and deceit and influence of evil forces. It’ll never happen. But in the church, yes, it’s possible that we can have unity, especially about things that are irrefutable. Like the Truth.

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8 ESV).

Some ideas are non-negotiable, like the truth of the Bible. We must be united in those things.

Though harmony might not be a reality in this diverse world, it is feasible, when it includes listening to each other and treating the other person, and his or her ideas, as valuable. Here’s the idea, especially in the church. Paul writes,

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Romans 12: 16-18 ESV).

A good word. And another from the same guy.

And above all…put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:14 -15 ESV

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg

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: Does your church struggle with unity? How are you dealing with that?

What Do You Say?

by Nan Corbitt Allen

I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. Psalm 9:1 NASB

I went out to eat this week. As the waiter handed me a menu, I thanked him. When he brought me my food, I thanked him. When he handed me the bill, I thanked him. And when I paid him, he thanked me.

This exchange brought back the words of my parents. When I was a child and someone gave me something (whether I liked it or not), my mother would ask me, “What do you say?” The answer was always “thank you.” Later in my teens, my mother had me write “thank you” notes for every gift. By this time, saying thank you was becoming not an option, not an obligation, but a habit.

At every meal, Daddy would say the blessing…or grace…or give thanks. “Lord, make us thankful for these and all the many blessings we have received,” was his usual prayer. Occasionally, an addendum was added for healing, or safety, or peace, before the “amen” was said. Then we ate. So the act of giving thanks was engrained in me as far back as I can remember.

When I became a mom, I followed that path and asked my boys, each time they received a compliment or a gift, “What do you say?” They, sometimes robotically, said “thank you.”

I believe that giving thanks became a habit, but as with any habit, it loses its power and effectiveness when it is done subconsciously (without thought). So, I’m trying to be intentional with my thankfulness. With each new day, I try to remember to tell God “thank you.” With each answered prayer, I tell Him “thank you.” However, when the day is dreary or the news is bad or the answers are elusive, I have to make myself give Him thanks. Is that a bad thing?

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

This letter to the believers at Thessalonica was among the first of Paul’s epistles that became part of our present version of the Bible. At the time of his writing this letter, Paul had been through some trials and tribulations, but the worst of his persecution was yet to come. It would get worse, much worse.

A few years ago, we visited the Mamertine Prison in Rome, Italy. It is the place where Paul and Peter (not at the same time) were imprisoned before their deaths. Although it’s now a shrine that tourists can visit, the original was just a hole in the ground, a dungeon that was dark and damp and horrifying. This was not the first time Paul had been imprisoned, but it was the last time. This prison was a holding cell for people who were to be executed soon. So if you found yourself in Mamertine, you weren’t long for this world. However, Paul wrote this, his last letter, to Timothy from Mamertine, “I thank God, whom I serve…with a clear conscience…” (2 Timothy 1:3 NIV).

Remembering to be thankful, no matter the circumstances, is hard. But if I force myself to say thanks, I believe it is a good thing. I just ask myself that old question, “What do you say?”

I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. Philippians 4:12 NASB


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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg

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.

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: When do you struggle to give thanks? What helps you the most to respond to the hard?

The Fear Not Factor

by Nan Allen

…Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 NIV

It was called Infantile Paralysis and though I don’t remember it, since I was only two years old, my sister and I actually had this virus—the virus we now know as polio. A few months after we had the virus, the vaccine became available and was distributed, subsequently eradicating the disease.

Even though my sister and I didn’t have any long-term effects, I’m aware that this virus not only killed but maimed millions of people, before it was finally eliminated by stopping the spread. I understand, too, that for many years before and after our illness, there was fear and panic and despair much like now with the present pandemic. Like COVID-19, this virus had a mind of its own. It could kill or not. It could make someone very ill or not. No one knew how a body would respond. But the epidemic hit our little southern town just as the vaccine was coming out.

I remember, later on, seeing pictures of people, children and adults, having to spend the rest of their lives in leg braces or a contraption called an “iron lung”—a casket-like device that moved paralyzed muscles that were required for breathing. Without it, the victim would suffocate. It was a horrible disease, and though I don’t remember much about my family’s bout with it, I know that the fear of it was very real.  (And the idea that it only affected children, infantile paralysis was no longer regarded as true. After all, President Franklin Roosevelt had it as an adult.)

We are born with a certain amount of fear. It is natural. Doctors say that humans have two inborn fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud sounds. In so many cases, fear is good. It helps us respond to danger. However, the kind of fear that we develop as we get older is born out of a feeling that we are out of control of the future. And we are. But that’s where this emotion becomes a problem. We are afraid of what we cannot see, touch, or hear. We don’t know what will happen, so we often don’t venture into that great unknown.

As believers, we add guilt to our fear. Fear is the absence of faith, right? And without faith, we cannot please God. Jesus spoke about fear to His disciples in the Upper Room. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1 ISV). However, right after this Jesus had a sense of fear Himself. “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me!” (Matthew 26:39, GNT). He knew what was ahead, and yet He still dreaded the pain of betrayal, of the whip, and of the nails that would be driven into His hands. He did not fear death, however. He knew that He would overcome that and, in doing so, overcome it for us, too.

Mr. Roosevelt said this in his first presidential inaugural address, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes…”

Fear can be paralyzing much like the poliomyelitis virus. It can keep us from walking, venturing out, and even breathing. The only way to banish this plague is to do what Jesus said in the garden just before His arrest and torture.  “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” An old adage says, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.”

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God… Isaiah 41:10 NIV

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

Nan Corbitt Allen

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

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg

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 do you fear?


He’s Got This

by Nan Corbitt Allen

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Just a few days ago, for almost a week, we were SNOWED in. As I write this, the temperature outside is a balmy 70.

I recently saw a funny meme about our unpredictable weather here in Tennessee. It said our region actually has 12 seasons. They are, or so it says:

  1. Winter
  2. Fool’s Spring
  3. Second Winter
  4. Spring of Deception (where we are now)
  5. Third Winter
  6. The Pollening
  7. Actual Spring
  8. Summer
  9. Hell’s Front Porch
  10. False Fall
  11. Second Summer
  12. Actual Fall

This is supposed to be a lighthearted jab at our present condition, of course, but it speaks more to me than that. It’s a message on the unpredictability of things, such as weather and seasons, life and death, day and night—events that only God can control.

There is a lot of discussion these days about climate change and how we, as humans, have caused it. I don’t believe that we have been good stewards as we were instructed. Of course, we need to take care of the planet. In the beginning of Genesis, God declares that humans were put in a perfect environment, and charged with the task of maintaining it—of caring for it. Being aware of our responsibility to our Creator and His handiwork, I believe, is important. But I also believe that in taking this responsibility more seriously of late, we’ve forgotten Who made it and Who sustains it. And we somehow start to believe that we are the only ones who can fix it.

Several verses in Psalm 104 portray Creator and His creation in a beautiful poetic way. This speaks to the title “He’s Got This.”

“He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains…He made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down…All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things” (Psalm 104:5-6, 19, 27-28 NIV).

Benjamin Franklin, one of our Founding Fathers, grew up in a strict Calvinist family. However, he became a confirmed deist in adulthood. A deist believes that God created the universe, but that He left it to its own devices. In other words, He spoke us into being, spun us into orbit, and let us go. There’s no need to pray since God isn’t listening.

Scripture doesn’t support this idea.

Paul explained the work of the Trinity in Colossians: all parts of that entity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit are actually One—Him. He writes: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17 NIV).

In this time of uncertainty and perhaps feelings of impending doom—the virus, the weather, the unsavory events in politics—remember that God, Who made it all, is still in control of it all.

Daniel, of lion’s den fame, wrote this about the providential care of God:

“He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;
 he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness,
 and the light dwells with him” (Daniel 2: 21-22 NIV).

Good to know. Important to remember.

For the record, in 1787, at the opening of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin called on those gathered to open each session with prayer. Perhaps Franklin, who didn’t believe in prayer, was exercising some diplomacy. Or maybe he began to believe in the existence of God’s providential care by recognizing His creative and sustaining hand on a brand new nation.

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg

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.

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

Join the conversation: How does the thought of God being active and in control of all things help you this morning?

Hold the Fort

by Nan Corbitt Allen

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 NIV

Did you ever build a fort as a kid? Sure you did. Everybody did. Sometimes it was with your bed covers after you were supposed to be asleep. Sometimes it was a crude combination of various materials in the family room. It might have been a simple canvas pup tent in the back yard. Or maybe you built a real structure with hammer, nails and wood. A friend built my young sons a solid structure on stilts that had a sign on the outside that read: No Girls Allowed.

Probably everybody has built a fort of some kind. But why? Why are we compelled to create a fortress? A barricade? A refuge? Are we trying to keep someone or something out—or something in? Is it built for the feeling of being hidden? The answers vary depending on the circumstances.

Several years ago, on a trip to England, our family visited Dover Castle which rises high above the white cliffs over the English Channel. Though it was built as a royal residence in the 11th century, it became a citadel that protected the owner from foreign invasion. It was a sentry’s lookout, too, for hundreds of years, and it was even used by Winston Churchill to assess the battles that took place on the channel during WWII. Through the ages, it was utilized to watch for an approaching enemy, in order to make ready for a defense.

One modern fortress that comes to mind is at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It’s not just a military base, but where our country stores 9.2 million pounds of gold. Through the years, priceless documents, like the original versions of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address, were kept there for periods of time. The fortress gave protection of things inside that are perceived to be valuable.

Another fortress is the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado, that once served as the center for the United States Space Command and NORAD. Its purpose was to hide military testing techniques and top-secret findings.

All of these fortresses serve different purposes: watchtowers, safe houses, and concealment areas. I think we are created with a need to seek refuge—from storms, from illness, from harm. A safe haven against the chaos of life.

Martin Luther, the great leader of the Reformation and songwriter, wrote these words in 1529.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing
Our Helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate
On earth is not his equal.

The language is, of course, archaic to us. Remember that the lyrics were written originally in German (Luther’s mother tongue) and then transliterated to English. But look at the first line of the text.

“Bulwark” means a hedge of protection, a wall of earth (a levee) against a flood, a fortification. It is also a nautical term. It refers to a solid wall around the main deck of a ship for the protection of persons or objects on the deck. Though the word does not necessarily “sing” well in modern terms, it alludes to the enormous strength of our God to hold us near and protect what is precious to Him. That’s why the 46th psalm calls God our refuge.

The Message translates the first 3 verses of that psalm this way:

God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in sea storm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains.

Take refuge inside a fortress, but not with bed sheets, castles, or bunkers. God’s hand is the only safe place to hide, to assess the enemy’s approach, and to preserve you, a truly valuable child of God.


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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg

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.

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: Where do you take refuge?

A Lesson in Futility

by Nan Corbitt Allen

The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile. Psalm 94:11 NIV

It’s winter. It’s cold. All of the deciduous trees in our yard are naked and much of the wildlife has either migrated or hunkered down to keep warm. Except the bluebirds. And a few sparrows.

A couple of days ago, I was sitting in my sunroom and heard a loud thwumpping sound at the window. That’s when I saw two bluebirds (one male and one female) hurling themselves at the glass. I tried to shoo them away, and they would leave momentarily, but then return exhibiting the same behavior. I felt so sorry for them and helpless as to what to do. Of course, when in doubt, search the Internet.

Google said that they might be seeing their reflections in the window and, believing themselves other birds making threats to their nests, they were fighting to protect their young. I saw no nearby nests, so I kept seeking a motive and a solution.

I wondered if they were hungry, so I put out some seed in the feeder only to find out later—online—that bluebirds don’t eat seeds. They are carnivores. They eat worms and bugs. The thwumpping continued. I was afraid these two beautiful birds would hurt themselves in their futility. Maybe they were trying to find warmth; but letting them inside my house would be more destructive, to them and my house, than helpful. Don’t birds have instincts and feathers that protect them from the weather?

I kept looking for reasons why these creatures were so persistent. And why at my window. Some superstitions say that bluebirds at the window are an omen—a sign of impending doom. Other superstitions say that these creatures are trying to deliver a message of glad tidings. Yeah. Right.

To me, of course, this was a metaphor that I became determined to unpack.

Like the birds, how often do we flail against an illusion—obsessed with a perceived threat—worried about failures in the past that might still plague us, or an imagined future catastrophe that probably won’t happen? We’re prone to exhausting ourselves by the mere thought of danger or disappointment, or both.

Or maybe we look at our reflections but don’t like what we see. Instead of making positive changes, we thrash about with self-loathing and revulsion.

And there is a possibility that we see only what we want to see, not what is really there. In the present political climate, this seems to be the most prominent illusion that makes us not only fight with ourselves, but with others. Families are being torn apart by opinion and preconceived notions.

No matter, it seems that all of these possibilities demonstrated by the bluebirds are driven by self-absorption—and/or fear. Jesus said this about that:

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  Matthew 6:25-34 NIV

These are my favorite prophet’s words: LORD, you are the one who protects me and gives me strength; you help me in times of trouble. Jeremiah 16:19 GNT


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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg

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: Have you found yourself flailing about an illusion or something that never happened?

The Real Thing

by Nan Corbitt Allen

“… Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved you and gave himself for us…” Ephesians 5:1-2 NASB

I have several trinkets in my jewelry box. Most of them I hardly ever wear. I’ve never been much for baubles and dangly things anyway. But last Sunday, while I was getting ready for church, I had a few minutes to browse through my collection and find some “adornments” for the day. I had a lot of choices.

There are many pieces that my husband has given me over the years. Necklaces, bracelets, and rings that are of the highest quality – purest gold and high-clarity diamonds. They aren’t showy, but they are beautiful. I have some inherited pieces that have sentimental value mostly, but are still solid and lovely. I also have some pieces that I’ve gotten as souvenirs: jade from Guatemala, turquoise from New Mexico, and hand painted lockets from Germany.

And then I have the cheap stuff—large earrings that sparkle, bracelets that practically light up, necklaces that’ll knock your socks off! Ironically, when I’m choosing something for a dress-up affair, I’ll choose these over the high-quality things. Why? They sparkle. They show off.

Sunday morning, I decided to go not with the sparkly things, not the nostalgic things, but the real, authentic gold and diamonds. Since I was going to corporate worship, I thought that I’d go with the real stuff. Of course, only I would realize the value of my adornments, but I felt better knowing that what I had on was genuine—pure—hopefully like my presentation of myself to the Lord.

Authenticity is something that’s hard to identify these days. There’s so much CGI (computer-generated imagery) in movies, TV shows, and even commercials that give us the illusion of reality, that our brains struggle to weed out those things that aren’t real at all.  Coca-Cola used to have a commercial with a jingle that says that Coke is the real thing. Ironically, that drink is all artificial flavors and colors.

Sincerity is another word that is used to describe the authentic Christian (as opposed to one who is all “show”). Our word “sincerity” is from a Latin word that calls out the practices of dishonest sculptors who would fill in and cover their chiseling mistakes with wax to deceive the viewer. The compound word literally means “without wax.” This concept not only applies to our lives, but to our personal worship.

But is just being sincere enough to make us pleasing to God? Here’s a story I once heard that explains why this concept could be lacking:

The three-alarm fire started in an upstairs bedroom. By the time the first responders arrived, the building was in full blaze. A young couple and their three-year-old son stood outside huddled together, all sharing a blanket.

“My baby, my baby is still in there!” the mother shouted. “She’s still in her crib.”

The brave fire fighter rushed into the burning building, battling the smoke and flames. Finally, he saw the infant’s crib. Quickly, the man grabbed the child, wrapped it in a blanket, and prayed that he’d make it out of the house alive with the baby.

Outside, the mother rushed to the fire fighter, grabbed her baby, and began to thank the man for the rescue. But then, her relief turned to horror. As she peeled back the layers of the tiny blanket, she saw only the artificial features of a life-like doll that had been lying next to the infant. The fire fighter truly believed that he had picked up the child, but he had been mistaken. A classic case of being sincere, but being sincerely wrong. How do you know you’re being authentic and sincere?

For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth. (Psalm 33:4 NKJ)

You can’t go wrong if you are authentic, sincere, but also grounded in truth.

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg

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.

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: Have you ever been sincerely wrong?