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In Phil. 4:4-9, God gives us four action steps to battle anxiety and a troubled heart. First, rejoice! Choose joy, even when you don’t feel it. Second, be gentle. Gentleness seems to be a forgotten skill in 2022!! It means humility and kindness mixed together. Being slow to speak and quick to listen and love. That’s gentleness.Third, take your concerns and cares to God, but take them with thanksgiving. Intentionally have a thankful heart! When you’r are having a hard day, find a quiet spot and just start thanking God. For the air in your lungs, the food in the fridge, your vision and hearing and beds and family. The list is always so long, and by the time you’ve spent even ten minutes thanking God, your troubled heart will feel better. Because it’s impossible to be consumed with thanksgiving and discouragement at the same time.

And finally, watch what you’re thinking! God gives us a list of things to think about if we want peace in our lives. He says think about whatever is true and noble, right and pure, lovely and admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Try it! And read Philippians!

Where you may feel deficient, Christ is all sufficient / ‘Kelly Balarie’

I am such a mess. I hate how I am. I can’t ever get a handle on how I’m feeling. I want to be better than this. Everyone deserves better from me than this. At times thoughts of frustration and self-hatred course through my mind. Have you ever had these feelings? Maybe we have them so that Jesus can show us HIS compassion and also to remind us that His grace is sufficient for us.

Jesus’ grace is sufficient. It is sufficient to change you, to rework you, to remake you, and to renew you. It is more than okay to desperately need our LORD’s wonderful grace.

Be encouraged. Wherever you feel powerless, God is powerful. Wherever you are hungry, God has food for you. Wherever you feel blind, God restores sight. You are not left behind or forgotten. God will help.

Today, rejoice by saying: No matter where I feel deficient, Christ is all-sufficient.

But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)

When you are feeling like your life is a mess, say a quick prayer for HIS help. “Father, help me to receive your grace, love, and help. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

Learning to Walk in God’s Plans Instead of Our Own.

When you had planned a perfect life, but God interrupted your plans with what seemed like a much worse plan of His own. Have you ever felt that way? If God had just listened to you, things would have been okay. But now you are held captive by situations you never wanted to be in and can’t seem to get out of by yourself.

Though we like to think our plans are better than God’s, in fact, it’s quite the opposite: God’s intentions are so much grander than ours; we can’t even fathom what He has planned for us.

I don’t know what your original plan was, or how it may have gotten off track. Certainly your circumstance is not what you anticipated. It’s hard to think about starting your life over. But God has something better planned for you.

If you find yourself struggling in a situation you didn’t see coming, consider it an opportunity to trust God. When we trust that God is for us and not against us, we can see our future as He sees it. It is a future filled with plans to prosper you and not to harm you, “Plans to give you hope and a future.”

And plans that will ultimately draw you closer to Him.

Myth: The plan I have for my life is much better than the place where God has me right now.

Truth: Where God has me right now is the best place for me.

Excerpted with from When God Doesn’t Fix It by Laura Story, copyright Laura Story Elvington.

God has better plans in mind for all of us. He will allow rain to fall in our lives, hardships to collapse on us, and times of suffering to stretch longer that we think we can possibly endure. What do we do in that place of pain? Trust Him!

I have plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

A friend of mine was telling me how a lot of people she knows check their Facebook page first thing in the morning and made the comment about how they should probably be consulting their “Faithbook” first (the Bible.) How very true that is, if we spent more time reading the word of GOD before we turned on the computer or our phone, we might be a little more careful about what we write online, at the very least we should say a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to adjust our hearts before we post, and hope that it is something that will make him proud of us instead of ashamed or embarrassed for us. So here is a verse that I thought might be of use.

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.Colossians 4:5-6

This month the birthday of Jesus Christ will be celebrated all over the world. It will be celebrated in various ways, in many languages, by people of all races. For a few hours many in the world will stop talking of satellites, rockets, and war. For a few hours they will talk of peace on earth and good will toward men. People will exchange their gifts and talk about the Prince of Peace. Imagine the scene in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. It was the night of nights, and yet it had begun as every other night had before it. But it was to become the greatest, most significant night of history. This was the night that would conquer darkness and bring in the day when there would be no more night. This was the night when those who sat in darkness would see a great light. This was the night God brought into the world the One who is “the light of the world. “
                                                                 May His light shine in your life this Christmas season! ~ Billy Graham

“Seventeen Inches”

 Twenty years ago, in Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA’s convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend.  One name in particular kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment – “John Scolinos is here?  Oh, man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who is John Scolinos, I wondered.  No matter; I was just happy to be there.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948.  He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt and a string around his neck from which home plate hung – a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

Seriously, I wondered, who is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches.  Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.  Then, finally …

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck,” he said, his voice growing irascible.  I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility.  “I may be old, but I’m not crazy.  The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room.  “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?”

After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches?”, more of a question than answer.

“That’s right,” he said.  “How about in Babe Ruth’s day?  Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”  Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?” a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos.  “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?”  Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear.  “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked.  “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here?  How wide is home plate in pro ball?” “Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT!  And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?

“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls.  “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?”  Pause.  “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.  “What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy.  If you can’t hit a seventeen-inch target?  We’ll make it eighteen inches or nineteen inches.  We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it.  If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’

Pause.  “Coaches, what do we do when your best player shows up late to practice or when our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven?  What if he gets caught drinking?  Do we hold him accountable?  Or do we change the rules to fit him?  Do we widen home plate?”

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold.  He turned the plate toward himself and using a Sharpie, began to draw something.  When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows.  “This is the problem in our homes today.  With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids.  With our discipline.  We don’t teach accountability to our kids and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards.  We just widen the plate!”

Pause.  Then to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.  “This is the problem in our schools today.  The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful and to educate and discipline our young people.  We are allowing others to widen home plate!  Where is that getting us?”

Silence.  He replaced the flag with a Cross.  “And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years.  Our church leaders are widening home plate for themselves!  And we allow it.”

“And the same is true with our government.  Our so called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to themselves.  They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries.  They no longer serve us.  And we allow them to widen home plate!  We see our country falling into a dark abyss while we just watch.”

I was amazed.  At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curve balls and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable from an old man with home plate strung around his neck.  I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader.  I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today.  It is this: “If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around and revealed its dark black backside, we have dark days ahead!.”

Note: Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine.  Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches.  He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.  His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players – no matter how good they are – your own children, your churches, your government and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.”

And this my friends is what our country has become and what is wrong with it today, and now go out there and fix it!  Don’t widen the plate

Live Like You Were Dating — by Shawn McEvoy

Let marriage be held in honor among all…” Hebrews 13:4

I heard the Tim McGraw song Live Like You Were Dying in the most unusual of places the other day – my head as I slept. Normally that’s a huge annoyance, a song looping through my brain while I toss and turn. This time, however, I think I was so relieved it wasn’t something by The Wiggles or VeggieTales that I went along for the ride.

Only thing is, I began to dream along with the music. As weird as that sounds, the dream varied just a bit from the theme of the song, which is: in order to make sure we don’t take life for granted, we should check off that list of things we’ve always wanted to do, and do not go gently into that good night, but rather sit on top of angry bulls. Or something like that. Basically, you should act like you don’t have much time left, because really you don’t.

But the montage that played upon my closed eyelids wasn’t about me, important moments, my death, or things I want to accomplish. Instead, I was treated to a slide show of moments from my courtship with Valerie. What fun life was then! The things we did, the places we went, the way we treasured each other and every moment together…

I awoke in a very good mood, even if I was confused about the connection between the song and the dream. On my drive to work some of the words from the song slapped me upside the head:

“… and I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’d been denying…”

Ah, I see… that sentence sounded a lot like the guy I was when I was putting the moves on the tall, big-eyed, opinionated babe who liked my jokes. It did not sound so much like the ten-year married version of myself, who has been going through the motions.

Still I wondered: how can I live like I did then, when I have none of the freedoms afforded me during those years? Unless I’m mistaken, the very word “dating” implies occasionally going on a date…

I interrupt this devotional because at this point Valerie calls me from her cell phone saying she can’t get the car to start. The ignition won’t turn because the steering wheel is also locked, and she can’t jiggle the keys or wheel enough to get either to turn. She’s embarrassed, and I can hear her banging and straining away on the dashboard components. She thinks she’s gonna be stuck in someone’s driveway all day. I suggest looking in the owner’s manual to see if there are suggestions. There aren’t. We decide she’ll have to call a Toyota dealer or Triple-A because I’m too far away to help. 10 minutes later I check in on her because I read online that she might want to use the parking break from now on to prevent this from happening again. Turns out that wasn’t the problem. It was that she was trying to start her Camry with the key to my Corolla…

And so it occurs to me – not only can I count on my wife to spice up our life with a good laugh once in a while, but maybe our dating engine simply has to be redefined. It still exists, but it’s not going to be started with the same set of keys that got it running 10 years ago. That doesn’t mean it’s not a reliable vehicle for shuttling us to all of life’s events in a manner befitting our faith. If I could find a way to regularly appear as outwardly joyful as I inwardly feel whenever I reflect on how blessed I am to have such a mate, I’d go a long way towards helping fulfill the purpose for this marriage, which Valerie and I long ago decided was to be better for the Lord than we are apart. That felt easier when we were dating. So with a cue from Tim McGraw, here are some ideas…

Loving Deeper  “Love does not seek its own…” (1 Corinthians 13:5)

In Colossians 3:18-19, and again in Ephesians 5:24-25, we are quite simply told by Paul how this marriage thing is going to work. Unfortunately, I’ve heard the first half of those verse pairings – the “women submit” part – quoted and exercised far more often than the equally important “husbands love” portion. Remember how much easier those commands seemed back then? This was the most wonderful person in the world. They communicated well, never sought their own way; it would be so easy to submit to or actively display love for them. Then time, comfort, bad habits, and the daily grind got a hold of you both. Satan tossed clutter everywhere. Threw in some doubt. Sprayed super-green paint on your neighbor’s lawn and spouse. Marriage, it turned out, was complicated. I’ll be the first to attest to that, although the Bible doesn’t really think it’s so complex if you go by the fact that it’s not dripping with verses on how to navigate the maze. You leave, you cleave, then you love/submit. Those simple instructions don’t seem to get us very far down the path. In fact, they seem to take us happily up to the vows and leave us there. Perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps there is no “trick” to loving deeper, you just need to get in touch with what it is you fell in love with this person for in the first place, and act on it, since it’s not a feeling anyway.

Speaking Sweeter  “If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn’t love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal…” (1 Corinthians 13:1)

This is where I need the most help, being gruff by nature. I’m pleasant enough to co-workers and strangers. I’ve even earned the nickname “Small-Talk” from one of my buddies, but for some reason, those I love the most are occasionally blessed with a symphony of grunts, groans, and snippy comments. Not only is that gruff nature part of the “former self,” but I recall that it did not dare rear its head during our dating days. That’s not just because I was trying to sell this woman on my finer qualities, but because I truly felt the love and respect for her that I was dishing out. I therefore gave no place to impatient or intellectually-superior speech. In the words of James, there were, when I was dating Valerie, precious few times when the same fountain sent out both fresh and bitter water. But gradually, as I failed to guard my tongue, I lazily allowed that small amount of bitterness to befoul the whole cistern. I don’t want to give the impression that I stalk the grounds of my house grumpy and cursing when I’m actually a pretty decent husband and father, but this is where I need the most improvement in my relationships, and I know it. Harkening back to the days when I wrote poetry, quoted scripture, wooed from afar, and encouraged about the future has helped me to remember the importance of bridling my tongue. James says horses and great ships are steered by very small bits and rudders. Likewise, the direction of my marriage may be steered by brushing up on the language I spoke when dating.

Giving Forgiveness  “Love does not take into account a wrong suffered…” (1 Corinthians 13:5)

Do you often hear people saying, “I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget”? It’s an especially popular thing to say with the camera in one’s face on a reality TV program. Thank goodness that’s not how the Lord defines forgiveness. He instead wipes out our transgressions, turns crimson to snow white (Isaiah 1:18), and divides us from sin as far as East is from West (Psalm 103:12). Which way is your marriage M.O. regarding wrongs done to you? Do you refuse to go to bed angry, do you grant mercy every morning, or do you have a little file drawer in the back of your brain that lists All the Stupid & Hurtful Things He’s/She’s Done to Me? Once again, think back to your courtship, and ask yourself how many little foibles, faux paus, and thoughtless words you let slide with little more than a tiny reprimand just because you were so in love.

We all get caught in those lulls in marriage where the wind isn’t blowing, the air gets stale, and nothing new happens. And it’s admittedly a tad trite to think living out some song lyrics is going to lift the doldrums, but it’s worth a try. After all, one thing all married folks have in common is fond memories of meeting and dating our spouse; otherwise, hopefully, we never would have bound our lives to theirs in the first place. Looking back is a good way to appreciate all those things that led to the commitment.

Intersecting Faith & Life: If you’ve been married a while, try living like you were dating, even if actual dates are few and far between, and see if remembering your first love doesn’t translate to renewing your first love.

Hearing testimonies about how God has done something spectacular in someone else’s life can challenge us. While we may rejoice to hear about prayers being answered, we may also wonder why God hasn’t done anything amazing for us lately.

It’s easy to think that if God showed up in astonishing ways for us the same way He did for Abraham, that we would be more inspired to be faithful servants of God. But then we remember that God showed up for Abraham every 12 to 14 years, and most of Abraham’s journey was rather ordinary (Gen. 12:1–4; 15:1–6; 16:16–17:12).

God’s work is usually done behind the scenes in the ordinary things of life. As 1 Corinthians 10 says, “He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out.” Every day God is busy shielding us from the devastating onslaughts of Satan that would otherwise leave us helplessly defeated, and when temptation does hit, He is making exit ramps for us so we can escape.

When we put our head on the pillow at night, we should take time to thank God for the amazing things He has done for us during the day in the midst of our ordinary lives. So instead of longing for Him to do something spectacular for you, thank Him because He already has.

I don’t like to feel inadequate or incapable. I don’t like being dependent on others. I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen. I don’t like feeling helpless in the face of a trial. I don’t like feeling spent and overwhelmed. I don’t like it when I am physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually weak. Did I mention that I don’t like being weak?

But ironically, God’s word looks at my weakness differently. It’s part of the prerequisite for coming to Christ. Jesus said in Luke 5:31-32, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” He came to call those who are sinful and weak and desperate and broken and lost. He came to take our burdens and free us from our slavery to sin. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

But there is hope for me, this is not an eternal condition, I am not locked into this feeling, tt doesn’t define me and it doesn’t rule me. Jesus came to become weak for me. He took on frail human flesh and lived in this world of sin, completely perfect; he faced all the temptations I face but never sinned. He felt the weight of weakness that comes with humanity but always obeyed. He trusted his Father, relied on the strength of the Spirit, and bore the weight of my sin on the cross; Jesus was made weak so that I could be made strong.

When God looks at me, he doesn’t see my sin, he sees Christ. When I face weakness of any kind, Jesus is with me, through the power of the Spirit, He is strengthening and enabling me to go through trials so that I might grow in holiness. He is using my very own weaknesses to show me just how much I need him, He is drawing me into greater reliance upon his grace and He’s doing the same for you.

Our weakness is no match for Christ, it’s not an obstacle he has to overcome, He doesn’t look at us and bemoan the fact he’s not been given the cream of the crop. Rather, he laughs at weakness and says “Look what I can do with it.” He uses a runaway murderer with a speech disorder to free his people from slavery. He uses a resistant, rebellious, and tribal hearted prophet to preach repentance to the most violent society of the day. He pulls the worst of sinners from the clenches of Satan and transforms him into a missionary to the Gentiles, giving that same missionary a “thorn in the flesh” to remind him of his constant need for Christ:

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

If the reality of your own weakness is mocking you today, go to God in prayer, plead with the Lord about it and rest in his power made perfect in weakness. (borrowed from

If My Body Were A Car: If my body were a car, this is the time I would be thinking about trading it in for a newer mode. I’ve got bumps and dents and scratcher in my finish and my paint job is getting a little dull, but that’s not the worst of it. My headlights are out of focus and it’s especially hard to see things up close. My traction is not as graceful as it once was. I slip and slide and skid and bump into things even in the BEST of weather. My whitewalls are stained with varicose veins. It takes me hours to get up to speed. My fuel rate burns inefficiently. But here’s the worst of it—Almost every time I sneeze, cough or sputter, either my radiator leaks or my exhaust backfires! (Rogers and Mayes County Magazine)

The New Year can often bring a mixed bag of emotions and memories for many of us. Some may have just experienced the best year ever and look forward to an even greater one looming ahead. Others may have just trudged through one deep struggle after another. The fresh calendar year brings desperate hope for things to be better, with an ache for the still-fresh wounds to slowly begin their process of healing.

Whether you’ve just walked through the greatest year of your life, or are incredibly glad to see this one finally over, one truth still rings clear amidst it all. You are not alone. Not ever.

Our God is a “with us” God. On the heels of the celebration of the birth of our King, that reminder has the power to carry us right into a fresh, new start. He is Immanuel, God with us. And though things and people around us shift and change, our God never changes. / Debbie McDaniel

I look at the manger and that’s when it really hits me, the miracle of Christmas, all that we have, all that we are, every wonderful moment and memory is a gift from the baby in the manger. Just like Christmas itself, nothing would be possible without HIM.

Sometimes I look at the news, at our world and the fear and uncertainty and violence and I remind myself. Life wasn’t so different for Jesus and His family. King Herod and all, and maybe that’s the whole point. He knows what we’re going through. He has been there. On Christmas HE came to give us the greatest gift of all; A way to live, to love, and most important a way out.

Every one of us will leave this blue spinning ball we called Earth some day, so what better time than now, to ponder the gift of salvation, a gift that truly is central to every Christmas, regardless of popular opinion.

With that in mind, 2015 was a year of seeing God at work and needing Him more than ever. Yes, this was a year of prayer and miracles all around.

I hope Christmas calls to you too, and that you celebrate God’s gift of love and life and yes … His rescue offered to us on Christmas morning, “The baby Jesus.” I pray 2016 will bring you God’s most wonderful blessings. Merry Christmas and Happy 2016! — (from a friend)

MY FOUR-YEAR-OLD GRANDSON LUKE ENJOYS playing superhero. On one occasion, he asked his mom to tie a towel around his neck and drape it down his back to resemble a cape. Good sport that she is, Mommy also made a paper logo and pinned it to the cape to identify the tyke as Super-Luke.

Feeling bold and brave in his new uniform, Luke then picked up a stick and proclaimed, “Bad guys—you better watch out! I’m gonna get you. I’m gonna rescue the world!” He charged toward the family room, determined to accomplish his mission.

His imagination left me smiling, but it also reminded me of a spiritual truth. The world in which we live seems filled with evil. News reports tell of mass shootings, suicide bombs, domestic violence, and war. Immorality seems to be the norm in pop culture. Bullying hurts our kids.

Downright depressing, it is, if we focus on these evils. That’s what Satan would love for us to do, but let’s not allow him the pleasure. Let’s fight for what’s right by focusing on the truth. What does it say?

Scripture says we defeat this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory. All who believe He’s the Son of God are overcomers. Someday He’ll return and wipe out wickedness forever. We know the end of the story already. But in the meantime, even if evil touches us now, it will not conquer us for Jesus can flip its harmful intent into something good when we allow Him to work.

Beware, evil one. The truth stands: Christ rules, and HE’s gonna get you! (By Grace Fox)

Have you ever looked at your life and wondered if anything would ever change? Maybe you think about your life, and it’s filled with tragedy, sorrow, and pain. It can feel like all hope is lost, or that happiness is not meant for you.

Satan would like us to believe that it never gets better; that nothing good can come from our sorrow or pain, but that isn’t true. What Satan has done for evil, God can turn into good. God sees you and even in the middle of the brokenness He recognizes the beauty of your life.

Maybe your life is full of sin, rebellion, fleshly desires, just plain running from God, and you have convinced yourself that God can’t redeem you, that He can’t ward off the loneliness of the night, but be assured that He can, and He will.

Right now, God is gluing together your broken pieces to create the most beautiful portrait there is, one that reflects the pain, regrets, mistakes, beauty, progress, and joy of our lives.

It may not make sense today, tomorrow, or even next week, but one day, when we are on the other end of our pain; we will look back and smile at the faithfulness of God. How he created beauty from ashes, and made what was broken, so very beautiful.

The hardest part is trusting in Him through the season, the season before we see the finished picture, and then believing that He can deliver us. But He can and He will. So let’s try to rejoice in our brokenness. After all, our life-the good and bad–is what makes us unique. It makes our picture truly our own, and no one else’s.

We can’t get all the good in life without going through some of the bad. So let’s trust during the pain, persevere in the process, and we will begin to see how God is connecting the dots in our lives. Because He is creating a beautiful work of art, a piece of art that is uniquely us, a picture that no one else can have.

Kids in our life are more observant than we think. They’re always watching the way we live our lives, reacting as we do to situations that come up. If we are happy, they are happy, if we are mad, so are they, and yes, if we are spiritually healthy, they will be more inclined to do the same. 

Whether you have children or not, someone younger than you is always watching how you live your life. We may think our actions don’t affect anyone but us, but that is so wrong. As believers, we have a big target on our backs. 

The younger generation is looking to us to see if we are approving of things that the world is approving of. They are looking to see what genuine faith looks like. 

Maybe you think that going to church isn’t a big deal some days. Or you may even be upset at God for something, and have taken a break from church. It’s my life, you think, what’s the big deal? But it is a big deal. 

 If you are a parent, it’s an especially big deal. Our children need us to set an example for them. To encourage them to go to church, go to youth group, have devotions and quiet time with the Lord. But our words are not enough. People need to see us living a life committed to Christ. 

If we are having our quiet time with God, going to small groups and bible studies, praying, and attending church, they will follow suit. For those of us that don’t have children, you never know who in your life is also watching. Maybe a young neighbor, or a young person at work, even someone at church who is younger than you. Whatever it may be, we set an example by the way we live our lives. 

So the next time you are tempted to skip church, neglect prayer time, or just brush off the spiritual disciplines that we need to survive, remember that the younger people around you are watching. 

We can’t get lazy spiritually; we need to always be healthy and active in our spiritual lives, so that by our actions, we can set an example for younger believers in our lives who so desperately need it. It may not feel like it, but our actions are being watched. 

So this week, let’s watch our actions closely and make sure that we are all living a life that makes the younger generation want to follow Christ! Let’s set an example in our homes, in our neighborhood, and in our communities. It’s up to us!

We observe the twenty-dollar bill that floats to the ground in the grocery store parking lot, and the teen boy who picks it up and runs to return it to its owner. Integrity.

We watch the friend, who’s struggling with finances, tell the server about the error on her lunch tab, an error that costs her more money. Integrity.

We see what it costs a coworker to admit he was the one who messed up the project. He humbled himself to not only admit it, but to do everything he could to help resolve it. Integrity.

We watch a child tell the truth about why his school assignment is late, no excuses. Integrity.

We observe the woman of God who is the same at home as she is at church, the same under pressure as she is at rest, the same gracious person whether sick or well, disappointed or elated. Integrity.

Jesus, the Living Word, is at it again. He’s not content to have me comply with what He teaches. He wants me to comply thoughtfully. Not brain-dead obedience, not self-blinded obedience, but intentional obedience that comes from studying what it means to walk through life—and in my home, as Psalm 101:2 adds—in integrity. Love-obedience. Integrity-obedience that radiates from a core understanding of the truth.

Jesus, make me a student of integrity who passes all the pop quizzes of life! (By Cynthia Ruchti)

Have you ever found yourself in a place where you were filled with doubt about who Jesus is and what He can do in your life? I’m not talking about not having faith, I’m talking about healthy doubt.

Will He come, will He help, and does He even know I need Him?

With the world so full of confusion, pain, and frustration, especially recently, you may be finding that you are bitter and upset with Jesus. And it’s okay to wrestle with life, to ask questions of Jesus.

Whatever your struggle is, question Him, so that He can reveal to you, with confidence, just how small our questions really are. Let Him reveal to you that He is in control, that He is the Son of God.

When it feels like we have no faith left, and our mind is consumed in fear … that’s when we need to cry out our doubts to Him, then He can reveal the truth to us and breathe the confidence, peace, and reassurance that only He can bring.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” – Ephesians 6:10

I wonder sometimes how people without children in their lives learn things. Nieces and nephews, offspring, grandchildren, a Sunday school class, a team to coach, a nursery, babysitting, childcare, adopting, fostering . . . We learn so much by being around children.

The other day, a young friend told me the story about their two-year-old daughter learning how to pray. They’d videotaped one of her first attempts at praying as she knelt beside her bed. In essence, this is the transcript from her, little-girl prayer:

“Thank You, Jesus, for my friends. And…thank You, Jesus. Jesus, thank You. And…Jesus, thank You so much. Thank You soooooo much, Jesus. (Deep breath.) Jesus, thank You. Thank You, Jesus. Thank You, Jesus, for my friends. Thank You so much. Jesus, thank You. Thank You, Jesus.” That wasn’t the end. But by this point in the video, the parent holding the camera could hardly stay still. Suppressed laughter shook the camera.

How precious! And how precious it must be for Jesus, on the receiving end of such a prayer. He must have observed that scene and thought, Finally! Finally someone gets it—how to really pray.

Simply thanking Him. Nothing fancy. Expressing gratitude in childlike but loving exuberance.

What well thought out prayer can compare to a sincere heart expressing its gratitude. “Jesus, there’s really nothing more to say beyond ‘Thank You.’”

From beginning to end, the Bible is about Jesus. Old Testament prophecies and symbolism picture His life and His mission to save people from their sins. In the New Testament, we first see Him as a helpless baby born in a stable. As a twelve-year-old boy, He submitted meekly to His earthly parents’ authority. As a man, Jesus spent three years traveling and preaching with, as He said, “no place to lay my head” (Luke 9:58).

During the final week of His life, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, signifying peace. He submitted to His betrayal by Judas, His unlawful arrest, and His trials. Jesus allowed Himself to be mocked, tortured, and crucified. In order to fulfill God’s plan, Jesus set aside His divine rights and privileges, but only for a time.

The book of Revelation paints a different picture of Jesus. The next time He steps on the earth, He will come for the purpose of judging and making war against God’s enemies. This stern, fierce portrayal of Jesus used to make me uncomfortable; it seemed to contradict His name, Prince of Peace. Now I see things differently.

Some days it seems as though evil is winning over goodness, especially when I watch the news. But when Jesus returns, He will right all wrongs and end the turmoil and chaos caused by sin. That image of His strength and power comforts me and helps me remember that His war against evil will usher in peace and righteousness.

The next time you see evil triumph over good, read Revelation 19 to remind yourself that Jesus will take care of it all one day. (By Dianne Neal Matthews )

The psalmist writes, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, KJV). Sometimes we best commune with God by being quiet, by drifting off into slumber, by leaning back and abiding in God’s presence. The Good Shepherd gives His sheep permission to rest, to be content, to be lazy, and to do nothing but enjoy the goodness of God.

Lord, in the midst of my chronically busy world, may I learn to rest in Thee.

From the chair on the porch I watched a hummingbird flit past and into a nearby tree. Irises bob in a light breeze, showing off shades of blue, white, yellow and purple. The grass, which again needs mowed, and the trees are a lovely shade of green. The beauty filled my chest like a deep breath.

Then as dusk approached, a few gnats found my spot and I tried to wave them away, but they kept swarming around my head. I squinted and changed my focus so I could see what I was batting at. As I zeroed in on the tiny bugs, the rest of the world blurred out of focus. All the details and beauty I’d been enjoying faded into a vague background as long as I stared at the gnats. I couldn’t focus on both at once.

Some days, life feels full of gnats—problems, annoyances, frustrations. Traffic jams, telemarketing calls, broken appliances. Little conflicts buzz and swarm and irritate. When those draw my focus, all Jesus’s blessings blur into a hazy backdrop that I’m no longer able to see clearly. His grace is constant, but my focus is inconsistent. It’s only when I fix my eyes on Jesus that the beauty of the life He gives us is clear.

With His help, I can see the big picture again.

Go outside and fix your eyes on a distant point. Notice how everything else around it fades into the background. Then ask Jesus to fix your heart on Him with that same intensity of focus.

One of my character flaws is a tendency to give up too easily; I’m sorry to say that sometimes I let that weakness spill over into my prayer life. That’s why I desperately need to hold on to Jesus’s words about persistence in prayer. Jesus encourages us to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. Even when nothing seems to be happening. Especially when we feel the situation is hopeless. If we don’t give up, He promises that the answer will come at just the right time. And who knows, it might even be better than what we had in mind all along.

Do you feel like giving up on a prayer request that’s close to your heart? Talk to Jesus about it anyway, asking Him to give you renewed faith that the answer will come.