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Devotional

Building Relationships in the Crazy COVID Crisis

Building Relationships in the Crazy COVID Crisis

by Susan G Mathis

Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship; it will affect every aspect of your relationships. Good personal communication is the act of revealing yourself—your past experiences, present feelings, and future dreams. It’s sharing your fears, needs, and desires carefully and honestly. Communicating well is also about setting boundaries, confronting problems, admitting when you’re wrong, rejecting fearmongering and negativity, and extending grace to each other.
But in this crazy COVID season, it feels so isolating, so anti-relationship, and so self-withdrawing. In short, it’s scary. It’s confusing. It’s lonely. It makes us want to hide from others.
And it’s unhealthy.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they broke the communication they had with their Creator and caused isolation from Him. They covered up and hid. They withdrew, isolated, and lost relationship.
God never intended that. He knew that a life of withdrawing and hiding would be painful and counterproductive. That’s why God delights in His people fighting back fears of connection, overcoming negative communication patterns, and learning to communicate in healthy and loving ways. And I dare say, He still wants that for us, even during this COVID season.
Connecting, communicating, and not isolating might look a little different during this time. You may have to be proactive in connecting with others through Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp, social media, or the phone. You may have to fight the isolation and the fear that comes with this COVID season. And you may have to proactively reveal yourself by communicating your fears, frustrations, concerns—and your faith.
In my latest novella, Reagan’s Reward, Reagan struggled to build healthy relationships and communicate with those different from her. She tried to isolate and fear overtook her. And she plunged into a dark place.
God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear. God wants us to encourage others. God wants us to be authentic and hopeful.
This will pass, and everything does. But God’s truths never change. Communicate that, and we’ll all be encouraged. And healthier for it.

Susan G. Mathis
Susan G. Mathis

Susan G Mathis is vice president of CAN and an award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Her first two books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma and Katelyn’s Choice are available now, and she’s working on book three. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are also available. Susan’s books have won numerous awards, including the Illumination Book Award, the American Fiction Award and the Indie Excellence Book Award. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com for more.

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Devotional

You Never Know Who’s Listening

You Never Know Who’s Listening

by Susan G Mathis

In August, I had the blessing of being part of the book talk and signing at the Cornwall Brothers Museum in the Thousand Islands, NY. With COVID, I wasn’t sure if anyone would come, but I was shocked that fifty people filled the room and many more were turned away because of the number restrictions in place. I sold sixty books that day.

While that was great, I was surprised by grace not once but three times! Three women asked me to sign their books, and while they did, each one of them confessed that my stories brought them closer to Christ. One had been far from the Lord for decades; two others were unbelievers, but because I write about the Thousand Islands that they love, they read my novels and came to Christ!

My novels are fictional stories of broken people who found healing and hope, but they don’t overtly share the Gospel message or give an altar call. Somehow, they touched hearts and drew them to the One I write for.

Yet I guess that’s the way with many things we do. We care. We’re kind. We give. We love. We share God’s love and people are touched, changed, and sometimes redeemed by what we say or do. I imagine a little bit of heaven will include the unfolding of those moments where we have touched a life for eternity, whether it’s through a word, a deed, or through our writing. And won’t that be fun?

Reagans Reward Book Cover
Reagan’s Reward

In my sixth Gilded Age story, Reagan’s Reward, it’s 1912. Reagan Kennedy assumes the position of governess to the

Bernheim family’s twin nephews, and her life at Cherry Island’s Casa Blanca

becomes frustratingly complicated. Service to a Jewish family when she is a Gentile and tending to eight-year-old, mischievous boys yields challenges galore.

Daniel Lovitz serves as the island’s caretaker and boatman. He tries to help the alluring Reagan make sense of her new world, but she calls into question his own faith background and forces him to face the hurts of his past. Then there’s the jealous lady’s maid who seems intent on wedging herself between them. Can he and Reagan ever find common ground on such a small island?

Reagan’s winsome spirit and faith-filled life touches not only the Bernheims but also Daniel. Her journey reminds us that following Christ can make an eternal difference in the lives of others.

Susan G. Mathis
Susan G. Mathis

Susan G Mathis is an award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Her first two books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma and Katelyn’s Choice are available now, and she’s working on book three. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family LegacyChristmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are also available. Susan’s books have won numerous awards, including the Illumination Book Award, the American Fiction Award, and the Indie Excellence Book Award

Visit www.SusanGMathis.com for more.
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Devotional

What is the “Vine of Sodom”?

Kathy Collard Miller
Kathy Collard Miller

As I studied the questions God asks in the Bible in preparation to write God’s Intriguing Questions: 40 Old Testament Devotions Revealing God’s Nature (co-authored with my husband, Larry), I came across a fascinating reference to the “vine of Sodom” (Deuteronomy 32:32) God gives as an example of how His people have sinned and why they deserve justice and judgment.

“For their vine comes from the vine of Sodom
and from the fields of Gomorrah;
their grapes are grapes of poison;
their clusters are bitter.” (ESV)

Some commentators have varying ideas about the “vine of Sodom” which the Bible refers to only this once. Over the years, many have tried to identify the exact plant God refers to. The most obvious are grapes. Yet researchers have wondered if there is any other kind of what some commentators translate as “apples of Sodom.”

The osher fruit might be a candidate, appearing like a delicious, smooth, soft, yellow apple or orange. But when grabbed or bitten, the fruit disintegrates into a puff of air, a thin rind, and a few fibers. What seemed so fulfilling offers nothing of value.

That’s God’s point. His people are depending upon empty, ineffective, worthless things which become idols. Idol worship deserves judgment because the Israelites are putting their hope into a “puff of air.” The hollow “vine cluster” seems to give a tiny spiritual taste of satisfaction but doesn’t last. God wants His created beings to see Himself as the satisfying God of the universe who only gives good gifts, not disappointing puffs of air.

Kathy Collard Miller is passionate about communicating the hope God offers by revealing His perfect nature throughout the Bible. Kathy is the author of more than 55 books and has spoken in more than 35 US states and 9 foreign countries. www.KathyCollardMiller.com

 

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Devotional Encouragement

Praising God in Uncertain Times

 

We are living in uncertain times. A global pandemic is not something we are used to coping with. When life changes quickly it often causes anxiety and fear. But the one constant we have is that our Almighty God never changes. Knowing and believing that God is greater than our circumstance gives us hope and peace.

In Psalm 150:2 the psalmist writes, Praise Him because He is greater than anything else. That means God is greater than our worries and fears. He is greater than our circumstances. And He is greater than a global pandemic.

One of the best antidotes for fear is praising God. When our focus is on praising God for His power and love, our fears slip away. Many verses in the Bible remind us that all of creation gives praise to God.

Isaiah 55:12 says, Mountains and hills burst forth in praise and trees of the field clap their hands. In Psalm 96:11 we read, Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let the sea resound and all that is in it.

If all of creation praises God, then we, who are created in His image, can praise His name even in uncertain times. Let’s lift our praises to God today and let Him be greater than our circumstance.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. (Psalm 150:6 NIRV)

 

Crystal Bowman
Crystal Bowman

Crystal Bowman is an award winning, bestselling author of more than 100 books. She is a speaker for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and teaches at writers’ conferences. She is a monthly contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine and writes lyrics for children’s piano music.

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Devotional

Joyful Thinking

What we live is first what we think.  So what does God want us to think about that will elevate our mind, soul, spirit and life?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phil 4:8)

In Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience, we dig a little deeper to see what each word means…

Noble: Honorable, reverent, dignified, gravitas

Discovering Joy in Philippians
Discovering Joy In Philippians

Right: Correct, just in the eyes of God, judicially approved

Pure: Holy, sacred, chaste, prepared for worship

Lovely: Pleasing, agreeable, worthy of affection

Admirable: Good reputation, well report

Excellent: Moral goodness, virtue, upright

Praiseworthy: Commendation, approved, recognized, fitting acknowledgment

What needs to change in your thinking? How can you weave good thinking habits and patterns into your life daily?

 

 

Author Pam Farrel sharing her book, Discovering Joy in Philippians
Author Pam Farrel sharing her book, Discovering Joy in Philippians

Pam Farrel is the author of 50+ books including co-authoring Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience. www.Love-Wise.com

 

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Devotional

Stop Checking the Rear View Mirror

I was going through a difficult time,and was replaying the hurt, pain, and offense over and over.

And God has the ability to get our attention  when we get stuck in life–especially when it is not a healthy place we are stuck in!  In my daily devotions I read Phil 3: 13:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…

Then later that day, after I had recounted the depressive situation once again, a dear friend said to me:

“Life is too short to live looking in the rear view mirror.”

Is anything in your past standing in the way of your future?

 

Pam Farrel is an international speaker, author of 50+ books, including Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience and 10 Secrets of Living Smart, Savvy and Strong and 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success in Keeping It All Together. — which contains this story and more to help women become unstuck and move forward in life. www.Love-Wise.com

 

 

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Devotional

Power for Tough Times

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Phil 3:10

 

This verse has special meaning to me. I met a curly -haired,  tan, fit college student leader  at Campus Crusade for Christ headquarters in the late summer of 1978. His Bible was so used and worn he had to have it rebound in rough tan leather and burned into the front cover was “That I may know Him” I fell in love with Bill Farrel not just for his good looks, but rather, for his God-chasing heart.  Any guy who wants to identify with Christ, not just for His majesty and power but also for his sufferings, is a deep man of faith.

Cultivating habits that allow God’s resurrection power to flow into your life is imperative so that you can stay strong, even in times of suffering . Here are three ways that have helped me find and experience resurrection power:

Partner for Power

Since the day I met that gorgeous guy, I have watched him graciously handle suffering and hardship with a 5-fold P.O.W.E.R process that has become our “Go to” when times get tough:

Pray: God will get us thru this. Let’s pray.

Open up: Let’s both share our needs with each other

Wisdom seek: Let’s find some scripture to hang our heart on to keep our hope, joy and peace.

Endure: Let’s just keep doing the next right thing. Let’s be true to God and God will be true to us.

Reach out: Let’s gather our trusted faith community to pray and believe with us and for us.

Which would help you most right now?

Pam Farrel and her husband, Bill, are relationship specialists, authors of 50+ books, international speakers, and Co-Directors of  Love-Wise.com. They live on a boat docked in Southern California.

 

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Devotional

Where Does Stability Reside?

Discovering Joy in Philippians

In Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience, we look at verses that show the path to true joy. Having a stable life with a sure foundation does make life more joyful. Let’s take a quick glance at Psalms 15 to see the stepping stones to stability (note the bold faced italicized words):

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
    Who may live on your holy mountain? 

The one whose walk is blameless,
    who does what is righteous,
    who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
    who does no wrong to a neighbor,
    and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
    but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
    and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
    who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

Which one of the boldfaced stepping stones will bring more stability, thus more serenity to your life in the coming year? Reread Psalms 15 and ask, “Lord, what do I need to change so that I can dwell on Your Holy Hill and not be shaken?” 

Pam Farrel is a author of 50+ books, including the new Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience (co-authored with Jean E Jones and Karla Dornacher) . www.Love-Wise.com

 

 

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Devotional

Walk With Me

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me (Luke 9:23)

Some might not connect this verse with joy, but it is actually the path to true joy.  In Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience, we look at a key verse that connects denying our selves, picking up the cross and joy.

If you look at some of the key words in Greek, you gain the HOW of walking toward Jess and toward joy.

Deny means to say “No” or repudiate — so to deny yourself could be applied to ask, “Is anything competing for my love for Jesus?” Sometimes our self wants to prioritize belongings, indulgences, hobbies, work or even relationships as more important than Jesus.

Pick up is to raise or lift. This reminds me of our call to lift Christ higher:

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,... (Gal 6:14)

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” (Rev 5:3)

Follow mean to accompany Jesus. At the root of this compound word is a picture of walking alongside, as along the road or to join as a disciple. One example is :

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”  At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matt 4:18-20 emphasis added)  

As you look at the year ahead, ask yourself:

How can I say “Yes” to Jesus and prioritize him as number 1?

How can I elevate and lift of Christ and the cross?

How can I follow Jesus closer, as a committed disciple?

 

Pam Farrel is author of 52 books including being co-author of Discovering Joy in Philippians, Discovering Hope in the Psalms, and Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament (co-authored with Jean E Jones and artist, Karla Dornacher, from Harvest House Publishers). www.Love-Wise.com 

 

 

 

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Devotional

A Joyful New Year!

“Do everything without grumbling… ” Phil 2:14

Maybe 2019 was tough year and you find yourself complaining a lot. You want to break the habit, but aren’t sure how. Here are twelve helpful tips to remember when you are tempted to grumble:

1. Turn on worship music
2.Go on a prayer walk
3. Do Bible Art
4.Bible study
5.Post a verse on social media
6. Go out in nature
7.Play with your kids or grandkids
8.Donate time and talent to a good cause
9.Help someone less fortunate
10. Look for a silver lining
11. Count your blessings
12.Praise God for His names or traits.

You might also want to do a Bible study on joy:
Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience

Pam Farrel is the author of 52 books including bestselling Discovering Hope in the Psalms; Discovering Joy in Philippians, and Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament.