Orca Whales and Overcoming Fatigue

by Grace Fox – grace@gracefox.com

My husband and I had just completed a busy season of ministry overseas. Our bodies yearned for  rest, and our spirits longed for renewal, but one more commitment beckoned before we could take a break.

A lifelong friend and former ministry coworker had passed away, and we considered attending his funeral a non-negotiable. Doing so was no small ordeal. It meant making a day-long trip that involved two ferry rides with the likelihood of high-volume summer traffic and subsequent lengthy waits between sailings. The prospect held zero appeal for us in our weary state. But there was one other option: do the trip in our sailboat-home. Allowing a week for the round-trip could transform our journey into a vacation.

We left the marina with sunshine overhead and gentle breezes at our back. On the second morning, I was sitting in the cockpit when unusual movement in the water caught my eye. It was a fin about five feet high, heading straight toward our starboard side. Suddenly another fin appeared. And then a third.

Moments later, a pod of approximately thirty orca whales surrounded us. Some disappeared under our boat. Others swam across the bow. One leaped from the air off the stern and landed with a tremendous ker-splash! Their movements mesmerized me. I gazed in awe at these sea creatures diving and dancing, and I felt enveloped by the presence of their Creator and mine.

The whales’ path crossing ours in that massive expanse of water was no coincidence. Only God could have orchestrated such a nature show and given us the once-in-lifetime opportunity to sit in its audience. I embraced it as a gift, a unique and not-so-little expression of His love for us and His presence in our lives. The experience rejuvenated our spirits and filled our emotional, mental, and spiritual sails with fresh wind.

We all experience seasons—some long, some short—when fatigue settles in and feels impossible to shake off. Reasons for exhaustion vary. I have several friends who are providing care for aging parents suffering from dementia. Others are helping to raise their grandchildren. Some are investing significant energy trying to understand and resolve relationship issues within their family. Others are dealing with workplace conflict, financial loss, or health concerns. On a global scale, we’re coming through a season that knocked the wind out of our sails for so many reasons—loss and disappointment being one of them.

Fatigue makes us vulnerable to negative thinking. When I returned from overseas that summer, I caught myself entertaining thoughts like, “I feel overworked and underappreciated” and “Our ministry doesn’t make a difference.” I realized that allowing such thoughts to dwell in my mind would put me into a downward spiral of discouragement. I turned things around by meditating on and praying truths such as Psalm 23:1-2: “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength” (NLT).

God invites us to cast our cares on Him, so go ahead—tell Him your need for renewal and expect Him to answer (1 Peter 5:7). He might send restoration through a timely Scripture or email, through a friend who comes alongside to help shoulder your burden, or through an unexpected opportunity to get away for a physical rest. He knows your need and how to best meet it. If He can send a pod of orca whales to renew me, He can do whatever’s necessary to restore you, too, my friend.

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

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

Join the conversation: Do you need renewal today?

Taste the Green!

by Kelly Wilson Mize

When I was younger, thinner, and a lot more energetic, I used to tumble. I learned in a gym, but my favorite place to put my skills into practice was a large, open area of thick, green grass. Still to this day, when I see a big green space, it calls out to me. I long to feel the freedom of reckless abandon that I once felt, when I was physically able to run and flip across the expanse.

Usually around this time of year, when the grass starts to turn green and the flowers burst into full-color, our lives too, begin to burst with renewed activity. With upcoming summer vacations, graduations, weddings, and summer planning–spring can often be chaotic and stressful, even with the aesthetic magnificence that is being reborn all around us.

But these last couple of years, the beginning of spring has been different–an unprecedented time, as we have often heard it called. Some of us have longed for the return of busy social schedules, and have mourned the loss of meaningful ceremonies that have been re-scheduled virtually, or postponed indefinitely. Most of us will remember this strange, uncertain pandemic experience for the rest of our lives. But there have been some positives too. With quarantines and social distancing, many of us have taken time to enjoy the outdoors, to fully digest the awakening spring colors and the peace and healing they can bring.

I have always been a devoted fan of chlorophyll. The sight of vivid green leaves and grass in springtime is so welcome to me after a long winter filled with dark skies and a world nearly void of color. The color green lies in between yellow and blue on the spectrum of visible light. Its hue is a mixture of the light of the sun, and the color of the bluest sky: God’s perfection. I can see the green of spring with my eyes, inhale its scent, and almost feel it in my soul. The season awakens senses that have been dormant for months. It offers a glimpse of new life, but also signifies the comforting return of an old friend. There is a green so vivid, I can almost taste it.

It’s not surprising that David refers to the color green in one of his most beloved songs of praise. Most of us have found restoration in those “green pastures” at one time or another. There is peace, strength, courage and comfort when we allow ourselves to submit to the only One who could make the grass green. The colors of springtime help strengthen our faith in an amazing Creator, and in the hope of growth and renewal that only He can offer.

As spring approaches, let go of the fear and uneasiness of the last year and remember that our skilled Shepherd is in control of every pasture. Take a few minutes to connect with Him in the perfect green meadow that was created just for you.

Be still.

Be renewed.

Be strengthened.

Be courageous.

Be led.

Be protected.

Be comforted.

Feast on His peace.

And this year, more than ever before,

Fully taste the green!

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.

You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23 NLT

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

About the author: Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother of two young adults, and former educator with a master’s degree in education. In 20 years as a published writer, she he has composed numerous articles, interviews, curriculum projects, and devotions, and has contributed to eight traditionally published books. Credits include LifeWay, Bethany House, Guideposts, (in)courage, and others. 

Join the conversation: What does the beginning of spring mean to you?

Spring Awakening

by Nancy Kay Grace

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10 NIV

I need renewal in my dreary spirit after the long winter months. The colder-than-usual temperatures drag on and the deeper-than-desired snow refuses to melt, affecting my attitude. By the end of winter, I get antsy for spring to bring warmer air and signs of tulips and green grass.

Spring is a time of awakening, with fresh beauty of the budding trees, singing cardinals and chirping robins. New life is seen in the blossoming forsythia and perky daffodils breaking though the crusty earth. Creation welcomes the warmer change after a long, dormant winter. As I observe the changes in creation, I gain hope for renewal.

A pleasant walk in the warmer sunshine brightens my heart and mind. A visit with a long time friend refreshes my spirit.

Do you need a spring awakening and fresh renewal for your soul? Consider adding these practices to your daily routine. 

Reading the word of God renews the heart and mind.

Just like opening a window on a spring day freshens the house, the word of God revives my spirit.

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7 NIV

Prayer cleanses the spirit of the barriers that keep us from seeking God.

Coming to our heavenly Father in prayer, we can confess our weaknesses. The Holy Spirit melts any hardness of heart. He is always ready to welcome our prayers and renew us.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 NIV

Fellowship—connecting with others—is an encouragement.

We were made for community. We can encourage one another in our faith while we also benefit from the connection. Invite a friend to join you on a walk and enjoy the new season together.

“If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 NASB

Listen for God.

When the Lord refreshes my heart, I am more open to hear from him. My mind is cleared of daily concerns so I can focus on Him.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3 NIV

Lasting renewal of the heart comes slowly, like a long soaking rain on parched soil, making it useful again. The Lord works in our lives moment by moment—through reading the Bible, prayer, and sharing fellowship with others. Through these, we grow in our faith and hear the still, small voice of God whisper hope to us. He brings renewal to our hearts, just as He renews the earth. 

Are you ready for a spring awakening in your soul?

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

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

Visit https://www.nancykaygrace.com to sign up for her monthly Grace Notes devotional newsletter.

You can also connect with Nancy on Facebook or Instagram.

Join the conversation: How do you renew your mind when things seem so dark and dreary?

The Power of a Renewed Mind

by Misty Phillip

…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.” Romans 12:2 ESV

One morning not too long ago, my phone rang. On the line was my assistant. She was anxiously awaiting an important appointment, and I could tell that fear was guiding her thoughts. “What will happen if this appointment does not go well?” She asked.

Wanting to provide comfort, but also speak truth in love, I responded, “God is good, either way. Place yourself in a posture of praise. Thank the Lord for who He is and what you know He can do. Keep a record of His faithfulness because He has been so good to you.” Since that conversation, my assistant has shared with me that her focus has shifted from worrying about her circumstances to worshipping the God who holds her in the midst of these circumstances. With her permission, I have shared this story, so that you may be encouraged and uplifted.

Perhaps, in this moment in history, we could all use a change of mind, a perspective shift, and an adjustment to our attitudes. But it should not stop there. Specifically, as believers, we need renewed minds – ones that worship the creator in Spirit and in truth. If you only take one tiny nugget of inspiration from this post, let it be this: a renewed mind leads to a renewed life.

What does a renewed mind look like?

The life of Paul the apostle is a tremendous example of the power that the Lord possesses to shift perspective and change a life. Paul was once a persistent persecutor of the church who met the Lord on the road to Damascus. Not only was his physical sight taken for a time, but he gained eternal vision. That is, he found that heavenly things are immensely more important than the things of this life.

In the letter of Romans, Paul provides an excellent framework for how our minds and our worship are to look. As believers, we should strive not to look like the world, but to imitate the character of Christ. When we do this, we are acting as set apart, and holy people who have dedicated and consecrated our minds and our lives to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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” (Romans 12:1-2 ESV).

The word “renewal,” as used in this passage, comes from the Greek term that means “complete change for the better.” When we come to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our minds, hearts, and attitudes are completely shifted through the process of sanctification. This process, although ongoing, allows for us to have an intimate relationship with the Lord. The more that we grow in the knowledge of Him and His character, the greater our desire will be to worship Him. Having a deep personal connection to the Lord enriches every area of our lives and points others to our source of hope—Jesus.  

I want to encourage you to get to know the Lord personally. Worship Him daily and walk in His ways. He is the giver of life, and we, as believers have the gift and the opportunity to praise Him with every breath. Take time to thank Him for who He is and to assume a posture of praise.

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

Image result for misty philip

About the author: Misty Philip is a dreamer and a doer who believes we are all here for a reason and that we are created for a purpose. She encourages people to use their story to give God glory. Misty is a podcaster, speaker, author, and entrepreneur who is passionate about helping you spark your soul message.

Founder of Spark Media which consists of the Spark Christian Podcast Conference, Spark Now Summit, and the Spark Collective. She is the host of the popular By His Grace podcast. Misty inspires others through her leadership, speaking, and mastermind groups. She currently serves as the Houston Connect Leader for Christian Women In Media. Misty is the author of the best-selling Bible Study, The Struggle is Real: But So is God and Spark Podcast Planner 2020.

Join the conversation: What do you do to renew your mind each day?