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?

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.

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 have you learned from watching the children?

Pause to Refresh

by Nan Corbitt Allen

If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him. John 7: 37-38 CSB (emphasis added)

The little South Alabama town where I grew up in the 1960s has a natural phenomenon that was responsible for some of my most delicious memories. The story is that around the early 1920s some speculators believed there was oil hiding under the town’s surface. In drilling for oil, however, they discovered an enormous artesian well (definition: an underground spring that naturally spews to the surface without a pump).  At around 1500 feet below, a subterranean spring began to spout 100 feet into the air and has continued flowing until this day—producing 1200 gallons of water a minute. A new above-ground lake was born on that day. But someone had the forethought to harness some of that naturally flowing water and funnel it into an enormous swimming pool. It was in that pool that I learned to swim.

The water was cold, even in the long summer months. Since the water came straight out of the ground through a large pipe, and then into the pool, the water was always fresh. And it was recirculated by leaving the main pool, flowing into the “baby pool” and then into the lake.  The main pool emptied and refilled itself every two hours. The pure H2O contains 27 nourishing minerals which are beneficial to life.

The whole Lake Geneva complex, with dance floor, snack bar (and even a cage for a pet monkey) was privately owned and immaculately maintained. I can still feel the shock of jumping off the diving board into the water below. It almost took my breath away. And on those hot, humid southern days, the temperature contrast was even more pronounced…and welcome.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if those drilling for oil had actually found it, pumped it out, and sold it. Somebody (or their heirs) would now be counting their money and the whole town’s economy would have taken a different path. I also imagine the disappointment that the prospectors had when that drill hit water instead of oil. The use of fossil fuels has come under fire in the last several decades, so one can only speculate that the boom would have died out at some point and the dream of prosperity with it. 

However, what riches we’ve enjoyed for a century all because of a failure to achieve the initial goal!

That’s the point here. The “weeping prophet,” Jeremiah, was God’s mouthpiece to the ancient Israelites, mostly with warnings of gloom and doom. Here, however, is one of his more positive prophecies:

“For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 CSB.

Maybe I’m reaching (or digging) for a metaphor here, but the memory of the artesian well keeps coming back to me in fresh ways.

Isaiah, my favorite prophet, reported that God said. “I will open rivers on the barren heights, and springs in the middle of the plains. I will turn the desert into a pool and dry land into springs.” (Isaiah 41:18  CSB)

I’m thankful for the well-spring that one beautiful excavation mistake created for me. I’m looking forward to how God will unearth deep-flowing truths to me, and to all of us, that will bubble to the surface.

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: Has the Lord unexpectedly moved you away from a goal you had? How did that work out for you?

Nobody’s Perfect

by Nan Corbitt Allen

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29 NIV

We found a treasure chest in our garage.

It was a small wooden box that looked like a miniature version of what pirates search for at the bottom of the sea. Inside this chest, we rediscovered lots and lots of coins that we and my late father-in-law had collected through the years. Many of them were old—some as far back as the turn of the 20th century. Some were foreign coins and some were just ordinary.

We started looking up old coin values and realized that some of these were worth more than their face values. Some much more. In searching the internet for information about coin values, we found that a lot of coins (not the ones we have, however) are worth hundreds of thousands—and sometimes millions. The most valuable ones were not the oldest coins, however, but the ones that had errors on them: mistakes in the minting process.

One recent minting of a state coin says “In God We Rust.” No fooling. Because of the mistake in stamping, it is worth a lot of money now. Another error is called the “Spitting Eagle.” It’s a quarter that has a small raised line near the eagle’s mouth that makes it look like it’s spitting. And in the 1930s there were some 3-legged buffalo nickels mistakenly put into circulation that now are worth a bundle. All of these are coins are valuable only because of their rarity. Apparently, there is a whole industry dedicated to collecting error coins. I think it amazing (and symbolic) that these coins are worth more because of their flaws.

Sometimes I think that God made a mistake when He designed me, because I’m not perfect. At least by the world’s standards anyway. I’m too short. Too round. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. Old. Cranky. Annoying. Worthless.

Yet the Bible tells stories of people who had imperfections, and we still read about them and revere them in spite of their flaws. For instance:

Moses had a temper

Gideon was a coward

Noah drank too much

Jacob was a cheat

David was an adulterer and a murderer

Jonah rebelled

Solomon was a womanizer

Elijah pouted

Simon Peter was disloyal.

The Apostle Paul had some malady that we know little about. Some conjecture he had cataracts that damaged his eyesight, and that these were caused by the blinding experience on the road to Damascus.

In 2 Corinthians 12: 7, Paul writes about his flaw.  “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (NIV).

You may wonder what God was thinking when He made you. You might believe that you’re a mistake because you and your circumstances aren’t perfect. Just remember that your value is not measured in perfection, but in your willingness to recognize and surrender your flaws to the Creator. Just like with minting mistakes, your weaknesses can make it possible for God to use you more effectively.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 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.

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: Do you have a weakness that God has used for His purposes?

Know It All

by Nan Corbitt Allen

Don’t fool yourself. Don’t think that you can be wise merely by being up-to-date with the times. Be God’s fool—that’s the path to true wisdom. What the world calls smart, God calls stupid. 1 Corinthians 1:18-21 The Message

I overheard a conversation recently between a mother and her 8-year-old son.

SON: Mom, do you know everything?

MOM: Oh, no. Not everything—just a little something about a lot of things.

SON: Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I wanted to say to that mom, “Cherish this moment, because he won’t always think so highly of you or your knowledge.”

Perhaps the young boy wasn’t asking about his mom’s knowledge, but about her wisdom. There’s a difference, you know.

Knowledge is acquired through experience or education. In other words, we can study enough and travel enough and experience enough to gain knowledge. That’s impressive!

Wisdom, however, goes beyond knowledge. A wise person has perspective and discernment. They know how to use the information to make good decisions. The only way to gain wisdom is through a gift from God. Someone once said: “Knowledge is knowing what to say. Wisdom is knowing when to say it.” 

When thinking of wisdom, we often think of good King Solomon from the Bible. He was the son of David and Bathsheba who inherited the throne of Israel when his father died. God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” Solomon, with a whole kingdom at his disposal, asked for a “discerning heart” to judge the people wisely. God told him because he didn’t ask for riches or health or long life, He would give Solomon wisdom. And along with the wisdom He would bless him with all of the other things that usually follow success. (Find this story in 1 Kings 3 and 2 Chronicles 1.)

Of course, the rest of the story isn’t so good. Solomon had it all, but he allowed his possessions and successes to go to his head. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18 NASB). His pride was his undoing, not his knowledge or his wisdom.

There is something about getting older that awakens us to new things, new ideas, new knowledge. Trial and error. Adventure and experimentation. Voracity. These teach us a little something about a lot of things. But wisdom comes from a heavenly source. My favorite verse about this is in James 1:5 (NASB) “…if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

As a mom, I called on this promise often—everyday sometimes. Child rearing books were everywhere, and I read many of them. I had a lot of knowledge, you might say, but what I needed was wisdom on how to bring up my boys in a way that was pleasing to God. And when I asked, He provided.

These days we get a lot of information—some of it tainted with opinion and some of it sound with truth. However, none of this is valuable without first asking, “Give me wisdom, Lord.”

Romans 12:2 (NASB) says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (emphasis mine). The first part of the verse is a great word about gaining new ideas and insights, but the last part is the promise to which I cling. If I test information I receive against truth, wisdom will guide me to finding what is the right action.

Like the old hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory” says, “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour…” No matter what we face, we should first ask for wisdom, then for the courage to act upon it.

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: Can you think of a time when wisdom was vital to the knowledge you possessed?

Like A Robert Redford Double Take

by Nan Corbitt Allen

Even a child is known by his doings… Proverbs 20:11 KJV

Everyone is known for something. A physical attribute. A personality trait. A character element. A power. A weakness. A quirkiness. A good or bad deed. When someone you know is mentioned in conversation, you might think or say, “Oh, he’s that guy/girl who…”

Well, I notice quirkiness, repeated behavior, and verbal recurrences. And I tend to label others by some trait or behavior. For instance, every time I see the actor Robert Redford on the screen, I already know that he is going to do a “double take”—or several. (Double take means a delayed reaction to a surprising or significant situation after an initial failure to notice anything unusual.)

Redford is notorious, at least in my book, for his repeated, but endearing, reactions to a character or line of dialogue. In his movie Sneakers—my all-time favorite film—I’ve counted eleven double takes. There may be more, but no matter. That’s what I think of when I see him.

Have you ever wondered what you’re known for?

Some of our Bible heroes were known for what they did, not necessarily for who they were. For instance, Moses had a temper. It drove him to kill an Egyptian soldier and then hide his body in the sand. Later, Moses was angry with the nomadic Israelites when they complained (which was often) about their lack of water. God had given Moses the command to speak to a rock and water would come out. Once before, Moses had struck a rock for water, but this time the instructions were different. He was to speak to the rock. Moses, in a rage, struck the rock. Yes, water did come out, but God held him accountable for that for the rest of his life.

Moses isn’t known for his displays of temper, however. He’s best known for receiving the Ten Commandments and leading his people out of Egyptian slavery. Known not for his flaws, but for his moments of obedience.

Noah, that guy who built an ark, was a heavy drinker. Jacob, the one who started the Israelite nation with his 12 sons, was a deceiver. David, the man after God’s own heart, was an adulterer and a murderer. Elijah was a pouter, but he kept his people from being corrupted by false gods.

Maybe I’m pushing it too much to mention Robert Redford and Moses on the same page, but still it brings up the question—what are you known for—your physical quirks, your failures and weaknesses, or your moments of obedience? It’s something to think about, and something you may not know for sure. Others may perceive you differently than you see yourself. You may evaluate who you are by what you’ve done in the past. Others may revere you for overcoming a checkered past. You may see yourself as a hero for something you’ve done, but others may see you as being arrogant and boastful about one action.

It’s interesting that Jesus asked His disciples what others were saying about Him, like He didn’t already know. Their response was that some of the people thought Jesus was the reappearance of a long-dead prophet or maybe John the Baptist. Then surprisingly, He asked them what they thought of Him. Peter answered “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 NASB).

Well, Peter got it right, but it didn’t keep him or the others from distancing themselves from Him when times got tough. Peter denied. Thomas doubted. Judas betrayed.

Now three things come to mind:

1) Be careful that your actions reflect who you truly are.

2) Don’t judge someone else by one isolated deed. Remember Paul persecuted Christians and then became one of the most dedicated and revered believers in history.

3) Don’t let someone else’s opinion become your reality. Remember God sees you differently.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NIV)…and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…(Romans 8:17 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: How would others identify you? How does God see you?

He Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

by Nan Corbitt Allen

From Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s journal:

CHRISTMAS 1861

“How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.”

JULY 1862

“I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.”

CHRISTMAS 1862

“‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”

CHRISTMAS 1863

No journal entry.

CHRISTMAS 1864

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along the unbroken song of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way, the world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime, a chant sublime, of peace on earth, good will to men!

How did the great poet go from despair to silence to hope? It is no wonder that his poem “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” has become a beloved, classic Christmas carol. And when you know the story of Mr. Longfellow’s journey, it inspires more than hope to those who grieve. It also recollects the reason for which Christ was sent to earth.

July 1861. The War Between the States had just begun and Henry, his wife, Fanny, and their five children were in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a house overlooking the Charles River. It was a hot summer and Fanny wrote in her journal “We are all sighing for the good sea breeze instead of this stifling land one filled with dust. Poor Allegra is very droopy with heat, and Edie has to get her hair in a net to free her neck from the weight.”

The next day Fanny decided to cut little Edie’s hair. Since it was the child’s first haircut, Fanny wanted to preserve a lock of the hair in wax as she had with the older children. Hoping for a breeze of relief, Fanny did not realize what a hazard she had created as she lit a wax candle to preserve the hair, and then opened a window to get a breeze flowing.

A gust blew in, caught the hot wax, which splattered Fanny’s dress. The fabric immediately burst into flames. Panicked, Fanny began to run. She ran into Henry’s study screaming for help. In his attempt to smother the flames he was badly burned on his face and hands. Fanny, however, died from her injuries. Henry could not attend his wife’s funeral because of his burns. The pain was excruciating – physically and emotionally.

A home that should have been filled with joy and laughter at the next Christmas, 1861, was instead somber and silent. The cloud of mourning had not yet lifted. There was little sign of hope.

The following year, 1862, Charles Longfellow, Henry’s oldest son joined the Union Army. As the young man marched off to battle, his father feared he would never see his son again.

On Christmas, 1863, Henry received the news. Charles had been wounded in battle. A bullet had passed under his shoulder blade and injured his spine. In those days, such a wound was most often crippling if not fatal.

The following Christmas, 1864, though he was an invalid, Charles was still alive. There were rumors of the war’s end and hope began to flicker. On Christmas Day, Henry picked up his pen and wrote the first verses of the Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Though total peace was somewhat elusive from a world point of view it was possible that Christmas Day to find peace.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 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.

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: Are you at peace this Christmas season?

Ties That Bind

by Nan Corbitt Allen

 “…Lay aside every encumbrance…which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” Hebrews 12:1 NASB

Recently I felt encumbered. My jeans were digging into my waistline, my shoes were pinching my toes, and my face mask got tangled up in my reading glasses. And those are only the things I’m willing to share! As I was trying to disentangle myself, this Bible passage came to mind. I realize, of course, that this word is not about physical comfort; that kind of encumbrance will inevitably get worse as I get older! This admonition from the writer of Hebrews is a metaphor, using a physical race to make a point. 

I’m not a runner, never have been, and probably never will be, but I’ve watched many races in my time as the mother of sons who participated in sporting events. These events were often about speed and endurance; for those competing, being dressed in heavy clothing, carrying superfluous weight, or wearing shoes that were too tight were just not an option. 

Some of the burdens in our lives are from the past—failures and successes. Wearing our medals or carrying our trophies, like the winner of a race, can become a burden because it’s impossible to “rest upon” our laurels. 

Disappointments and bad decisions can anchor us to our past as well. As my friend, Derric Johnson, says: “My ‘I never could,’ becomes my ‘I could never.’” In other words, just because I failed in the past doesn’t dictate a lack of success in the future.

Paul also used the race metaphor several times. In his letter to the Ephesians, he writes… “lay aside the old self…” (Eph. 4:22) “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you…” (Eph. 4:31)

Bitterness and anger are things we can do without! Holding on to anger toward someone who has done us harm is a huge weight to lug around. Usually, we who hold the grudge are the ones most afflicted by it. Extra baggage.

These kinds of encumbrances affect not only our spiritual and mental well-being, but it can influence our physical health as well. A University of Minnesota study on how fear and anxiety can damage our physical health declares, “Fear [and anxiety] weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased fertility. It can lead to accelerated aging and even premature death.”[1]

How do we throw off the encumbrances? Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

Rick Warren, the renowned author and pastor, suggests this to help us to find peace when we feel encumbered:

R—Realize nobody’s perfect.

E—Enjoy God’s unconditional love.

L—Let God handle things.

A—Act in faith, not fear.

X—Exchange your perfectionism for God’s peace.[2]

[1] https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/impact-fear-and-anxiety

[2]  https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/daily-hope/read/devotionals/daily-hope-with-rick-warren/five-ways-to-relax-in-gods-grace-daily-hope-with-rick-warren-october-7-2018-11799282.html

Cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

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

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Ties That Bind – encouragement from author Nan Corbitt Allen on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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 40 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 live in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University. 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: What keeps you from running the race well?

Every Little Thing

by Nan Corbitt Allen

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NASB

Neo-Impressionist French painter Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859-1891) developed a technique in art called pointillism. The pictures on the canvases he created look optically complete and most pleasing. His most famous example of pointillism is A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

This painting was not made with broad strokes of the artist’s brush, but with thousands of tiny dots. Each dot is a pure color ingeniously added to the canvas one at a time so that they blend into an image when viewed from a distance. This is a classic case of “art imitating life”—for life isn’t lived in grand broad strokes or big events. It is a collection of tiny specks—ordinary people, underwhelming places, and forgettable things. Each of these may seem individually irrelevant, but when examined under a spiritual microscope, these minutiae create a portrait that can only be realized when seen from a distance—from God’s point of view.

Since the beginning of 2020, I have heard many vow that this new decade will be the one in which they will see everything clearly—20/20—like visual acuity of clarity and sharpness. It is a noble pursuit. However, being able to see what this decade, this year, or even this day will bring is impossible. Our lives are mostly made up of one mundane (but sometimes unexpected) event after another.

Taking a lesson from Seurat, let’s realize that we’re seeing only those minute dots of day-to-day that don’t seem significant at all. In the here-and-now it’s hard to grasp the big picture. But the Master Artist, God Almighty, Alpha and Omega can see the whole thing. In Revelation John records the words of Christ, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13 NASB).

I like to think of God’s plan for me as constantly “unfolding” like the pages of a book or the petals of a flower.  That’s why the Scripture at the beginning of this devotion has become so important to me. The psalmist writes, “As your plan unfolds, even the simple can understand it” (Psalm 119:130 TLB ). I’m pretty simple, so I get it.

Several writers (Emerson and T. S. Eliot to name two) have been quoted as saying something like “Life is a journey, not a destination.”  Or “The journey, not the destination matters …”  Our journeys are made up of one heartbeat, one step at a time, so the tiny dots of every day create the grander, broader picture. And not one of those dots is insignificant.

If I may, I’ll take a slight liberty with Paul’s words on the subject:

And we know that God causes all [little] things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NASB

TWEETABLE
Every Little Thing – encouragement from Nan Corbitt Allen on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Nan Corbitt AllenAbout the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 40 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 live in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University. 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 had an experience in which you suddenly understood how the dots fit together?

The Sacred Word

by Nan Corbitt Allen

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119: 105 NIV)

It was another time—a time when the reading of scripture and prayer were not only permissible but encouraged in the public school. Miss Mary Dell Ard was my fourth-grade teacher, and she was an old-fashioned schoolmarm. Never married, she dedicated her life to teaching children. She called every student “precious,” even though she may be at the same time applying the rod to the child’s backside. (That was permissible and encouraged in those times as well.) Every morning our teacher would read from the Bible, and hers was so overused that she had to hold it together with a substantial rubber band.

One of the few times she embarrassed me by reprimanding me in front of the class was a morning after I had been assigned to take the lunch money to the cafeteria. I had left the room after the Pledge of Allegiance and had re-entered while she was still reading from the Bible. My desk was a mere two steps from the classroom door, and so when I re-entered, I went directly and sat down.

Big mistake. I had forgotten that it was a sacrilege to move about at all during the reading of the Word. The rule: If one enters a room as the Bible is read aloud, one must stand perfectly straight and still until the end of the reading and throughout the following prayer. This was the law, and I never broke it again. Because of this lesson, I still feel the need to be reverent and still whenever the Word is read.

Psalm 119 is a LONG song included in the psalter. No one knows who wrote it, but some believe that it was a priest from Old Testament times. The entire 176 verses are dedicated to the importance and sanctity of God’s Word. The synonyms the psalmist uses for the Word are precepts, laws, decrees, and statutes. The Word is described as eternal, firm, and enduring. This lyric emphasizes that God’s Word is for direction, for teaching, for understanding. It is mostly addressed to God, so it is functionally a prayer. The writer commits to obeying it, hiding in his heart, meditating on it, and delighting in it.

I’m sorry to admit that I haven’t always done this regarding the Word. I’ve read it and believed it most of my life, but have I always consulted it when I needed instruction or consolation? No.

Verse 28 says, “My soul is weary with sorrow: strengthen me according to your word…”  In times of sorrow and frustration, the Bible is often the last place we want to go for help. Why? “[We] have strayed like a lost sheep…” (Psalm 119: 176) Most of the time, the Word will tell us things we don’t want to hear:  trust Himobey Him, and surrender to Him. When we’re suffering, often we don’t want to do any of those things.

When I resist the instruction of the Word, I remember Miss Ard and how she taught me that the Bible is sacred, worthy of my respect, and my go-to for everything I need.

Read it, cherish it, and embrace its truth.

TWEETABLE
The Sacred Word – encouragement from Nan Corbitt Allen on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Nan Corbitt AllenAbout the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 40 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 live in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University. 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: What does God’s Word mean to you?