Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: New Year 2020 edition with new writers!

Dear Reader Friends,

Tomorrow (Jan. 1, 2020) marks the start of a New Year!

And it also begins another part of our devotional journey!

I am excited to announce that this year, we have 7 NEW regularly scheduled writers, 8 original writers from 2019 who are continuing to write devotionals this new year, and three back-up writers contributing to my blog's tri-weekly series, "Devotionals for the Heart!"

This is the introduction post! Scroll down to see pictures of ALL of my writers (new and old) then read their author bios and starting tomorrow, read the first NEW devotional for this year! :)

Note: My backup writers will only contribute their original devotionals in emergency cases when my regularly scheduled writers for this year cannot meet their deadline. God willing, a new devotional will be published every Monday/Wednesday/Friday of every week for all of this New Year 2020.

I hope and pray that God blesses you this New Year with His Peace, Hope and Love!

May this devotional series bless your heart too.


Alexis A. Goring
Founder of "God is Love" blog

Read on for the author bios and photos of my NEW devotional writers for this year...

Author Bio:
Alexis Newlin is a 36-year-old lover of Jesus, loose leaf tea, roller coasters, writing stories and going on adventures. Originally from Marietta, GA, Alexis now resides in Fresno, CA. 

You can always find Alexis outdoors enjoying a walk in her neighborhood, scoping out the newest food truck, hanging out with friends or planning her next trip.

Her church, The Revival Center, and family mean the world to her. They have supported her through the loss of her mother and her own cancer diagnosis.

Alexis enjoys encouraging others by reminding them not to look at what they see, but to always look to God, who is working in the unseen.

Alexis currently writes for several online ministries and hopes to launch her first podcast – The Brave Podcast – in January 2020.

Author Bio:

Amy Odland has been serving in church ministry as a volunteer leader for over 16 years, in various worship, prayer and women’s ministry roles. Her passion for helping women stems from her own struggles and lessons learned in her journey as a Christian since first deciding to follow the Lord in 1994. 

Amy’s priorities after her faith include her family — husband Rick and their four kids — as well as extended family who all live close in proximity and the many friends she’s made over the years.

In addition to a love of teaching and helping her husband with the bookkeeping for their many businesses, Amy has recently expanded her stay-at-home work to include leading author’s book launch teams for publishing companies like Baker, Revell, Barbour, and Lifeway.

She also enjoys teaching new authors about platform building, self-launching, and online marketing.

Author Bio:

My name is Julia Wilson but I also go by Christian Bookaholic. 

I live with my husband and five cats in a small town in Worcestershire on the banks of the River Severn (England). We have four grown up children and three granddaughters.

I have always loved reading and have always been surrounded by books. I used to work as a teaching assistant for special needs in the local high school. Ill health forced me to stop working in December 2015. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (known as M.E.) and fibromyalgia. I now have plenty of time to read and review books!

Our eldest son set up my Christian Bookaholic blog. I review every book I read. I read over 300 books a year. I read Christian and mass market. I prefer stories set from 1850 onwards. My favorite type of books to read are stories set in WWI and WWII, and Russia under Czar Nicholas II.

I am a historian, having a Combined Humanities degree where I majored in History and minored in English. I also love swimming. I only learned how to swim in 2017 and go swimming four mornings a week for 90 minutes before breakfast. It keeps my joints going.

I am also a crazy cat lady. I absolutely love my cats. I have grown up with cats and cannot imagine life without them. My dream is to own an old fashioned seal point Siamese … but not while we have our young rescue cat as she hates other cats!

I love God and love going to a large, lively church called Lifecentral. I cannot imagine life without God. He gives a peace even when life does not. He guides my life. He is my Rock.

Author Bio:

Karen Marstaller is a retired high school teacher who spent most of her career challenging creative students to write. Her heart is for her readers. 

She writes to encourage them, to make them laugh, to show them that life is a beautiful journey, and regardless of their past, to show them that there is joy ahead if they will just keep looking.

Karen and her husband live in central Texas in a sweet little home that they completely remodeled. They enjoy spending time with their family, which includes seven precious grandchildren.

Most of all, Karen writes in obedience to the command to love your neighbor, to offer a cup of water to those who are dying of thirst, and to comfort others with the comfort she has received from God.

Author Bio:

Malinda Fugate writes from the heart. 

Though she serves full time as the Children’s Education Director at a church in Southern California, she is also a crafter of words, including The Other Three Sixteens (her book that is scheduled to release in 
May 2020 with Ambassador International), Bible Time for Active Kids (which is an activities-based devotional that is available for purchase on Amazon.com), and The Pen and the Sword: Connecting With the Word of God (which is an interactive creative writing journal). 

Malinda earned a communications degree with a theatre emphasis from Azusa Pacific University, then worked behind the scenes at the Los Angeles Salem radio stations, including The Fish and KKLA.

Her writing includes children's faith resources, commercial copywriting, and various faith-based stage and screenplays. Malinda lives by the beach with her pup, Yoshi.

When she's not writing or working at church, she might be creating art, reading, or exploring the many adventures to be found in the Los Angeles area.

Author Bio:

Writing stories that take the reader on a journey to parts unknown has been a lifelong love for Tema Banner. She enjoys all history and continues daily to hone both her knowledge of history and her writing skills. 

God is her guiding light and the reason for every endeavor in her life. She is a member of the South Carolina ACFW chapter as well as an active member of her local RWA chapter, Carolina Romance Writers.

Tema has served as past President and Secretary as well as holding various chair positions. She is the honored recipient of the Harold Lowery Service Award, presented by the Carolina Romance Writers.

God has gifted her with a loving husband, two children and three grandchildren who are the delight of her life.

In her spare time, she gardens and digs into genealogy for nuggets to use in her stories.

Author Bio:

Wade Webster is a farm boy turned city slicker, heathen turned born-again Christian, truck driver turned writer doing his best to point folks to his best friend, Jesus Christ.

He currently lives in Plano, Texas. He's the author of 100 Prayers of a Writer, a book that didn't begin as a book, just weekly prayers to a group of writer friends. 

He enjoys spending time in nature, running for exercise and dark chocolate, though not necessarily in that order. Apart from driving 18-wheelers for a living, he has a part-time job painting houses on the side ... and the front and back and inside.

As a teenager, he told his friends he never wanted to be considered normal. So far he's done a pretty good job of living up to that aspiration.

Read on for the author bios and photos of my OLD devotional writers returning this year...

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.

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 Washington Adventist University (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.

Author Bio:
Christa MacDonald is a 2017 Carol Award finalist for contemporary Christian fiction. She began her writing career at the age of eleven, filling a sketchbook with poems and short stories. 

After publishing a few short pieces in her college's literary magazine she took a long hiatus during which she embarked on a few different careers, got married, had three kids, and renovated an old barn masquerading as a house.

Sweet River Redemption is her three-book Contemporary Christian Romance series published by Mountain Brook Ink.

When not working or writing, Christa can be found ferrying her kids around, reading, or attempting something crafty. She and her family live along the coast of New England.

Author Bio:

Glynis Becker enjoys writing devotions, inspirational short fiction, novel-length fiction, and screenplays. Her film Sinking Sand is available for streaming on Amazon.com, TubiTv, and on DVD. 

She spent her childhood traveling the country as an Air Force brat, until she decided to attend college at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

Once she got her mechanical engineering degree, she decided she couldn’t leave, so she has made her home for the last thirty years in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota with her photographer husband, their almost-grown two children, and one very cat-like poodle. She has worked as a software engineer for a defense contractor, an adult ministries director at a church, and currently does paperwork and intake for an adoption agency.

When she’s not writing, working or volunteering, you’ll find her reading everything from Christian fiction to epic fantasy novels, watching TV or cheering for her favorite sports team, the Minnesota Vikings.

Author Bio:
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian journalist, author, blogger, editor, and devotional writer. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, which has won 113 journalism awards during her tenure. 

She is the author of Feed My Sheep: A 40-Day Devotional to Develop a Heart for Hunger Ministry (2019) and More Like Jesus: A Devotional Journey (2018) and editor of Stories of Racial Awakening: Narratives on Changed Hearts and Lives of South Carolina United Methodists (2018), all from her newspaper’s Advocate Press.

She is a seasoned speaker and contributor to Thrivent Magazine, Crosswalk, and the United Methodist News Service, among many others. She has a weekly faith blog called "
Shining the Light" that is published on her website, www.JessicaBrodie.com and is part of the team at Wholly Loved Ministries. 

Her novel Tangled Roots won a third place Foundation Award in Contemporary Romance at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in 2019. An earlier unpublished novel, The Memory Garden, won the 2018 Genesis Award for Contemporary Fiction from American Christian Fiction Writers.

Married, Brodie has four children and stepchildren and lives in South Carolina.

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 earned her Master of Fine Arts in Script & Screenwriting from Regent University and is an alumnus of Act One: Hollywood Film & Television Writing Program, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, American Fiction Writers Virginia Chapter, The Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild, and Your Novel Blueprint.

Mirachelle is currently working on her first historical fiction novel set during WWII.

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.

Author Bio: 

Temeka Borden, better known by her pen name “Positivity Inspires,” is an author, speaker, minister, PharmD, multi-state licensed pharmacist, founder and owner of Positivity Inspires, LLC, and most importantly, a servant of the Lord. 

She was introduced to Christ at a very early age and was raised in the church. Her ministry focuses on encouraging Christians to love God first, to love all people, to continually strengthen their bond with Christ, and to study His Word, and live His Word daily.

Dr. Borden has been blessed with a variety of gifts, and she has gained much professional experience in a variety of settings. She also has served in administrative roles in the professional and church settings. In addition to obtaining her PharmD, she also obtained her bachelor's degree in biology (minor in English), and she is working on her third degree. What's more, as stated in her words, “I completed a specialty pharmacy residency that prepared me for the workforce and made me a force to be reckoned with.” She is a long-distance runner, a drummer, a singer, and she has a strong “fashion sense.” She also can read and type at almost supersonic speed in some instances.

Dr. Borden loves to learn and is constantly looking for new ways to challenge herself.

She loves God and she loves people. She is “crazy about her family,” and she adores her friends. She strongly encourages others to show kindness, respect, and love to everyone. She loves and welcomes diversity and flourishes in culturally diverse environments.

Dr. Borden loves to laugh and loves to make other people laugh. She also is passionate about giving back to the community. Her favorite sayings are “Speak Up!” and “Watch God Work!”

Read on for the author bios and photos of my backup devotional writers for this year...

Author Bio:

Erin Mifflin lives in the beautiful Missouri Ozarks.

She works as a one-on-one tutor with grades 6-12 at a Christian school. 

As a lifelong lover of words, she is passionate about stories and has been a book blogger since 2010. She's always written in one form or another, and in recent years has begun to develop this gift more seriously. 

Her nonfiction articles have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, as well as various Christian magazines and blogs.

She's hard at work on a historical fiction manuscript as well. Erin is a homeschool graduate and comes from a large family, which now includes nearly 20 nieces and nephews.

She's active in her church as a Sunday School teacher, choir member, and church officer.

When she has a spare moment, she enjoys cooking, decorating cakes, watching British period dramas, and helping care for her large and crazy family.

Author Bio:

Kathleen Rouser is a multi-published author who has won the 2017 Bookvana Award for her first novel Rumors and Promises, which is about the people of fictional Stone Creek, Michigan. She also wrote its sequel, Secrets and Wishes, as well as a few anthologies. 

Kathleen is a longtime member in good standing of American Christian Fiction Writers. 

She has loved making up stories since she was a little girl and wanted to be a writer before she could even read. She longs to create characters who resonate with readers and realize the need for a transforming Savior in their everyday lives. 

A former homeschool instructor, mild-mannered dental assistant, and current Community Bible Study kids’ teacher, Kathleen lives in Michigan with her hero and husband of thirty-some years and their two sweet kittens. 

She is still on the quest to brew the perfect cup of coffee to drink while she’s writing.

Author Bio:

Wendy Wilson Spooner is a professional Genetic Genealogist by day, a writer by night, and an artist in between.

Her first book, Once Upon an Irish Summer, is a YA crossover historical fiction novel. It is the first in a trilogy, traditionally published by Ambassador International and set to release April 3, 2020 in five countries.

Wendy’s love of history compels her to write the true stories that she unearths during her research, and she’s found that truth is indeed, stranger, and way more exciting than fiction. 

Wendy writes about family, faith, grief, art, and overcoming the obstacles in life by coming to know who we really are—a child of God, and, the descendant of incredible people who paved the way for us to have the lives we have now—even if they really struggled. She believes in learning from ancestors, honoring them, and then standing on their shoulders to become someone even better.

Wendy is an award-winning author of professional articles and poems. She turned to novel writing to share what she knows with more people.

~The End ~

Monday, December 30, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Don't forget

Why I Disappointed My Daughter This Christmas

A devotional by Voni Harris

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)

I don’t like to decorate for Christmas. My daughter hates that I don’t like it. Sorry.

Wait! Let me defend myself here. These are my reasons why:

· Real life keeps happening, even in December. I don’t have time or energy to move around furniture and hoist up tree and decorations. We didn’t really have space to do so up until the last few years, anyway.

· Besides that, we had the tradition of spending the day at both of hubby’s grandparents and hubby’s parents. Or we traveled to spend time with my mom out-of-state. This is not quite applicable any more since our move to Alaska. Some Decembers, yes, others we stay at home. Still undecorated, most years.

· I do not have the money to make things look beautiful as they are on TV and in the community (see below). Plus, I’m only 4’6” tall, so putting up lights…eh, not so much.

· We do have Christmas money, of course, but it is focused on gifts. I love gift-giving, but I’m bad at it, no matter how much I love the gift recipient. Sorry about that, friends and family.

· In our community, we YoungLife volunteers “babysat” during the Kodiak Area Native Association Christmas party, throwing the kids their own Christmas party. There is always a Dickens Christmas community event with a true-hearted live Nativity. We walk every other day or so with our grandson to where our neighbor has given the gift of Christmas fun via outdoor decorations, tons of them. Caroling. The Harbor light-up with decorated boats. Our church’s Christmas Eve candlelight ceremony. Christmas movies. Party at a friend’s house …

In other words, there are a ton of community events, and they make my heart glad. Family and friends and community. Sharing Jesus. Sharing each other. I love it! Who has time for decorating?

I focus on the new year every December, ready to make my coming trip around the sun glorify God. Little brain space to decorate our house is left.

It means a lot to simply put up the Christmas cards we get. They make me smile whenever I walk by. Secondary true confession: I’m no good at Christmas cards, either. See the previous reasons for that, too.

None of these is a deep reason for my non-decoration tendencies. The truth is that the only truly meaningful Christmas decoration we have is our manger scene. If another breaks we just say “Aww” and throw it away. That’s it.

We currently have two manger scenes. Our plastic one plays songs and lights up, with a narrator telling the Christmas story. Perfect for our toddler grandson. We had a beautiful carved wood Christmas tree hanging; the carvings told the Christmas story. It is no longer with us, because, well, we have a toddler grandson.

Our main Nativity scene is still with us, though. It melts my heart putting it up; the reality of Jesus’ birth is there in front of my eyes when I do.

Christmas glitters with decorations and warms the heart with event and cards and presents. The real magic of Christmas, though, is the rise of your heart when you pause long enough to think of the birth of God’s son. Jesus. That’s what I love about Christmas: the birth of our Savior.

God’s son came in a manger and died on a cross, forging an inextricable link between Christmas and Easter. All prophesied. All completed. God is truth. He makes promises and He keeps them. He can be trusted with your soul.

I don’t want to hurry and scurry to make Christmas happen, and in the process forget.

Author Bio:

Voni Harris writes from her family’s home on the rain forest island of Kodiak, Alaska.

A legal-eagle husband, a breathtaking daughter, an adventurous grandson, and two enthusiastic dogs all conspire to keep her from spending too much time at the computer.

She holds a Radio-TV degree from Drake University, and her short story “The Wedding” was published in Heart-Stirring Stories of Romance.

Voni's novel Nothing Hidden won the 2013 ACFW’s First Impressions contest and the 2015 Daphne du Maurier unpublished inspy suspense category. It was also a 2018 ACFW Genesis finalist.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: A Miracle

The Birth of a Miracle

A devotional by Heather Martin

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. May your word to me be fulfilled.” 
Then the angel left her.” – Luke 1:38 (NIV)

Her name was Mary. 

She was young, a virgin, who was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph.

As was customary in her culture, engagement was about a year long, and a time of celibacy, and just as binding as marriage.

I can imagine that Mary and Joseph were busy like most couples are when they are planning to be married soon. Maybe they had already asked friends and family to be groomsmen and bridesmaids. Perhaps they were getting a guest list together, and reserving a venue for the reception. And Mary, like most brides, had probably already picked out a gorgeous dress or some special clothes to wear. Maybe she had already gotten fitted for her gown or had at least starting thinking about what she would look like on that special day.

All of this planning was likely happening, until God's angel Gabriel visited Mary in Nazareth. The Bible says in Luke 1:28 (NIV) that Gabriel appeared to her and said “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Well of course Mary was afraid and wondered what this greeting meant, but the angel told her not to be afraid because the news that he was about to give her was good news! Let’s read about what he said in Luke 1:30-33 (NIV):

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Wow! That was a loaded greeting! Naturally, Mary questioned how this could be since she wasn’t married and was a virgin.

The angel told her some news that would’ve caused the average person to be terrified and in awe same time! He explained that the Holy Spirit would perform a miracle in Mary and she would be become pregnant with the Son of God! He even told her that her cousin Elizabeth, who was older and had been unable to have children, would also have a child (John the Baptist)!

Now I can think of a million ways that I might have responded to all this crazy news! I would have been in disbelief, like wait a minute Mr. Gabriel, this can’t happen right now. I’ve got other plans, I’m about to be married! No thank you, I need to fit into my dress. My fiancĂ© will never believe me! Why me? Why now? The timing is just so wrong!

But the Bible records Mary’s reply in Luke 1:38 (NIV): “I am the Lord’s servant, ... May your word to me be fulfilled.”

What a totally amazing response! Mary completely trusted God. She did not question His sovereignty. Without hesitation, she called herself a servant. A servant is someone who places the needs of others before their own. In fact, her humble response is probably the reason why God had chosen her to do the job in the first place. Her complete trust and willingness to be used by God is nothing short of a miracle itself.

How much do we really trust God?

Mary’s ability to trust God so completely and unselfishly was not born overnight. You cannot trust someone who you don’t know or spend time with, becoming acquainted with their character and ways.

I pray that we will know God and unselfishly trust the plans that He has for our lives, no matter how crazy they may seem.

Let’s Pray: Help us, God, to be willing and ready to be used by You. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

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 Bachelor's 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, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas from me to you!

Dearest Blog Readers,

You all are a dear part of my heart.

I appreciate your spending time to read all of the features here on my "God is Love" blog! Without you, no one would read my blog and my efforts of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ through this platform would be in vain.

My mission is to encourage you with God's Love and teach you about the Savior of the World (Jesus Christ). My prayer is that you will get to know God and accept His Son Jesus Christ into your heart. I hope that you will fully realize that they love you unconditionally! They want you to receive their gift of salvation that leads to eternal life (John 3:16). It is the greatest gift!

Remember that Jesus is the true reason for this Christmas holiday season!

Keep Him first in your life and trust Him through every trial. He promises to never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)!

May God bless your heart, your home and your loved ones on Christmas Day and always!


Alexis A. Goring
Founder of "God is Love" blog

Devotionals for the Heart: Jesus Christ

He’s here!
A devotional by Carrie Del Pizzo

Then an angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord was shining around them, and they became very frightened. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people. Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord. This is how you will know him: You will find a baby wrapped in pieces of cloth and lying in a feeding box.” Then a very large group of angels from heaven joined the first angel, praising God and saying: “Give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God.” 
– Luke 2:9-14 (NCV)

It was a quiet night, just like any other. There were a lot of people in town for the census, but folks who already lived in Bethlehem were going about their usual business, while those just arriving were trying to hustle a place to stay. Joseph and Mary couldn’t even get a room. 

Everyone had traveled a long way, and no one was going to give up their nice warm bed to a couple of late-arriving strangers. The fact that Mary was hugely pregnant was probably the only reason they even got the stable.

Biggest shock of all, when that brand-new baby started yowling, no one even noticed. Israel had plenty of Pharisees, Sadducees, temple leaders, rabbis and students poring over the prophesies who should have known the Messiah was due any day. Surely Mary had a light about her that was beyond the average bun-in-the-oven glow. But the arrival of the Son of God was missed by the entire world.

Well, the angels just couldn’t stand by and let that happen. The entrance of the King couldn’t be ignored. In fact, they couldn’t be quiet about it.

Have you ever seen a period movie where they have a big ball and there’s a servant standing at the door shouting everyone’s name as they walk in? A long time ago, important people wanted to be sure everyone knew when they made their grand entrance. Well, God and the angels felt the same way about the baby Jesus.

First God sent the herald angel (the shouter at the door) to give the good word to the shepherds. Then the band came in. Angels filled the sky, singing, dancing — it was quite a hootenanny.

When something really important happens, like the savior of the world arriving to save mankind, people need to know about it. Similarly, when something really important happens, like Jesus cleaning our hearts and giving us new life, people need to know about that too.

Now let's bring this back to the present day with some questions for you: Has Jesus cleaned your heart? Have you told anyone about it recently? 

Ask Jesus for the courage to tell others about His birth, His death, His resurrection, and the new life you’ve found in Him.

If you haven’t found that new life yet, ask Him for it. After all, Jesus Christ came to Earth just to deliver a free gift to you: the free gift of salvation! What a reason to rejoice!

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, Wash., with her hilarious family who keep her in stitches and provides piles of material for great stories.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Patience

Patient Expectation

A devotional by Glynis Becker

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.” – Psalm 62:5-7 (ESV)

What did you do the last time you had to wait in line? Commiserate with the people you were with? Grumble? Play on your phone?

Patience is hard. I think that’s why it’s listed in the group of spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), because I dare say few of us are born with it. I don’t have data to back this up, but my guess is that it’s always been hard. However, with our pace of life and the 21st century instant gratification for so many things, patience is a virtue becoming more and more scarce.

I think the reason why patience can be so difficult is that we have certain expectations and when they aren’t met, we don’t know what to do. For example, when my children were little and we were running errands, I often had impossible expectations of how much time a trip should take. Then when they were rowdy or the lines were too long, my expectation of an easy excursion was unmet and my patience ran thin.

What about in other aspects of our lives? Today, are you waiting for something better for your tomorrow? A relationship? A change in job or financial circumstance? Physical healing? Or what if your expectation is for something unpleasant like the death of a loved one or that dreaded phone call from the doctor?

We spend much of our lives waiting and usually it can’t be helped. So maybe it isn’t what we wait for that defines us, but rather what we do with that time. No matter the outcome of our expectations, we should greet each waiting period with hope.

The Bible is full of stories of individuals and groups waiting for things: Noah expected a flood; the Israelites waited for release from slavery; Hannah, Sarah, and Elizabeth waited for babies; the world waited for a Savior.

All of those experiences happened. They were each beautiful in their redemption stories. But what if the good thing you are waiting for never does happen? What if your expectations are never met because you never got that job or didn’t have children? Does that mean God has forgotten you? Or worse, that He doesn’t care?

Unmet expectations can lead to hurt in human relationships and that is hard enough. What about when we expect things from God and He doesn’t seem to deliver? I do not consider myself an expert in the art of patience, but here are some things I’ve learned during my moments — or years — of waiting.

Gratitude is key. If we can wait with expectation for what we want, but can be content with what we have, we have unlocked the key to a balanced, joy-filled life.

God is faithful. If we truly believe that He is Who He says He is, then we can trust that He loves us deeply and has our best in mind. Even in the hard things, He will bring beauty to our lives and to those around us.

Jesus is present. Everywhere, at all times, and especially in the waiting. Allow His presence to fill that space with joy instead of anxiety and peace instead of frustration. Imagine how beautiful that can be!

Let’s Pray: Lord Jesus, remind me of Your presence with me at all times, especially when I’m hurting. I know you want the best for me, and sometimes that means waiting patiently for answers in Your timing. Help me to understand that in my heart and not just my head. I love You. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Author Bio:
Glynis Becker writes devotions and inspirational fiction, hoping someday to have a published novel on her resume.

She has co-written several screenplays, including the film Sinking Sand, available on DVD and digital streaming.

Glynis, whose childhood was spent all over the country as an Air Force brat, has called South Dakota home for many years, along with her husband and two teenage children.

When she’s not writing or reading, she is watching more television than she should and crocheting. You can find her at www.glynisbecker.com.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Joy

Joy to the World
A devotional by Victoria Bylin

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6 (KJV)

What happened on a particular December afternoon in 2006 bordered on a family tragedy. I say “bordered” because what happened didn’t involve human flesh and blood. No one was physically hurt, and the only thing that broke was my husband’s heart—and mine too, though to a lesser extent.

We have a long family history of putting up a nativity scene in our front yard. The tradition began in my husband’s boyhood, when his dad put up white plastic figures of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. My husband’s father hand-crafted a wooden shelter and manger, which gave the store-bought white plastic a natural and personal touch. Lit up from the inside, those white figures glowed with a serene beauty.

I don’t remember exactly when my in-laws passed that nativity set to us, but I vividly remember putting it up in the 1990s when we lived in a snowy mountain community. We put the creche up near the street where people could see it. Neighbors noticed and commented, but the best response came from a snowplow driver working all night in a snowstorm to keep our roads clear. He told us how bright and beautiful the figures were in the falling snow, and how much seeing the nativity encouraged him.

We really loved that family heirloom. I don’t know how old it was when the disaster struck in 2006. Maybe fifty years? We were starting to worry about the wiring, but my husband always checked it carefully.

As things turned out, it wasn’t the wiring that did the set in. It was a ladder—a very tall ladder that topped sideways and landed smack on Mary. The damage was irreparable, and the figure turned out to be irreplaceable even on eBay.

Our family heirloom lay crumbled and crunched on the brown winter lawn. It was just plain sad to see that treasure brought to ruin. We still miss that set, but that’s not the end of the story. The next day, My husband went to Walmart to look for a new nativity. To his surprise, there were hundreds of big boxes stacked against the wall. The figures were a different style—painted with pretty colors and facial details—but we shifted gears and bought one.

It was nice, but it wasn’t the same . . . until God made it special.

When Christmas rolled around in 2007, we were shopping for other things at Walmart and decided to check out nativity sets. We couldn’t find a single one, and we haven’t seen one for sale since then. They must be out there, probably online, but it’s no longer a Christmas display that’s easy to find. It seems that our old white set broke just in time to be easily replaced.

What we thought was a miserable accident turned into a story we tell every Christmas about how God replaces what’s broken with unexpected blessings. As Christians, we don’t always understand why difficult things happens. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. But the one constant is God’s love and grace—that he died for us while we were still sinners.

Tonight, the nativity we purchased back in 2006 is brightly lit on our lawn—a symbol of God’s great goodness and the miraculous gift of his son.

Merry Christmas to you!

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
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/victoria-bylin
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/568102.Victoria_Bylin

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Peace

When Jesus Christ speaks peace over your life
A devotional by Christa MacDonald

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27 (NIV)

My day job involves working with the public so I have seen it all or at least I feel I have. Recently though, after helping someone with a difficult and tricky situation, I got an email back from them that made my jaw drop and not in a good way.

It was a kick to the gut full of anger over an error in their minds, which was actually just an omission on their own part, something outside of my control. The day had already been a rough one and this email, arriving late in the day, was extra painful.

I was utterly overwhelmed and sad as well. I had liked this client and thought I had made them happy with my work. To get an email telling me the exact opposite, with a rather vulgar term thrown in, was gutting. I left the office feeling about as low as I ever had at work. Driving away, I realized what I needed to do was pray for my client. Whatever they went through today had to be pretty bad to have produced an email like that. I had already taken the action needed to address their concern so that part was done. Letting what they said trouble me wasn’t going to help anyone. In prayer, I could unburden my soul.

After praying for them I felt a kind of peace, the kind that only comes from the Spirit. It didn’t take away the disappointment I was feeling entirely, but I was comforted. It reminded me of the verse above. Often I wonder how can I not be troubled in this world full of it? There’s so much to be fear, so much to worry about sometimes and it’s utterly overwhelming. But, people of faith have a God to turn to when the storms of life start to blow. No matter what happens, God is provident. He has us in His hands.

The peace of God's Holy Spirit has been left with us. When life is hard, when we’re troubled, when we feel overwhelmed, that’s the time to pray. From the big stuff to the little, before we react, before we take how we’re feeling out on the world, we can pray and ask for peace. Not the peace of a quiet life and boring news cycle, but the peace of God, which passes all understanding. 

Remember: Jesus says in John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Whatever feels like it will overwhelm you, remember our God is provident, omnipotent, and He loves you. If you believe in Him, He has given you His peace.

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, December 16, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: A Savior

A Savior is Born
A devotional by Nanci Rubin

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” –Luke 2:11-12 (KJV)

Christmas is such a wonderful and magical season.

It’s the time of year when people tend to be generous and kind toward each other, even if in the other eleven months of the year they are not. Children are in awe anticipating Santa’s arrival, decorations are going up, trees are lit, and the air is filled with Christmas music. Retail merchants are vying for the Christmas club dollars and there is a mad dash to accomplish what one deems important for their family’s Christmas. Everything is bright and glittery. This is what Christmas has become in the 21st century. But two thousand years ago, the first Christmas was quite different.

I always think of Mary (the mother of Jesus) and I can’t imagine being nine months pregnant, riding a donkey ninety miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. That trip would have taken four to seven days over some rough terrain. We know Mary’s origin was Nazareth and Joseph was from Bethlehem. They both were in Nazareth when Caesar Augustus degreed that the whole world should be taxed and Joseph needed to return to his city of origin.

Think how Mary must have felt, tired, uncomfortable in early labor and needing a place to bring her child into the world. One could assume Joseph was poor and they did not have the money to procure a room in a private home, which was made available for the well-to-do. Mary and Joseph might have been turned away from several places before they came to the inn.

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
– Luke 2:7 (KJV)

They were offered a stable, an out building similar to a barn and many commentaries dispute whether it was a stable or in a house. Some believe they stated in a family members home. This is not a doctrinal point as to whether he was born in a stable or in a house. What does matter is that He was born.

Why the chosen date of December 25 as the birthdate of Jesus Christ? That is another debate among scholars. Many say it couldn’t have been in winter because the shepherds were outside with their flocks, so some have assumed Jesus was born in the spring. Others say winter because there is a special breed of sheep that can tolerate the colder weather. Winter or spring, He came. God sent His only begotten son as the greatest gift of all (John 3:16)! Jesus came to redeem sinful mankind. The blood of cattle and goats could no longer be atonement for sin (Hebrews 9:12).

So, when we gather on Christmas Day with our families, break bread together and enjoy the fellowship of the season, let us reflect upon Jesus, our Savior, who left the splendor of a Heavenly Kingdom to come down to our level and sacrifice Himself for sinful mankind.

There was a song many years ago that had a line that said, “He would have come, even if you’d been the only one.” That is a humbling thought, Jesus would have come just for YOU. He loves you that much.

Let us thank our Heavenly Father for the wonderful gift of Jesus, and share with those around you the love of God. Let’s not be too busy to be kind to one another and say, “Merry Christmas.”

Author Bio:

Nanci is a poet and short story writer published in Cypress News, Family Times E-Zine, Free 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 that she has placed in her agent's capable hands. The rest is up to God.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Don't Quit!

Don’t Quit!
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

“Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God.” 
– Psalm 27:14b (The Message Bible)

A few years ago on a hot summer morning, my wife Debra went from the kitchen in our house, to the garage. 

She intended to get something out of her car and quickly return to the cool comfort of the house. Unfortunately, the knob to the kitchen door had been locked. She could not get back into the house. 

Her cell phone, keys, shoes and other comforts were on the other side of the door. She picked up a hammer and started banging on the knob. She valiantly attempted to break the lock. We had spent well on the lock and it did not break easily for her. She gave up, climbed into her car and started to pray that I would come home. She looked for paper and a pen to scribble a note as she wasted away in the sweltering car. 

I was at work, but I felt an inexplicable urge to return home. I had felt that sensation before and knew that it was a foreboding herald. When I drove up to the house and opened the garage, she was sitting, forlornly in her hot car, crying.

I was alarmed and asked what had happened. She explained and pointed to the hammer and the dents on the door. I picked up the hammer and with a single blow, broke the lock and opened the door.

She came to me later and asked me if I thought that the lock would have broken if she had hit it one more time? Rather than say yes, I spontaneously, recited the poem below:

Don’t Quit
(A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier)

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,

When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is strange with its twists and turns

As every one of us sometimes learns

And many a failure comes about

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don't give up though the pace seems slow—

You may succeed with another blow.

Success is failure turned inside out—

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell just how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far;

So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit—

It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

I shared this poem with you in case you are trudging uphill, feeling exhausted, locked out or discouraged. Don’t quit. God’s delays are often preparatory or protective. Don’t quit because we can see His mercies more clearly when we are in extremis.

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 Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md. 

He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in 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.