After days of illness and then spiking a high temperature, it was clear my husband needed emergency care. The hospital admitted him immediately. One day folded into the next. He improved, but not enough to be released. I faced the difficult choice to stay with my husband or fulfill an important work trip where many people and projects were involved. My husband assured me he’d be fine. But my heart was torn between him and my work.
God’s people needed His help at the crossroads of life’s decisions. Far too often, they hadn’t adhered to His revealed instructions. So Moses implored the people to “choose life” by following His commands (Deuteronomy 30:19). Later, the prophet Jeremiah offered words of direction to God’s wayward people, wooing them to follow His ways. “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16). The ancient paths of Scripture and God’s past provision can direct us.
I imagined myself at a physical crossroads and applied Jeremiah’s template of wisdom. My husband needed me. So did my work. Just then, my supervisor called and encouraged me to remain home. I drew a breath and thanked God for His provision at the crossroads. God’s direction doesn’t always come so clearly, but it does come. When we stand at the crossroads, let’s make sure to look for Him.
During the days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dave and Carla spent months looking for a church home. Following health guidelines, which limited various in-person experiences, made it even more difficult. They longed for connection to a body of believers. “It’s a hard time to find a church,” Carla emailed me. Within me rose a realization from my own longing to be reunited with my church family, “It’s a hard time to be the church,” I responded. In that season, our church had “pivoted,” offering food in surrounding neighborhoods, creating online services, and phoning every member with support and prayer. My husband and I participated and yet wondered what else we could do to “be the church” in our changed world.
In Hebrews 10:25, the writer exhorts readers not to neglect “meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but [encourage] one another.” Perhaps due to persecution (vv. 32–34) or maybe as a result of simply growing weary (12:3), the struggling early believers needed a nudge to keep being the church.
And today, I need a nudge too. Do you? When circumstances change how we experience church, will we continue to be the church? Let’s creatively encourage one another and build each other up as God guides us. Share our resources. Send a text of support. Gather as we’re able. Pray for one another. Let’s be the church.
Grainger McKoy is an artist who studies and sculpts birds, capturing their grace, vulnerability, and power. One of the pieces is titled Recovery. It shows the single right wing of a pintail duck, stretched high in a vertical position. Below, a plaque describes the bird’s recovery stroke as “the moment of the bird’s greatest weakness in flight, yet also the moment when it gathers strength for the journey ahead.” Grainger includes this verse: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
The apostle Paul wrote these words to the church at Corinth. Enduring a season when he was overwhelmed with personal struggle, Paul begged God to remove what he described as a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). His affliction might have been a physical ailment or spiritual opposition. Like Jesus in the Garden the night before His crucifixion (Luke 22:39–44), Paul repeatedly asked God to remove his suffering. The Holy Spirit responded by assuring Paul that He would provide the strength needed. Paul learned, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Oh, the thorns we experience in this life! Like a bird gathering its strength for the journey ahead, we can gather up God’s strength for what we are facing. In His strength, we find our own.
We sat atop some beach boulders, my friend Soozi and I, watching the foam send up sea spray in arched curls. Looking at the incoming waves crashing one after another against the rocks, Soozi announced, “I love the ocean. It keeps moving so I don’t have to!”
Isn’t it interesting how some of us feel we need “permission” to pause from our work to rest? Well, that’s just what our good God offers us! For six days, God spun the earth into existence, creating light, land, vegetation, animals, and humans. Then on the seventh day, God rested (Genesis 1:31–2:2). In the Ten Commandments, God listed His rules for healthy living to honor Him, including the command to remember the Sabbath as a day of rest (Exodus 20:8–11). In the New Testament we see Jesus healing all the sick of the town (Mark 1:29–34) and then early the next morning retreating to a solitary place to pray (v. 35). Purposefully, our God both worked and rested.
The rhythm of God’s provision in work and His invitation to rest reverberates around us. Spring’s planting yields growth in summer, harvest in autumn, and rest in winter. Morning, noon, afternoon, evening, night. God orders our lives for both work and rest, offering us permission to do both.
Brenda was walking toward the mall exit when a flush of pink from a display window caught her eye. She turned and stood spellbound before a cotton-candy colored coat. Oh, how Holly would love it! Finances had been tight for her coworker friend who was a single mother, and while Brenda knew Holly needed a warm coat, she was also confident that her friend would never lay down cash on such a purchase for herself. After wavering ever so slightly, Brenda smiled, reached for her wallet, and arranged for the coat to be shipped to Holly’s home. She added an anonymous card, “You are so very loved.” Brenda practically danced to her car.
Joy is a byproduct of God-nudged giving. As Paul instructed the Corinthians in the art of generosity, he said, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). He also noted, “Whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (v. 6).
Sometimes we slip cash into the offering plate. At other times we donate online to a worthy ministry. And then there are moments when God leads us to respond to the need of a friend with a tangible expression of His love. We offer a bag of groceries, a tank of gas . . . or even the gift of a perfectly pink coat.
Maria carried her fast-food lunch to an empty table. As she bit into her burger, her eyes locked on those of a young man seated several tables away. His clothes were soiled, his hair hung limply, and he clutched at an empty paper cup. Clearly, he was hungry. How could she help? A gift of cash seemed unwise. If she bought a meal and presented it to him, might he be embarrassed?
Just then Maria remembered the story of Ruth where Boaz, a wealthy landowner, invited the impoverished immigrant widow to glean from his fields. He gave orders to his men. “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her” (Ruth 2:15). In a culture where women were utterly dependent on their connection to men for survival, Boaz demonstrated God’s loving provision. Eventually, Boaz married Ruth, redeeming her from her serious need (4:9–10).
As Maria rose to leave, she placed her untouched packet of fries on a nearby table, meeting the man’s eyes as she did so. If he was hungry, he might glean from her “fast-food field.” God’s heart is revealed in the stories of Scripture as they illustrate creative solutions to encourage.
A study by Robert Emmons divided volunteers into three groups that each made weekly entries in journals. One group wrote five things they were grateful for. One described five daily hassles. And a control group listed five events that had impacted them in a small way. The results of the study reveal that those in the gratitude group felt better about their lives overall, were more optimistic about the future, and reported fewer health problems.
Giving thanks has a way of changing the way we look at life. Thanks-giving can even make us happier.
The Bible has long extolled the benefits of giving thanks to God as doing so reminds us of God’s character. The Psalms repeatedly call God’s people to give God thanks because “the
As he closes his letter to the Philippians—the letter itself a kind of thank-you note to a church that had supported him—Paul links thankful prayers with the peace of God “which transcends all understanding” (4:7). When we focus on God and His goodness, we find that we can pray without anxiety, in every situation, with thanksgiving. Giving thanks brings us a peace that uniquely guards our hearts and minds and changes the way we look at life. A heart full of gratitude nurtures a spirit of joy.
Something was eating my flowers. The day before, blooms proudly lifted their heads. Now they were headless stems. I prowled the perimeter of my yard and discovered a rabbit-sized hole in my wooden fence. Bunnies are cute, but the pesky animals can mow down a garden of flowers in minutes.
I wonder, might there be “intruders” shearing off the blooms of God’s character in my life? Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” In ancient days, the wall of the city protected it against invasion from enemies. Even a small opening in a wall meant that the entire city lay open to attack.
So many of the proverbs are about self-control. “If you find honey, eat just enough,” wrote the wise man (25:16). Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit that guards us, protecting us from losing ground to impatience, bitterness, greed, and other pests that can intrude and destroy God’s harvest in our lives (see Galatians 5:22–23). Self-control is a healthy-mindedness that watches for the holes in the walls of our lives and keeps them patched.
When I inspect the perimeter of my life, I can at times see vulnerable holes. A spot where I give in to temptation over and over. An area of impatience. Oh, how I need the healthy-minded self-control of God in my life to guard me from such intruders!
Lacey Scott was at her local pet store when a sad fish at the bottom of the tank caught her eye. His scales had turned black and lesions had formed on his body. Lacey rescued the ten-year-old fish, named him “Monstro” after the whale in the fairytale Pinocchio, and placed him in a “hospital” tank, changing his water daily. Slowly, Monstro improved, began to swim, and grew in size. His black scales transformed to gold. Through Lacey’s committed care, Monstro was made new!
In Luke 10, Jesus tells the story of a traveler who was beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Both a priest and a Levite passed by, ignoring the man’s suffering. But a Samaritan—a member of a despised people group—took care of him, even paying for his needs (Luke 10:33–35). Pronouncing the Samaritan as the true “neighbor” in the story, Jesus encouraged His listeners to do the same.
What Lacey did for a dying goldfish, we can do for people in need around us. Homeless, unemployed, disabled, and lonely “neighbors” lie in our path. Let us allow their sadness to catch our eyes and draw us to respond with neighborly care. A kind greeting. A shared meal. A few dollars slipped from palm to palm. How might God use us to offer His love to others, a love which can make all things new?