Friday, March 22, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Surprise!


A Surprise that was Meant to Be

A devotional by Heather Martin

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” 
–Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

“For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Before having our third baby, my husband and I decided this would be the last child. There were many reasons why we came to this conclusion, one being that I had already delivered our first two children via C-section and in a few weeks we were scheduled to deliver baby number three via another C-section. Needless to say, this was no fun way to deliver, but I guess there is no fun way to deliver!

They say you have this feeling when you should stop having children, and I just wasn’t sure if I felt like we were really done. We went over and over all of the reasons why it wasn’t a good idea to have another child but for some reason I had this tiny feeling that we weren’t done. But after many conversations with my husband, we decided that going to the urologist to have a vasectomy was the best idea for our family.

My husband has a wonderful friend who is an urologist and performs hundreds of vasectomies a year. We were living in Nashville, and his office was about an hour and a half away so we would drive to have it done there. I was 9 months pregnant and was not very excited about the idea of getting in a car to ride more than ten minutes, but my husband reassured me that this was the right time to do it.

Taking the trip wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined. We had a chance to talk more about it and by the time we got to the doctor’s office we both felt ready to do this and just like that, we closed an era of our lives together, I would only give birth to three children. We would be a family of five, or so we thought.

Our third baby arrived and he was BIG, 9 lbs. 3 oz.! He was beautiful, mild mannered, happy, and sweet! When he was 8 months old, we packed up and moved to Birmingham, Alabama. My husband had finally finished all of his medical training and had accepted his very first job as a certified pediatric surgeon. Our kids were growing, we were happy and settling in, and then…I started feeling kind of weird.

I never once considered that I could possibly be pregnant again! The signs were so clear but I ignored them because I had put all of my trust in that vasectomy. But I should have known something was up when I couldn’t stand to smell the scent of my sister’s mild perfume. For some reason I absolutely hated the smell of it and I couldn’t stomach it!

I felt extra tired all the time, but that seemed normal because I had a baby, and two other little ones. Then, I should really have known something was different for me because I was breastfeeding my 8-month-old baby and my hair started falling out. That was strange! After a few weeks of feeling “weird” I reluctantly decided to get a pregnancy test, just to be sure. But I was completely positive that this couldn’t possibly be the cause of all these weird symptoms I was experiencing, I just wanted to mark it off the list. So I took the test and to our complete SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE, it immediately read positive!

We could not believe it! How could this be? It was certainly a miracle! A miracle that only happens less than 1 percent of the time. We had made our plans, but God had other plans for our lives. He knew that our family would not be complete without Charlie. And now we can’t imagine our lives without this little boy who is funny, sweet, cuddly, smart, and loves to preach. We joke that this kid better be the next Barack Obama, or Moses!

But one thing we know for sure is that he is a very special surprise gift to us from God. He was meant to be. We make our plans but truly, God’s plans are the best!

~*~
Author Bio:
Heather Martin was born the last of six siblings in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was raised by an amazing single mother (Rebecca Trotter) and was taught at an early age to love God and how to sing! 

She graduated from Oakwood University with a Bachelors Degree in Language Arts Education and later received a Master’s Degree in Education from Kaplan University. 

Shortly after graduating she followed God’s call to minister. She joined the Stellar, Dove, and Grammy-nominated gospel group Virtue, which was founded by her two older sisters Ebony Holland and Karima Kibble several years prior. Virtue has used their talents to spread the love of God across the world! They have recorded 7 studio albums and have been the recipients of numerous awards.

God has not only blessed Heather professionally, but personally. She met her husband, Dr. Colin Martin, and they have been married for 14 years. They have four children: Colin Jr. 11, Harper 10, Clark, 7, and Charleston 5. In 2016 Heather started an online blog and vegan and allergen-friendly cooking channel called “Chef Mommy.” Heather (Chef Mommy) has cooked with numerous celebrities and top chefs to spread the news of healthy cooking and lifestyle.

In addition to this busy schedule, Heather enjoys, running, reading, writing and spending time with her family.

~*~
Connect with Heather:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherTMartin
Instagram for Heather: https://www.instagram.com/thechefmommy/
Instagram for Virtue (Heather’s singing group): https://www.instagram.com/virtuegirls
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/chefmommyhm

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Called to Love like Jesus Christ loves you


Stumbling in the Darkness

A devotional by Christa MacDonald

“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” ~1 John 2:9-11 (NIV)

I always inwardly shake my head in dismay when someone says “Follow your heart” or posts a Facebook meme with the same sort of sentiment. The intent is harmless enough. We want to encourage those around us to feel fulfilled by their work and their creative pursuits, but the simple fact is that our hearts are desperately wicked. Our hearts don’t always know the right way to go. Even those of us saved by Grace are still burdened by hearts prone to want all the wrong things. We long for earthly treasures: notoriety, power, adoration.

Our hearts are prone to hate as well. Much as I’d like to think that I am far enough along the path of Redemption that I no longer feel hatred for a fellow human, these past few years have been a challenge. In the United States we’ve all been tempted by various factions and forces to turn on each other. There are some dark dealings going on in the world, social media in particular, sewing seeds of discord and reaping harvests of hate.

For Christians hate is off the table. We don’t get to hate people. We aren’t permitted to hate those that hate God. No matter how wretched the human, we’re still called to love them. In fact when people talk about “tough love” I think the term should mean this instead - the call to love someone who hates you. This political and social climate is full of hate and it’s incredibly hard to keep it at bay. When I’m challenged, I remember the verse above. Hate blinds us, leads us away from the light of God.

Hate surrounds our souls in darkness. It isn’t content to stay in one spot either. It spreads. Confine your hate to a political party and you’ll find your feelings begin to sour towards friends who support them. Hate an actor and the neighbor who goes on and on about their movies will soon get on your nerves. Simple dislike turns into real enmity and before you know it, you’ve got a list of people you’ve blocked on Facebook, cut out of your life, written off entirely.

While there is nothing wrong with creating distance between yourself and a toxic person, letting hate build toward them is definitely wrong. It doesn’t matter if they’re awful, you still don’t get to hate them. It’s time we all start examining our hearts and shining a light on all the dark corners. Let’s be convicted and root out the sin of hate. What an amazing light would shine if all of the Church did this in what is a truly dark time! Then people would truly know us by our love.

~*~
Author Bio:
Christa MacDonald is a 2017 ACFW Carol Award finalist for contemporary Christian fiction.

A native New Englander, she was inspired by her travels through the north woods of Maine to write The Broken Trail, which would become the first in the Sweet River Redemption series published by Mountain Brook Ink.

Christa's writing focuses on the real-life challenges of the modern world; love’s sometimes crooked path, and the redemptive power of Grace.

When not working or writing Christa can be found ferrying her kids around, reading, or attempting something crafty.

She and her husband live with their three kids, two cats, and one dog along the coast of New England. Connect with Christa at www.christamacdonald.com.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Why it is important to get to know God


Getting to Know Him
A devotional by Nanci Rubin


“Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”– John 15:15 (KJV)

What do we want in life? Happiness? Health? Security? Marriage?

Most of us would probably choose one or more of these things. And interesting enough, we can enjoy them all when we have relationship with our Savior. But without knowing Him, our glass is only half full. If our spiritual health is not well, we will have deficiencies in other areas of our lives. These deficiencies can yield the following symptoms, impatience, anger, frustration and periods of depression, which we don’t understand and seldom equate to our relationship with God. However, the Bible tells us not to worry and to seek Him first.


“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” 
– Matthew 6:31-33 (KJV)

“But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.”– Matthew 6:33 (AMP)

The Amplified (AMP) version of the Bible makes it so personal. It puts everything in proper perspective. The Bible makes it very clear that when we make God a priority, He will give us the desires of our hearts. God has no trouble with us having things, as long as things don’t have us.

Our passion should be to know God. There is value in knowing Him. We can do nothing without Him. Peace comes in His presence. When we are in crisis, and feel all is lost, that is not the time to distance ourselves from God. We need to seek Him. If we continue to distance ourselves from God, we will eventually allow other gods to eat up our time, our thoughts, and our desire for the things of God. Other gods can be anything that takes away your time for prayer and fellowship with our Creator.

“I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing.” – John 15:5 (KJV)

“I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much fruit (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me (cut off from vital union with Me) you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 (AMP)

If you want a closer relationship with God, you are going to have to do a few things to develop and cultivate that relationship. Think about your personal friends. They wouldn’t be your friends for very long if you didn’t take time to talk with them, visit or show concern about events that occur in their lives. Why do we think we can be close to God when we give Him no time at all, or when we do it is a passing “hello,” or only when we are in need?

There are three things we can do to help develop our relationship with our Father:

#1: Create Space for God


This is hard for a lot of people. They have never learned the art of being still and quiet. Our environment is so infused with outside stimuli that most of us can’t hear the person beside us much less the still small voice of God. God is always talking, but unfortunately most of us are too.

“Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left [the house], and went out to a secluded place, and was praying there.” – Mark 1:35 (AMP)

#2: Create a Place

We need a place set aside and uninterrupted to fellowship with God. We may not have an Upper Room but we should be able to find a place. It is our “prayer closet,” our place set apart. It can be a section of a room, a closet, a chair, and an X on the floor, but it’s your designated area to meet with God.

“But when you pray, go into your most private room, close the door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.” 
– Matthew 6:6 (AMP) 

#3: Seek the Face of God (Worship)

Worship and reverence will bring intimacy. Taking time to thank him for all He’s done in your life, instead of asking Him for more. We need to make special time to celebrate Who He is.

“You [Samaritans] do not know what you worship; we [Jews] do know what we worship, for salvation is from the Jews. But a time is coming and is already here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit [from the heart, the inner self] and in truth; for the Father seeks such people to be His worshipers. God is spirit [the Source of life, yet invisible to mankind], and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 
– John 4:22-24 (AMP)

Get to know the Creator (God) and see things around you change.

God bless you as you seek Him!

~*~
Author Bio:
Nanci is a poet and short story writer published in Cypress NewsFamily Times E-ZineFree Verse and the Commonwealth of Poetry

She belongs to RWA, ACFW, and Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild where she’s enrolled in his novel writing program.

Nanci lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and cats, Romeo and Juliette, along with their newest member of the family, Roni who is a seven-month-old Goldendoodle.

Recently, Nanci completed her debut novel, A Betrayal in Cross Keys. It is an Amish romance and has placed it in her agent's capable hands. The rest is up to God.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Lessons on faith, fish and finding Jesus


Faith, Fish, and Finding Jesus

A devotional by Victoria Bylin

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.” –John 21:10-11 (NIV)

Not a word in the Bible is wasted. That’s why, when I read these verses at the end of John’s gospel, I’m curious about the number of fish. It’s 153. Not a 152 or 154. Not “about 150,” or any other estimate. There are 153 large fish in the net when the disciples haul it into the boat.

I did some research and found all sorts of theories about this number and what it means. Numbers in the Bible are important, and using even the simplest approach, 153 is rich with meaning because the number one stands for God, the number five is the number of grace and the number three stands for manifestation.

So the whole number “153” stands for God’s grace manifested. What a perfect summation of this story!

Let’s the set scene: It’s nearly dawn. Christ has been crucified and raised from the dead. Shortly before this incident, he revealed himself to the disciples, including doubting Thomas. But time has passed. He’s gone again, and the Holy Spirit won’t arrive until the Book of Acts.

Peter and the disciples go fishing, thus returning to the world they know. They cast their nets, but there’s not a fish to be found. There’s nothing but the dark water and darker sky. They don’t see Christ on the beach, a small fire blazing at His feet. I imagine Peter and his friends were broken and exhausted, confused, full of doubt, and questioning themselves.

Have you been there? I have.

But then they hear Jesus speak to them from the shore.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” 

(John 21:5-6, NIV)

They cast the net over the side, and the next thing they know, the net is so full that they can’t haul it into the boat. Peter jumps over the side, swims and sloshes to the same Lord who he denied three times. The other disciples drag the net to the shore, where a charcoal fire is ablaze and fish are already cooking.

This is what I love about this story: Jesus didn’t need the disciples to bring in the fish. He was already cooking a meal for them. If he wanted, he could have made the fish jump into their boat. Instead, He lets the disciples participate in what He had already done. Can you imagine the joy of that catch? The excitement as they counted out exactly 153 large fish? The thrill of retelling that story over and over for decades to come?

We have that same privilege now.

God is all-sufficient. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He doesn’t need our flimsy efforts to feed the world and care for the poor, but he knows what a joy it is to give. He allows us to participate in His provision.

We have that opportunity every day. Maybe you give to a local food pantry or bring meals to someone fighting illness. Perhaps there’s a struggling single mom at work, and you pass along a gift card to a grocery store. The list of ways we can share is endless.

When Jesus filled the disciples’ net with 153 fish, it was only the beginning of the story. 

We’re blessed indeed to tell it every day with our own acts of charity. 

~*~
Author Bio:
Victoria Bylin is the author of 18 traditionally published romances. Known for tackling difficult subjects with great compassion, she delights in stories that shine the spotlight of God’s love on ordinary men and women facing realistic challenges.

Writing has always been a part of Victoria’s life. As a child, she wrote hundreds of letters and scribbled in journals. As an adult, she worked as a freelance journalist and editor before taking on the challenge of fiction.

She had one goal when she started her first novel: to finish a book-length manuscript, good or bad. That first effort will never see the light of day, but it led to a second manuscript and a sale to Harlequin Historical. Since then, she has written westerns and contemporary romances for both mainstream and Christian publishers, with Together With You winning the 2016 Inspirational Readers Choice Award for Best Contemporary.

Writing is a joy and a challenge for Victoria, but faith, friends, and family matter to her far more. She’s a wife, mom, proud grandmother, and a dog-mom to a wacky Jack Russell Terrier. Originally from California, she and her husband currently make their home in Lexington, Kentucky. 

When she’s not writing, Victoria enjoys long walks, travel, and dark chocolate.

~*~
Connect with Victoria:
Website: https://www.victoriabylin.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Victoria.Bylin.Author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/VictoriaBylin
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/568102.Victoria_Bylin

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Book Review: Hope in the Hard Places

Today, I'm sharing a review I wrote about a book by Sarah Beckman called Hope in the Hard Places: How to Survive When Your World Feels Out of Control.


Hope in the Hard Places: How to Survive When Your World Feels Out of Control is a wonderful, practical and inspiring book!

The back cover copy of this book says that it is about how to survive when your world feels out of control. After reading it, I think that the author, Sarah Beckman, accomplished her mission of writing an “encouraging guidebook for the weary soul looking for hope in dark circumstances.”

Throughout this book, the author shares encouraging messages that comfort everyone who is facing a trial whether it is cancer, chronic illness, loss of a loved one, divorce…the author leaves no stone uncovered when addressing situations that cause people to feel without hope and help.

Hope in the Hard Places is divided into four parts:

- Part 1: Terrain

- Part 2: Preparation

- Part 3: Journey

- Part 4: Destination

Each part has several chapters (except Part 4, which has only one chapter) and each chapter touches on a key concept like hope, detour, first aid, seek the source, remove the boulders and the one concept in Part 4 is called “Hard but Holy.” A Bible verse starts each chapter.

The author’s writing style is smooth and her tone is calm. This entire book is thoroughly written. It leaves the reader with a full and satisfied feeling like eating a good meal at your favorite restaurant. It’s an experience that you want to share with everyone.

Throughout this book, Beckman shows the reader how they can survive pain by applying Bible-based truth and principles. She shares stories and insight from real-life people who have been through tough times.

Hope in the Hard Places truly is a light that will shine into your darkness and help you survive the storms of life.

*I (Alexis A. Goring) received a complimentary copy of Hope in the Hard Places: How to Survive When Your World Feels Out of Control. My opinions in this honest review are my own.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Thoughts on faith and being shaped by God


Being Shaped Like a Snowman
A devotional by Sharon Musgrove

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” 
– Romans 8:28 (NLT)

Two storms converged 
– a surprise snowstorm and writer’s block. In past seasons, such a meeting of two unexpected events gave me rationale to fret and worry. I now see storms as opportunities. The snow from the unusual weather gave me the unique opportunity to build a snowman. The writer’s block offered time for me to seek another creative outlet. Both were occasions for unplanned joy! Gathering a carrot, some coal, and donning the appropriate attire, I headed outside to construct a masterpiece.

The snow was great for packing, ideal for snow creations because it sticks to itself. I remembered being taught to roll a snowball so that it would grow by picking up the snow on the ground. I excitedly began the rolling process. Soon I began to wonder whether the teaching on this rolling technique actually came from watching cartoons.

Effort after effort of rolling snowballs proved futile as the “ball” would become too heavy on one side and crack apart. I decided to try an alternative way to form my snowman by assembling a large mound of snow and topping it with progressively smaller mounds. Even this method proved difficult as the snow would fuse together while I carried it to the work area. So, I implemented a third approach by allowing large blobs of snow to fuse to the body of my snowman and then attempted to shave it down.

I don’t know the science behind snowman assembly, nor do I have any education in the arts of ice sculpture, but this experience began to open my eyes to something spiritually applicable to my life. As I persisted, I wondered how many techniques God has used to create the vision He has for me.

Like the “snowball” strategy, there have been times when I have picked up way more than I can handle. When I was in my thirties, a management position became available early on in a new job. It looked like the best way to advance quickly, but I crumbled because I did not have a foundation that could sustain such rapid and lopsided growth.

The “mounding” method of adding smaller layers of growth has been effective most of my life. Daily Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, service, and Bible study have all been disciplines that offer consistent growth in my spiritual life. Looking back over the countless Bible studies I have participated in, and reading old sermon notes, it’s clear that this method is open to a sloughing of my memory. I quickly and easily forget lessons that hold great importance. God must know just how much to mound on and have abundant grace for the sloughing off! Growth would otherwise not happen.

What ended up being the most effective way to implement my vision for the snowman was the “shave it down” tactic. This can be considered somewhat a combination of the first two methods by piling on too much and then removing the excess. I’ve experienced this style when pride accompanied an area of big growth. When I first discovered that I had a gift for teaching, my head got way too big. I had all sorts of plans for myself in my new found talent. Thankfully, God cut off the excess from my cranium by removing teaching opportunities.

Ultimately, I did create an adorable miniature snowman. It took longer than expected, but the time and process were well worth it. The convergent storms gave me an opportunity to look at how God has worked to shape me. Seeking the joy in a recess, rather than resenting thwarted plans, is one example of growth in me. I’ve also become less likely to crack as my foundation has increased with years of experience.

Amazingly, God’s vision for my life is now my desire too, and I seek His scalpel to cut off any offensiveness in me. God has proven Himself in utilizing all weather and circumstances and using it for His good will in each of us.

~*~
Author Bio:
Sharon Musgrove is a self-proclaimed sociologist. The opportunities opened to her, over the years, have led her on a fascinating journey observing human behavior. 

She has a diverse background in business, fitness and health industries. This background led her to a unique position writing curriculum and teaching for two private, Christ-based, residential recovery programs. Both recovery programs served women primarily from the homeless community.

Sharon has traveled multiple times to Kenya, serving on medical teams and teaching in the rural Maasai communities. She's been privileged to participate in Leadership camps for maturing young women. These annual camps have a mission of encouraging and empowering the impoverished, underprivileged, and often abused young Maasai girls.

Easily identifying personally with the brokenness of the women she's served, Sharon now sees all people as needing more encouragement regardless of cultural or socioeconomic status. Within these ministries, Sharon has witnessed the transformative power of loving words spoken to the broken-hearted. Sharing God’s love and witnessing its transformative power has become her passion.

In her leisure time, Sharon enjoys her garden, health food, travel, and a good story. She and her husband, Jeff, make their home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They have two grown children. Currently, Sharon is writing her first Christian historical fiction novel utilizing her study, experience, and understanding of self-destructive behaviors.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Lessons on seeking God learned from a cat!


What My Cat Has Taught Me About Seeking God

A devotional by Amanda Wen


“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” 
~Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)

We all know cats have a reputation for being aloof and independent. “Dogs have owners, cats have staff,” as the saying goes. For some cats, this reputation is doubtless deserved. However, “aloof” and “independent” are the last two words that come to mind when describing the Siamese we adopted last August.

Simply put, Jasmine wants to be with me. All the time. She follows me around the house (sometimes even into the bathroom). Her favorite place is my lap but if that is not available, she’s content to be in the same room with me. The day we brought her home, I purchased two carefully-selected cat beds, but—as those of you who know cats have doubtless already predicted—Jasmine pooh-poohed both of them. Her bed of choice? Mine, of course. She sleeps curled up at my feet each night, and within seconds of my eyes opening in the morning, she eagerly greets me with wild purring as she settles down on my chest.

 My lovely Siamese cat, Jasmine.
God has used Jasmine’s quiet devotion to convict me. As a certified type-A overachiever, I frequently think of spending time with God as just another item on my to-do list. Something I do long enough to not feel guilty about it. Something I sometimes rush through so I can check the box and move on to the next thing.

But that’s not what God wants. He wants our hearts. Our devotion. He wants us to follow Him. To seek Him all day long, not just for a few bleary-eyed, coffee-scented minutes in the morning. God wants us to be with Him, to look for His guidance, provision, and activity as we go about our daily tasks. He wants us to let go, stop striving all the time and to be secure in the knowledge that He is God.

The story of Mary and Martha is always convicting to me because I am so Martha. Rushing around, trying to get everything done, crossing items off my to-do list and growing impatient at anyone or anything who’s impeding my progress. But Jesus praised Mary’s choice to sit at His feet and listen to His teaching rather than helping her sister get dinner on the table. “Mary has chosen what is better,” He said, “and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42, NIV)

This story has always confused me because as a mother of three young kids, sometimes stuff has to get done and I don’t think God is calling us to abdicate all our responsibilities to in favor of reading the Bible all day. But what I do think He’s saying is to recognize that our spiritual lives are more important than our to-do list and that we need to constantly seek Him. We need to be aware of how He’s moving in our lives and the lives of others.

And sometimes, just like my cat, we need to curl up next to God and contentedly bask in the peace of His wonderful presence.

~*~
Author Bio:
Amanda Wen is an award-winning writer of contemporary inspirational romance and split-time women’s fiction. 

A first place winner in the 2017 Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest, she also placed first in the 2017 Phoenix Rattler Contest, the 2017 Great Expectations Contest, and the 2016 ACFW First Impressions Contest, among others. In addition, she was a finalist in the 2018 ACFW Genesis Contest.

Amanda is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and regularly contributes author interviews for their Fiction Finder feature. She’s also been spotted onstage with the worship team at recent ACFW conferences. Amanda is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.

In addition to her writing, Amanda maintains an active and rewarding career as a freelance cellist, frequently performing with symphony orchestras, string quartets, and her church’s worship team. She lives in the Midwest with her amazing husband and their three adorable and hilarious Wenlets.

~*~
Connect with Amanda:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/authoramandawen
Twitter: www.twitter.com/authoramandawen
Instagram: www.instagram.com/authoramandawen
Website: www.amandawen.com

Friday, March 8, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Time


Reflections on Time
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

Key Scripture: Ecclesiastes 12:1 and 1 Timothy 4:12

While traveling home on a plane recently, I listened to a playlist from the 80s. I can’t escape the fact that that was my era of preferred music.

The song “Time Keeps on Slipping Into the Future” by Jackson Browne came on. That song was soon followed by Teddy Pendergrass singing “Wake Up Everybody”. Can you hear them? While grooving to “my tunes” and feeling nostalgic, I realized that I don’t live there anymore. Time has slipped into the future.

I thought about where life had taken me. I thought about what I have seen, what I have done, what I have achieved and acquired. Time has treated me pretty well. But, time is not up yet. There is still life to be lived, work to be done, people to help, things to do and places to go.

I looked out of my window to the sky, not for inspiration, but just to see the sky and the clouds. The tracker said that we were moving at about 350 miles per hour. I thought, my how time flies.

As I peered out of the window at the tops of puffy white clouds and blue sky around us, the verse from Ecclesiastes 12:1 leapt into my mind. “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them”. It occurred to me right then, that I am younger right now than I will ever be. I need to value this time, cherish my freedom and invest my health and substance in things and people who matter. You do too.

Yes, we are younger than we will ever be, but we still have ideas and goals that are noble and meaningful. Some friends may say “Why now? You are retired already and old”. Immediately, another verse of scripture popped into my mind. “Let no man despise thy youth…”. “We are younger than we’ll ever be. Don’t despise our youth or allow anyone else to do so!
 “Why not? Why not now? Why not me? Why not us?”

James Allen wrote in his book As A Man Thinketh, the following paragraph. “All achievements, whether in the business, intellectual, or spiritual world, are the result of definitely directed thought, are governed by the same law and are of the same method; the only difference lies in the object of attainment."

How we think influences what we believe and what we can achieve. I subscribe to optimism and recommend it to you. Whatever your station or circumstance in life, you can choose optimism or pessimism. One strengthens and ennobles, the other enfeebles. 

Remember that God is infinite, omnipotent and all knowing. Enthusiasm is the abode of divinity. It is where impossibilities are made kinetic and improbabilities are realized. You are younger now than you will ever be. What will you do? Where will you go? Who will you help? 

I close with an old poem about momentum, possibility, and enthusiasm:
Tis The Set Of The Sail – Or – One Ship Sails East
But to every mind there openeth,
A way, and way, and away,
A high soul climbs the highway,
And the low soul gropes the low,
And in between on the misty flats, 
The rest drift to and fro. 

But to every man there openeth, 
A high way and a low, 
And every mind decideth, 
The way his soul shall go. 

One ship sails East, 
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow, 
'Tis the set of the sails 
And not the gales, 
That tells the way we go. 

Like the winds of the sea 
Are the waves of time, 
As we journey along through life, 
'Tis the set of the soul, 
That determines the goal, 
And not the calm or the strife. 

~*~
Author Bio:

Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.



Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Columbia Union College (WAU) in Takoma Park, Maryland. He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees–a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Interview with Jevon Bolden, author of the NEW book "Pray Hear Write"

Dearest blog readers,

You are in for a special treat!

Today, I'm interviewing a publishing giant named Jevon Bolden about her new book AND she's giving away not one but two copies of her book "Pray Hear Write." Details about that are found toward the end of this blog post.

Jevon is a multi-talented woman who is passionate about books and seeking God! I believe that you will be blessed by reading what she has to say today!

Enjoy your time with Jevon. Read on! 

~*~


Interview with Jevon Bolden about her book, Pray Hear Write: 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting for Breakthrough in Your Writing

Alexis: Jevon, I LOVE your book! It’s an answer to my writer related prayers! What inspired you to write this book?

Jevon: Books should answer questions and solve problems—especially nonfiction books.

Over my career and service to authors, I’ve been asked a lot about how I generate ideas and how I have been able to produce the volume of work that I have over the course of my fifteen years as an editor and writer. Prayer is at the center of my ability. I am no saint, but I am in constant communication with God all day every day. I do not only have one set prayer time. When things get really challenging and I need ear to hear what God is saying and eyes to see what He is trying to reveal, I fast. Sometimes, I believe, it is the split difference between success and failure.

My experience in publishing has left me with the feeling that most of what editors are expected to do is almost impossible. Instead of stressing out and going to a place of cynicism, I turn inward to see what new challenge God and I are going to meet. I truly believe that with only us some things are impossible, but with God all things are possible.

And then with God, it is not only possible but the product—the outcome—is phenomenal and yields better results, better than we could have thought or imagined.

In my experience, praying, fasting, seeking, knocking, asking, being brave enough to obey, then giving Him glory for it all is the perfect formula.

Alexis: Have you always been so passionate about writing and editing books? Explain.

Jevon: Yes. I have written as long as I could write—keeping a diary and journaling mostly, at first. I couldn’t not do it.

I didn’t really start writing to be read until I was in college. I wrote for the university student newspaper. I was also so very graciously mentored by the best—and maybe only—real writer I knew at the time. He really encouraged me and told I was good at writing. I loved English, and though I had my educational path aimed toward being a neurosurgeon, I changed my major to English after concluding that it was really where all my true passions were stored. My deciding factor was that English was the only class I would not skip in high school. When I was being true to my heart, I could see myself writing on the beach in another country with little inhibition. I am getting closer to that vision every day.

Alexis:
Briefly tell us about your career journey. How did you get started in the publishing industry? How did you start your own company and why did you decide to become a literary agent?

Jevon: Upon graduating from college and after starting a family, I started looking for jobs for which my degree was a fit. I applied to over thirty companies. Of those, one called me in for an interview. It was an entry-level position as a copyeditor for a Christian book publisher in Lake Mary, Florida—Charisma House.

First, Florida was a yes for me always. I love warm weather; God knows that. I moved up quickly within that company and ended my twelve years with them as a senior acquisitions editor. I immediately transitioned to the role of senior editor for Scholastic and their imprint that produces nonfiction books, activity kits, and other cool things for their more that 120,000 school book fairs. During my time there, my skills and experience in adult Christian nonfiction continued to pull on me until I have no other choice but to make a choice. This is when I knew it was time to launch out on my own and start my company Embolden Media Group.

Throughout my life, I have done my best to submit myself to the movement of the Spirit of God, listening, waiting, praying, responding, and all that. It’s an intuitive exchange that we have, and so I just knew when it was time to make the moves I made. Not any of them have been easy, but almost all of them have come as a response to some pull or demand. The same is true to my becoming a literary agent, which is my newest opportunity. The need, the pull, the open door presented itself, and I walked through. I am taking it very slowly—one proposal at a time—again, listening, waiting, moving as God leads. Like most agents, I know I am not fit to represent anyone and everyone. So even with that, I am praying and listening step by step.

Alexis: In what ways do you hope that your book, Pray Hear Write, will help ignite your readers’ passion to write?

Jevon: I hope that it will be a tool to help open portal between them and heaven to see their writing and publishing lives soar to new heights.

I don’t want them to just write a good book; I want them to write a God book—a book that catapults readers into new realms of living, one that heals, one that exposes darkness, one that brings light and welcomes unity, one the restores breaches and broken places. And then I want them to see it go farther than they ever could. It’s amazing the places books end up. They travel miles one person could never do in a lifetime. I want to see that for them, and I pray this book helps all of that become real for the writer who reads it.

Alexis: What is your advice on what writers can do to hear God better, especially when it comes to His plans concerning their call to write?

Jevon: Get alone with yourself and God, pray, be still, get quiet, and when necessary fast. A couple parts in there may be the hardest because of what we feel our culture requires of us, but for the writer there is no other way—solitude, stillness, and quiet are parts of our formula for great writing.

Alexis: Why is it important to go to God first, not people as you endeavor to get the right words to the right people? Explain.

Jevon:
From my view, being able to write can only happen when a writer writes with the perspective of the One who knows their readers better than they do. A writer can only write with such power and impact if completely surrendered to the Spirit of God who reads the hearts of humans everywhere and knows where they hurt and where their deepest desires lie.

As people, we are limited in our knowledge and understanding. God isn’t. It is His desire to show us things we don’t know when we seek Him (Jer. 33:3). It also His Word that is a plumb line for everything else. When we have a word from God, we can compare everything else to it and what doesn’t corroborate doesn’t stay. It makes decision making a bit easier, I think. With Him as our guide, we get access to His unlimited resources—wisdom, discernment, resources, insight, and so on. These intangible things are greater than tangible things like money. When line up to the intangible things, other more tangible things follow—and then we have the humility, grace, and wisdom to sustain them.

Alexis: Regarding the format of your book: Why did you choose to make it a prayer guide and fasting journal?

Jevon: I trust that as God speaks, the writer will be compelled to write. I also saw this book as a keepsake of sorts that writers can return to time and again to recall what God did for them in their 21 days. They will also be able to return to the ideas He gives them as they pray. I feel that for the writer pray and writing many times goes hand in hand, but we don’t always create space for that type of exchange. I’ve learned to keep a journal with me at all times. And it has been for me that even during a church service, during worship, or a sermon, God gives me incredible ideas, and if I am not ready to capture them at that moment they’re sometimes gone forever. I’ve learned to not take God ideas for granted. This book was designed with that belief in mind.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember the most about your book? Why?

Jevon: The time they spend with God, making their call to write the center of their prayer focus. Writing sometimes isn’t given the value it should have. I write about the power of writing in the beginning of the book, so I will not go deep here. But I want readers to remember their time with my book as a time when writing while inquiring of the Lord and beholding His beauty was their one thing.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Jevon! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Jevon: I love books. I love my authors. I love what I get to do, and I pray that love is contagious.

~*~

Author Bio: 

Jevon Bolden is a book editor, writer, literary agent, and CEO of Embolden Media Group, a boutique publishing consulting firm in sunny Florida.

The books she has written as other people have appeared on ECPA and CBA best-sellers’ lists and have sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world.

As a conference speaker, workshop facilitator, writing coach, and mentor, Jevon shares the best of what she knows with passionate, creative, and influential individuals and groups who desire to publish great books that make a difference.


~*~
Book Blurb for Pray Hear Write:

Ignite your passion to write!


You know what God has spoken. But where do you start? What should you write? Who will read it? And how do you get it to them?

Pray Hear Write is designed for you to hear God speak His specific plans concerning your call to write, develop a writing plan and practice, and be positioned to connect with a receptive audience. In her more than fifteen years editing and writing best-selling books, Jevon Bolden has found no substitute for getting the right words to the right people than first going to God.

This prayer guide and fasting journal will help you:

- Overcome writer's block and feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt

- Cultivate heightened spiritual awareness about what to write, whom to write to, and when to write it

- Develop a strategy for starting, completing, and publishing your work

- Flesh out God ideas and track divine connections

- Take action toward your dreams and stay encouraged throughout the journey

You are God's scribe. You have been called to write words that bring life and light to those who read them. Now set yourself to seek Him for all you need to get it written and published. Your most life-arresting book may be just a prayer away.

~*~
Buy Jevon's book on Amazon, BAM!, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo

~*~
Connect with Jevon:
Instagram - Instagram.com/jevonbolden
Facebook - Facebook.com/jevonbolden.editor
Twitter - Twitter.com/jevonbolden
LinkedIn - LinkedIn.com/in/jevonbolden
Websitehttps://www.jevonbolden.com

~*~
Enter this book giveaway contest for your chance to WIN a copy of this book by filling out the entry form on the Rafflecopter widget below: 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Joy


Joy Inexpressible
A devotional by Allison M. Wilson

Key Scripture: Galatians 5:22-23 (NASB) and 1 Peter 1:8 (NASB)

Joy and happiness seem like they are synonymous, and in many ways they are, but there’s a reason God put joy in the Fruits of the Spirit rather than happiness. In the New Testament, joy is translated as “cheerfulness, calm delight.” In today’s culture, that is very different than “happy.”

How do we have joy? As we looked at last month, the Fruits of the Spirit aren’t just randomly ordered. God’s love must be the first thing we accept, allow it to change us and grow us to be more like Him. Joy is the next one on the list because it is an outflow of His love for us. Our acceptance of that love brings a cheerfulness and calm delight that we cannot manufacture on our own…at least, not for long.

As I write this, I’m sitting at my mother’s bedside hoping for her next breath, but longing for her suffering to be over and for her to enter Jesus’s rest. I’m not happy. I AM joyful. Why? Because happy tends to have to do with circumstances. Not always, but a lot of the time our emotions fluctuate due to circumstances around us. Joy is a constant if we will allow it. I’m not happy, but I am filled with the joy, the calm delight that my mom will soon know no pain. Joy only comes from the One constant we have…Christ.

We are at a wonderful hospice house. There are several families with whom God has given us a chance to interact. One such family watched their loved one go tonight. They were another believing family and know that their loved one is now resting in Jesus. Through the last few days, we’ve all shared food and some laughter during a difficult time. We have all had the calm delight and assurance of Christ’s love for us, as well as our family members who are going on before us.

God wants our hearts to be focused on the joy HE brings rather than things around us that are so temporary. The enemy wants to steal that joy with all the things or situations in front of us. Our hearts, set on the Father, will remain in perfect peace. That calm delight of God’s peace, especially during tough times, will be a beacon to those who are hurting in this dark world. They will want to know that joy for themselves. They’ll begin to seek out someone who allows the joy of the Lord to be their strength. Seeing how the joy doesn’t diminish with a hard trial will be so different than what they see from others that they can’t help but notice.

My Prayer: Daddy, we see too many things with our human eyes and miss so much You want to show us about Your joy. The joy of the Lord IS our strength, yet we ignore it for the earthly comforts of happiness. Show us Your better way. Give us Your eyes to see the joy You provide and how it will overwhelm even the darkest times in our lives, if we allow You to shine through. Make us instruments of Your joy to show the light to those who desperately need it. In Jesus Christ’s Name I pray, Amen.

~*~
Author Bio:

A very early reader and lover of the written word, Allison M. Wilson has been writing since the age of 8 with the heart to impart stories and God's truth.


She has judged countless contests for the last 25 years, reviewed for several online publications, professionally edited, and written articles and devotionals.

Wife, mother, writer, editor, teacher, mentor, and mompreneur, God keeps her busy while living in east central Florida with her family.

~*~
Connect with Allison:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/allisonmwilson
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amwilson

Monday, March 4, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: God First


God first, others second
A devotional by Jessica Brodie

We keep a sign in our house that says, “God first, others second, self last.”

I thought I put it there for my kids, but as a reformed people-pleaser, I now know it’s there just as much for me as for them.

See, I’ve always felt like that awkward girl—the one who didn’t quite fit in. I was painfully shy, but I moved around a lot and also did a lot of theater, so I learned enough social skills to get by. Still, making real, lasting friendships wasn’t easy. Between trust issues and girl drama, I was always overly concerned about whether people liked me or what I could do to make friends. People-pleasing became an idol in my life.

Finally one day, well into my adulthood, I had enough of the games and the worrying. As my relationship with God grew stronger and I became more committed in my faith, I realized it no longer mattered what others thought. It only mattered what God thought.

But it was hard to unshackle my former chains. I’d become somewhat of a slave to my people-pleasing mentality. I had to retrain myself to “hit pause” or “reset” when an unhealthy thought would enter my head, to shut down my initial instinct to wonder, “Hmm, what might they think?” Instead, I focused on whether I was pleasing God.

Today, I hope this has become a natural habit. But I know I am a flawed human woman with a foot in two worlds: my eternal future with God and this temporary, earthly realm. And sometimes the voices of others clamor for attention so loudly that they threaten to drown out God’s almighty call on my heart.

I try my best to combat that by beginning my day in prayer and with Bible reading, and by being aware of the struggle between the world and the Lord. While I have an obligation and a mission to spread God’s love in the world, there’s a big difference between loving the people in the world and being influenced by those people.

That’s why the apostle Paul’s encouragement to the early church in Colossae speaks to me today. In his letter, Paul tells us to do all we do—whether that’s loving our family members or in our labors—in the name of Jesus.

“Whatever you do, do it from the heart for the Lord and not for people. You know that you will receive an inheritance as a reward. You serve the Lord Christ.”
 ~Colossians 3:23-24 (CEB)

You serve the Lord, he said—not people—so serve from the heart. Serve joyfully, in love, just as we love our Lord, for loving and serving our family is loving God. Loving and serving others is loving God. Loving and serving our “master” (modern day read on this is “boss”) is loving God.

God first. I pray I can always remember that.

~*~
Author Bio:

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 ACFW Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden.

She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and a member of the Wholly Loved Ministries team.

Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com/shiningthelight

Friday, March 1, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Reflection


The Reflection
A devotional by Mirachelle Canada

“God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 
~John 4:24 (NIV)

I clearly remember the moment I stood gazing at my reflection in the mirror. I didn’t recognize the person staring back. She looked tired and haggard. I thought I’d lost my bloom. I was single and barely thirty years old.

My reflection was not an accurate portrait of the person I felt like inside. It wasn’t appealing to me and I knew no one else was going to find it attractive either. Why wasn’t my outward appearance matching my inward spirit? I felt I had a good relationship with God. I loved him, I sought after him, I worshipped him...

Worship gave me a check in my spirit. Was there an issue with my worship? John 4:24 (NIV) says, “God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth."

I asked the Lord what truth wasn’t measuring up in my worship. He showed me a rusty golden bowl, my current offering to him. I had lapsed in casting off all worldly cares. They were weighing heavily on me and tarnishing my ability to reflect who I really was in Christ. I prayed for God to “create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me” as Scripture says in Psalm 51:10 (KJV).

A few weeks later, I attended a Hillsong United concert with my sister. Shortly before the band played, a handsome and brawny man sat down in our row. He struck up a conversation with us while he waited for his brother. Shawn was an airline pilot from the Virginia town where I had once lived and worked. There came that familiar heart string’s tug again. When he spoke about his love for God and passion for music, I felt connected to the truth in his words.

Though the music blared and the lights flashed during the concert, I found myself watching Shawn intently, not because of his looks, but how he worshipped. His hands raised high in the air and he sang with abandon to every song.

Later that night, I reflected on the image of Shawn worshipping and I asked God to show me why I had connected to him so much. The Lord revealed that Shawn was wearing an ultra-reflective armor, the kind goes through a refining fire so hot it burns all the way through the metal causing any impure elements to be removed. The result is a breastplate of righteousness that reflects the truest image of God, and so amazing is that when we meet others whose armor has also been so refined, we recognize in their armor’s reflection the Spirit of God in all His holiness.

Something that is Holy is reserved by God for His own use (The Quest Study Bible, 1994). Psalms 96:9 (KJV) tells us, “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” and 1 Peter 1:15-16 (KJV) says, “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; For it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’.” What is it to be holy? Mainly consecrating yourself wholly unto God, but I also like this definition: “Having a spiritually pure quality.” Spiritual purity only comes out of the refining fire of God’s Holy Spirit.

When we seek to worship God in Spirit and in truth, we are asking Him to refine us so that our worship is made utterly pure in His sight and our armor will reflect Him alone. Only then we will recognize the true reflection of ourselves each and every time we look in the mirror.

Do you want to be so refined today? Ask God. He’s always willing and waiting.

~*~
Author Bio:
Mirachelle Canada is a writer, playwright, screenwriter, and theatre director/producer from Northern Virginia, where she teaches television production at her high school alma mater. She spent some time learning and developing her talents in Hollywood as an art director and production assistant on various TV shows. 

She earned her Master of Fine Arts in Script & Screenwriting from Regent University and is a member of Act One: Hollywood Film & Television Writing Program, American Fiction Christian Writers, American Fiction Writers Virginia Chapter, The Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild, and Your Novel Blueprint. Mirachelle is passionate about awakening creativity and the gifts of God in everyone.

She is currently working on her first historical fiction novel set during WWII, inspired by her time studying theatre education in London, England.

In her spare time, she also writes and directs Christmas and Easter passion plays, and sings in the choir and praise & worship team at Christ Chapel Assembly of God in Woodbridge, VA.

~*~
Connect with Mirachelle:
Website: www.mirachellecanada.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mirachellecanada/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/miracan
Instagram: https://instagram.com/mirachelle77/

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: God's Grace


Grasping Grace

A devotional by Carrie Del Pizzo

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” ~Romans 5:8 (NASB)

Grace is a tricky subject. We get the gist of it: We sinned, Jesus died, we’re saved. But do we really understand? I confess that this is one I sometimes struggle with.

I’m told grace is the unmerited, unearned favor of God. The unmerited part seems pretty obvious. I know I’m a sinner. I hear it in my voice when I yell at my kids. I hear it in my mind when I think critical cutting thoughts about someone I don’t like. I feel it in my heart when God tells me to reach out to someone and I stop to debate whether or not I will obey.

The unearned bit is also pretty clear cut. Oh, sure, I’m a decent enough human being, but nothing earth-shattering. I like talking to kids, but I’m no Sunday school teacher. There’s always room for a friend at my table, but I’m not volunteering my weekends to serve meals at the homeless shelter. And I like sharing with you all a few words God has laid on my heart, but I’m not getting my theology degree or seeking ordination to become a great Bible teacher.

But then we come to the mic drop: favor of God.

Merriam-Webster.com says favor means “to show partiality toward,” and gives synonyms of prefer, handpick, adore, cherish.

What? Why?

Let’s think this through. We’re talking about the great big GOD of the whole wide universe. Creator of Heaven and Earth. King of kings, Lord of lords, the Big Kahuna. He knows what I’m like in public and private. He knows where I am and where I’d rather be. He knows what I say out loud and what I’m really thinking. So, if He knows the truth about me, why would he prefer me, handpick me, adore me, cherish me?

Love. The Bible book of Romans tells us that, “God demonstrates His own love toward us …”

This is the time I start thinking that serving friends dinner and writing this little devotional are getting me farther than I thought. I must be doing ok. I’m working pretty hard, trying to be a good person, doing everything I can to be good enough for God, and then His grace fills in the gaps. Right?

Let’s look at the rest of that verse. “… in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” That’s right, Jesus paid the highest price, gave up His throne, gave up His dignity, gave up His life, long before I ever got around to thinking up ways to try to impress Him (as though that were possible). Because my selfishness and dirtiness separated me from God, and because He couldn’t live without me, He died. And in that horrible, gruesome, painful, selfless act, He showed me favor that I could never begin to earn or merit. He made a way for me to be with Him again.

Ok, are you ready for the really great news? He did it for you, too.

Oh, yes, He did. Don’t shake your head at me. I know you’re thinking you’ve made too many mistakes, you’ve blown too many chances, you’ve gotten too dirty.

Or maybe you’ve been trying to impress God. Trying work really hard for Him. Trying to get really clean for Him. Trying to make yourself good enough for Him.

All of that is irrelevant because it’s already done. He already died for you. He already made you clean. He already opened the door for you to be with Him. Because He already loves you.

Did you catch that? Should I say it again?

He already loves you.

You may ask, “What about obedience and service?” Yeah, those are a portion of Christian life, but we’ll get to those later. Today we’re talking about GRACE, something that happened a long time ago.

So, sit back and rest in it for a while. You and I don’t deserve. We didn’t earn it. But God freely gave it to us anyway … because He loves us. Go figure.

~*~
Author Bio:
In this world of texts, memes, and emojis, slowing down to truly communicate can feel like straining a muscle you haven’t exercised in far too long.

Seventeen years of business experience across a variety of industries has taught Carrie Del Pizzo the fine art of professional communications. Partnering with corporate executives and entry-level employees alike, she has written and edited major project proposals, direct marketing pieces, sensitive client communications, employee handbooks, and user manuals.

Carrie’s love of literature and story has led her to develop and exercise her fiction writing skills as well. Aside from her personal creative efforts, she also edits for self- and traditionally-published authors and enjoys writing short dramas for church presentation.

Carrie is a wife, mom of three Americans and host-mom to numerous exchange students. Italian-by-marriage means she loves to cook and eat. She lives in Spokane, WA, with her hilarious family, who keeps her in stitches and provides piles of material for great stories.