Discovering Gratitude

by Candy Arrington

I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God. Psalm 9:1-2 MSG

Have you experienced a time when you really wanted something, prayed constantly, did everything humanly possible, and still things didn’t turn out as you’d hoped? It’s difficult to express gratitude when dreams go unfulfilled, and prayers seem unanswered.

Hannah’s story in the Old Testament is one of wanting, suffering, trusting, and answered prayer. In Hannah’s time, a woman’s self-worth depended largely on her ability to have children. Hannah’s husband loved her and was concerned about her, but no matter how understanding and loving her husband, Hannah still felt like a failure, because she was childless.

While you may not be able to connect with Hannah’s situation, we’ve all experienced times of disappointment, frustration, and defeat. When we focus on what we don’t have, gratitude is far from our thoughts.

Following Hannah’s example, we can discover and cultivate gratitude by:

Worshiping Wholly

Despite her sorrow, Hannah understood worship. The Bible tells us the Holy Spirit prays for us in our weakness with groans too deep for words (Romans 8: 26). That’s the kind of intense worship and prayer Hannah expressed, even in her disappointment.

Often when we go through a time of emotional upset or difficulty, we fail to worship. Even if we attend church, we’re not totally there mentally or spiritually. Our minds drift to imagined scenarios of what we wish would happen. In times of difficulty, worshiping God totally requires intentionality.

Eliminate Envy

Hannah potentially had a major source of envy in her life – her husband’s other wife, which sounds a little like the title for a daytime drama! Peninnah possessed what Hannah wanted most – children. Peninnah seized every opportunity to make Hannah feel worse by taunting her.

Steer clear of the envy trap. Envy robs us of joy and leaves us with an attitude that can sour our whole outlook on life. Although it’s hard to do, praise God for how he’s blessed you, and stop looking at others and envying their situation. You can be sure there are difficulties in their lives of which you simply aren’t aware.

Recognize Blessings

Often, we choose to focus on hard circumstances rather than blessings. To redirect your thoughts, consider starting a gratitude journal. As your blessings list grows, notice how your thoughts track toward positive aspects of life.

Once Hannah shifted her focus to praise and thanksgiving, Peninnah’s jeers faded. Ultimately, Hannah’s prayers were answered, but even before she had that assurance, she praised God. Our lives transform when we learn to recognize and give thanks for blessings.

Live in the Present

Like Hannah, we sometimes get so involved in the wished-for future we forget to enjoy life today. Hannah modeled some practical steps we can adopt when we’re discouraged and not feeling grateful.

First, Hannah prayed. She honestly poured out her fears, frustrations, and hurts to God. Second, she told Eli, a trusted church leader, her situation. Eli listened, prayed for Hannah, and encouraged her. Sometimes, we need encouragement and help from someone else to get an objective view of our situation. Third, Hannah stopped feeling sorry for herself and trusted God. She left her unfulfilled dreams at the altar, dried her tears, ate a meal, and went home with a smile on her face.

We can do the same. By making an effort to discover gratitude, we gain a new perspective that provides joy today and hope for the future.

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

About the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals on faith, personal growth, and moving through and beyond difficult life circumstances. Her books include: Life On Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books),  When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H Publishing Group). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s new book, Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Wellprovides insights on learning from and growing through a time of waiting.

Join the conversation: Have you allowed gratitude to influence your attitude towards unanswered prayer?

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.

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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?

The Town and Country Church Mice

by Patti Richter

The church of the living God… a pillar and buttress of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:15 ESV

One rainy and near-freezing Sunday morning in January, it seemed unwise to make the hill-and-dale journey to church in the next town. Instead, we drove a short distance to a neighbor’s church that we’d never visited before.

My husband, Jim, and I quickly warmed to the friendly congregation and their down-to-earth older pastor. We also appreciated the classic worship style, although the song selections took us back a few years—maybe a few decades.

Our move to the country two years ago brought plenty of changes, which we expected in our retirement adventure. Grocery stores are smaller. Gas stations don’t join price wars. No restaurants on every corner. Churches, however, are everywhere, and many are easy to spot by their white, pointed steeples and stained-glass windows, including the church we visited that wintry day.

Before the cold weather hit, we had little concern about trekking 10 miles to attend church in the nearest town. Our son and his wife lead worship for the growing congregation that consists mainly of young families and singles who gravitate to the trendy, downtown area. We love the contemporary worship music at this church and appreciate the relevant, through-the-Bible preaching style of its young pastor.

In one sermon, the town-church pastor supplied a sobering statistic: only 14 percent of residents in our county attend church. This fact made me look harder at all the quaint looking churches we passed on our Sunday morning drive. I noticed many of their parking lots were mostly empty.

In our subdivision, I began to realize that few neighbors attended church. It’s a new development, and we’ve enjoyed meeting other newcomers at small clubhouse get-togethers. Discussions have led to nearly every aspect of personal life except for faith and politics, which seem to make folks clam up and reach for the finger food.  

I wondered if one neighbor, Jane, might be a fellow believer. I noticed her kind smile and a light in her eyes that suggested friendship with God. Then, a few weeks before Christmas, I saw a sign in her yard: Live Nativity. Her church’s name and address were familiar since Jim and I had seen the beautiful sanctuary on a hill during a country drive.

Jane was surprised and delighted to see us on that bad-weather Sunday. After the service, she introduced us to the long-time pastor and some of her friends. Jane also expressed her desire to invite fellow neighbors who, like us, were new to the area.   

Jim and I are now regular visitors to the country church. We plan to commit fully to just one church in the near future, though neither of these seem a perfect fit for us. Like the country mouse of Aesop’s fable, we are slightly out of our element in the trendy downtown church. And like the city mouse in the same tale, we might inwardly sniff at the comparatively simple fare at the country church.

In one important way however, we’re a perfect fit for both churches. Like countless others, they faithfully offer the gospel. Both congregations provide what we most need: participation in Christ’s body, which he “gave himself up for… that he might sanctify her… that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:25 – 27; ESV).

The church is God’s dwelling place in this troubled world. And whether the setting is contemporary or traditional, in a mega-facility or a tin-roofed hut, the church is where we belong.

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 with more than four hundred published articles.

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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 does your church meet your needs?

Love Songs

by Christina Rose

For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

Spring is here, heralding in blossoming trees, blooming flowers, new babies, sunny skies, spring showers, and fresh hope for the new year. As a tiny child, I watched my mother spend hours on a cold autumn day digging holes to bury bulbs in the ground. When spring arrived, those little bulbs would burst forth with a spectacular colorful display of daffodils, tulips, and crocus. In the early spring mornings, the robins would perch on the fence by my mother’s flowers, bursting with love songs of God’s glory and giving voice to the joy it is to be alive.

We sang as well: my father sang in the choir, while my mother sang with us children in the pews. As we grew older, we were introduced to love songs at dances and weddings, where beautiful melodies would inspire people to fall in love. New parents are so filled with love they can’t help but sing over their babies with joy. I cherish memories of the many hours I sang my babies to sleep as I rocked them by my window that overlooked San Francisco bay.

As my daughters grew up, my songs became less frequent as they became busy with their own lives. Then my songs were suddenly silenced by my father’s suicide. While I never lost my faith, I did lose my joy. The days felt long and my sleep was constantly interrupted by bouts of anxiety attacks, wondering when the next unexpected tragedy might strike. My marriage then ended, I imagine partly because if I couldn’t find peace within, how could I find it with someone else?  Now the anxiety in caring solo for two young daughters increased my already overloaded night watch of keeping the darkness at bay.

My daughters grew up to be successful and independent. As I grew in faith, I was called to write. That process included many trials, like making seven moves in seven years. One daughter joined me, which was a great comfort, but recently she chose to move far away.

I felt lost. I couldn’t understand what God was up to. As I sat looking at the Rockies, I called out, “God, I’ve done everything you wanted me to, what do you want me to do now?”

A soft whisper answered, “Go to church”.

As I entered Cherry Hills Community Church for the first time, the amazing worship band was leading everyone in song. Thousands were on their feet, with hands in the air, singing passionate songs of praise. Before long, I was singing along with them like a wannabe Christian Rockstar.

And then an amazing thing happened – my nightly anxiety attacks left me. The fear had gone, and instead I was awakened by beautiful worship songs. One of my favorites is “Raise a Hallelujah” by Bethel Music. It expresses the idea that our praise can actually be a weapon against the things that cause us anxiety. Praise is an act of trust in the character and power of God.

Like the little bulbs that spend the winter under the pressure of the dark earth, God can help us burst out of the heavy darkness to sing for joy and bloom for His glory. He gives the gift of song to all creatures of the earth– so we can praise Him and sing love songs to one another.

God’s love endures forever. If you have lost your song, pray that God will lead you to others who can help you sing again.

“But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge,  the God who shows me unfailing love.” (Psalm 59:16-17 NLT)

Love Songs – encouragement from Christian Rose on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

christina roseAbout the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer and speaker certified by the John Maxwell Team of Leadership.  She is a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. A devoted mom of two daughters and great aunt to over 40 nieces and nephews, Christina loves spending time in nature and hosting gatherings for family and friends.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story. Her marriage in shambles, Christina finds herself in a desperate situation with no resources other than herself. After appealing to heaven, the Lord takes her on a journey of awakening and miraculous empowerment. That power that is available to us all, especially those who are in need of hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: What songs help you sing for joy in this dark time?

Mom’s Perfume

by Terri Clark @TerriClarkTCM

May my prayer be set before you like incense…  Psalm 141:2 NIV

Several years ago, after my mom passed away, I was given some of her things; clothes, jewelry, special personal items and a very nice, two-inch round locket on a long gold chain. It wasn’t the kind of locket that held a picture; instead, it contained solid perfume. My mom had a business that dealt with a lot of cash. Whenever she counted it, she made her fingers tacky with the solid perfume in the locket. She wore it every day for that reason. The locket wasn’t my style, and I didn’t care about the perfume, but it was a memory and piece of my mom. It went into my jewelry box and was forgotten.

One day, a few years later, while rooting around in my jewelry box, I came across my mom’s locket. Smiling at the memories, I opened it up and rubbed my finger on the solid perfume. The fragrance instantly rose to my senses, activating my memories. It was like my mom was standing right there. I’ll never forget that moment or how I could actually smell the memory of my mom.

The sense of smell is a powerful trigger for memories and emotions.

Just a few days before Passover and the crucifixion, Jesus  was having a meal in a friend’s home. As they reclined at the table, Mary of Bethany opened a very expensive box of perfume and anointed Jesus’ feet. The fragrance filled the room (John 12:1-8). It was such an extravagant expression of love, some of the disciples grumbled at the waste. But Jesus told them, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial.”

The scent of that perfume and Mary’s beautiful expression of love and worship for Jesus rose all the way to heaven. I wish I could have been there.

God speaks of Himself as having a metaphoric sense of smell, delighting in the fragrance of our love and worship. Whether our prayers are filled with concerns, needs or worship, it is all a sweet aroma to him. The Bible compares the prayers of the saints to golden bowls full of sweet-smelling incense (Revelation 5:8).

Think about this—If the sense of smell can trigger such emotion in us, as the moment I smelled my mother in her perfume, how much more love does it trigger in God when our prayers rise up to Him? When we worship Him? When we cry out to Him? It is like Mary’s extravagant gift being poured out all over again.

David understood this when he prayed, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:2 NIV). In this psalm, David humbles himself before God, asking Him to put a guard on his tongue, and then goes on to pour out his heart and soul before God, comparing it to breaking a vessel of fragrant perfume.

Today, let’s take a moment to break open our most costly gift—spending some time in worship and prayer, letting it rise as a fragrant incense to God.

Mom’s Perfume – thoughts on #prayer from @TerriClarkTCM on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Terri ClarkAbout the author: Terri Clark works with women to prepare and equip them to receive God and the blessings He wants to produce in their lives. She began to answer God’s call on her life in 1994 and has since impacted women all over the world with His news of salvation, edification, and healing.

Her book, Fanning the Flame: Reigniting Your Faith in God, identifies and addresses the issues which most affect a believer’s spiritual flame: the busyness of life, Christian service, pride, and worldly temptations. Join her in this pilgrimage and reignite your spiritual lamp with a fresh, empowering faith–a faith that will stand through a time of testing.

Join the conversation: What aromas trigger emotions or memories for you?