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Devotional Encouragement

Making Holiday Memories

Making Holiday Memories

Thanksgiving was a traditional family gathering at my in-laws’ home. The siblings came from near and far with their families. Entering the snowy driveway, we’d see the house with seven gables high on the hill.

Beautiful horse in the snow
Beautiful horse in the snow

The roar of snowmobiles coming from the fields nearby let us know nieces and nephews were enjoying Grandpa’s toys. Beautiful horses galloped in the fields near the red barn.

Approaching the house, we caught a whiff of the baking turkey; then Grandma opened the door and lavished us with hugs. As we sat at the table beautifully set with china and crystal, the golden turkey served as the centerpiece, and pumpkin pie provided a sweet ending to the feast. It was truly a Norman Rockwell scene.

I miss those gatherings. They are treasured memories now that many family members have entered eternity. The memories cause me to be thankful for the times past, and they make me conscious this holiday season of how short my time is on earth.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1 NIV).

As the spirit of Thanksgiving ushers in Christmas, I’ll give thanks to the Lord for providing a way for me to have eternal life; for good health, family, and friends; and for so many other blessings. And yes, for making holiday memories.

God is so good! Enjoy His goodness throughout this holiday season, and make precious holiday memories this year.

Wishing you a blessed December, a Merry Christmas, and a New Year overflowing with God’s abundance.

 

 

Peggy Cunningham
Peggy Cunningham

Peggy Cunningham and her husband are missionaries in

Shape Your Soul 31 Exercises for Faith that Moves Mountains
Shape Your Soul 31 Exercises for Faith that Moves Mountains

Bolivia, South America. They work with the Quechua people and have a children’s ministry. Peggy is also an author of books for children and adults. Her latest book is Shape Your Soul, 31 Exercises for Faith that Moves Mountains, a women’s devotional.  www.Peggy Cunningham.com.

 

 

 

 

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Devotional Encouragement

A Heritage of Giving Thanks

 

Thanksgiving is an important part of the Christian life. It is the capstone to a life of prayer. The apostle Paul instructed the church in Philippi regarding prayer:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6, NASB).

Carrying from Europe the tradition of a day of thanksgiving after a successful harvest, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God for the bounty of the harvest after a year of sickness and hunger.

The native Wampanoag tribe also had a tradition of giving thanks to the Creator for a successful harvest, and so they joined with the Pilgrims in a joyful outpouring of gratitude mixed with merriment and feasting.

After the Revolution, the first official presidential proclamation issued in America was George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving message:

“…that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks

for His kind care and protection of the people of this country…”

Later, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln also issued a thanksgiving proclamation:

“… to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to … fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it … to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

As our Forefathers did in the midst of their trials, let us also take time to seek wisdom and guidance from our Heavenly Father and to worship Him for His blessings. In faith, thank God in advance for all He is going to do in the year to come – because there is tremendous power in Thanksgiving!

 

Dr. Craig von Buseck is a popular author, speaker, and editor of www.inspiration.org.  His latest book is I Am Cyrus: Harry S Truman and the Rebirth of Israel. Learn more at www.vonbuseck.com.

 

 

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Devotional Encouragement

Join the Chorus

 

For fourteen years our home in Florida allowed me to escape the bitter Midwest winters. But due to a health crisis, my husband and I are now back in the Midwest, bracing ourselves for some bitter temps.

When I look out my kitchen window, I no longer see palm trees standing tall against a clear blue sky. I see a blanket of white on the ground and pine needles laced with snow crystals. I no longer see lizards scurrying across the backyard patio. Instead, I see squirrels gathering nuts for the long months ahead.

My environment has changed dramatically, but what hasn’t changed is my awareness of God’s presence and revelation through his creation. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).

No matter where I am in God’s Universe, his power and glory surround me. Whether it’s mountains or oceans, sunny skies or storm clouds, or a flock of noisy geese flying south, God’s handiwork is on display. He made all things and sustains all things—including you and me.

God is everywhere and his love follows us wherever we go. As all of creation praises him, let’s join the chorus and honor our Creator today.

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy” Psalm 96:11-12 (NIV).

Crystal Bowman
Crystal Bowman
Mothers in Waiting by Crystal Bowman
Mothers in Waiting by Crystal Bowman

Crystal Bowman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 100 books for children. She’s also written three books for women, including Mothers in Waiting–Healing and Hope for those with Empty Arms. She is a speaker and mentor for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and teaches at writers’ conferences throughout the U.S. She is a monthly contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine and writes lyrics for children’s piano music.

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Devotional Encouragement

Who Hates Conflict?

 

I hate conflict. I hate getting into disagreements with my husband. I don’t like having a spat with a friend. As a parent, I hated the constant conflict resolution that was needed when my two kids didn’t get along.

As a teacher, I sure didn’t enjoy being the one who had to break up the many tiffs between pubescent girls. And as a Grandma? Well, let’s just say that conflict’s not in the grandma cards.

So when I began writing fiction, I knew that conflict is a main ingredient to a good story. To write good, compelling fiction, I had to have compelling conflict that would hold the reader’s attention. But how was I going to address the very thing that tempted me to run? I had to settle that question—and quick!

Although conflict is often present in almost every day of our lives, we may overlook or ignore it. When confronted with conflict, I tend to self-talk, fret, stew, worry, and struggle with sleepless nights. But those ways of dealing with conflict won’t make a good story.

Conflict is uncomfortable, and most conflict just plain hurts. But that’s what keeps readers reading. Like you and me, readers want to know how others deal with conflict, how characters try and fail and try again and finally succeed.

Because it’s hard for me to invent conflict when I want to avoid it, I had to be aware of this weakness. So when doing rewrites and editing, I often have to add an element of conflict or deepen it.

In Sara’s Surprise, there’s a lot of conflict going on—conflict I drew on from personal experience.

Have you ever been harassed by an employer? I have, and it’s pretty traumatizing. In this “Me Too” movement, lots of women are speaking up about their trials and tribulations in the workplace, so I decided to explore the topic.

In Sara’s Surprise, Sara struggles to work as a pastry chef, navigating abuse and harassment by her volatile French boss, as was all-too common in 1873. Women had no recourse and often feared they’d be blamed and dismissed from their jobs, so they kept silent. Back then, women were often devalued and unappreciated, under-paid and treated poorly. And men took advantage of the cultural norms of the day.

As a single mom in the early 1990s, I was treated poorly, too. And I regret that I was afraid to speak up and expose the nasty man who threatened, teased, and tormented me. As a leader in the organization, that should never have occurred, but it did. Thankfully, today’s climate is more open to reporting such abuse.

Sara’s Surprise explores this problem from several angles. But in the midst of Sara’s trials, she falls in love and learns a lot about the art of baking French pastries. And the lovely Christmas surprise will delight you this holiday season. I hope you’ll pick up a copy and enjoy the story.

Susan G. Mathis is a multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Katelyn’s Choice, the first in The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, is available now, and book two, Devyn’s Dilemma, releases in April, 2020. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family LegacyChristmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are available now. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com for more.

 

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Devotional Encouragement

Praise His Name

 

Negative attitudes have a way of creeping up on all of us at times. Good advice for turning them around is keeping a gratitude journal—a list of the things you’re thankful for each day.

When we put our focus on the positive aspects of our lives, the impact of the negatives begins to shrink.

Psalm 100 can be viewed as a prescription for keeping a gratitude journal about God—for learning to thank Him and praise Him for who He is and what He does.

Coming before God to worship with thanksgiving and praise is easy when we’re keenly aware of His nature.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4 NIV).

Some of the things the book of Psalms encourages us to thank God for are:

  • His creation
  • His provision and care
  • His compassion
  • His salvation
  • His guidance
  • His power

What else can you add to this list?

God is good, and He is good to us. Why not start your own gratitude journal about God today? Use it often to help you praise and worship Him. He is worthy.

Diane Stortz is a multi-published author whose goal is making God’s wonders known to the next generation. This devotion is adapted from her new book, Encountering God’s Heart for You: 365 Devotions from Genesis Through Revelation (Bethany House).

 

 

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Devotional

What to do When You Don’t Know What to do

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

In such a place, waiting for direction, I encouraged myself by reviewing the hard circumstances where God placed Moses. From the moment he appeared to him in a flaming bush, his life was never easy.

Go to Pharaoh? Lead the Israelites out of Egypt? Who, me?

After all his objections, Moses consented and set off on mission. Here’s the part of the Exodus story I love. God said to him:

  • I will be with you.
  • I will tell you what to say.
  • I will tell you what to do.

Moses didn’t have to worry about what to say to Pharaoh. God told him, “When Pharaoh says… you say…” In every confrontation that’s how he operated. He just spoke the words given him.

Our God never leads us to go on mission in our own wisdom and strength. In my waiting place, feeling inadequate and unsure of what to do or how I could do it, he whispered, “You don’t have to do it. I will.”

Encouraged by Moses’ experience, I went forward, trusting God to be with me, to tell me what to say, and to tell me what to do, expecting him to do what he had purposed. And he did.

Is he calling you for a special mission? Are you feeling inadequate and unsure about what to do?

Remember the mighty acts of God throughout history—he isn’t known for sponsoring failures—and go forward in total reliance on him.

“In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion… I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only” (Psalm 71:1, 16).

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host, and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s secretary of Christian Authors Network and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Visit www.diannebarker.com.

 

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Devotional Encouragement

Safe Where I Belong

As I played with my two-year-old grandson in the backyard, a noise caught his attention, and he turned toward the street.

“Get back here,” I called. “You are naughty and going immediately into time out for the rest of your life. Now, think about what you’ve done, and how you will fix it!”

Are you scandalized by my response? Understandable.

But how often do we think God responds to our choices and messes in this angry fashion?  

Of course, I didn’t speak those soul-wounding words. I came alongside as he toddled in an unsafe direction. “Hey, buddy. Let’s go back where you’re safe.” He turned into my arms, I scooped him up, and in that instant, he was safe. I carried him to the protected yard where we laughed and played.

When my child explores beyond safe boundaries, makes unwise choices, and disobeys, I don’t demand she grovel, do penance, or humiliate herself to satisfy my displeasure. But I am overjoyed when she hears my voice and turns into my embrace. Then I carry her to safety.

Somehow, I believed asking God to forgive included groveling and muscling myself into alignment with God’s perfect will. I thought I had to prove authentic sorrow and sincere desire for forgiveness.

But forgiveness is something so free and inviting, I can’t wait to repent.

Like me, have you ever wandered, stomped off in anger, drifted away in heartbreak, and become lost from relationship with God? When I’ve made a mess of my choices, my life, my relationships, and with God, there is no way I can fix or polish my problems. I can’t find my way back on track to God.

Knowing I am incapable of securing salvation, God is near with arms open in invitation and welcome.

Like my grandson, who simply turned into my hug, I repent by turning into God’s embrace. In that instant, I am safe where I belong.

Homeless for the Holidays, by PeggySue Wells & Marsha Wright
Homeless for the Holidays, by PeggySue Wells & Marsha Wright
PeggySue Wells
PeggySue Wells

PeggySue Wells, history buff and island votary, is the best-selling author of 29 books including Chasing Sunrise and Homeless for the Holidays.

 

 

 

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Devotional Encouragement

Making the Right Commitment

 

Commitment can be a good thing…when we’re committed to the right thing. But how often do we make a decision without fully weighing the cost? How often do we say “yes,” when we want to say “no”?

I’ve been guilty of it myself.

When I sat down to write my latest novel, Deadly Commitment, I wanted to write about how we sometimes make decisions without thinking them through. Maybe it’s a monetary commitment. Or a spur-of-the-moment decision to leave our job or drop out of school. It could even be the decision to marry the wrong person. We may think, “If it doesn’t work out, I’ll get a divorce…” “Or, sell the house…” “Or, go back to school.”

Sometimes, a hastily made decision works out. But many times, it leads to regret. And there are even times it can be deadly. I wanted to explore that idea, taken to the extreme, in my book. And, when I did, a suspense plot was born.

Fortunately for most of us, one bad decision—or several in a row—doesn’t mean we can’t start over. Jesus tells us that we should forgive each other seventy times seven, just as our Heavenly Father forgives us.

Thank God for second chances. That theme has played an important role in my life, and in my writing. No matter what mistakes we’ve made, it’s never too late to change courses. Our past doesn’t have to hold us captive. We are given daily, moment-by-moment opportunities to turn around, turn in a new direction, and recommit—to the right thing.

Kathy Harris
Kathy Harris
Deadly Commitment by Kathy Harris
Deadly Commitment by Kathy Harris

Kathy Harris is an author by way of a “divine detour” into the Nashville entertainment business where she works as a marketing director. For several years, she freelanced entertainer biographies and wrote, as well as ghost-wrote, news stories and columns for various music publications. She sold her first Christian nonfiction story in 2007. Her debut novel released in 2012. And her new novel, Deadly Commitment, releases today.

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Devotional Encouragement

Fulfill God’s Calling on Your Life

 

Recently, I was bummed out by some in the church who seemed to imply writing fiction is not a holy calling. They as much as said that if we aren’t engaged in outright evangelism, then we aren’t fulfilling the Great Commission.

I did some soul-searching. Told God, “I quit. I’m done (writing).” He immediately began sending me encouragement, reminding me that I write because He called me to it, and it is no less legitimate a calling than my call as a wife, mother, or friend.

But a reader’s note to me the very next day capped it and encouraged my heart with the words, “I think it’s important you know the good impact you are making (for) the body of Christ.” She said, “What you do is subtly draw a picture of what holy (clean, righteous, moral) living looks like in contrast to unrighteous living…This underlying message is clear in every one of your novels.”

And, “Finally, it is always such a joy to be able to be entertained and feel clean afterward! Your books are like a daffodil pushing up through a crevice in the rock and snow—beauty in this moral wilderness. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

The timing of her words couldn’t have been better. The Lord is so kind. We all must fulfill the calling God gives us, and not the particular vision of other Christians who happen to be in our lives at any given time.

Linore Rose Burkard
Linore Rose Burkard
Forever, Lately by Linore Rose Burkard
Forever, Lately by Linore Rose Burkard

Linore Rose Burkard is a serious watcher of period films, a Janeite, and hopeless romantic. An award winning author best known for Inspirational Regency Romance, her first novel (Before the Season Ends) opened the genre for the CBA. Besides historical romance, Linore writes contemporary suspense (The Pulse Effex Series, as L.R. Burkard), contemporary romance (Falling In), and romantic short stories (ie., “Three French Hens”). Linore has a magna cum laude English Lit. degree from CUNY which she earned while taking herself far too seriously. She now resides in Ohio with her husband and family, where she turns her youthful angst into character or humor-driven plots. Sign up for Linore’s newsletter to be automatically entered in monthly book drawings. You’ll also receive a free novella, Coach and Four: Allisandra’s Tale, set in the days of King Charles II! Enter your email to join here: http://www.LinoreBurkard.com

 

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Devotional Encouragement

Pray, Eat, Live

 

In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 

1 Samuel 1:10 (NIV)

Hannah wept as she prayed for her heart’s desire to be a mom and to give birth to a son. Her fervent prayer was heart-felt, honest, tenacious, and bold—generated by a deep longing. In her anguish, she poured out her soul to the LORD (1 Samuel 1:15).

Prior to talking with the LORD all Hannah could do was to cry. She was hurting, unable to eat, consumed with the desire to bear a child (1Samuel 1:8, 18). But, after she spoke her concerns to God, her face was no longer downcast and she regained her appetite. Hannah began to live again.

Hannah’s outlook was altered prior to a change in her circumstances. She left the cry of her heart at the altar as she trusted the Lord. Hannah moved forward in the waiting.

Hannah’s example reminds me to pray for my heart’s desires but not be immobilized by them.  Even before the cry of my heart is realized, I must move forward, continue to live, and trust God in the waiting.

So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him” (1 Samuel 1:20).

Lori Wildenberg

The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections, by Lori Wildenberg

Lori Wildenberg is passionate about helping families build connections that last a lifetime. A licensed family and parent educator and parent coach, Lori is the author of five books. The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connection is her most recent book. Lori and her husband Tom have four young-adult children. Their family is having a growth spurt that includes sons- and daughters-in-love, and a grandbaby! For more information go to www.loriwildenberg.com