Bedside Vigil: Finishing Well

by Sandi Banks

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10 NIV

Funny thing about encouragement. Seems that when we need it most, God delights in sending an extra measure of it our way. Like the summer my daughter and I drove across Canada and spent a night in the home of our friend Tim’s grandparents.

His grandmother, once a gifted, vibrant “saint,” gracious and hospitable, full of youthful energy, charm, and beauty, was now aged, ill, and bedridden. Needy. Her husband served as her caretaker.

I recently happened upon my journal entry from that long-ago night. Running my fingers across the crinkled pages stained with decades-old tears, I remember it as if those tears were yesterday’s. Fresh ones fall as I read.

1 July 1998

Tonight I met a man’s man. He was not winning gold medals or flying jet planes. He was sitting quietly, lovingly, beside his wife of sixty-plus years, speaking softly to her, serving her meal, smiling as he touched her, assuring her of his presence. He communicated volumes to his beloved with scarcely a word.

She could not see or hear or speak, and writhed uncontrollably at times under the covers. This precious woman was no longer the lovely young “trophy” on his arm, no longer “useful” to him, no longer able to stroke his ego or keep him entertained.

I even wonder how much she was able to comprehend, as I was, of this quiet endeavor unfolding at her bedside—a gift, whose receiver is incapable of giving anything in return. For this godly husband, love transcends all outward limitations. He is in it for the long haul—in sickness, in health, in the untidy, and the intolerable. His own body is frail and moves slowly. But tonight, in my eyes, he proved himself to be an inimitable tower of strength.

His strength lies not in his carriage but in his courage. His faith is reflected in his faithfulness. His character is revealed by his care.

He is committed for life, finishing strong. He’s a man’s man.

Just wondering, Lord, what is it that causes one man to obey his desires and another to desire to obey? How I long to be the latter, to be obedient in the dailies, to endure hardships to the end, and to hear Your words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I slowly close my journal and open my heart to what God is trying to teach me in the revisiting of that scene. It had unfolded just after my own husband of twenty-two years announced that he no longer loved me and decided to toss out the wife of his youth in pursuit of others.

So, that night, in all its poignant contrast, was a beautiful, living portrait of a man in pursuit of his God, who enabled him to love well, endure well, and finish well.

May we all open our hearts to Him, that His light might shine so sweetly and faithfully. And may we all draw near to our loving Heavenly Father, who holds us close in our brokenness, tending to our needs, encouraging our hearts. 

He simply loves us. No expectations. No rejection. No pointing out any frailties, failures, or faults. Pure love. Unconditional love. Everlasting love.  

Lord, please help us all to love like You.

Serve one another in love. –Galatians 5:13 NIV

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

About the author: Sandi Banks is an author and devotional writer for numerous publishing houses. As a storyteller, she draws upon her years of ministry and travel in 40 countries, living abroad, leading Bible studies, and hosting Summit Ministries’ worldview conferences. Her passion is bringing the hope of Christ to hurting women through writing, speaking, and mentoring. Find her at

Join the conversation: Have you ever seen someone serving in unconditional love? With no hope of anything in return?


My Marvelous Mentor

by Louise Tucker Jones

This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him. John 9:3(CEB)

It was a difficult day. In truth, it was a difficult week. An emotional week that left me feeling exhausted and inadequate. Night came and there was still so much to do. Jay, my son with Down Syndrome and significant heart disease, still needed his bath as well as warm compresses and ointment for an eye infection. And along with his nightly snack of oatmeal, he needed ice on an injured knee and a little compassion. Finally, teeth were brushed, humidifier filled, and oxygen ready for nighttime sleeping.

Jay wiggled into his bed comfortably while I sang “Jesus Loves Me,” then as usual, I sat on the edge of his bed for nighttime prayers. And as is our habit, Jay placed his hand in mine and I started my prayer. “Holy Father,” I prayed, then paused. Not my norm. I paused a little longer then suddenly blurted out, “Lord, we are tired!” Again, not my norm, and it struck Jay so funny that he giggled out loud and patted me on the back and said, “Good Girl, Mom!” We both laughed and hugged then finished our prayer and goodnight kisses.

What a difference that honesty toward the Lord and Jay’s sweet affirmation made to me. It brought me back to what was important and even relieved some of my fatigue. Too often I forget Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28 (NLT) “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” I often overwhelm myself with a mental list of all I should be doing or even should have already done. I sometimes have to sit myself down and say, “You are not called to be perfect!”

Yes, God is perfection, but He does not expect perfection from us. What a relief! We will make mistakes. We will say or do the wrong thing at times. We will need forgiveness—every day! As a mom, a friend, or a Christian, I will never be perfect. But as long as I love and speak Jesus to my family and others in my life, then I am following the Lord’s command to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27 NIV).

I’m so thankful for the truths God teaches me through my son. Just like the Lord, Jay offers unconditional love to me. And no, my son is not perfect. He can be stubborn and ornery but is also quick to forgive.

Sometimes when I’m trying to teach Jay lifesaving habits, he ignores me, not understanding the importance of a particular skill. Too many times the fear that he won’t learn that life lesson leads me to frustration instead of patience, or even an angry comment. Jay doesn’t understand the reason for my fear or anger and when I see the hurt I caused him, it breaks my heart. I go to him immediately and ask for forgiveness, telling him Mom was wrong. And just like Jesus, he always forgives with a hug, and while I hold him close and blink back tears, I silently thank the Lord for this marvelous mentor with Down syndrome.

 “Holy Father, thank You for the gifts of love, joy and forgiveness. Thank you, Jesus that you invite us to rest in You. We love you! Amen.”

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

About the author: Louise Tucker Jones is a speaker, columnist and award-winning author. Having a son with Down syndrome, Louise writes extensively concerning people with special needs, co-authoring the Gold Medallion award-winning book, Extraordinary Kids. Her poignant life stories have been published in hundreds of magazines and anthologies, including over a dozen Chicken Soup for the Soul titles. Married to Carl for 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands. Find her at

Join the conversation: Who is your mentor? What have you learned lately?

Friendship and Love

by Fran Caffey Sandin

A friend loves at all times… Proverbs 17: 17 NIV

“Me? Become a first mate on a sailboat? You must be kidding!” Those were my thoughts when my Swedish husband said he wanted to learn how to sail. He would be the captain and I, the first mate.

Really? As an East Texas farm girl, the largest body of water I had seen was Uncle Charlie’s stock pond or the log ride at the Six Flags amusement park. The very thought of the ocean launched a sinking spell in the pit of my stomach as I envisioned myself wearing a large life preserver, clutching a pill for seasickness in one hand and a bucket in the other.

My husband’s enthusiasm escalated, so we packed our bags for the Offshore Sailing School in Hilton Head, South Carolina. To be prepared, I saw a yachting magazine featuring ladies wearing blue and white striped tops and white pants as they lounged on the deck. OK, I can do that!

Upon arriving, Buster, our bearded and tattooed sailing instructor, explained that our 28-foot Soling racing boat was guaranteed not to capsize. The rounded bottom meant poor initial stability but good ultimate stability. I was all set to raise the sails and enjoy the ride, but Buster had other plans. He assigned each one of us a task, and I quickly learned to “crew.”

My head was spinning from all the nautical terms: Ready about? Hard-a-lee! Jibe-Ho! Watch out for the BOOM! Each time the Soling rolled from side to side, I lost my footing and kept losing my balance causing me to fall in the cockpit off and on all day. I began yearning for solid ground. My amateur appearance confirmed my naiveté about sailing.

When we finally sailed back to the port, my hair was a mess, fingernails broken, rope burns on my hands, my legs were sore and wobbly, and my beautiful outfit looked like a zebra that had splashed through the mud. As I stepped off the boat, Buster grinned, gave me a hand, and quipped, “See ya in the mornin’!” Evidently my yachting magazine failed to make his reading list.

When Jim and I reached the condo, I made a valiant effort to walk up the stairs but began pulling myself along the banister about halfway up. I stumbled to the bedroom, flopped across the bed, and wondered, Will I ever try sailing again?

Jim had a wonderful time. It would have been easy for me to wimp out, but I realized that if he was going to be the captain, he needed me to be his first mate. Thankfully, I put on a pair of jeans, and prayed Philippians 4: 13: I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Every day had its own stories, but I did survive and complete the course.

It takes an act of the will to put aside our own selfish interests and enter the hopes and dreams of our spouse. As a wife, I’ve discerned that having fun with my husband is more important than keeping every hair in place or having perfect fingernails. In the challenges of sailing, I learned more about God’s unconditional love for us and our love for one another. I have learned that in the good times and the hard times, too, a true friend always loves.

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

About the author: Fran is a retired nurse, organist, mother, and grandmother living in Greenville, Texas. She has authored See You Later, Jeffrey, Touching the Clouds, and has contributed to thirty books. She and her husband, Jim, have traveled to many countries and states. Her latest book, HOPE on the Way, Devotions to Go— contains 52 devotionals for those who love to combine faith and adventure. HOPE on the Way was acknowledged for outstanding Christian Literature both in the Devotional and Christian Living sections by Joy and Company in Arlington, Texas. Visit Fran’s website at

Join the conversation: Has there been a time you have sacrificed your own agenda for the sake of someone you loved? Please share!

Cancel Culture

by Catherine Segars

A recent comment in an online Christian group I read recently showed how far our current “cancel culture” has infiltrated the faith: “Now that we understand that what David did to Bathsheba was sexual assault, what do you do with all of the Psalms?… Are the Psalms less desirable to you now? Are you able to separate the words of worship in them from the actions of the man?”

As Believers, we must be able to separate the words of the man from the actions of the man.


Because God does.

Why does God do this?

Because David genuinely repented.

In 2 Samuel, we read, “Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan replied, ‘The Lord has taken away your sin.'” (2 Samuel 12:13 NIV).

In David’s beautiful song of transformation in Psalm 51, He pleads with God: “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me”  (Psalm 51:11 NIV)

If God does not cast David away, how can we? If God restores David, how can we discard that remarkable transformation and throw away his precious words?

We live in a culture that regularly “cancels” people for their mistakes. God doesn’t do that. God offers us forgiveness. And He offers us redemption. If God offered David that redemption, who are we to withhold it? Who are we to cancel someone God has forgiven and say that his words are meaningless or forever tainted?

We must never forget, God chose Moses (a murderer), Jacob (a liar and a cheat), Rahab (a prostitute), Esther (an orphan), Matthew (a tax collector), Peter (a Christ denier and ear-slasher with a serious temper problem), Mary Magdalene (a demon possessed woman), and Paul (a terrorist) to be His instruments.

God doesn’t pick pure instruments. God picks people with a past. This is the very heart of the Gospel message. The Gospel tells us that we are all hopelessly flawed, but God offers us forgiveness and redemption.

To deny David what God has given him is to put ourselves in the seat of the ultimate Judge. We aren’t qualified to sit there. That seat is for God alone.

Cancel culture isn’t new. In Luke chapter 7, Jesus addressed the cancel culture of His day by commending a repentant woman who had been discarded by some self-righteous religious leaders. Jesus educates the Pharisees saying: “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7: 47 NIV).

Like this sinful woman whom Christ forgave, David had been forgiven much. So he loved much. His words offer us the depth and breadth of the Gospel message, proving that God uses the worst sinners to show the magnitude of His grace. When we participate in cancel culture, we are professing that the sin of others is greater than our own. And we hold redemption hostage.

We must never forget that the heart of the Gospel is God’s amazing grace. If we deny God’s redemptive grace, we’ve missed the primary purpose of everything Jesus accomplished on the cross. We must never deny that grace to those who seek it. And we must never deny the work of redemption in the lives of those who have received it.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:15-16 NIV

Christian Parent, Crazy World - Christian Podcast

About the author: Catherine Segars is an award-winning actress and playwright—turned stay-at-home-mom—turned author, speaker, podcaster, blogger, and motherhood apologist. This homeschooling mama of five is the host of CHRISTIAN PARENT/CRAZY WORLD, a Life Audio podcast about raising godly kids in an ungodly world, and she is matron of the Mere Mother website, which delves into critical cultural issues that affect families and marginalize mothers. Catherine helps parents navigate through dangerous secular landmines to establish a sound Biblical foundation for their kids. You can find Catherine’s blog, dramatic blogcast, and other writings at and connect with her on Facebook.

Join the conversation: Have you been tempted to join the Cancel Culture?

Spiritual Truth at the Movies

by Elaine Helms

Recently we watched a really old, black and white, award-winning movie called Rebecca. It was about a young, immature woman who amazingly married a very wealthy widower and moved into his palatial home by the ocean. There were several spiritual analogies that came to mind as I reflected on this Alfred Hitchcock suspense tale.

First, the new wife reminded me of immature believers. She could not believe that this polished, successful man really loved her, since she was ordinary and not polished or glamorous at all. The matronly head housekeeper fueled this perception by telling her about how beautiful and brilliant the previous wife (Rebecca) was and how much her husband and everyone else loved her. This all added to her insecurity, making her think that she was unable to compete with this ghost of the past.

There is another spiritual analogy seen in a scene where the housekeeper whispers in her ear that she should just end the futility of it all by jumping from the window to her death. That housekeeper reminded me of the devil, the perpetual “accuser of the brethren” who is “prowling around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (Revelation 12:10, 1 Peter 5:8). He looks for weakness and pounces. Discouragement, defeat, and depression are just some of the flaming darts he throws at us. That is why we are told in Ephesians 6:11-12 (NASB) to take up the whole armor of God, especially the shield of faith, to be “able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Truly “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB).

The third parallel is to God’s love for us. The story had a dramatic climax when the new bride discovers that the widower had not loved his first wife at all. Apparently, Rebecca was an evil, vindictive woman who made his life nearly unbearable. They only kept up appearances for the family name’s sake.

This new knowledge of her husband’s genuine love for her, transformed the new bride into a much more confident and mature woman, who stood by her husband in the face of possible imprisonment. Their love was the key to both of them being transformed into the people they needed to be.

How often in our Christian walk are we like the insecure, immature new wife? Not really sure of God’s love for us and wooed by the devil into believing that we are worthless and unacceptable to God. We live defeated lives, maybe even thinking suicidal thoughts spurred on by the devil, until we finally hear the truth and believe what God says in His word, that He truly loves us (Jeremiah 31:3; 1 John 3:1, 4:16).

Like the bride in the story, we go through an amazing transformation when we live in God’s genuine, unconditional love. We can rise above the lies of the devil and stand on the promises of God. We can now step out in faith with confidence in Him. He will fill us with His power to do whatever He calls on us to do. We can now walk in the works he planned before the foundation of the world for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). We can now pray with new boldness because we know God hears our prayers. He delights in the prayers of the upright (Proverbs 15:8b).

Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive . . .

For the Father Himself loves you.” John 16:24, 27 NASB

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

About the author: With her passion for God, humor, vulnerability and spiritual strength, Elaine Helms encourages audiences and readers to draw closer to God and live the abundant life Jesus came to give His followers. Prayer Coordinator for both the Southern Baptist Convention and My Hope America with Billy Graham, Elaine has 30 years of experience in church, national, and interdenominational prayer leadership.

Her book, Prayer 101, What Every Intercessor Needs to Know is used by thousands of leaders across the country and around the world to train and equip intercessors to pray personally and corporately. Journey through Scripture, find inspiration in stories of others, and learn simple yet effective strategies for prayer.

Let God Love You!

by Nancy Kay Grace

Why is it that even though we know John 3:16 by heart, we still doubt God’s love? We think of His love in general terms of loving the world, not specifically for loving us—you or me. Or maybe we even think that God doesn’t like us. We struggle to believe and accept the basic truth. We make up excuses saying we are unlovable.

Yet God still loves us.

I’d driven 350 miles to celebrate my grandson’s third birthday. It was a fun weekend with lots of giggles and cake. I loved reading car stories to him and seeing his interest in the details of his favorite construction toys. He’s full of questions as he tries to understand life, such as “When will I be two again?” and “If possums hang upside down, do they get a headache?”

It’s easy to respond in love when the questions are innocent. But when an independent spirit rises to challenge the status quo, our response becomes a loving decision.

When it was time for me to leave, he ran to a different room. He wouldn’t let me hug him one more time. He hid.

He probably wanted to make a game of hiding from me. I left without a final hug from my little guy. Although I felt a bit saddened, I still love him. He’s only a child of three. I’ll see him again and there will be more hugs and books to read.

Too often we are like that with God—we hide from Him. We don’t accept the love that is expressed in the written Word, through the life of Jesus, or shown through other people. We hide in a childlike manner.

At the core of God’s nature is unconditional love, which spills out into every other attribute. It is sacrificial and life-giving, not sentimental and syrupy smooth talk. Even on our worst day, God loves us deeply.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1John 3:1 NIV).

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10 NIV)

We try to understand God’s unconditional love, but wrestle to fully grasp it. Sometimes we reject this gift when we struggle with low self-worth, but that is when we need it most.

God continues to reach out to us with love anyway, faithful and steadfast.

May we pray Ephesians 3:18 for a deeper grasp of God’s love:

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is” (NLT)

His arms are open. Won’t you let God love you?

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 to sign up for her monthly Grace Notes devotional newsletter.

You can also connect with Nancy on Facebook or Instagram.

Join the conversation: Are you comfortable at the thought of God’s love?

I Confess, I am a Hoarder

 by Lori Wildenberg @LoriWildenberg

I showed no mercy. This year, as I was preparing to decorate for Christmas, I got brave enough to finally ditch the ornaments I no longer display. My collection was significantly reduced. It feels good to scale back. As my purged pile of give-aways grew, God impressed upon me that I hang onto lots of things– and not just material ones.

It’s true: I am a spiritual hoarder.  I cling to poor habits and negative characteristics. YIKES.

During this Christmas season, with God’s prompting, I have challenged myself to ditch the qualities that look more like me and less like the babe in the manger.

I have 10 goals that I know will help my spiritual hoarding tendencies.

  1. I need to freely forgive. When I’ve hurt someone, I want to be forgiven. Why would I not be willing to give it when another has wronged me? Lord, replace my unforgiving heart with a forgiving heart. I want to be quick to forgive. (Matthew 18:21)
  2. I need humility. Pride divides. It gets in the way of any relationship and family closeness. Lord, one of the six things You hate is haughty eyes. Please replace my stubbornness with humility. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
  3. My love for people needs to be unconditional. Love is a gift. It isn’t meant to be parceled out, divided, or earned. Lord, give me the supernatural capacity to love when it is hard. (Matthew 5:43-48)
  4. Generosity needs to be my first response. The All About Me syndrome –my time, my resources, my feelings, my perspective has been ruling me too long! To cure this malady, I will be a servant and try to see things from God’s point of view. Lord, remove my selfishness, give me eyes to see what you see and create a servant attitude in my heart. (Mark 9:35)
  5. Contentment should define my attitude. I need to remember all that God has given me in His goodness and generosity. Lord, take away my dissatisfaction and replace it with contentment in the abundant blessings You have given me, so a thankful and grateful heart can blossom. (Philippians 4:11)
  6. I must make people my priority. The present of presence is the most meaningful gift of all. Lord, I am easily distracted by my list of to-dos. Remind me daily that people are more important than what I think I should be accomplishing. (Mark 10:13-16)
  7. Kindness must mark my interactions. Compassion and understanding is the glue that holds families together. Lord, replace my critical spirit with kindness. Nudge me to speak life by being positive and encouraging. (Ephesians 4:29)
  8. I need to think before I react. Rather than allowing strong emotions to rule me, I want to manage difficult situations with wisdom, love, and peace. Lord, help me to respond to difficult moments in a way that honors You. Teach me to address disagreements agreeably. (Proverbs 12:16)
  9. I want my home to be one that emphasizes participation and pitching in. A place where people care so much about each other that they want to do life together. I want us to function like a family instead of roommates and boarders, fostering relationships that will last a lifetime. Lord, wipe away my spirit of independence and exchange it for a dependence on You and interdependence with my family members. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
  10. Most of all, I want to become more like Jesus. I want to put myself aside and keep my eyes focused on Him. Lord, I want to reflect you in all I do. (Matthew 11:29)

Of course there’s no hope of accomplishing any of this on my own. A true change will require supernatural intervention by the One who shows us a better way. Praying for His help is the most effective weapon to fight my negative tendencies. And of course, learning more about Jesus is the way to become more like him…and less like me.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.                                                                                               Galatians 5:22-26

I Confess, I am a Hoarder – insight from @LoriWildenberg on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori WildenbergAbout the author: Lori Wildenberg is passionate about helping families build connections that last a lifetime. She’s a national speaker, parent coach, and author of 5 books, including The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections. 

How do we create an atmosphere for connection while living in the messy moments of parenting? The Messy Life of Parenting shows you small changes you can make now to build lasting family relationships, even when the going gets tough.

You can subscribe to Lori’s blog or invite her to speak at your event by heading to her website: You can also find her hanging out on IG and Facebook.

Join the conversation: What qualities do you want to ditch so you can look more like the King in the cradle?