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Patricia Raybon

Patricia Raybon

Patricia Raybon is a Christy Award-winning author of books, essays, and novels, many at the intersection of race, faith, and grace. A regular contributor to Our Daily Bread, she also writes the new Annalee Spain Mystery series set in 1920s Colorado. Her first standalone title for Our Daily Bread Publishing is God Is Our Help: Our Daily Bread Reflections for Living with His Love and Strength. A mother of two and grandmother of five, she and her husband Dan, a retired educator, live in Colorado. Find her online at patriciaraybon.com.

Articles by Patricia Raybon

Friend to the Lonely

Holly Cooke didn’t have one single friend when she moved to London for a job. Her weekends felt miserable. The city itself tops the list for feeling blue—with fifty-five percent of Londoners saying they’re lonely, according to a global survey, compared to just ten percent of residents in neighborly Lisbon, Portugal.

For connection, Holly defied her fears and formed a social media group called The London Lonely Girls Club—and some 35,000 have joined. Small-group meetups every few weeks offer park picnics, art lessons, jewelry workshops, dinners, and even outdoor exercise sessions with puppies.

The challenge of loneliness isn’t new, nor is the Healer of our feelings of isolation.  Our eternal God, wrote David, “sets the lonely in families; he leads out the prisoners with singing” (Psalm 68:6). Asking God to point our way to Christlike friends is a holy privilege and, thus, a request we can freely take to Him. “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God, in his holy dwelling” (v. 5), added David. “Praise be to the Lord; to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens” (v. 19).

What a friend we have in Jesus! He grants us forever friends, starting with the glorious presence of Himself every moment. As Holly says, “Friend time is good for the soul.”

Look to the Skies

Alex Smalley wants everyone to wake up earlier—or perhaps pause more at day’s end. Why? To gaze at sunrises and sunsets. Those fleeting moments are the most beautiful, awe-inspiring times of the day, according to Smalley, the lead researcher of a British study on awe-inducing weather effects. Even more than blue skies or glittering nightscapes, a stunning sunrise or sunset can improve mood, increase positive emotions, and decrease stress. Smalley says, “When you see something vast and overwhelming or something that produces this feeling of awe, your own problems can feel diminished and so you don’t worry so much about them.”

His findings on wonder echo those of the prophet Jeremiah: “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17).

King David also beheld God’s creation, declaring “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1). As for the sun, “It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.” Therefore, writes David, “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul” (vv. 6-7). God’s glorious creation reflects the all-powerful Creator. Why not take time today to look to the skies and marvel in Him!

Our New Nature in Christ

Our blue spruce was dropping pinecones and needles. The tree doctor took one look at it and explained the problem. “It’s just being a spruce,” he said. I’d hoped for a better explanation. Or a remedy. But the tree man shrugged, saying again, “It’s just being a spruce.” By nature, the tree sheds needles. It can’t change.

Thankfully, our spiritual lives aren’t limited by unchangeable actions or attitudes. Paul stressed this liberating truth to the new believers at Ephesus. The gentiles were “darkened in their understanding,” he said, their minds closed to God. They possessed hardened hearts containing “every kind of impurity,” and sought only after pleasures and greed (Ephesians 4:18-19).

But “since you have heard about Jesus” and His truth, Paul wrote, “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life” (vv. 21-22 nlt). Paul noted how our old nature “is corrupted by lust and deception.” He said, “Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (vv. 22-24 nlt).

Paul then listed new ways to live. Stop lying. Resist anger. Stop cursing. Quit stealing. “Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need” (v. 28 nlt). Our new self in Christ allows us to live a life worthy of our calling, yielded to our Savior’s way.

Helping as God Helps Us

Ole Kassow of Copenhagen loved bicycling. One morning, when he saw an elderly man sitting alone with his walker in a park, Ole felt inspired by a simple idea: why not offer elderly people the joy and freedom of a bike ride. So, one sunny day he stopped at a nursing home with a rented trishaw (a three-wheeled bike) and offered a ride to anyone there. He was delighted when a staff member and an elderly resident became the first riders of Cycling Without Age.

Now, more than twenty years later, Ole’s dream to help those who missed cycling has blessed some 575,000 elderly people with 2.5 million rides. Where? To see a friend, enjoy an ice cream cone, and “feel the wind in their hair.” Participants say they sleep better, eat better, and feel less lonely.

Such a gift brings to life God’s beautiful words to His people in Isaiah 58:10–11. “Help those in trouble,” He told them. “Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon” (nlt). God promised, “The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.”

God told His people, “Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities” (v. 12). What might He do through us? As He helps us, may we always be ready to help others.

Jesus Dwells Within

As a blizzard bore down on my state in the western USA, my widowed mother agreed to stay with my family to “ride out” the storm. After the blizzard, however, she never returned to her house. She moved in, dwelling with us for the rest of her life. Her presence changed our household in many positive ways. She was available daily to provide wisdom, advice to family members, and share ancestral stories. She and my husband became the best of friends, sharing a similar sense of humor and love of sports. No longer a visitor, she was a permanent and vital resident—forever changing our hearts even after God called her home.

The experience recalls John’s description of Jesus—that He “dwelt among us” (John 1:14 kjv). It’s a compelling description because in the original Greek the word dwelt means “to pitch a tent.” Another translation says, He “made His home among us” (nlt).

By faith, we also receive Jesus as the one who dwells in our hearts. As Paul wrote, “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong” (Ephesians 3:16–17 nlt).

Not a casual visitor, Jesus is an empowering permanent resident of all who follow Him. May we open wide the doors of our hearts and welcome Him.

God’s Open Doors

At my new school near a large city, the guidance counselor took one look at me and placed me in the lowest performing English composition class. I’d arrived from my inner-city school with outstanding test scores, excellent grades, and even a principal’s award for my writing. The door to the “best” writing class in my new school was closed to me, however, when the counselor decided I wasn’t right or ready.

The church in ancient Philadelphia would’ve understood such arbitrary setbacks. A small and humble church, its city had suffered earthquakes in recent years that left lasting damage. Additionally, they faced satanic opposition (Revelation 3:9). Such a disregarded church had “little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (v. 8). Therefore, God placed before them “an open door that no one can shut” (v. 8). Indeed, “what He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open” (v. 7).

That’s true for our ministry efforts. Some doors don’t open. With my writing for God, however, He has indeed opened doors, allowing it to reach a global audience, regardless of one counselor’s closed attitudes. Closed doors won’t hinder you either. “I am the Door,” Jesus said (John 10:9 kjv). Let’s enter the doors He opens and follow Him.

Gifted with Love

On her wedding day, Gwendolyn Stulgis wore the wedding dress of her dreams. Then she gave it away—to a stranger. Stulgis believed a dress deserved more than sitting in a closet collecting dust. Other brides agreed. Now scores of women have bonded on her social media site to donate and receive wedding dresses. As one giver said, “I hope this dress gets passed from bride to bride to bride, and it just gets worn out and is in tatters at the end of its life because of all the celebrating that’s done in it.”

The spirit of giving can feel like a celebration, indeed. As it is written, “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:24–25).

The apostle Paul taught this principle in the New Testament. As he said his goodbyes to the believers in Ephesus, he gave them a blessing (Acts 20:32) and reminded them of the importance of generosity. Paul pointed to his own work ethic as an example for them to follow. “In everything I did,” he said, “I showed you that by . . . hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (v. 35).

Being generous reflects God. “For God so loved the world that He gave” (John 3:16). Let’s follow His glorious example as He guides us.

Sharing by Caring

The young pastor prayed every morning, asking God to use him that day to bless someone. Often, to his delight, such a situation arose. One day during a break at his second job, he sat in the sunshine with a coworker who asked him about Jesus. The pastor simply answered the other man’s questions. No rant. No arguing. The pastor commented that being guided by the Holy Spirit led him to have a casual talk that felt effective but loving. He made a new friend as well—someone hungry to learn more about God.

Letting the Holy Spirit lead us is the best way to tell others about Jesus. He told His disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

The fruit of the Spirit “is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). Living under the Spirit’s control, that young pastor put into practice what Peter instructed: “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15.)

Even if we suffer for following Christ, our words show the world that His Spirit leads us. Then our walk will draw others to Him.

God’s Protective Love

One summer night, the birds near our home suddenly erupted into chaotic cawing. The squawking intensified as the songbirds sent piercing calls from the trees. We finally realized why. As the sun set, a large hawk swooped from a treetop, sending the birds scattering in a screeching frenzy, sounding the alarm as they flew from danger.

In our lives, spiritual warnings can be heard throughout Scripture—cautions against false teachings, for example. We may doubt that’s what we’re hearing. Because of His love for us, however, our heavenly Father provides the clarity of Scripture to make such spiritual dangers plain to us.

Jesus taught, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). He continued, “By their fruit you will recognize them. . . . Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” Then He warned us, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (vv. 16–17; 20).

“The prudent see danger and take refuge,” Proverbs 22:3 reminds us, “but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” Embedded in such warnings is God’s protective love, revealed in His words to us.

As the birds warned each other of physical danger, may we heed the Bible’s warnings to fly from spiritual danger and into His arms of refuge.