Straight Ahead in the Wrong Direction

by Patti Richter

Arise, go to Nineveh… But Jonah ran away… to flee from the Lord. Jonah 1:2 – 3 ESV

Our small church on the edge of the desert held a prayer meeting on Wednesday nights, and I coordinated the pre-school room. But when our daughter felt sick one Wednesday, I arranged for someone else to supervise—until the Lord provided a different plan.

After dinner that evening, while my husband, Jim, prepared to go to church alone, I went outside to tend the garden. As I knelt down with my spade, I heard the Lord speak in silent yet crystal-clear words:  Go to church tonight. I want you to tell someone about Me.

Amazed at hearing this message, I went to tell Jim what had happened. He agreed to stay home with our daughter while I went to church.

After checking on the children’s class, I took a seat in the back of the sanctuary, where I could see those arriving. But halfway through the service, I’d seen no one that I felt led to speak to.

I slipped out of the service to check on the kids’ room but found it empty; the teenage workers had taken them outside to the playground. As I crossed the courtyard to remind the group to come inside before dark, I asked the Lord about the message I’d heard.

That’s when I noticed some movement on another playground next to the church. I saw two children swinging and someone sitting on a bench. But I continued straight ahead, despite the clear direction that came to me immediately: That’s who I want you to talk to.

In my church pew again, I silently argued with God: I thought you would bring someone into the service, Lord. I don’t know what to say to someone who’s not here to seek you.

I knew well enough Jesus’ commission to his disciples, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15 ESV). Yet, here I sat, not wanting to go 100 steps.

Years earlier, as a new believer reading through the Old Testament for the first time, I’d been disappointed in the prophet Jonah. I loved the miraculous part of the story, the man-gets-swallowed-by-fish part. But the prophet’s stubborn attitude bothered me; I couldn’t relate to his outright disobedience to God—until now, as I found myself in his sandals.

When God’s silence grew too loud for me to bear, I rose up with Jonah-like enthusiasm, went outside to the small playground, and sat down beside that young woman. Startled to see me, she asked if it was okay for them to use the playground.

“Sure,” I answered. But then, in the gap of silence, I realized she reminded me of my sixteen-year-old self. So, I plunged into an awkward testimony: “When I was your age, I prayed and read the Bible sometimes.”

The girl’s eyes grew round, but not with alarm; so, I continued.

“I knew that Jesus died on the cross, but I never took it personally—that he died for me. Some friends helped me to see that I needed to confess my sins and ask Jesus to be my Savior. This changed my life in an amazing way, and I think God wanted me to tell you this.”

I saw a single teardrop slide down the girl’s cheek, as she smiled and said thank you. Then, hearing the pre-school kids racing back to the church, I rose to follow them inside; and the final rays of light drained over the horizon.

Do not be anxious … for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:19 – 20 ESV

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.

Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: Has God shown you something to do in a very clear way? How did you respond?

Advertisement

Blue Plate Special Delivery

by Patti Richter

Give me a sign of your goodness, . . . for you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me. Psalm 86:17 NIV

Why didn’t I begin sooner?

With an out-of-town move approaching, I needed to work fast. I jettisoned extra household possessions like the old green pressure cooker, and the s’mores maker—used exactly once.

Living in the same house for ten years caused a natural build-up. But at least the sorting tasks kept me from thinking about the harder aspect of moving: giving up friends.

I conquered the kitchen and den in good time and loaded give-away items into boxes and bags. But my progress stalled when I reached the dining room.

From the china cabinet, I took out an old Blue Willow plate I’d never used but always cherished—a wedding gift from an elderly widow. The vintage plate had been used at a downtown diner our late friend operated after World War II.  I’d never wanted to let go of it, even though we never had blue décor. But it was time to pass it on.

That’s when I said a brief prayer—aloud. “Lord, I’d really like to give this to someone who would appreciate it.” I didn’t believe God wanted to micro-manage my life, but this move had me feeling as fragile as the china. I needed the Lord’s help every step of the way. I laid the plate on the dining table to think about later.

At church the following Sunday, I stood at the children’s check-in counter before teaching my class. A girl in bouncy curls and a fancy dress stopped to scan her ID. As our coordinator, Terri, walked by, she told the girl, “I love your dress! It’s my very favorite shade of blue.”

Delft blue, I noticed—the color of Blue Willow. This made me recall a lunch meeting at Terri’s house years back. My memory suggested a blue kitchen, and maybe . . .  

At home later, I wrapped the old plate in tissue paper and put it in a gift bag. But I wondered if Terri would consider the plate a strange gift.

The next Sunday, after teaching my children’s class for the last time, I went to find Terri. When she descended the nearby stairway, I waved to get her attention.

“I need to say goodbye, Terri.”

“I’m so glad you’re still here. We’ll miss you!” She sat down beside me.

 “I’ll miss everyone, too, but I have something for you.”

Terri looked surprised when I lifted the bag, and then startled as she pulled away the tissue paper. Tears slid down her face as she struggled to speak.

“Did you know I collect Blue Willow?”

With relief, I explained: “I heard what you said to the girl in the blue dress and remembered your kitchen; but I wasn’t sure.” Then I told her about the plate and my prayer.

“You don’t understand how this makes me feel,” she said. “I’ve been so overwhelmed lately and feeling like no one ever thinks of doing anything for me. I asked the Lord to encourage me.”

God is not too distant or too busy to answer our smallest plea. First Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (NIV). Terri and I had each sought the Lord in our weakness, and he showed us how much he cares.

Weeks later, as I sat in our new dining room unpacking a box, I gazed out the window at houses across the street and wondered about making new friends. Then, pulling a china plate from its packing paper, I smiled. Our move had gone so well. God had helped us—down to the very last plate.

This article 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.

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: Do you have an encouragement story? Please share!

Snakes, Pumpkins, Porches, and Fig Trees

by Patti Richter

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24 NIV

Porches want pumpkins in autumn, no matter the temperatures. In the South, without much color in the trees in early fall, we depend on pumpkins and chrysanthemums to announce the season.

I’m a fair-weather gardener, so it takes a fine October day to bring out the ounce of Martha Stewart in me. It was just that kind of balmy weather when I grabbed my old metal bucket and filled it with essentials: garden shears, watering pitcher, and fertilizer. But a strange notion stopped me short of the front door:  There’s a snake on the porch.

My well-worn garden clogs stood waiting for my feet to move.

I don’t like snakes, even the harmless, beneficial ones. But I hadn’t seen one for a long time, and I’d never seen one on my front porch, so why would I think there was a snake there now?

I pushed aside the gauzy window curtain next to the front door. All clear. Even so, I felt uneasy. I parked the bucket right there and resumed household chores instead.

Later, I peeked out the curtain again—nothing but pumpkins. As I reached for my bucket, the compelling thought returned: There’s a snake on the porch.

Perplexed, I went to sit down on the left end of the den sofa—my regular place of prayer. “Lord, this is so strange,” I said. “Are you warning me about a snake?”

An unexpected “answer” came as I suddenly recalled my last snake sighting—many months before. I’d been standing on the back patio with our terrier, Rufus, when he practically flew down the steps and into some Nandina bushes. Then, a long snake darted out of the bushes and into the yard, with Rufus searching frantically along its path. As I watched—knees knocking—I realized that old “snake in the grass” saying was true. The serpent remained perfectly still and hidden before suddenly racing toward the fence and slithering beneath it to the neighbor’s yard.

For days after that encounter, I’d been afraid to cross the yard to tend my flower garden. Finally, I sat on a patio step and prayed: “Lord, I want to work in my garden. Could you please keep me from coming upon a snake?”

Now, sitting on the sofa, I realized I’d forgotten all about that snake prayer. I lingered there a while, amazed at a God who not only hears us but answers our smallest prayers—even the ones we forget about!

The apostle John shared the story of Nathanael, a would-be disciple of Jesus, who wondered how Jesus knew all about him. “’How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel’” (John 1:48, 49 NIV).

Like Nathanael, we may underestimate the Lord’s knowledge of our every move and our every word. We may be surprised or shocked to realize he answers our prayers—especially those little ones that seem too small for him to care about.

With such a loving God, why should we fear snakes or anything else?   

On that October day, I finally went to retrieve my bucket, peered through the curtain again, and opened the front door cautiously—only a few inches. But I was just in time to see a rather cute little snake glide out from behind a pumpkin and harmlessly away.

This article 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.

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: With what fears do you struggle?

Keeping in Step with God’s Purposes

by Patti Richter

Our instructor could leap and spin. And the rest of us would try to keep up with her.

I was somewhat petrified as I signed up for an new exercise class. Not scared stiff—just stiff. A young woman named Raina taught cardio-dance-exercise at a local gym, and her routines incorporated styles from Jazz to Jackson (Michael, that is).

My faithful attendance in Raina’s class for more than a decade made me stronger and more flexible. But then I moved out-of-town, and she was no longer in front of me. I hoped to find someone else who would encourage me to keep moving since I was at risk of gradually becoming stiff again.

But there’s another kind of stiffness to be on guard against. We can see a troubling pattern recorded in the history of several kings of Judah who were pleasing to God only while they had a certain temple priest to instruct them. However, when the priest died, each of these kings started to make unwise and sometimes evil choices. It appears they ruled without accountability, as if they believed themselves either too strong or too wise to fail.

Joash was one of those kings. He “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chronicles 24:2 NIV). But after Joash began listening to those who were not God-fearing, he abandoned both the temple and the worship of God. The Lord sent someone to warn him of the consequences, but the king was too stiff-necked to repent. After a long, 40-year reign, Joash was murdered by his own officials, and he was not even buried in the tombs of the kings (24:17-25).

Spiritual stiffness may not set in overnight, but it can set in.

Regarding the waywardness of God’s people, the apostle Paul explained, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us…. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12 NIV).

Speaking of the body of Christ, Paul said, “each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV), and God supplies members with a variety of gifts and abilities (v. 28).  Concerning those who lead, Paul wrote, “An overseer is entrusted with God’s work…. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:7, 9 NIV).

While we may view church involvement as a dutiful habit, like going to the gym, maybe this isn’t a bad thing. A healthy “body” requires active members who show up. And we benefit from the example of those leaders who, like Paul, show us how to fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

Few of us can stay spiritually fit on our own. The apostle John wrote, “if we walk in the light, as [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7 NIV).

Christian fellowship necessitates commitment to both serving and submitting ourselves to others. And our participation simultaneously strengthens our soul.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV

This article 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.

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: How have you been strengthened by your involvement with other Christians?

Golden Rule Days

by Patti Richter

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good. Romans 8:28 ESV

The school supply shelves are currently filled to the brim. The sight of plastic folders, 3-ring binders, and those timeless tools of learning—pencils and paper—makes me sentimental for yesteryear, when I had school-age children. Not that I’d like to repeat those years, but I realize the opportunity to influence fresh hearts and minds is as precious and fleeting as youth.

My husband and I sought to raise our children with the knowledge of God, and we hoped to provide them with a good education too. Now, years later, it’s become clearer to me how to best accomplish both.

With 30 annual notches in my Sunday-school teaching belt, I’ve observed hundreds of kids from various educational settings. My personal “clinical study” provides one compelling conclusion, at least to me. I’ve seen that, rather than a particular place or method of learning, a child’s home and family environment is the better indicator of a child’s success—academically, emotionally, and spiritually.

C. S. Lewis, beloved author of The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and a worthy mound of other good books, survived rather than thrived in the weak schools of his childhood in the early 1900s.

The influence of his home had proved stronger than the educational opportunities in his remote region of Ireland.  His parents’ passion for reading fostered his interest-driven learning. And their faith-filled and happy home marked Lewis’ formative years, until his mother’s death. Lewis gained admittance to Oxford at age 18, yet his very excellent education failed to offer lasting joy. Instead, Lewis discovered the abiding joy of knowing Jesus Christ.

Educational choices are big decisions for parents in this age where those “dear old Golden Rule days” are a thing of the past. A school environment is quite important, though school choices are more limited for some parents, and family circumstances further dictate opportunities. But whether our choices are many or few, all of us can prayerfully make our best decision. We can further rest in knowing that God “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3 ESV).

Parents who choose either public or private secular schools for their children should teach and emulate God’s ways to them. And parents who choose either a Christian school or home school must do the very same thing.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 ESV

This article 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.

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: What influences were strongest for you as a child? What was the result?

In a Dry and Thirsty Land

by Patti Richter

Drought. Some of us have never really seen one except for scenes in the world news and photos published by relief organizations. Drought, along with a heat wave (minus the breeze that usually comes with a wave) is life-threatening, especially to livestock and poor creatures of the field.

The burning heat and cracked, shriveled earth can make us feel forsaken, like those whom God remembers no more (Psalm 88:5). We may wonder if we’re off God’s radar.

We hear that drought is connected to global warming. If we believe in Mother Nature, we’ll perceive that she is troubled, bent out of shape over our excess.

Mother Nature was not prominent in past ages, when tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters were referred to as “acts of God” or “Divine Providence.” Maybe the gurus of the Modern Age decided it wasn’t good to ascribe destructive works to God, so that he went out of the picture altogether. Mother Nature is credited with all bad weather; she therefore receives the praise for beautiful days.

We must cast down the idol of Mother Nature. “The earth is the Lord’s,” to do with as he pleases (Psalm 24:1).  He is our God, for better or for worse, in green pastures and in drought.    

The natural elements respond to their Creator, and we can direct our concerns and fears to him. God spoke to his people saying, “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit” (Leviticus 26:3, 4 ESV).

This does not negate mankind’s responsibility to tend to the earth, but we should not view ourselves as at the mercy of nature. Jesus said that our Father in heaven “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45 ESV). It likewise follows that too much heat and too little rain are shared conditions since sheep and goats dwell together in our world.

But during prolonged heat and drought, our bodies languish, and we may wonder if our region is a test site for Revelation 16, when the fourth angel will pour out his bowl of wrath—fire and scorching heat. The turned-up temperatures bring up the dross in us. We complain, and our better perspective droops. While the unjust might not repent, we may need to.

As a remedy, we can offer praise to God for water that still gushes from our faucets. We can thank him for electricity that provides air conditioning and ice cubes. And we can shout “hallelujah” over God’s reassuring promise:

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. Genesis 8:22 ESV

This article 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.

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: Are you in a spiritual drought right now?

God’s Riches—Much More Than We Imagine

by Patti Richter

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think . . . to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations. Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV

The group of college students from Texas stood in a long line of tourists. They had travelled from the capital city of Beijing to Central China for a museum tour of the “afterlife army” of China’s first emperor, who died in 210 B.C.

The Terracotta Army Museum is one of the greatest archeological sites in the world. And my son Weston’s Mandarin-language instructor had planned that day trip during a summer study-abroad semester. But Weston almost missed out on the opportunity due to the originally planned hours-long journey by train. My son had explained, “These trains weren’t designed for people over six feet tall.”

It saddened me to think of my son missing out on such an adventure, especially considering his fascination with China’s history and its leaders. However, the week of the trip, the instructor decided it would work for the group to fly!

After stepping inside the cavernous exhibition hall, Weston noticed a group of museum guards moving in behind him. They also closed off the entrance to others waiting in line outside. But his attention soon returned to the incredible display of ancient figures ahead of him: thousands of miniature clay soldiers and horses—no two alike.

The terracotta army had remained hidden in the earth for more than 2000 years until 1974, when farmers digging a well discovered an ancient pit. In the following decades, excavations uncovered immense vaults of clay figures, along with artifacts in bronze, silver, and gold. And archeologists believe much more of China’s treasure trove is waiting to be unearthed.

That amazing and ongoing discovery provides an earthly example of the spiritual treasure waiting for those who seek to know God. The apostle Paul wrote that he received God’s grace “to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Ephesians 3:8-9 ESV).

Paul went on to explain what believers can receive because of the riches of God’s glory:

Be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:18-19 ESV

My son exited the back of the exhibit hall that day surprised to find an expectant crowd. He also saw a line of security guards in front of a nearby caravan of expensive cars with government license plates. Then Weston turned back around in time to see two special tourists emerge from the doors behind him. The Premier of China and his guest, the Chancellor of Germany, had also come to view the long-hidden treasures.

So much more than expected.

This article 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.

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: What has God done for you that exceeded your expectations?

Fixing Our Eyes

by Patti Richter

We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1 NASB

We drove along the flat and desolate landscape of South Texas for our family’s first vacation to the Gulf of Mexico.

Finally, we came upon a colorful seaside village where the shops stood too close together to allow more than a glimpse of the water. But as we circled around to the backside of our hotel, we gazed in wonder at the sudden view of the ocean stretching to the horizon.

Making our way down to the beach later, we came upon a sea of towels that also seemed to stretch to infinity. Once we had claimed an empty spot of sand to accommodate our belongings, we headed into the surf.

The powerful waves thrilled without threatening us, but we soon discovered the ocean waves pulled to shore at an angle. While we romped in the water, the currents pulled us away from our beach location.

Since the job of keeping our possessions in sight fell to me, I noticed my gradually diminished view of them with each new wave. Before long, I could barely distinguish the color patterns of our towels from the bright congregation of others. So, every few minutes we pushed our way back against the current to regain our original position.

After tiring of that repeated effort, I realized my need for some point of reference. Then I saw it: a flagpole, just inland from our towels, with its flag blowing in the sea breeze. Now I could enjoy the surf without fretting about losing sight of our spot on the beach. 

Like those mighty ocean currents, there’s a strong tide in this world that can pull us from our faith foundation. Shifting ideologies contradict the truth of God’s word. Forceful arguments and images confound our perspective of right and wrong and eventually divide friends, family members, congregations, and denominations. If our spiritual focus becomes blurry, these wrong influences will keep us from following God’s plans and purposes for our lives.

The apostle Paul warned believers not to be “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:14-15 NAS).

When we stand firm, anchored in both God’s truth and his love, we become signposts for those taken captive by the currents of this world.

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 NAS

This article 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.

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: What do you do to push back against the current of the world?

An Elevated View of Our Father’s Love

by Patti Richter

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Matthew 7:9 NIV

The feeling of independence was a heady thing for me the day I left home, driving my own car back to college for the first time. Two hours into the journey, I left both the freeway and the summer heat behind as I headed into the cooler elevation of the Ozark Mountains. To fully enjoy the experience and the view, I turned off the air conditioning and lowered my window. But before long I heard a strange sound that quickly filled me with panic.

My little blue Ford seemed to be gasping for air—and losing steam with each breath. What awful timing! The shoulder-less road featured hairpin turns that prevented pulling off any time soon. And I had miles of mountains still ahead with no gas stations or other businesses. (And no cell phones in those days.)

I reacted with just one desperate thought: If only Dad was here! My father would know both the problem and the solution, but he was 150 miles away. Tears filled my eyes before another thought suddenly occurred to me: I had another Father—a much more available one.

As a new Christian, I was all about Jesus. I’d known him as my Savior for nearly a year; but in all my first-love passion for him, I hadn’t yet fully appreciated that I’d also gained a bona fide relationship with a loving Father in Heaven.

The apostle Paul explained that we are reconciled to God “through the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10 NIV). The apostle John wrote, “Our fellowship is with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3 NIV).

I truly appreciated my reconciliation with God. However (maybe because I still had parents to support me), I hadn’t yet needed to desperately implore my heavenly Father for his help. Even so, the words of Jesus assured me that I could. I recalled how he told his followers not to worry: “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 6:26 NIV).

I knew my father back at home would not have ignored my cry for help. Now I needed to trust that my Father in heaven wouldn’t either.

In a voice loud enough to compete with my car’s coughing sounds, I asked God to get me safely through the mountains. Immediately, the engine sounded normal. My car was breathing easy again, and so was I.

I took the rest of those hairpin turns with a heightened sense of wonder. The Creator of the mountains had stooped low enough to answer the plea of a needy traveler—one of his own daughters!

As I emerged from the hills to the first town below, my car’s engine trouble suddenly returned—this time in view of a gas station, and I pulled in. Within minutes, the attendant told me, “I adjusted the valve on your carburetor for these altitudes. You should be all taken care of now.”

And, indeed, I was.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7 NIV

This article brought to you by the Advance 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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 51DJoiI3ILL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

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: How has your Heavenly Father cared for you lately?

Embracing a More Costly Discipleship

by Patti Richter

We have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake. 1 Corinthians 4:9, 10 ESV

Some said he threw his life away. Yet the young American, whether foolish, faithful, or a measure of both, lost his life so that people who never heard the gospel might gain Christ.

In late 2018, John Allen Chau died on a remote island east of India—shot by arrows of the isolated people of the Andaman Islands. In his evangelistic zeal, the 26-year-old had kayaked into danger, ignoring government restrictions and warnings against visiting the tribe.

While much of the media world shook its head in scorn, many Christians were no doubt troubled. We share the beliefs Chau died for, including Christ’s Great Commission to his followers before returning to Heaven: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19 ESV).

Over the holiday weeks that followed, I considered the stark contrast between Chau’s way of following Jesus and the more comfortable—and safe—life that so many of us lead. Our idea of sacrifice might include our commitment to weekly worship, or our service on a church committee or in the nursery. Our sacrifices may further include monetary giving, or perhaps giving up some things. Yet many Christians, whether consciously or not, maintain an invisible boundary that keeps us from any great cost related to our faith.

I mentally compared Chau with the first Christian martyr, Stephen (Acts, chapter 7). Both men asked the Lord not to hold their killers’ sin against them. Both died prematurely in the world’s view. Yet, clearly, Stephen’s death by stoning was not in vain, since he delivered a lengthy evangelistic message to the violent crowd. One young man who witnessed and approved Stephen’s death was Saul, who later became known as the Apostle Paul. Chau’s outreach effort, however, appeared untimely and wasted. Without knowing the tribe’s language, he had no effective way to communicate the gospel.

Chau’s death recalled for some of us the story of Jim Elliot (Chau’s hero), one of five missionaries whose tragic deaths continue to inspire Christian missions. In January of 1956, Elliot’s entire group was speared to death by the remote Waodani (“Auca”) Indians of Ecuador. The Amazonian people had faced extinction from lawlessness that included rampant killing among themselves. But as a result of that awful event, the tribe experienced transformation by the gospel.

Chau’s preparation for foreign missions, if not sufficient, was at least serious. His commitment to Christ matched that of the apostles and martyrs across the centuries, those who suffered beatings, imprisonment, and death by local authorities and opponents of the gospel. Chau believed that the benefit of knowing Christ would be worth whatever else that tribe might lose. He obviously believed the same for himself.

Whether or not Chau’s sacrifice will prove to have an eternal effect on that island tribe, his willingness to give his all for Christ has affected the hearts and minds of some of us who need to consider the cost of true discipleship. His life ended too soon, but it was not wasted.

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:35, 36 ESV

This article brought to you by the Advance 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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 51DJoiI3ILL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

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: How are you trying to live out your calling?