Friday, May 31, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: When God gives you space to struggle

Space to Struggle
A devotional by Tessa Huckstep

“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”
–1 Peter 5:10 (KJV)

Have you ever heard it said that if you help a butterfly escape his chrysalis, he will die shortly after?

It is difficult to watch the butterfly struggle to push out of its chrysalis. We don’t enjoy sitting back and watching difficulty or suffering. But it is this struggle that strengthens the butterfly and prepares it for the future.

This past year at university, I had a professor who would not answer all my questions. After I asked a question in class she would say, “Hmm, that is interesting. We should explore that.” I knew by the look in her eyes that she knew the exact answer to my question, but she wanted me to figure it out on my own. At first, I was baffled that she would not just answer my questions. Answering questions is what teachers do! But after researching my questions and coming to answer them on my own, I understood why my professor would not just give me the answer. I learned so much more through the process of searching for the answer than I would have if she would’ve given me the answer as soon as I asked the question.

In the career field of Education, there is a certain area of learning that all teachers strive to guide their students toward. As students learn, they move toward things they are capable of understanding, but do not yet understand. In this area of learning, students struggle. However, the place of struggle is the optimal environment for learning to take place. The best learning takes place during the struggle.

I have often been guilty of going to God and asking why He would allow me to struggle. It is okay to ask God questions, but it is not always easy to hear His answers. Sometimes, we struggle because in our struggle we are learning to lean on God for our strength–far more than we would without the struggle. Through our struggles, we are spiritually strengthened and more established in God’s love.

A butterfly must struggle out of its chrysalis in order to survive in its new and beautiful life. As Christians, we are learning to live a new and beautiful life in Jesus Christ. The struggles we go through are a natural part of life, though they can be painful in the moment. Take hope to heart as you remember this truth: After the struggle, you will be stronger and more established in your relationship with Christ than before and you’ll be better because of it.

Let’s Pray: Dear Lord, thank You for the struggles You send our way to strengthen us! Please help us to remember that our struggles are only for a season. You are preparing us for a new and beautiful life. Help us to look beyond our struggle and keep our eyes on You and trust that You are working all things out for our good. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Not for a Moment” by Meredith Andrews. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Tessa Huckstep grew up in rural Illinois. She was born to Christian parents and has known Jesus Christ personally since the age of five. 

Currently, Tessa is attending community college and majoring in elementary education. In the future, she plans to teach in the public school system, hoping to bring the love of God with her.

Tessa enjoys being active in her local church. She serves as a co-teacher for the two-to-five year old class where there is never a dull moment.

It is Tessa’s passion to be a girl after God’s own heart and through her studying of God’s Word, Tessa longs to draw closer to her Savior. Through her writing, she longs to take others with her on this journey of faith.

Tessa loves all things Regency, needlework, and dainty teacups of every size.

When she isn’t writing or studying for exams, she can be found in the kitchen with more flour in her hair and on the floor than in the bowl, though the mess is always half the fun!

Connect with Tessa:

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: How to experience peace during storms

Experiencing Peace Through the Storm

A devotional by Heidy De La Cruz

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”—Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

When was the last time you were in a storm or going through something challenging and yet, you felt peace? This question came to my mind while reading the Bible study, “Create in Me a Heart of Peace” by (in)courage ministries.

I’ve written about these studies before, but they are so good that I highly recommend the whole series. Anyway, as I’m reading about peace, week two in this particular study talks about how peace is a posture. This brought the question to my mind: “When was the last time I was in a storm or going through something challenging and felt peace?”

My mind immediately went to the season where I was drowning in grief but felt such peace in my soul. It was August 2020, and my grandfather passed away—not of COVID, gratefully. But I was saddened that it was his time to rest in peace. To this day, I still cannot believe he is gone. As I’m navigating a new life without my grandfather’s presence, God tells me to have another baby. And if you know me, you know this is all God. So, in November of 2020, I got the two lines on a pregnancy test that told me I’m expecting! But this dream was very short-lived as a few days later, I experienced my first miscarriage, and a new level of grief entered my body.

Fast forward to March of 2021. I’m still grieving my grandfather, still grieving my baby who didn’t make it, and then my mother-in-law died. And yet, I felt peace. It wasn’t because I wasn’t missing my loved ones. I was missing them hard. My grandfather passed unexpectedly, and my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. Although that doesn’t make her passing any easier, I was missing them while still grieving the loss of my baby. But there was peace.

Let me tell you why. I was deeply rooted in God’s Word at that time. Remember: Peace is a posture. At that time, I was reading Priscilla Shirer’s Elijah: Faith and Fire Bible study. I don’t know if you can tell, but Bible studies are my thing! Although this study wasn’t about peace, being rooted in God’s Word, studying it, praying, and staying focused on God and not the grief and chaos around me led me to peace. A peace that only Jesus brings.

In the current Bible study I’m reading by (in)courage ministries, Becky Keife writes, “Peace always sounds like such a pleasant quality or experience, doesn’t it? The tranquil sound of a babbling book. The gentle spirit of a sweet friend. A quiet afternoon with the company of a good book. On the surface, peace is the absence of anything unpleasant. But a peaceful environment is not the same as a peaceful soul.” Take a breath and let that sink in!

The only way I was able to feel peace in my soul during that heavy season of grief was because of Jesus. There’s no other way! So today, I’m asking you, when was the last time you went through something challenging but felt peace in your heart? And if you haven’t, what can you do today to help you prepare for your next life’s challenge and be at peace?

Remember: Challenges in life do happen, but with Jesus, we can have peace (Philippians 4:7).

Let's Pray: Dear Jesus, I pray for whoever is reading this that they will encounter your peace. The peace that only You provide. The peace that calms our soul and anchors us. Lord, I thank You for the peace You provide because there’s nothing like it. When the world feels like it’s on fire, You are with us and keep us calm. I pray that we can all experience that internal peace no matter our current circumstances. In your name, Lord, I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection:
“I’ll Give You Peace” by Sandi Patty. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Heidy De La Cruz is a published writer/author and podcaster. She writes the weekly newsletter “Into My Thoughts” on Substack where she shares personal development content, life experiences with life lessons, and faith-based encouragement posts. 

Heidy is the host of “The American Dream in The Eyes of Immigrants Podcast” where immigrants share their stories about moving to the United States. She is also a podcast coach and helps those who desire to host their own show launch.

Heidy holds a master’s degree in healthcare administration and a bachelor's degree in Psychology. She works as a Medical Coding Analyst.

In her free time, she enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, watching movies, and spending time with her husband and their two kids.

Connect with Heidy:

Monday, May 27, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Finding Joy

Finding Joy in the Losses
A devotional by Peg Arnold

“God, investigate my life;
get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
I can’t take it all in!”
—Psalm 139:1-6 (The Message Bible)

Have you ever had to give away or sell something that you love?

You may have found yourself in this situation for many reasons: financial need, a job change, or a move. Seven years ago, we were preparing to leave our home of 32 years. I couldn’t believe the time it took packing our belongings, throwing away what we couldn’t take with us, making critical decisions, and saying goodbye to a house filled with memories. I wasn’t prepared for the grief of letting go. It felt like a part of my heart was being torn out.

But God has a purpose in our transitions, moves, losses, and changes. He lovingly accompanies us, preparing new experiences and relationships on our new path. He composes the melody of our lives through each moment, weaving together joyous chords, minor melodies, pounding bass notes with drums, and sweet harmonies in our life song. At the same time, He uses what we give up or leave behind to bless others.

It was hard to leave my old home, but God revealed new insights to me that inspired me to write a poem. Read it below.

Melodies of the Home

Empty rooms and echoing halls once filled with

the music of laughter, voices, and footsteps.

Walls that were decorated with faces of loved ones’ smiles,

are now bare, with only the years of memories soaked inside.

Oh if these walls had voices, the ballads they would sing

If the floors were instruments, the rhythm of life would be a symphony

First the bouncing beat of babies and toddlers

Full of giggles and teary-eyed cries

Boo boos being kissed and bedtime stories retold

Next the chaotic cacophony of schoolbooks and

choruses full of chatter, chiding and cheers,

Interspersed with descants of backyard picnics,

Refrigerator Picassos, piles of laundry, and insatiable appetites.

As the family grows into the teen years, the symphony reaches a climax of

the dichotomous joys and challenges that accompany emerging independence,

Ending with a mournful melody interspersed with harmonies of joyful expectation!

This home embraces the many memories and movements carved into the

walls and floors from each season of life,

But just like seasons, houses change, families grow up and move on.

This house now silent, cleaned spotless, swept clear of generational legacies,

Becomes an empty score for the composition of a new family chorus.

God bless this home, the tunes that dwell within, and the harmonies of a new song.

Now, think about the changes you're going through. Maybe it's not about moving out of a house, but something else is changing. What's the tune of your transition? Is it a mournful melody or filled with joyful chords? What's there to appreciate in the midst of these changes? What life lessons can you take away from this experience? Look for a glimmer of hope!

Let’s Pray:

Dear Lord,

You are the composer of our lives. You see our past, and you know our future. You know how we will respond when we encounter changes and seasons. Help us to see the joys amid the losses, the hope instead of the fear, and cling to your faithfulness through it all.

In Jesus’s Name, I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Seasons Change” by Crystal Lewis. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Peg Arnold, Speaker/Author/Teacher is a Drama Queen for Jesus. 

Her vibrant, interactive, and soul-stirring messages encourage all to embrace their God-given value. As a mom, wife, nana, mentor, with a master’s in counseling, she connects on a personal basis by sharing her joys and challenges of many life experiences through her dramas, messages, and witness. Whether talking with a friend over coffee or addressing hundreds of people at a conference, her passion for equipping women is contagious.

She has published devotions on YouVersion and in The Upper Room. In addition, she has contributed to two Chicken Soup for the Soul books, three anthologies, numerous articles, and blogs. Her devotional, Devotions for the Distracted Heart, received a 2022 OASIS award.

Peg desires everyone to know that their story is important and has a purpose. She grew up in Michigan and raised her family in Maryland. Later in life, Peg and her husband relocated close to their family in Colorado.

Connect with Peg:
Website: Get some freebies when you visit!
Devotions for the Distracted Heart blog:
Holiday YouVersion:

Friday, May 24, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Why God wants you to confess your sins

The Healing After Confession
A devotional by Essie Faye Taylor

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”—James 5:16 (KJV)

Have you ever been hurt so deeply, yet you didn’t want the person who hurt you to know the depths of your pain?

Do you remember putting on a brave face or mustering up an, “I’m okay”, while simultaneously fighting back tears, shame, or embarrassment? Do you remember giving yourself a good “talkin’ to” about how you shouldn’t feel this way or perhaps you told yourself to never let them see you sweat?

Today I want to challenge the notion of faking it until you make it. Wipe off that fake smile that you’ve plastered on your face. Let that cry out—scream if you have to—and let’s get REAL! Confession is good for the mind, body, and soul. It brings healing. In James 5:16, the Apostle James speaks about the importance of confession of our faults. As the brother of Jesus Christ, he had experience with confession. He didn’t believe Christ’s ministry at the onset. He grew up with Jesus and saw him as his older brother. He was converted after Christ’s resurrection and became the presiding elder of the Jerusalem church. Later in his lifetime, he realized his error of unbelief he had when he was younger and converted to follow Christ as a disciple. From experience, he explains the healing power of the combination of prayer and confession. He charged the believers of Christ to confess their faults to each other.

In so saying he admonishes them to create a safe space for each other, to be vulnerable, and to share their shortcomings, if you will. This safe place is a no-judgment zone of love and discipline. He didn’t simply say for us to confess, but he also said to pray. Pray with that brother or sister—stand with them in faith that they might overcome that fault. The Apostle John, whom Jesus loved, also declares that when we confess, God springs into action to forgive us (1 John 1:9).

Confession opens the door for repair because when we can be vulnerable and admit that something is wrong or we have made a mistake, God is there to meet the need. When we have sinned, God is faithful and ready to forgive. When you are hurting, God is ready to heal you. When you are brokenhearted, God is ready to mend your heart and help you put your life back together again. Confession brings repentance.

Confession with another believer forms agreement. We know that according to Scripture, where there is agreement that:

1. God will be there (Matthew 18:20).

2. God will do whatever you ask (Matthew 18:19).

Call to Action:

1. Acknowledge the healing power of confession.

2. Be honest with yourself about your shortcomings.

3. Confess your faults in safe spaces and open the door to your healing.

4. Welcome the prayers of your safe community and partner with them as you heal.

5. Remember, healing belongs to God’s children (Mark 7:27).

Let’s Pray:

Heavenly Father, You are our God who understands our pain and brokenness. You see our hurt and tears. You long to heal us and repair all that was destroyed in our lives. Help us to find safe spaces where we can confess and find prayers of agreement. Help us to partner with our brothers and sisters so our wounds can be healed. Demonstrate by your power the healing virtue found in confession. May we confess and find forgiveness and restoration. May we confess and move toward actions that will change toxic behavior and thought patterns. Help us to do this by granting us the resources, knowledge, and discipline to seek Your presence. As we do this, please heal us. We thank You for hearing and answering our prayers. In the Name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Broken, But I’m Healed” by Byron Cage. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Essie Faye Taylor is a woman of faith. She’s a bilingual author, educator, speaker, psalmist, and interpreter. 

Essie is the author of the “Finding the Love You Deserve” series for women and teens. She is deeply committed to motivating minorities, women, and youth to heal themselves, love and accept themselves, and pursue God while chasing their dreams and carving out their life’s path.

Essie is a Chicago native where she lives with her husband Donald Taylor II.

Connect with Essie:
Amazon Author Page:
Listen to Essie’s music at
Instagram: on Instagram
Read Essie’s YouVersion Devotion Plan here:

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: When you're standing at a crossroads in life

Crossroads Decisions: What if We Make the Wrong Choice?

A devotional by Dr. Gladys Childs

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."—Romans 8:28 (ESV)

How often have we stood at a crossroads, where each path looked equally inviting, wondering if one wrong step could mess up God's plan for our lives? But here's the comforting truth: God's will for us isn't a tightrope we must walk, fearing one false step will send us tumbling. It's like a river guiding us, even when we make unexpected turns.

People often fear making the wrong decision for a few reasons. First up, there's the worry about consequences. Then there's the fear of regret: that nagging thought of "What if I make the wrong choice?" can repeat in our minds. Another biggie is the fear of missing out—this is about more than just social events but big life decisions too. Lastly, there's a deep desire for approval. We're social creatures, so choosing something that might lead to criticism or disappointment from those we respect and love can be daunting.

These fears are authentic and valid, but they also highlight our need for trust—trust in God's guidance, in the wisdom He provides, and in His overarching plan for our lives. Remembering that God is with us, guiding each step we take, doesn't eliminate the fear. Still, it gives us the courage to move forward, knowing we're not navigating this journey alone.

In the life of believers who do their utmost to live according to God's Word—diving into devotionals, participating in the Christian community, engaging in prayer, paying tithes, and serving others—the question of decision-making, especially between two good options, becomes less about choosing "right" or "wrong" and more about seeking alignment with God's broader will for their lives. Imagine a person deciding between two job offers. Both are good, but they lead in slightly different directions. The individual has prayed and sought counsel but still feels torn. Remember, God is less concerned about which job we choose and more interested in how we trust Him in the decision-making process and how we plan to glorify Him in our chosen paths.

Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV) offers the promise, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." When we have laid our decision before God, we can trust in His peace to guide us, knowing He's with us on either path, ready to use our choice for our good and His glory.

Also, remember the role of community is crucial in our journey of faith and decision-making. When faced with decisions, especially those between two good options, leaning on the wisdom and insight of trusted fellow believers can provide clarity and peace. Proverbs 11:14 tells us we can enrich our discernment process with the perspectives of those walking with God.

The key to overcoming decision paralysis is to ground our choices in faithfulness to God. When our decisions arise from a place of devotion, prayer, and a desire to act according to God's will, the pressure of making the 'perfect' choice diminishes. Instead, we find freedom in knowing God is with us in every choice, guiding us and using our decisions to fulfill His divine plan.

Moreover, having faith means embracing imperfection and letting go of the need for everything to be perfect. God calls us not to be perfect decision-makers. He’s called us to be His faithful followers. Even when we make mistakes or take wrong turns, God's grace catches us and sets us back on course.

In moments of indecision, let's remind ourselves to seek God's presence through prayer and to reflect on our intentions. Are our choices a reflection of our devotion and desire to serve Him? If so, we can proceed confidently, knowing there is no wrong decision in our hearts.

Let’s Pray: Dear Lord, as we face decisions, guide us with Your wisdom and fill our hearts with peace that transcends understanding. Help us trust in Your sovereign plan, knowing each choice is part of Your greater plan. Strengthen us to make decisions rooted in faith, not fear, and to rely on the support of our Christian community. In every moment, let our choices glorify You, confident in Your loving guidance. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Whatever Your Plan Is” by Josie Buchanan. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Dr. Gladys Childs is an author, speaker, religion professor, pastor's wife, and mom helping others be F.R.E.E. to Thrive© for the abundant life God has for them. She serves as Chaplain at Texas Wesleyan University and the Women’s Director at LifePoint Fellowship. She brings 25 years of experience and knowledge to her ministry. 

Gladys is frequently called authentic, witty, and candid as she shares her journey through life’s ups and downs. Her passion is meeting people at the intersection of faith and life’s difficulties. No stranger to heartache herself, she grew up in a non-church-going family with an alcoholic mother and is a trauma survivor.

Gladys holds a Ph.D. in Foundations of Education, a Master’s in Religious Education, a Master of Divinity, and a B.A. with a double major in Counseling and Psychology. Also, she is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church.

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Monday, May 20, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Reflections on Mother's Day and leaving a legacy

Living a Legacy

A devotional by Joy Beless

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.”—Proverbs 31:30 (NLT)

May 12 was Mother’s Day in the United States and Canada.

It is a time to set aside to remember to call or visit your mom—perhaps even send a bouquet of flowers and let them know how much we love and appreciate them! For some, Mother’s Day is complicated and triggers a whole punchbowl of emotions.

Although not the norm, it worked out for some of our family to celebrate together. Four generations of women laughed, told stories, and absorbed the moment—with the newest being two months old and the oldest 87.

There are a lot of opinions and ideas about what being a woman encompasses, one popular idea is from the long-standing Maybelline beauty product slogan, “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.” Another idea is about experiencing “Real Beauty” when you use Dove (brand) bar soap. Media and movies portray popular stereotypes for women—perfect body size, flawless complexion, flowing hair, always youthful, healthy and fit, yet somehow juggling it all.

The Bible also has plenty to say to guide and encourage us in every area of life—including this one. A famous passage about women is Proverbs 31:10-31, noted in the Bible as “The Wife of Noble Character.” It is all-encompassing and can seem overwhelming unless we view it as a description over a lifetime rather than a snapshot. One of my favorite verses (for any woman and not just for mothers) is Proverbs 31:25 (NIV) that says, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

I’m thankful my mother has lived this out for me. One of four daughters born to a farming and ranching family, Mom had plenty of chores to do inside and outside. A favorite story shared is about her wedding day to my father. She had a daily chore of milking the cows every evening for their dairy business. This chore could not be missed or skipped over, even on her wedding day. A neighbor saw her milking and thought the wedding was called off. Nope, she just had to take care of the cows first! We laugh every time she tells this story.

More recently, I witnessed my mother's strength and faith as she cared for my father in his last years after suffering several strokes and losing mobility. As dreams for their future were worn away into daily caregiving tasks, Mom continued to do what she could on the farm and care for my dad. Those were difficult years and she could have understandably become bitter. Instead, she clung to her faith, family, and her church community for support. My father did pass away eventually, and Mom made the difficult transition into widowhood and a new chapter of life. She currently is “laughing at the days to come” as she leads a grandparent’s prayer group and chapel in her residential senior community.

What have I learned from Mom about strength, dignity, and looking forward with confidence in the days ahead? Here’s a shortlist:

*Strength begins by leaning on Jesus in the small obstacles and difficulties as we build up to the larger waves that knock us down. It is the “prayer without ceasing” that builds a habit of praying when we are at the end of ourselves.

*Dignity is synonymous with honor and is earned through small actions and speech that are full of grace and truth. It is cloaked in humility and the fruit of the Spirit that is attractive to be around. A life of honesty and integrity in the small and big experiences and daily decisions.

*“Laughing at the days ahead” is being confident that no matter what may come you can trust the Lord with the outcome–even one of hardship and grief. You are seen by a loving God and never alone, even in the darkest of nights.

*We move through the valleys of hardship and loss and will reach the other side of hope.

As we gathered over Mother’s Day this year, I looked around at the women surrounding me. My mother and mother-in-law are both 85, my aunt is 87, my two daughters (32 and 30) and their children (2 months, 1 year old and age 13), and I realize I’ve received a legacy of strength and dignity. The choice is mine to make whether to stand on the foundation of God’s Word, pray without ceasing, walk in humility, honesty, and integrity–to continue the legacy (or for some to begin the legacy).

Oh, how deceptive and fleeting beauty and charm are. A futile race of time and resources to run. Like my mom, I want to embrace the youngest little one in our family and laugh at the days to come–whatever they might be.

Let’s Pray:

Heavenly Father, thank You for showing us how to live life abundantly. You know the ups and downs of life and never leave us but guide us through to the other side. It is because of You that we can laugh at the days to come! In Jesus’s Name, I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Legacy” by Nichole Nordeman. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Joy Beless is a worshipper of God and lover of people. 

A practicing Spiritual Director, she is a speaker for retreats and conferences and facilitates guided solitude retreats at the family ranch in North Texas.

A seasoned worship leader and songwriter, she frequently weaves worship, God’s Word and spiritual practices together. She is a chapel provider for a shelter for the houseless and a certified Grief and Trauma Healing Facilitator. Serving at global retreats for Kingdom-minded women delights her soul.

She has written for Global Trellis and Missio Nexus. She connects God’s Word with the reality of our daily in all the ups and downs.

Joy is married to Roger. They live in Coppell (Texas). Joy is called "JoJo" by her nine adorable grandchildren. She enjoys the outdoors and encourages flowers to grow in the Texas heat.

Connect with Joy:

Friday, May 17, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: When Jesus Christ fed thousands with one meal

When Jesus Did a Miracle with Fishes and Loaves
A devotional by Hannah Benson

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”—John 6:9 (ESV)

Sometimes, like this little boy mentioned in the Bible verse above, we might feel like we don’t have much to offer Jesus Christ.

We may look at our life, what we have in our hands, and think that it doesn’t look like enough for God’s purposes. Maybe, as we look around and compare ourselves to other people, we think that we need more. More knowledge, more experience, more of anything to be used by God or to make a difference in His Kingdom.

I struggle with this frequently. I think: “Is my calling worthy enough?” and “Will it please God?”

Dear friend, we are worthy because God is worthy. We are not saved because of anything we could ever do but because of Who He is. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV).

God has callings for each of us. He has placed us in our specific families, neighborhoods, and countries on purpose. Indeed, He has also placed specific people in our life for a reason.

But more than anything we could do for God, He wants us to cultivate a relationship with Him first and foremost, and second, cultivate a relationship with the people He’s placed around us. In Him, we are enough because He is enough. Remember this verse: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6 ESV).

Remember the little boy I mentioned in the beginning of this devotional?

I wish I could’ve been there to watch this scene unfold. What might he have been thinking when he offered his measly meal of five loaves and two fish to the Son of God? Perhaps he stepped forward with a humble heart, fully trusting Jesus could work a miracle with his little offering. Or maybe his heart stuttered and sank when he saw the thousands of hungry faces around him. After all, it seemed it wouldn’t be enough for even a portion of the large and hungry crowd to leave satisfied. But regardless of what he felt, filled with faith or fear, the little boy chose to give Jesus the food he had. It wasn’t much, but it was more than enough for Jesus to multiply.

How many times do we refrain from offering God what we have because it doesn’t seem like enough? Or how many times do we look at our circumstances and think that God can’t multiply our minimal? Now, this is not an excuse to give God less than our best. But what about when our best doesn’t feel good enough?

Dear friend, God isn’t waiting for us to have “enough” before we offer Him what we have. Instead, He wants us to offer Him what we have and watch Him multiply the fish and loaves.

Let’s Pray:
Dear Father God, I often look at what I have to offer You and feel so unworthy. But I know You don’t care about anything I could offer You but my heart. Lord, I give You my heart and trust You to use it for Your Kingdom. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Song of Reflection:
“Fishes and Loaves” by Josiah Queen. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Hannah Benson is a Jesus-follower who’s passionate about sharing the love of Christ with others. 

From the time she could hold a pen, she was writing. But it wasn’t until she was sixteen that she began to follow God’s calling to pursue writing seriously. Hannah is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). In addition to fiction, she also writes devotionals and has been published on other websites. Her prayer is that her readers leave deeply encouraged and more in love with Jesus.

When not writing, Hannah also enjoys being involved with local theater companies, with a primary focus on Biblical theater. She wants to show the love of Jesus through the creative arts.

You can read more of Hannah’s writings on her blog or on her Instagram where she strives to write content that leaves others feeling encouraged.

Connect with Hannah:

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: God gives us each a unique gift to use for Him

Celebrating the Gifts that Fit Us Perfectly
A devotional by Sarah Cole

“Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them so everyone may see your progress.”—1 Timothy 4:14-15 (NIV)

I'm as organized as a pile of Legos.

By the end of the day, I've left a trail of scattered papers and belongings everywhere with no rhyme or reason or place to call home. My messiness often overwhelms me, yet it doesn’t define me because I've embraced God’s unconditional love and learned to focus on the gifts I was born with.

My creativity started developing the day I opened my first box of crayons. For days, I stayed in my room, nurturing my inner Picasso. Then, I started designing cartoon characters and greeting cards for my mother. Today, my upstairs loft is my escape from the chaos, where I channel my creativity into a greeting card that hits a sweet spot in my soul.

I sometimes envy women whose homes are tidy and organized. But resisting the way God made me is futile. Given the choice, I’d much rather spend an afternoon sketching than color code my sock drawer or label my pantry inventory. Instead of trying to fit into someone else’s mold, I've learned to celebrate the gifts that fit me perfectly, giving me a deep sense of joy and contentment.

When we compare ourselves to what we see others excelling at, we forget that our uniqueness flows out of us as naturally as our breath and is God's paintbrush on life's canvas. God has a purpose for everything He created, and we honor Him by being true to how He designed us.

The Apostle Paul's words to Timothy are a powerful reminder. Paul encouraged Timothy to devote himself to his ministry, trusting that God would accomplish great things through him. In Greek, the word for gift is charismata, which refers to the various spiritual gifts within Timothy and all believers. The elders who laid hands on him recognized God's call on his life, a testament to the importance of trusting in God's plan and the hope it brings.

Instead of chasing dreams that don’t fit us, like Timothy, we should embrace our calling and use it to glorify God. The world is better when we allow the Holy Spirit to inspire our efforts, and we accomplish more than we dare imagine.

Maybe, like me, you aren't the most organized woman on the block, but you were born to do something unforgettable. What better way to honor God than by embracing what comes naturally instead of wasting energy on what doesn't? God loves you too much to keep you from fulfilling your purpose. What great news!

Let's Pray:

Father God,

I'm in awe of how you designed this world, but sometimes, I doubt how you created me. When my weaknesses discourage me, comparing myself to others is easy. Remind me that You designed me for a specific purpose only I can accomplish. When You created me, You broke the mold, so instead of neglecting my gifts, I give You glory by using them daily. In Jesus's Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Many Gifts, One Spirit” by Allen Pote. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Sarah Cole’s interest in writing began in grade school when her poem was published in the local paper. Since then, she has written for her college newspaper and two community newspapers where she wrote restaurant reviews and articles for their ‘best of’ spread. 

Her experience as an administrator in the marketing field gave her the opportunity to write ads for a local business journal.

After a 20-year detour and a three-year season of adversity, God reignited her passion to write. Two divine appointments later, the short story she wrote about her father appeared in the St. Paul Almanac, and a short story about her cocker spaniel Gigi was published in Mysterious Ways by Guideposts. She believes her adversity was worth the lessons God taught her.

Sarah's devotionals have been published in David C. Cook’s The Quiet Hour and Devotions, The Secret Place by Judson Press, and Pray a Word a Day by Guideposts. Her short story will be featured in an upcoming book, Too Amazing For Coincidence, also to be published by Guideposts. To this day, Sarah smiles, pinches herself and gives God all the glory.

When she's not writing, she's enjoying her hobbies that include dog sitting, watching cooking shows and taking day trips.

Connect with Sarah:

Monday, May 13, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: God doesn't remember our sins after He forgives us

No Condemnation

A devotional by Aubrey Taylor

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”—Romans 8:1 (NKJV)

The Scripture above is a favorite verse for many Christians, yet how often do we struggle to walk in its truth? We may not even realize that we are living in constant condemnation, as if the devil himself is walking alongside us, whispering in our ear, nitpicking about every possible thing!

Have you ever taken the opportunity to read an account of a historical event from a different perspective than you are used to? It is amazing how different two accounts of the same event can be. Stories told about the same individual can take on totally different tones depending on whether the writer saw them as a villain or a hero. One author’s goal is to catalogue a person’s sins; the other’s goal is to remember this person with respect, admiration, and even love. They may still address shortcomings and sins, but they are able to see the individual as more than the sum of their iniquities.

Satan’s goal is to weigh us down with guilt. He would like to drag up as much condemnation as possible, framing things in a way that makes us look wicked and unforgiveable. He would like to see us live in shame for the rest of our lives. He knows that a constant awareness of our sin and unworthiness will hinder us from living the full life God has for us, and silence our witness among the lost.

Too often, I have walked through life burdened by a sense of condemnation, as if there is something hanging in my past from which I cannot escape. Or, I am afraid that I am teetering on the edge of sin, even though I’m not! Unfortunately, a lot of Christian teaching echoes these sentiments, leading us to believe that we truly can’t do anything good.

Taken outside of the context of the entire Bible, Romans 3:10 (NKJV) seems to corroborate that: “There is none righteous, no, not one.” Thank God, there are many other places in the Bible that speak of new life, walking in freedom, and how we no longer need to walk in the sin that used to entangle us. Clearly, God does not want us to keep operating as though we are sinful and unable to do anything good. He wants us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14 NKJV) and “walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6 NKJV).

God knows us intimately, yet because of the blood of Jesus, God has chosen not to remember the sins of our past. He can also see when we are honestly struggling to overcome sins that we no longer want in our lives. He looks at us with the eyes of love and affection and has cast our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

There will be things throughout our lives that need to change, but “condemned” is not our status before God. Our status is beloved and forgiven. Unless God is truly pointing out something that needs to change, believe today that He is pleased with you. Extend this message of love and grace to others in your life who still seem to be walking under the weight of condemnation.

Let’s Pray: Dear Jesus, thank You that there is no condemnation for those who are in You. Thank You that You enable me to walk in newness of life, and that by Your power I can overcome my sinful nature. My former sins have been erased and I no longer need to walk around with a burden of shame. Please help me remember that today as I walk more confidently in You. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection:
“East to West” by Casting Crowns. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

The only child of a single parent, Aubrey Taylor filled her younger years by creating characters and writing stories. This ended around age sixteen when music, friends and part-time jobs began to fill her time. After that came college, work, marriage, and children. 

It wasn’t until the world was beginning to come out of the COVID pandemic that God led her back to her love for writing, coupled with a passion she’d always had for history. It was time to start a new adventure!

Along with writing devotionals, Aubrey is the author of the German-perspective 20th Century Fiction series, Gott Mit Uns. She lives in Upstate New York with her husband and three children. When she’s not writing or taking care of her home and family, she enjoys singing and dancing with friends from a German choir and a Bavarian folk dancing group. She is also a lover of Jesus Christ, The Holy Bible, history, German culture, tea, and cats!

Connect with Aubrey:
Amazon Author Page:

Friday, May 10, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: When the Love of Christ Calls You to Surrender

Surrendering to the Love of Christ
A devotional by Dr. LaVonda McCullough

"It's not good to eat too much honey, and it's not good to seek honors for yourself."
—Proverbs 25:27 (NLT)

Have you ever found yourself craving the spotlight, yearning for acknowledgment for your efforts? I have found myself in moments of serving that I needed to pause and ask God to search my heart.

This human inclination can happen to anyone, but it often leads to emptiness rather than contentment. In the quiet whispers of our hearts, it's easy to slip into the allure of seeking recognition and praise for our deeds. Yet, as the Bible book of Proverbs wisely reminds us, true fulfillment doesn’t come from self-promotion or the pursuit of personal glory.

Joy is found in selfless service, in extending kindness without expectation of reward. I am reminded of the example set by Jesus Christ. His life was a testament to sacrificial love, a model of giving without reservation. When we emulate His spirit of generosity, we unlock unforeseen blessings that enrich not only our own lives but also the lives of those around us.

In our journey of faith, it's vital to remember that it's not about accumulating personal accolades or pursuing selfish ambitions. Rather, it's about embracing humility and allowing the love of Christ to flow through us, touching hearts and transforming lives.

Reflect on moments when you've been tempted to assert control or claim undue credit. Perhaps you've experienced the sting of disappointment when recognition didn't come as expected. In those instances, it's crucial to realign our perspective and relinquish the need for validation.

I recall planning one of my RefresHER retreats, they had gone smoothly and flowed easily with each yearly preparation. The time for preparing for what I wanted to do began to cause me anxiety and frustration. I had people asking when the registration would be ready so they could save their space. Each retreat is intimate and in a secluded location with limited spaces. The retreats were always Holy Spirit inspired, but God had no given instructions.

I kept asking God, “What’s the theme, what’s the scripture?” Silence followed with no answer. God had not given instructions. I wanted my friends and members of my IMPACT Community satisfied and not upset with my leadership. My heart posture had changed. Were my motives pure this time? Did God tell me to do this retreat or was I trying to please others?

I paused and spent time praying and fasting. It was then that I received clarity. God’s agenda was different from my agenda. I was trying to stick to a timetable that God had not ordained. I was out of order and repented. My will must be aligned with God’s will.

Seasons change and unless God has given divine instructions, I realized that I could not always know exact dates that the RefresHER Retreats would occur. Obedience to God’s plan would always be paramount for when He says, “Take my daughters away. They need to hear from me.” That was what we spoke for the first one and I trust His guidance not my “feelings” to know how each retreat is held.

True unity is found in selfless collaboration, not in individual agendas or desires for prominence. Just as each instrument in an orchestra contributes to the symphony's harmony, so too are we called to play our part in the grand tapestry of God's Kingdom.

I encourage you to let go of the illusion of self-importance and embrace the beauty of collective endeavor. Cultivate a spirit of patience and grace, allowing yourself to be molded by the loving hands of the Master Potter (God). In His gentle care, our imperfections are refined, and we emerge as radiant vessels of His grace.

As you continue your journey, may you find solace in knowing that your worth is not measured by earthly recognition, but by the boundless love of your Heavenly Father. Surrender to His embrace, and let His love guide your every step. For in Him alone will you find true fulfillment and everlasting joy.

Let’s Pray:
Dear God, Thank You for allowing me to be a vessel used by You to touch the lives of others. Examine my heart and remove any impure thoughts or motives that point to me and not give You glory. I surrender my life and my life to You. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “The Potter’s Hand” by Helen Baylor. Listen to it here

Author Bio:

Dr. LaVonda McCullough is a Christian Life Coach, author, speaker and pastor who specializes in women empowerment with Christian-based approach. 

Since 2012, LaVonda has coached countless women into compete freedom, teaching them to enhance their spiritual practice. Through one-on-one Coaching, Bible Study, Prayer Walks and retreats (Joyful Journey RefresHER retreat) she teaches women how to reach the divine power within and discover their purpose.

With the foundation of her personal practice the discipline of a Daily Quiet Time, she works closely with those she coaches to develop their own intimate relationship with God. Always using a spirit-led approach, she focusing on the whole person: mind, body, and soul. LaVonda values providing a safe, loving and nurturing environment that allows those she works with to tap into the divine and commune with God themselves.

LaVonda has a deep understanding of healing through intimate relationship with God due to her personal experiences with shame, trauma, loss, and depression.

She is passionate about helping people find freedom and joy in their journey through the cultivation of spiritual practice.

Originally from North Carolina, LaVonda has traveled throughout Europe and Africa speaking about healing through the power of prayer. She has lived in Germany since 2012, where shares her life with her husband of 33 years.

LaVonda and her husband have three children.

Connect with LaVonda:

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Jesus Christ Can Set You Free from Slavery to Sin

Freedom in Christ
A devotional by Angela Anderson

“So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”
–John 8:36 (NLT)

The story is told of a group of animals who were tied to a wheel for a long period of time. With the wheel in the center, they slowly walked around in a circle, following each other, looking down at the ground.

One day, the animals were untied from the wheel. Each had the ability to walk away or even run if they wanted to; but each one just stood in place. After a while, they started walking in a circle and continued to follow each other, slowly walking around and around in a circle.

They were free, but for some reason, they did not realize it. Maybe they were so accustomed to living in bondage that they just continued to act like they were still tied to that wheel.

When we receive Jesus Christ into our hearts, He frees us from the bondage of sin. But even when we accept Christ as our Savior, we often put up a wall in our hearts. We strive to love Him with every fiber of our being, but sometimes there is failure to give Him all of us. There’s this notion that if we just maintain this last bit of space, we protect ourselves, and we’re free to be who we would just rather be. But true freedom is experienced when we give up, give in, and give ourselves over completely.

Many of us are in bondage, and we don’t even know it. We are slaves to the sin that entangles us. The worst part of slavery is to be a slave, and not even know that you are a slave. You’re not even seeking freedom because you think you are already free when you really are not.

How do we remedy this? Submit to God’s will and to His ways. God’s law is perfect, converting the soul. The law is not here to restrict you, it’s designed to set you free. Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Stop resisting the Spirit and experience the freedom of God’s glory.

Seek His presence in your life. The Bible says in Psalm 16:11 (NKJV), “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Dwell in His presence. Let’s also read Psalm 27:4 (KJV). Scripture says, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple.” Enjoy His presence. Remember: “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10 NIV).

God is ready and waiting to free us from the bondage of sin, but we have to take the first step so that we can experience freedom in Him.

Let’s Pray:
Dear God, We need the power of your Holy Spirit to reign in our hearts so that we may be free from sin. Help us to let go of anything that keeps us away from You and hold on to whatever brings us closer to You. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Just for Me” by Donnie McClurkin. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Angela Anderson was born in Brooklyn (New York) and raised in New Jersey. 

She started writing at an early age and realized in elementary school that it was both a strength and a passion. She continued writing through high school, college, and into adulthood. Angela is the author of a devotional book titled Just When I Thought I Knew God. She is currently working on another devotional book.

Angela has a passion for inspiring and impacting others through her writing as well as speaking.

This is Angela’s fourth year as a guest blog writer for Alexis A. Goring’s “Devotionals for the Heart” blog series. In 2021, Angela was a winner of a devotional writing contest where the entry is featured in a book published by Proverbs 31 Ministries titled, Hope When Your Heart is Heavy. The following year, another one of Angela’s devotionals was published in Living Unbroken, which is also a publication produced by Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Angela is also a life coach for mothers. She empowers mothers who want to identify their God-given purpose and live it fully while taking care of their family. Angela develops mothers into mompreneurs by providing them with the necessary tools to be successful and fulfilled in life. She helps them see their value, understand their importance, and reclaim their identity.

Angela is also the host of “The Angela Anderson Show”, a virtual talk show that launched in April 2023 on YouTube and Facebook. The show is designed for mothers who want to pursue their dream while managing family life. The audio version of the show is also available as a podcast on Spotify.

Angela has been married to the love of her life, Duane Anderson, for 19 years. Together they have two sons: Thomas (age 11) and Ryan (age 6). Angela’s favorite pastime is journaling, and she also enjoys spending quality time with her family.

Connect with Angela:

To connect with Angela, you can follow her on Instagram (angelanderson1104), Clubhouse (@angelize), and send a friend request to her on Facebook.

Subscribe to Angela’s YouTube channel @The Angela Anderson Show and follow the show on Spotify. Angela offers free consultations for mothers who want to pursue their dream while taking care of their family. Schedule here:

You can also like and follow her Facebook page for her devotional book, Just When I Thought I Knew God.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

My Review of "Encountering God Study Bible" and a giveaway too

My Review of the Encountering God Study Bible: Insights from Blackaby Ministries on Living Our Faith (NKJV)

When Momentum Influencers Network (MIN) contacted me with the opportunity to read and review the Encountering God Study Bible produced by Blackaby Ministries, I signed up within a few minutes because I know what a powerful affect reading their nonfiction book, Experiencing God, had on my spiritual life. I was eager to delve into this study Bible and glean gems from my reading.

I’m ready to share my review with you but first, a word from MIN: The Encountering God Study Bible is the crowning work of the Blackabys. Featuring their trusted approach to Bible study, this Study Bible includes:

• Notes highlighting how God might choose to encounter you in His Word

• Notes explaining ideas, events, people and places in the text

• Word studies, character studies, and biographical sketches of figures from church history

• Notes to help you navigate current cultural issues

• Order your copy of the Encountering God Study Bible today!

And a word from featuring the back cover copy of this book: “Encounter God through the Scriptures as you are guided by the wisdom and experience of the Blackaby family. The deepest need of every human heart is to encounter God. To meet with God, to be changed by Him, and to become more like Him as a result. For decades, the Blackaby family has dedicated their ministry to helping believers address this deepest need. Now you can learn from their insights to experience deeper encounters with God as you develop a regular routine of Bible reading and study in the Encountering God Study Bible.

The Encountering God Study Bible is the crowning work of the Blackabys. Featuring their trusted approach to Bible study, explanatory notes, word studies, biblical character sketches, historical encounters with lives of exemplary faith, articles highlighting the creative nature of God, and other articles defending the faith, you will be encouraged to see that you can encounter God in His Word—and that He wants to encounter you through it.”

Now for my review:

I admire and support the ministry of the Blackaby family because it is clearly God-given which makes sense why their written works and other aspects of their Christian ministries are so transformative to the consumer.

According to Wikipedia, “Henry T. Blackaby was a Canadian evangelical pastor who was the founder of Blackaby Ministries International. Most known for his bestselling study called Experiencing God, he also authored many other books and articles. His books have been translated into more than 40 languages.”

My first introduction to the Blackaby Ministries team was when my dad bought a copy of the nonfiction book, Experiencing God, for my birthday more than a decade ago. This written work changed my life and helped me get to know God on a more personal level. Now I can say that their recent release, Encountering God Study Bible is doing the same for me and all who read it but in a much more powerful way because they’re delving deeper into the source of all joy and instruction: God’s Word (The Holy Bible).

I enjoyed the extra features in this Study Bible, such as the articles written by Daniel Blackaby that highlighted God’s creative nature. I appreciated the way Mike Blackaby defended the unshakable truths of faith in God via the articles he wrote. The explanatory notes throughout this study Bible were very helpful in encouraging me to gain a deeper understanding of God’s Word. The word studies, character studies and bios of church history figures were very educational. I liked reading the introductions to each book in this Bible and discovering why it was important to help me encounter God.

There are so many wonderful features in this study Bible such as the reading plans, concordance, and index to word studies. All these features work together to help the reader encounter God as they read His Word.

I cannot say enough about how wonderful this Encountering God Study Bible is and what an impact it’s made on my life. If you are seeking the meaning of life and feel lost or feel like you need to connect with God, look no further than this Bible. Purchase a copy and pray to God before you read, asking God’s Holy Spirit to guide your study of His Word then open the Bible and be transformed!

Giveaway details: MIN is giving away one physical copy of the Encountering God Study Bible! Please note: This is limited to winners who live in the USA only.

Enter the giveaway contest via this link below to Rafflecopter:

Disclosure: Many thanks to Harper Collins Christian Publishing for providing a sample of the product for this review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.

#EncounteringGodStudyBibleMIN #EncounteringGodBible #MomentumInfluencerNetwork

Monday, May 6, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Hope for the hard moments in our life story

In the Hardest Moments
A devotional by Jessica Brodie

Have you ever endured a challenge that turned out to be the greatest blessing in your life?

My daughter is 16, and about seven years ago she was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. A couple of years after that, depression started. The last several years have been difficult, and though this last year she’s been in a really great place, this season has taken a toll on me emotionally and physically. I’m her “person”, and I’m in the trenches with her. It’s not easy.

Mental illness runs in my family. Like heart disease, high cholesterol, and cancer, some people are simply genetically predisposed to it. Thankfully, I knew how to recognize it. My daughter was an extremely challenging toddler with sensory processing disorder and very strong will. In the third grade, she started going almost daily to the nurse’s office at school for a stomachache and dizziness. Fast-forward through a lot of specialist appointments, lab work, and counseling, and we finally discovered it was anxiety. She was having panic attacks (disguised as overwhelming stomachache and dizziness), and we were able to get her the help she needed.

Then puberty kickstarted her depression, and it was touch and go for a couple of years. Today she’s thriving in her faith, extremely mature, and a great student attending a virtual charter school. While she has not perfectly mastered managing her moods, she certainly knows how to do so better than I did at her age.

Walking through her mental health journey wasn’t easy for her. It also wasn’t easy for me, for my marriage, and for our whole family, but we committed to fighting through and we’re on the other side now.

Getting to the other side took learning and relearning so many critical lessons and skills, such as listening, healthy boundaries, and the importance of structure and self-care. It took rereading the Bible through the lens of mental health. It also took phenomenal doctors, counselors, and Christian mentors.

Now I’m so grateful I was able to walk through this journey with her because it taught me so much as a person and as a mother. It also taught me a ton about God’s incredible love for us. Not only do we have the gift of salvation, but we also have a personal Savior—a Savior who’s not just there for the big stuff but the difficult everyday moments, too. He’s there in our grief and our pain, our depression and our heartbreak, our good times and our bad times. He might not take that grief or pain or sickness away, but He’s there with us, walking right next to us. There, right there, in the trenches with us.

During the hardest moments of our family’s mental health journey, I didn’t always “feel God” right there with me every step of the way, but I trusted that He was there. I also knew He spoke and cared through the people He sent to help us through. And looking back, I saw the evidence.

That’s how it is for so many of us. Most of us have experienced struggles in our life, but often it’s only later, when we look back, that we can often see God’s Hand clearly. Hebrews 4:13 tells us, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (NIV). And 1 Peter 5:6-7 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Sometimes we go through situations and we’re so grateful to be done with them that we don’t look back. We think we got through because of “luck” or our own hard work. But consider today the beautiful, personal, and sometimes intimate ways God speaks to us and walks with us through our most painful moments.

If you are in the middle of a difficult season right now and you doubt God’s walking beside you, thinking you’re maybe in all of this alone, pause. Breathe. Take a look around. Ask Him to speak to you or show you a sign. Then watch as his love comes to life. Amen. Thanks be to God.

Let’s Pray: Lord, thank You that You care for me so personally. Even in those times I can’t see You or feel You, help me remember that You are there. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Author Bio:

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning journalist, author, blogger, editor, writing coach, and devotional writer with thousands of articles to her name. 

Since 2010, she has served as the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, which has won 123 journalism awards during her tenure. Her latest book is Preparing Our Hearts: An Advent Devotional to Draw Closer to God at Christmas.

She has won more than 100 writing awards. Jessica is a seasoned speaker and frequent contributor to,, and, among many others. She has a weekly faith blog at and is part of the team at Wholly Loved Ministries, with her work included in many of their devotionals and Bible studies. Jessica also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.

Jessica holds a Master of Arts in English. She graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in communications/print journalism from Florida International University. Born and raised in Miami, Jessica now lives in Lexington, South Carolina, just outside Columbia. She has also lived in Ohio and in the mountains of western North Carolina. She and her husband, Matt Brodie, have a blended family of four teenage children and stepchildren.

Jessica has written several novels and is actively seeking publication through her agent Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency. Her novel The Memory Garden won the 2018 Genesis contest for Contemporary Fiction from American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and her novel Tangled Roots won a third place Foundation Award in Contemporary Romance at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in 2019. She is finishing the third in the series, Hidden Seeds, now.

Connect with Jessica:
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Friday, May 3, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: When God protects you from harm and danger

The Shield of Freedom
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

“He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to Him.”—Proverbs 2:7-8 (NLT)

I was a young sailor stationed aboard the USS Midway (CV-41), an aircraft carrier. The ship was home ported in Yokosuka, Japan. The day when I came aboard, we left Yokosuka on an 8-month cruise that would take us to some exotic ports and to the cutting edge of an international crisis.

Our first liberty port was at Subic Bay in the Philippines. This was my first experience on a Western Pacific (WESTPAC) cruise. I had only been on the ship for eight days when we pulled in. There were about 3,500 people on the ship. I did not know many of them.

Our division was having a party at Shakey’s Pizza restaurant that was located about two miles from the pier where we were docked. When it was time to go, one of my shipmates and I decided to walk through the small city of Olongapo.

We exited the gate of the base and crossed the bridge over the Olongapo River. I was living my dream. I was walking down the street of a tropical city far away from home. There were vendors with heavily loaded wagons or stalls every few feet. Each vendor was clamoring for attention and dollars. There were lots of beautiful women around as well.

As we walked along, two American men stepped in front of me and my shipmate. One of them, the tallest one, looked angry and agitated. In his right hand he held an opened, straight razor. He yelled my name and with vile profanity said, “I will cut your throat right here!” He swung the razor at me. I blocked him and held his arm. My shipmate engaged but did not strike the other man. I held my assailant’s hand in the air above me. He did not move, and I did not strike him. We stood there staring at each other for what felt like a long time.

I knew that I was looking into the eyes of evil. Strangely, I had no fear. After what seemed like a long time, the man blinked and relaxed. I took the razor from him with my left hand and threw it to the ground. I said to him, “I don’t know you. Why would you do that?” He replied, “I don’t know.” I asked, “Are we all right?” He apologized and we moved on.

A few blocks from that spot, my shipmate stopped me and said, “What was that about back there?” I said, “I have no idea. But what you saw was God’s protection.” We went on to the pizza party. Afterward, we took a taxi back to the base. I tell this story so that you can have confidence that God does protect us from evils seen and unseen. The times when evil does overwhelm us or others, even if the onslaught is fatal, it is not final.

We are assured in Proverbs 2:7-8 that God is a shield for the saved, right doers. Romans 8:39 assures us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. So, go and live your life boldly today. God’s got you covered. He has already and does continually smile on you!

Let’s Pray: Dear God, thank you for giving us your grace, divine top cover, strength, discernment and salvation. As we go into the day and days to come, may we be blessed with confidence and security. Guide our steps and guard us and our families. In the Name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “God Has Smiled On Me” by Elaine Norwood. Listen here.

Author Bio:

Chaplain Anderson is the Director Emeritus of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries for the North American Division. In this role, he was the friend, advocate and gatekeeper for the profession of chaplaincy among Adventist pastors. 

His new mission is to specialize in personal and personnel development coaching.
He journeys with and guides clients, personal and corporate, as they define their goals and grow into their full potential.

His pastoral career began in the Allegheny East Conference where he was ordained.

Subsequently, he served in the Potomac Conference at the Sligo and Seabrook churches. His professional dream was to be a chaplain in the United States Navy. He got to live that dream and achieved the rank of Commander before retiring from Naval service in 2015 with 26 years of service.

Chaplain Anderson has earned four graduate degrees: He earned his Master of Divinity Degree was earned at the seminary at Andrews University. He earned a Master’s of Education from the University of Maryland and a Master’s in Sacred Theology from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C.

Chaplain Anderson and his wife Debra have been married for 41 years. They have two healthy, saved and well-adjusted adult children who picked good spouses and delivered four grandchildren.

Adventures through traveling, reading, praying, preaching, teaching and writing are the avenues of ministry and self-care that define his now and his destiny.

You may connect with Chaplain Anderson via email at this address:

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: When you let God transform your heart and life

The Transformation
A devotional by Karen Marstaller

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”—2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)

Our home is almost 70 years old. It has been rewarding to carefully redo the inside while maintaining the history of its roots. The latest venture into remodeling was the final hold-out, the back bathroom.

Cramped, dark, and oh-so-tiny, the bathroom has served its purpose for all these years, untouched by a contractor’s hands. Efficiency was its strong point; it was possible to use all three facilities at once. Efficient, yes. Comfortable, not so much.

Enter Kenny and his wife. Their references were impeccable, and their former customers gave glowing reviews. We were hooked. And so the transformation of our tiny bathroom began…

First came demolition. In a little over a day, Kenny stripped all the old, worn-out fixtures and at least a ton of heavy tile and mortar out of the space. Then he expanded it to take in two unused closets that were just wasted spaces. Suddenly, the constricting feeling was gone. We weren’t closed in anymore because the bare studs outlined the new, expanded room.

With that job over, Kenny went to work on the foundation. Underneath the entire length of the floor joists, he placed new concrete piers and settled new beams firmly on top, attaching them to the original structure. Over the next few weeks, Kenny and his wife created an open, airy bathroom with tasteful (and utilitarian) details that make our home much more spacious. Beautiful design features include a glass-block window where my once-dying orchids now have a new lease on life.

Throughout this process of transformation, Kenny and his wife prayed for us and asked God to make their work a blessing for our home. The Lord has answered their prayers and ours as well. In place of a once forbidding space, we now have a lovely, quiet retreat.

The Lord works for us in the same way that Kenny and his wife did in our ancient bathroom.

First, He takes our shabby, run-down, sinful selves and then He introduces us to His Son, Jesus Christ, who takes down all the walls that our sinful hearts harbor. Stripping away all the “junk” of our old way of living, He builds a new foundation based on Him: His security, His strength, His hope, His love, His joy, and His forgiveness of our sins.

Next, He creates new capacity for us to love, to forgive, and to show grace and mercy toward others. Just like Kenny used wasted space to complete his design, God brings life out of the emptiness or our existence without Christ. He truly makes a whole new creation out of our dark and selfish lives.

With His finishing touches, God asks us to wait patiently for His completed work. Just as our bathroom wasn’t finished overnight, the Lord works tirelessly to make us new. He spends our whole lifetime helping us prepare to spend eternity with Him. And His work is always perfect, even though we don’t see it yet.

The Lord also has work for us to do here on Earth. He sends people on our path along the way. One of the most wonderful things about living for Jesus is to see other people begin to grow and blossom, just like the orchids in our window. This life Christ promises is called “abundant” in John 10:10, and that’s exactly what it is.

Our ugly little bathroom is now a beautiful place, thanks to our contractors. And in the same way, we also give thanks to the Lord for His lovely, transformative work in us, His children.

Let’s Pray
: Dear Lord God, thank You for forgiving all our sins and then making us new on the inside. Please continue to make us more and more like Your Son, Jesus. It is in His Name that we pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection:
“A Heart Like Yours” by CeCe Winans. Listen to it here

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.

You can reach Karen by emailing her at this address: