"These things I have spoken to you that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." John 15:11 

Recently, the Lord brought to my mind why He taught His children about the Vine and the branches in John 15. I was so blessed that I wanted to share this with you this morning.

He gave the reason in John 15:11. I had never before realized how much Jesus was interested in me having joy. I felt very grateful. Always before I had stopped at the three promises that grew from abiding in Jesus: 1. Much fruit (v.5); 2. Answered prayer (v.7); 3. Experiencing Jesus' love (v.10)

I checked for input from God's great teachers and found: "we all know the value of joy. It alone is the proof that what we have satisfies our hearts."; "There is no proof of the reality of God's love and the blessings He bestows, which men can feel, as when the joy of the Lord overcomes trials."

I think the reason all this means so much to me is that the abomination that New York just passed has been robbing me of joy recently. Then, I remembered that Jesus said: "Come to Me and I will give you peace."
In His arms, I now feel better and knowing He is in control gives me back my joy.

"Dear Lord, there is so much ugliness and demonic activity surrounding us that when we are drawn away to look at it we feel we are sinking in a toxic sea. Help us to keep our eyes on You. Amen." 

Dr Bob (AZ)

How Does This Benefit Me?

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:3 (NIV)

One day at work, I noticed a repeating theme running through my head as I checked my inbox and talked to colleagues. I got a request to attend a meeting at 9 o’clock. I asked myself, “How does this benefit me?” Later that morning, a few of my colleagues asked if I wanted to join them for lunch to discuss one of their upcoming projects. Again, I asked myself, “How does this benefit me?” 

This me-first way of thinking sneaked into my personal life. I wanted something in return from family members and friends for my help. At times I even asked for more than I deserved. As a Christian, I knew better than to accept the view that says it is right to put yourself first. My selfishness bothered me more than I care to admit.

Challenging today’s me-first culture is what Jesus is asking of us.

Christ wants us to value others more than ourselves. However, we shouldn’t view this as another obligation that just gets in the way of our happiness. 

No, it’s not what Jesus intended.

Each act of sacrificial service for the benefit of others, whether big or small, strengthens the relationship bond with Christ. And when we’re inspired to serve others with this view of wanting to draw near to God, we will gain from the people we help more than one can imagine, especially from our Father in heaven. 

Christ promised an abundant life for those who choose to serve others before themselves—because far less happiness is achieved when we choose to serve mostly ourselves.

Lord, give us the grace to prevent selfishness from consuming our lives that we fail to reach out in love to you and to those who are in need of our help. Amen.

Doug (CA)

Crying In a River

"Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 

Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine, via Facebook, down in Africa. He had posted a picture of his congregation standing in a river crying.

They were crying because the previous day, their pastor, Pastor O, had been killed in a car accident. They didn't know what to do.

I want to share with you what I told them as these thoughts may help in what you are going through or will be soon: During these "Only God knows why times", let's try to remember that only He knows the big picture and what is best. You are not alone brother, you and yours are in our thoughts and prayers. Our loved one has moved to a beautiful retirement home prepared for him and is filled with joy. We miss him and cry warm tears that cleanse as they are healing medicine from our Lord. But, we shall keep looking up and pressing on in the power of the Spirit, that is what Pastor would want us to do.

We come to You, right now dear Jesus for You have told us: "Come to Me, you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Thank You, Amen."

Dr. Bob, AZ

Using God's Gifts

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,- so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;- if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; - if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12: 4-8 NIV)

Little wonder she chose the local post office as the spot where she would stop on her daily rounds to distribute free copies of the inspirational book she has written. In this age of all forms of social media and the drive to make us a paperless society, when the time comes for the mail to be up, people still converge on the local post office as if a dinner bell has been rung. The lady with the books has found a way to capitalize on this age-old habit.

Dressed in athletic attire that complements the good shape she is in, particularly for her age, a baseball cap added as a flourish, she seeks out someone she feels is either deserving or in need of a boost. She cheerfully fishes a copy of the small, colorful book from the zippered pouch she wears around her waist and hands it to the day’s recipient. She is clearly on a mission.

The day I was the lucky person she chose, she explained her desire to share her book by singling out people she feels God has put in her path. I have to admit I was curious about what was between those two covers, as I had watched her go about her business on several prior occasions.

From the text, it was clear she is passionate about her faith and wants to inspire others to join in her pursuit. The brief bio at the end of the book describes her rich, vibrant life which is still going strong in retirement. A proponent of a good health regimen and time spent daily in devotions, she feels these are the means by which we reap the hope and encouragement that make for a well-lived life.

You never know what might happen on a routine trip to the post office. You just might get a lesson in being creative about how you share your faith. As I watched the lady disappearing into the bank parking lot across the way, it struck me she has found an unconventional avenue for hers which, as just another example of God’s great mystery, works.

Dear Father, May each of us find the best outlets in which to use our God-given gifts in ways that will glorify Christ and be supportive of your kingdom. Amen.

Carol (NC)

Bearing the Cross

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9:23 (NIV).

Having had the good fortune to come into possession of a tabletop sculpture of the Last Supper, I spent years moving it here and there, trying to find a good, permanent home for this statement piece. Finally, I settled on making it the centerpiece of a grouping of Christian keepsakes I have collected over the years. 

Towards the back of the table is a copy of an unstaged photo our assistant pastor snapped, showing our youth pastor transporting the lifesize cross our church displays to commemorate the crucifixion from storage to a spot in our sanctuary. He is not a small man, yet he appears to be straining to shoulder the weight of the massive wooden cross. 

Recently I had the idea to move my neglected photo from an inexpensive frame to one worthy of its subject, pristine white in the Baroque fashion. Only now do I realize the ornate frame, instead of accentuating its subject, detracts from it. Not only has this motivated me to return the photo to its original unadorned frame, but also to relocate it to a more noticeable space up front in keeping with its powerful message. 

Too often, in our peculiarly modern way of reducing grisly facts into manageable symbols, we wear a replica of the cross as jewelry, failing to focus on the fact the real cross on which our Savior hung was designed by the Romans as a torturous execution device. We tend to think making the cross of precious metal is a sufficient nod to the extraordinary sacrifice made that dark day on Calvary. To do so is to trivialize just how far the Son and the Father were willing to go to conquer death and open the door to eternal life for those who choose. Christ was ever mindful of his fate and echoed it when he challenged the masses to take up their own cross and follow him.

Following Christ comes at a cost and we should use the symbols we have at our disposal of art and mementos to keep us focused on the gravity of the subject matter. Yet Christ’s life and message doesn’t stop with the crucifixion. At the opposite end of my table is a fitting counterpoint --a resin scroll depicting the empty tomb and bearing the scripture from Matthew 28:6---He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. May we take joy and comfort from Christ making his promise a reality.

Blessed Jesus, Help us to better understand the lessons from your life and put them into practice in ours. Amen 

Carol (NC)

Healed Is Better Than Hidden

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Ephesians 1:7 (NIV)

As I watch the huge snowflakes fluttering softly to earth, the world outside my window takes on a peaceful beauty. When the soft blanket of white covers everything, it seems my world has been made new.

The fresh white carpet hides the stubbly brown grass and softly drapes the ghostly bare arms of trees. All that had appeared tired and grimy takes on a fresh, clean look.

It is so good while it lasts…but it doesn’t last.

Sometimes it is only a few hours before the sanding trucks, snow plows, and car exhaust leave a dismal gray edging to lawns that briefly frosted wedding cakes. The white purity was only a brief illusion. This truth becomes clearer when the snow melts, leaving sodden yards and muddy streets.

The fleeting effect of snow on a winter landscape illustrates my attempts to right my own wrongs, to clean up my sin problem. At first, my efforts at self-control and my good works seem to do the job. But all too soon, the underlying sin stains show through. When I grow weary and abandon my attempts at cover-up, the mess that’s left behind is worse than before.

The only lasting solution to the ugliness of sin is the cleansing blood of Christ, which redeems and restores. New life in Christ conquers what is dead in me, in all of us, just as spring brings beauty to the brown landscape of winter.

Dear Father, thank you that rather than trying to cover up our sins, we can confess them to you and receive grace. Help us to live joyful lives as forgiven people.

Susan, Iowa

Light Equals Life

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life." John 8:12 TEV

I was given an amaryllis bulb for Christmas. The outdoor temperature hovered between 10 degrees above zero and 10 degrees below zero. The bulb had a six inch white shoot that desperately needed light. How was the plant ever to thrive? 

In the King James Version of the Bible, the word "light" is found 272 times. In the Old Testament God's Countenance is referred to as "light." In the Gospels The Light dispels the darkness; it leads us along dark paths lest we stumble. The Gospel of John tells us "Jesus IS the light of the world."

The temperature on my sun porch stays above freezing for a few hours each day, so my amaryllis plant now has a little color. It desperately needs the sun's rays. And we desperately need the Son's rays -- Jesus, the Light of the World -- for our spiritual health.

Lord, shine your light upon us. Fill us with your pure and Holy light that we may never walk in darkness. Amen.

Madeline, Nebraska, USA

Lonely Eyes Sometimes Cry

"God shall wipe away all their tears" Revelation 7:17

As my wife and I approach seventy and eighty, we have found today's verse has often applied to our life. We have found a secret that has taken us through life's trials. I wrote a few words to her in an anniversary card, and she is glad to share them with you if they will help even one of God's children.

"Deep inside hearts , loneliness can create islands of doubt which then can grow into dim dens. Succumbing to darkness, nurturing light no longer appears. Eyes made for the light fail to serve in the darkness, producing doubt and fear. Lonely eyes toil for relief when lost in darkness, and lonely eyes sometime cry.

Now, many years have passed, but we have found what has made us last. We have scars hidden beneath our wrinkles, but we still run to each other's arms and find the Spirit's peace when this world tries to tear us apart. Together, we claim Jesus' promise: Come to Me you who are heavy laden and I will give you peace. Together, in His arms, we find the strength to go on. Truly, we are one. 

I love you, Happy Anniversary, Bob."

Help us Lord Jesus to truly believe that You are the way, the truth and the life. Thank You.

Dr. Bob, AZ

Sunrise, Sunset

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. Psalm 65:8 NIV

On the way in to work this morning, crossing the bridge span that connects the mainland to the barrier islands, I happened to look, not to my left, where the repair crews and equipment seem to be perennially clustered, but to the right, at the sound. What a glorious sight it was. The water was like glass, so instead of being stirred by wind and waves, it reflected the opposite shoreline, jagged, like a page torn haphazardly from a book and the newly risen sun, announcing the beginning of a new day. The colors ranged from the blue-gray, a melding of all the trees and wild growth to the graduated shades of coral from the sun. It was the stuff of which landscape paintings are made.

Now I do not advocate taking your eyes off the men working so precariously close to the traffic lane, but I am thankful God saw fit to call my attention to his handiwork. It is so easy to be caught up in the daily routine of getting yourself out of the house on time, getting your car defrosted, and making it safely through school zones and the seemingly endless string of stoplights interspersed along the way, and fail to notice the natural beauty of your surroundings. Yet when you do fix on some aspect of God’s grand display so readily available, it can make the difference between a ho-hum day and one that is inspired.

God didn’t have to make our earthly home an inviting place. He could just as easily have made it a barren landscape devoid of beauty, like the photographic evidence we have of the surface of Mars. Instead, each clear day we are treated to a reminder of God’s mercy in the form of the sunrise, which signals a chance at a new beginning and at the end of the day, an equally majestic sunset which is God’s way of saying He is willing to close the books on any mistakes we have made along the way. May we take advantage of His gracious offers.

Dear Father, We praise you for so generously providing us with a world that is a feast for the senses, causing us to pause and reflect on the privilege of having a close relationship with You. Amen.

Carol (NC)

Listen to The Spirit

"Of Him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" I Corinthians 1:30

Recently, I had a hunger to live closer to Jesus, as I knew no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God, I opened my Bible to satisfy my craving.

I found one passage stood out as a summary of who and what Jesus is to each child of God, I Corinthians 1:30. I learned that:

1. Abide in Jesus as your wisdom for the Father made Him our wisdom. He is the revelation of all God is and has for His children. When I need wisdom- I go to Jesus.
2. Abide in Jesus as your righteousness. If I want a better character (which I do). I'm to yield to the Spirit of God to produce what is in Jesus. Don't try by yourself to have a better character.
3. Abide in Jesus as your sanctification- experience His power to make you holy in spirit, soul, and body. You can't become more holy without Jesus.
4. Abide in Jesus as your redemption- live here as an heir of eternal riches- you are a rich kid born into wealth.

I found out our relationship with Jesus contains everything we need for life and after our graduation to heaven shores.

Ending Prayer: "Dear Lord Jesus, You are my way. my truth and my life. Please help my heart to open to you when I don't know what to do. In Your Name, Amen.

Dr. Bob (AZ)

The Misunderstood Jesus

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3 KJV)

From the time he was twelve and stayed behind in the temple following Passover in Jerusalem while his parents journeyed back home to Nazareth, Jesus was misunderstood. When they frantically found him and confronted him about worrying them, Jesus’s frank response was, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? (Luke 2:49 NKJV)

His fellow Jews mistakenly thought his mission was to usher in a new political regimen replacing the tyrannical rule of the Romans. It wasn’t just the general public who misunderstood the nature of the kingdom he spoke of being at hand. His own disciples did as well, thinking it was the sort of place where insiders jockeyed for a plum position.

The church leaders had their own ideas about what Jesus was up to. Instead of embracing him as the long-awaited Messiah, they felt threatened by his simple message of the forgiveness of sin and love for God and their fellow man. They held a death grip on the considerable power they wielded over the masses in their distorted, oppressive application of the Mosaic law, and went on to prove they would go to any lengths to preserve it. They deliberately fed Pilate misinformation, falsely leading the governor to believe Jesus was bent on overthrowing the sitting government by some insurrection or coup.

Pilate doubted their arguments given the demeanor of the accused who stood before him but went along with the ruse rather than cause further disruption. He allowed the Roman soldiers to beat his captive within an inch of his life, and then mock him by parading him in a scarlet robe (supplied by Herod), wearing a hastily constructed crown of thorns, placing a reed in his right hand to serve as a scepter. The mockery wouldn’t stop there. When he was hung on the cross on Golgotha, they placed a sign over his head bearing the inscription “King of the Jews,” is not one but three languages, just in case someone missed their point.

Most significantly, Jesus was misunderstood by even Satan himself, who felt having him crucified would put an end once and for all to his troublesome foe and the grassroots movement he had started. He never dreamed there would be a resurrection to follow, which would be the impetus for a religion that would cross language barriers and spread across continents that hadn’t even been discovered yet.

Fortunately for us, God had a plan that was executed flawlessly by his son, Jesus, at great cost to himself. May we never lose sight of the heavy price he paid for our salvation.

Dear Father, Please steer us towards a better understanding of both you and your dear son, Jesus. Amen

Carol (NC)

Christmas Expectations

And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (I Timothy 6:8) NKJV

None of us ever figured out how she did it. Granny always sat in the third pew from the front at church and the night of the Christmas pageant was no different. At the end of the service, as soon as the hymnals were stowed in the pew racks and the minister had said the benediction, she somehow made it from her seat to the vestibule in the rear of the church ahead of the rest of us.

It was there that the men of the church were handing out fruit and nut bags the women had assembled in one of the Sunday School rooms in the basement hours before. There really wasn’t that much to them---a couple of apples, an orange, a few unshelled nuts and a couple of pieces of unwrapped hard candy, delivered in an unadorned brown paper lunch sack. 

Granny may have been old but she was spry enough to muscle her way to the front of the line. It wasn’t as if she never got those things. I always felt it harkened back to the time in her memory of her childhood in the 1890s when an orange in the toe of a stocking on Christmas morning was cause for celebration. 

She was no stranger to adversity. In her youth, she worked in an urban cotton mill during the time it was basically a sweatshop. Then, after her marriage to my Granddaddy, who was a farmer, she lost her only son as an infant and took on the life of a pioneer woman. In the very time she should have been enjoying her golden years, she was the caregiver to a string of three relatives, two of whom were her junior. Fate dealt her many cruel blows, but, in spite of it all, she was a remarkable woman who soldiered on and rarely complained.

As a result of this austere upbringing, she was able to, as the writer so aptly put in Hebrews 13:5, “Be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” Granny lived with this reassurance all of her 89 years. 

Granny managed to keep her bearings in the midst of the consumer-driven economy of mid-twentieth century America, when I grew up, which gave birth to the likes of Barbie and GI Joe. In contrast, my life, like that of many of my peers, is a testimony to problems of my own making. 

When I think of Christmases past, thoughts of my Granny immediately spring to mind. It didn’t take much to stir feelings of childlike wonder in her because she never lost the ability to see it through eyes of faith and hope which grounded her. They not only sustained her through the dark times but also held the promise of a bright future which she caught a glimpse of every year at Christmas. We see this spirit in the story of the first Christmas and still may, like my Granny, see it this year if we will only pause to reflect. 

Thankfully, we are not denied that privilege because of poor choices we have made.

Prayer: Our Father, May we learn from our elders the lessons of simple, joyful living that are taught in your Scriptures. Amen

Carol (NC)

The Vineyard Walking

"I am the vine, you are the branches: He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. " John 15:5 NKJV

I received a life blessing by being raised in what is called "the breadbasket of America", the San Joaquin Valley of California.
Growing up with crops of vegetables and fruits stretching out as far as I could see, my favorite crop was found in vineyards that produced grapes of various types. Thinking of being surrounded by crops was as normal as could be, my favorite thing was to walk in the vineyards and observe soothing sights.

I went away to college to learn about God's opinions about life at a school known to be true to the Word. But, I missed the vineyards of home. I pursued education for years and was branded with titles such as magna cum laude, yet never found the peace of the vineyard until I came to realize that I had developed spiritual heart disease. Developed minds don't automatically find satisfying lives if they develop spiritual plaque in their hearts from getting lost in the overzealous pursuit of knowledge.

I had stopped resting in my relationship with my Vine Jesus who had told me that "Without me, you can do nothing". I began to bear much fruit and found vineyard peace again once I remembered that my peace and joy was provided by my best friend and savior, Jesus.

Dear Father thank You for grafting us into Your vine, Jesus. Help us to remember with our hearts that without Him, we can do nothing of lasting value. In His name, Amen 

Dr. Bob, AZ

The Women of Matthew 1

"Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

There are four women, other than Mary, in Jesus’ genealogy as listed in Matthew 1: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife.

Three of these were Gentiles. Rahab was an Amorite and a prostitute. Tamar a Canaanite, was denied her rights to marry Judah’s third son. She pretended to be a prostitute for Judah and bore him twin sons. Ruth was Naomi’s Moabite daughter-in-law, raised to worship false gods. She followed Naomi to Israel—and salvation.

Uriah’s wife was Bathsheba, an Israelite. David is often listed as the “bad boy” in this story, but why bathing on the roof, most likely knowing he was watching? She couldn’t turn him down, but she wasn’t faultless.

Is it selfish of me to be relieved at these women’s stories? To know that, despite their race or their sin, he allowed them to be in Christ’s lineage? To realize that, despite my sins and my mistakes, God loves me as much as He did those ladies and has invited me to be part of Christ’s family?

These scriptures offer comfort and hope:
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Psalm 103:10-11 “…he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.” 
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Father, thank you for your grace and forgiveness. Help me to live a life that demonstrates your love. Amen

Sharon (Arizona)

King's Crossroads

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16 NIV)

When the four of us were young our father used to lead us on long walks through the woods backing up to our house. Despite having no noticeable landmarks to go by he would somehow bring us out of the woods at the place of our beginnings.

Once during a private conversation with him years later when I was as gray as he was, I asked him how he managed to keep us from getting lost. He laughed and confessed that there was an occasion when he went into woods alone and got turned around, finally making his way out on a ridge on the highway aptly named King’s Crossroads, a good two miles from home and had to make the long exhausting hike back on foot.

It isn’t unusual for even the most seasoned Christians to find themselves in a spiritual quagmire, not unlike my father’s physical one. They realize they have lost their bearings and without God’s markers to guide them home, they can end up going very far astray. Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on our own, sometimes confused, sense of direction when we have God to chart our course.

When we find ourselves lost and floundering, God’s help can be as simple as the lyrics of a beloved hymn that suddenly spring to mind or the spontaneous touch of a friend or family member that serves to ground us. Our thoughts and actions intersect with those of others for a purpose. They can be God’s understated way of signaling a needed course correction. He doesn’t have to grandstand to get our attention. The key is to pause and allow him to quiet the turmoil in our minds. He will then fill the void with his calm reassurance and guide us home.

Dear Lord, Help we your people to follow our spiritual compass when we go astray. Amen

Carol (NC)


"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind." II Timothy 1:7 NKJV 

A young man had moved hundreds of miles away from home. He wanted to not only go to college, but he also wanted to find out what God had to say about things.

He chose a small private college that had a good reputation for the accurate study of the Bible. He didn't want to be a pastor but thought he'd first learn about what the Bible had to say about things and he'd figure life out from there. He felt he wasn't the smartest duck on the pond, but was determined and stubborn. He also felt that was good as his father, a construction man, had always said: "give me a stubborn boy anytime as they are the only ones who are going to survive".

One day, he learned something that he hoped would change his life. He found II Timothy 1:7. It seemed to him that God was telling His people to: "don't be afraid, live the way I made you at your new birth birthday party."

He called it the PLS verse and learned the Father gives three special gifts to each person when they are born again: power, love, and a sound mind. He felt these three treasures were to live in harmony and spent his life in that pursuit.

"Help us, Father, to live out the qualities that You created in us when You made us a new creature. When the devil roars, we have the tendency to cower. Sorry, please help us in Jesus' name. Amen." 

Dr. Bob, AZ

Sentence Prayers

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:18 NIV)

Years ago I was at my hometown church one Sunday morning waiting for Sunday School to begin when one of the lay leaders came into the sanctuary and searched the crowd until his glance settled on me. It seemed he needed a substitute teacher for the four-year-olds. Now I was an unlikely candidate, but he was one of those people you didn’t like to say no to.

I rummaged through my mind for something from my own past to say to the amazingly quiet group that gathered in a basement room and what I came up with was sentence prayers. So I went around the room to each child, with some success until I came to one little girl who sat stone-faced, the only child who had a parent present to back her up. I tried to encourage her to ask God to bless her mommy and daddy or thank him for something special to her. Still, she sat speechless, without so much as a glance backward at her mother for direction or support. Finally, I was forced to move on.

In retrospect, the lesson I learned is that the stubborn little girl was right to stand her ground and not participate. True, heartfelt prayer cannot be prompted. Reducing the sentiment to a single sentence may be a good way to introduce the novice to a prayer life, but even then it must sprout from a kernel of conviction. Try as we might to draw confession or praise from someone we are trying to help, the words fall flat if not offered up in sincerity. 

There is no need to fret over what to say in prayer or how to say it. Prayers need not be overly long or eloquent to reach the heart of God. In fact, He prefers for them not to be. We shouldn’t be praying for the sake of impressing a human audience or God, for that matter. If we are willing to let down our guard for a moment and express our feelings to Him in earnest, He is always receptive to them.

Maybe starting with a sentence prayer is the way to go. The important thing is to make a start.

Heavenly Father, Help us to learn how to state our petitions to you with simplicity and sincerity. Amen

Carol (NC)

The Word

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (NIV)

I live with words. When I meet someone new and hear their name, I often ask for the spelling—it floats around in my head and I want to see it correctly. When I get an idea for a devotional such as this, the words pop into my brain fully formed. I read everything in my field of vision—and often proofread it. I dream full-blown stories and sometimes remember them when I awake. I always have a book—or two or three—ready to read. And lately, I’ve started playing word games on my phone; figuring them out has become a challenge.

I also tend to believe what’s in print, which can be a problem! I love to read travel literature and am sometimes disappointed when seeing the site to find it’s not as outstanding as described. Or reading an ad, buying the product, and discovering it’s not as advertised, either. 

Thankfully, there is one source that I can fully rely on and believe: the Bible. After many years as an editor and proofreader, I’ve realized I’ve never seen a typing or grammatical error in any Bible I’ve owned. In addition, archaeology repeatedly supports and confirms Bible history and events—experts say it never contradicts. Finally, its words, promises, commands, and guidelines have stood the test of time throughout the ages. 

John 1:1 assures us that Jesus is the eternal Word, the one who took on flesh and blood so we could know God's glory. He came to reveal God to man and redeem all who believe in Him from their sin. That’s a word we can believe!

Father, help us to focus on Your Word, to read it daily, to follow Your teachings. Help us to believe in You and everything you came to earth to give. Amen.

Sharon, Arizona

Reflecting God's Wishes

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. (Proverbs 27:19 NIV)

In a group setting several years ago, the instructor divided us into teams to play a simple game of checkers. The only catch was we were not allowed to communicate verbally while playing. We could use any other means at our disposal to convey our wishes; we just couldn’t speak. Smiles and nods were exchanged as the exercise progressed, as you might expect, but when my turn came my mood soured, and I grew testy when the instructor reached over to prompt me by lightly touching me on the arm. I responded impatiently by shrugging off this gesture. 

Apparently, what the instructor was trying to illustrate to us was the value of recognizing the variety of nonverbal cues which pass between us over the normal course of human contact, whether it be a casual encounter or in a serious relationship. No doubt she wanted to point out just how advantageous it would be for us to hone the skill of attuning ourselves to these signs. It requires the kind of attention which comes with close observation, but in order to be put to its greatest use, it requires a degree of concern and care for the other person.

Chances are I never would have revisited that memory had it not been for an incident I witnessed several weeks ago where the subject lived his entire life interpreting people’s behavior based on visual signals. At first, I didn’t see anything different about the man. He was very attractive with gray hair that just clipped his shoulders, but this isn’t what attracted my attention. It was the fact he was so animated. Only then did I pick up on the fact he was gesturing because he was deaf and he wasn’t using sign language to communicate, just his face and hands. He was trying to point out to the lady traveling with him just how vain and inconsequential it seemed for her to be primping from her reflection in the car window just to go into the grocery store. They both laughed, sharing a moment I was lucky enough to be “listening in on.” Any mime would be envious of his considerable skills.

Where I, with all five of my senses intact had failed in that game of silent checkers years before, this man was taking full advantage of all the resources God had given him to deftly draw his companion into a conversation of warmth and humor. His enthusiasm was catching. It fed my spirit as I am sure it did hers.

The contrast between our two responses to being deprived of one of our senses couldn’t have been more stark. The deaf man’s playful but genuine manner reflected an open, receptive heart, while my negative reaction to the instructor’s touch revealed a heart shuttered to the touch of others. The difference was he was thinking about his friend, while, I, I am ashamed to say, was only concerned with myself. God wants us to be open to experiences with others to broaden our outlook, not shut ourselves off by shying away from them.

Dear Father, Please help us approach life with an open heart so we may experience all your glorious earth has to offer. Amen
Carol (NC)

Eternal Light

The city had no need of the sun or the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light (Revelations 21:23 NKJV)

On one of our fall foliage trips, my family took in the mountains of Virginia, my son and I were part of one of the cavern tours there. Once we were deep in the caves the guide turned off all of the lights to expose us to the experience of being plunged into absolute blackness. I am surprised I didn’t become hysterical. Now I had never been one of those people who cower at not having a nightlight on, but this experience in the cave acquainted me with darkness as I had never known it. If the guide hadn’t mercifully flipped the light switch back on so quickly I am sure I would have become totally disoriented.

One Christmas shortly after that my late husband and I decided to exchange heavy duty flashlights as gifts, his a subdued black one, mine a jazzy electric blue. From that point on I became fixated on giving light sources as gifts and collecting some for myself along the way. There was the lantern I bought for my brother-in-law for power outages during storms, a flashlight like mine for my sister to keep by her bed, a headlamp for my son-in-law to use in his construction business when he found himself in tight spaces. And for good measure, a bright LED lantern for my own use, as well as a floating lantern to keep in my car. 

It’s easy to draw the conclusion I was obsessed with seeing to it that neither I nor anyone close to me ever found themselves in the scary position of being engulfed in absolute darkness like I was exposed to in those caverns. While it is natural for us to fear darkness in our earthly sojourn we believers should have no such fear of the hereafter. There will be no need for the sun, moon or any other outside light source in the Holy City, as it will be fully illumined around the clock by God’s glory and Christ the Lamb, who is known in scripture as the light of the world. (John 8:12 KJV) ) This light isn’t just figurative, in the sense that when we accept Christ as our Savior our minds are illumined with the truth, (which is reason enough for celebration) but is literal as well. How glorious that we shall no longer be plagued with those fears that hide in the shadows but will know God fully revealed, a true feast for the senses. Let us rejoice.

Dear Father, Please accept our joy over the prospect of spending eternity with you. Amen 

Carol (NC)