Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. -Ecclesiastes 4:6 (ESV)

Feeling encumbered by possessions, I’ve been in a discard-it state of mind. Sorting items in a file cabinet, linen closet, food pantry.

Will I use it? Do I value it? If not, I’ve been gifting, donating, trashing. Then I turned to a kitchen cupboard. Do I need all these old food containers, stockpiled for leftovers? Half of them were dropped into a bag for recycling.

But the removals themselves didn’t make me feel less burdened.

Yesterday the urge remained strong, as if my spirit itself were crying, “Purge.” Setting my sights on an office bookcase, I went at it. “Out! Out!” I said, exhaling and tossing books in a box that I strained to lift.

Before I reached for a cup of coffee, I pulled another book off the shelf.

Vitamins for the Soul.’ 200 ways to Nurture Your Spiritual Life. I’d occasionally perused it when looking for an inspirational quotation. Should I keep or toss the book that had collected dust for decades?

I found the answer, and more, on page one in an epigraph by Henri Frederic Amid: “The man who has no inner life is the slave of his surroundings.” I read the pithy statement a second and third time,

inhaling deeply.

To counterbalance my household obsession-get it out!-today I enjoyed a nourishing spiritual feast . After worshipping at church, I visited a museum, taking in the exciting offerings. Before dinner I read chapter

one of the Vitamins book, which, by the way, I’ve decided to keep.

Dear Lord, help me to learn that tending my spirit is at least as important as tidying my surroundings.

-Evelyn Bence

Digging Deeper: Matthew 6:19-21, 25-33




Who does Israel belong to? An Israeli with a sense of humor at the UN set the record straight.

An ingenious example of speech and politics occurred recently in the United Nations Assembly and made the world community smile.

A representative from Israel began: “Before beginning my talk, I want to tell you something about Moses. When he struck the rock and it brought forth water, he thought, ‘What a good opportunity to have a bath!’ Moses removed his clothes, put them aside on the rock, and entered the water. When he got out and wanted to dress, his clothes had vanished. A Palestinian had stolen them!”

The Palestinian representative jumped up furiously and shouted, “What are you talking about? The Palestinians weren’t there then!”

The Israeli representative smiled and said, “And now that we have made that clear, I will begin my speech…”


Do everything in love. -1 Corinthians 16:14 (NIV)

A barista at my local cafe is truly love made visible. I take such delight watching Kristi interact with folks at the drive-through. She’ll be hanging out the window, all smiles, as she inquires about the pets and children in the back of a truck or the camping gear strapped to the top of a station wagon.

One morning I could stand it no more. “You must really enjoy what you do,” I said. “You never fail to make every person in your path feel cared for.”

“I’Il let you in on a little secret,” Kristi told me. “When I’m working that intercom, I ask all the customers, ‘How are you?’ and if they don’t answer or just say, ‘a chai tea latte,’ then I’m extra nice to them when

they pull up to get their drinks. That’s what keeps me happy all day long.”

Kristi’s response got me to thinking about others in my own path who leave the world better than they find it. Joe at the shoe-repair shop who stretches my flats to accommodate the tumors on my feet. Because of joe’s genuine caring, my feet don’t hurt as much as they used to. Nor my heart.

Then there’s the welcoming homeowner on the street where I shopped at an estate sale today. When everyone else placed “No Parking- Towing Enforced” messages in their yards, this person took a different approach. A colorful sign was positioned in a geranium-filled flower- pot that read, “Okay to park in my driveway. Enjoy the sale.”

Just everyday people doing their best to make the world a better place. Simple as it sounds, I want to be one of them. Don’t you?

 In an oft-unfriendly world, Lord, help me to represent You with a heart full of love.

-Roberta Messner


Digging Deeper: Ephesians 6:7; Colossians 3:23  



On a cruise to Alaska, I saw my very first glacier in the magnificent Inside Passage. Excitedly, I asked the ship’s officer what it was called.

“It’s some dumb glacier,” he replied.

Disappointed by his attitude, I bought a map to figure it out for myself. I calculated our location and found the name of the ice mass. It was called, just as he had said, “Sumdum Glacier.”


If l take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me …. -Psalm 139:9-10 (KJV)

I landed in the hospital for two weeks with a mysterious lung infection. The doctors were baffled. My room was filled with specialists, rheumatologists, cardiologists, internists, pulmonologists, asking me a

roster of questions, checking the machine that monitored my dangerously low level of oxygen. I did my best to answer-in between gasps of air from a tank of oxygen. Family members sat with me; nurses and

techs scurried in and out.

That first day my hopes plummeted. Despair seemed a bigger enemy than anything going on with my body; But the one thing I remembered, as I drifted in and out of a fitful sleep, was my twenty-five-year-

old son, Timothy, reading the words of a psalm by my bedside.

Timothy left the second week, heading to South Africa for ten months of mission work. Fortunately, 1 came home at the end of that week, my fever gone, my lungs able to function again on their own, my energy returning. The doctors still couldn’t give me a diagnosis, but that was all right. “They kept me alive,” I told friends. “Prayers healed me.”

I still wondered, though, about that prayer by my bedside … had it even happened? I e-mailed Tim, “Did you read a psalm to me in the hospital?”

“Yes, Dad,” he e-mailed right back. He couldn’t remember which psalm it was and I certainly couldn’t, but one of his favorites is Psalm 139, with this wonderful passage about God’s power: “Even the

darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee” (verse 12, RSV). In my time of despair my son had given me words of light.

Lord, give me the words I need-Your words-to offer comfort to those in despair.

-Ride Hamlin


Digging Deeper: Psalm 71:5-6; 2 Corinthians 4:8-9



A young man called his mother and announced excitedly that he had just met a young lady of excellent character and virtue that interested him very much. What should he do?

His mother had an idea: “Why don’t you send her flowers, and on the card invite her to your apartment for a home-cooked meal?”

He thought this was a great idea, and a week later, the woman came to dinner. His mother called the next day to see how things had gone.

“I was totally humiliated,” he moaned. “She insisted on washing the dishes.”

“What’s wrong with that?” asked his mother.

“We hadn’t started eating yet.”


THE BEAUTY OF SIMPLICITY – Trust Always Outshines Worry

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you …. -Psalm 143:8 (NIV)

During forty years of marriage, my husband, Rick, and I have argued about one thing in particular: I love being prepared and doing things ahead of schedule; Rick is laid-back and never worries. One night, during the 11 :00 p.m. news, the weatherman forecast the possibility of snow. “We better run to the grocery store,” I said. “Nah, it’s not going to snow.”

“What if it does? What if we lose power? The freezer’s full of meat.”

“Relax,” he said.

“How? We could be homebound if a blizzard strikes.”

Sure enough, the next morning the house was cold and dark. No power. No heat. I peered into our snow-covered backyard. “The weatherman and I were right,” I said, annoyance creeping into my tone.

“I’ll set up the generator,” he replied, getting out of bed.

“What generator?”

“The one I bought a few years ago.” Minutes later, Rick restored enough power to save the meat, keep his outdoor parakeets warm, and make cofree.

I’d doubted my husband would take care of me, the same way I’d doubted God could handle my fears and worries. Filled with admiration and gratitude, I crunched my way through our snowy yard, the air

smelling woodsy, like home and wintertime and safety.

“I worried for nothing. Your survival skills are quite impressive.”

Rick winked at me. “Just doing my job, ma’am.”

Plenty of times, I’ve assumed You weren’t doing Your job, Lord.

Tm sorry. You always have everything under control.

-Julie Gannon


Digging Deeper: Isaiah 45:6-7; Jeremiah 29:11



Several years ago, Andy was sentenced to prison. During his stay, he got along well with the guards and all his fellow inmates. The warden saw that deep down, Andy was a good person and made arrangements for Andy to learn a trade while doing his time.

After three years, Andy was recognized as one of the best carpenters in the local area. Often he would be given a weekend pass to do odd jobs for the citizens of the community … and he always reported back to prison before Sunday night was over.

The warden was thinking of remodeling his kitchen and in fact had done much of the work himself. But he lacked the skills to build a set of kitchen cupboards and a large counter top, which he had promised his wife. So he called Andy into his office and asked him to complete the job for him.

But, alas, Andy refused. He told the warden, “Sir, I’d really like to help you but counter fitting is what got me into prison in the first place.”


“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” =Matthew 1:23 (NKJV)

Every Tuesday morning several colleagues and I push chairs into the breakroom for prayer. It’s brief: a snippet of Scripture and then we go around the circle praying about our teaching and any larger issues

affecting it-trends, politics, world events. I’m guessing each of us is also secretly praying for whatever big bad things are going on in our lives and families.

That’s, in any case, what I do. And it doesn’t stop there. As I leave the breakroom, secret prayers overwhelm me. You know the ones I mean: prayers concerning suffering that no one knows about, troubles you can’t list among your church’s prayer requests, seemingly unsolvable worries.

Whenever I pray this way; I pray the same, almost hopeless prayer: “Heavenly Father, heal it, fix it, make it go away!”

Today, it occurred to me that the Father had already answered such prayers with His plan to banish all suffering and make everything right in the end. In the meantime, He’s sent His Son-not to cure this

world’s ills just now but to be with us in our anguish. Jesus is not the fix-all dad I’m envisioning when I pray for help but a brother who’s suffered similar miseries: the terrifyingly small faiths of loved ones, betrayals, looming anxiety about the future, and feeling forsaken by the only One Who can solve His problems.

Recognizing God as my co-sufferer doesn’t magically heal or repair my hidden problems or even banish them from my consciousness, but it does make me feel less alone. I know that, like the best of siblings, Jesus commiserates. He’s with me in my misery, lamenting with, and for, me.

Brother Jesus, be with us in our most secret-prayers!

-Patty Kirk


Digging Deeper: Isaiah 7:4-14; Revelation 21:1-5



The teacher asked one of her young students if he knew his numbers.

“Yes,” he said. “I do. My father taught me.”

“Good. What comes after three.”

“Four,” answers the boy.

“What comes after six?”


“Very good,” says the teacher. “Your dad did a good job. What comes after ten?”

“A jack,” says the little boy.


Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road …. -Deuteronomy 11:19 (NIV)

A colleague called to ask my advice. “I have to give my daughter some bad news, but I don’t know how to approach it.”

“Well,” I replied, “don’t make a production out of it, which might scare her. Just go for a walk together and then say, ‘By the way, I need  to tell you … ,,,

Later I thought about my own parents, who had such naturalness about their parenting. Oh, they were vigilant, with high standards for me, but they were never artificial or overbearing.

My father would come to my Little League games, just to enjoy the game. He cheered me if I got a hit, but he never scolded me when I flubbed. We were there to have fun, and we did, win or lose.

He didn’t “take” me fishing. He “went” fishing, and I tagged along.

When I saw how much he enjoyed it, I was hooked.

I was an introvert, but my father, a minister, never forced me into the public eye. He just took me with him on his rounds and introduced me to everyone. “This is my boy, Danny. He’s a fine fisherman.” I felt

safe with Dad beside me.

My first report cards were terrible, but my mother never shamed me.

She helped me with the hard subjects. “Just do your best,” she said .

“That’s all we ask of you.” Eventually, I made the honor roll and went on to become a college professor.

When I saw my colleague a week later, she said, “I took your advice, and it went really well!”

I smiled, feeling a deep sense of gratitude for good parents who gave me a happy childhood, a legacy of enchanting memories.

Lord, bless all the good parents who look to You for guidance.

-Daniel Schantz

Digging Deeper: Proverbs 13:21; Colossians 3:4



For her 40th birthday, my wife said, “I’d love to be ten again.” So that Saturday, we had a heaping stack of chocolate-chip pancakes, her favorite childhood breakfast.

Then we hit the playground and a merry-go-round. We finished the day with a banana split.

“So how did you enjoy being a kid for a day?” I asked.

“Great,” she said. “But when I said I wanted to be ten again, I meant my dress size.”


Therefore encourage one another and build up one another …. -1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NAS)

Talk about a late bloomer. I still type on an IBM Selectric from 1984. Progress ran off and left me while I thought maybe the computer thing wouldn’t catch on.

My daughter Julie has gently begged me to get a computer. I was sure it was too late. I’d never learn.

Julie began coaxing me to at least get a tablet. I grew weary of saying no. One day, I agreed to just walk into an electronics store. It’s a scary place for me. Not Julie. She goes there often and asks complicated

questions and nods confidently at the answers. “I’ve prayed for the right salesperson for you, Mother,”

She spotted a fella way across the store and dragged me behind her. “This is my mother,” she told the young man like I was Mother of the Year.

“I’m Jeremy.” He smiled.

Julie beamed at me as though his name, being my son’s name, was a sure sign from God. When I became too tired to argue, I sighed. “I’ll take it.”

They both lit up like neon signs, and he asked simply, “What color?”

Oh, how I perked up. I’m all about color. “Gold,” I told him  knowledgeably.

“Mine’s gold too.” He grinned. “Something else I need to tell you, ma’am. You have a good attitude.”

“Whatever do you mean?”

“Well, I could tell from way across the store when y’ all came in that you are teachable.”

Suddenly energized, I thanked Jeremy and asked Julie to take my picture with him-on my new tablet, of course!

Oh, Father, thank YOU for salespeople who encourage fragile beginners.

-Marion Bond West

Digging Deeper: Romans 15:5; Hebrews 10:25



All eyes were on the radiant bride as her father escorted her down the aisle. They reached the altar and the waiting groom; the bride kissed her father and placed something in his hand.

The guests in the front pews, and the minister, responded with ripples of laughter. As her father gave her away in marriage, the bride had given him back his credit card.


For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me. -Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)

I  winced when the chiropractor put his finger on my spine. “I can’t fix this. The vertebrae are fine. This is a disk issue. You need surgery.”

No, God! Not again I limped to my pickup. I was never going to have another surgery, not after the first operation for a ruptured disk four years ago had failed. I’d given up the life I loved as a cattle rancher.

I have nothing left, God. You have taken everything away from me.

I texted my brother: “Pray 4 me. I need strength.”

He replied immediately. “Will do.”

I called my husband. “Maybe this is a blessing in disguise,” he said.

“Your back hasn’t been right for years. Maybe this time you’ll be healed.”

I didn’t share his optimism. I’d already tried Western medicine. Eastern medicine, and everything in between. I tried different doctors, no doctors, and doctors I wasn’t too sure about. I did natural cures, yoga, vitamins, joint solutions, tilt tables, back exercises, brain exercises, and meditation.

Some things helped a little, but nothing really worked. I had long ago accepted my limitations. I’d even found joy here. But this new explosion of pain left me without hope.

Suddenly, unexpected peace stopped my tears. Confused, I glanced at my phone, which I’d silenced. “You’re on the prayer chain at church,” my brother texted,

I could feel the prayers. The one thing that had gotten me through these painful years was my faith that God was behind this and was guiding me to a new place of His choosing. He was with me. I wasn’t

alone. I prayed out loud:

Lord, I’m closer to You now than ever before. Even if I never heal, I would rather be crippled with You than stand without You.

-Erika Bentsen

Digging Deeper: Genesis 26:24; Deuteronomy 31 :6; 2 King.” (>; I (, 1/;

I Chronicles 28:20; Psalm 27



Overheard when some children sang “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” at a recent Christmas concert. The line “God and sinners reconciled” was a tricky one for this age group.

One little boy, with a voice that completely drowned out the rest of the choir, happily belted out, “God and sinners dressed in style!”




“Yet turn, 0 Lord my God, to the prayer and supplication of Your servant …. “-1 Kings 8:28 (JPS)

When my husband, Keith, and I moved from Los Angeles to Bellingham, Washington, we brought with us some well-loved knickknacks and pieces of art. However, I wanted something for the new house that had never been in the old one. In a museum gift shop, I found a framed paper cut, edged in lace and painted with what seemed like a perfect prayer: “May this home be a place of happiness and health,

generosity and hope.”

I bought it at once, and one of the first things we did when we moved in was to hang it in a prominent place by the front door.

Until Keith got sick, it seemed that prayer was working very well. Suddenly the “health” part was struggling. So were my “happiness” and, ultimately; my “hope.” As I withdrew into myself, the “generosity” part just went away by itself. After Keith died, it got so I averted my eyes when I passed the paper cut-it just wasn’t my prayer any longer.

‘Then a friend called me because she needed help, and I began to spend time with her, trying to cheer her up, opening my home to her when she needed anything, giving her things she could use, sharing as

much time with her as I could.

One day I happened to look at the paper cut, and now that I was able to be generous again, God was showing me that the other parts of the prayer were possible too.

Let me be an instrument of Your generosity God, just as You are the source of all generosity to me.

-Rhoda Blecker

Digging Deeper: 2 Samuel 7:27



While a friend and I were visiting Annapolis, we noticed several students on their hands and knees assessing the courtyard with pencils and clipboards in hand. “What are they doing?” I asked our tour guide.

“Each year,” he replied with a grin, “The upperclassmen ask the freshmen how many bricks it took to finish paving this courtyard.”

“So what’s the answer?” my friend asked him when we were out of earshot of the freshmen.

The guide replied, “One.”




‘I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous,’ do not be frightened or dismayed, for the You’re your God is with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9 (NRSV)


The forecast called for a blizzard. What should we do? Kate was away at a conference, and the kids and I had made plans to see the new Star Wars movie. Snow began falling the night before. It was pretty

thick by Saturday morning.

“What do you say? Do we go for it?” I asked Frances and Benji. Inwardly, I had misgivings. was this a fun adventure or Dad being reckless?

“Yes!” they said excitedly.

I thought about how long we’d waited to see this movie, how much we’d looked forward to it. Surely God was present in our collective yearning.

We donned snow gear and plunged outside. Wind blew pellets in our faces. We trudged along powdery-white sidewalks, practically alone on streets usually packed on a weekend. Subways were still running. We took a train downtown and emerged into even more snow. The theater was hard to see through the horizontal veil, and we were practically alone in it. The Star Wars music struck up. The kids grabbed my arms.

The moment at last!

We loved every minute of it. We emerged breathless and made it home in time to find out that the subways would be shutting down soon. We’d timed it perfectly.

Actually, God had timed it perfectly. I’d worried I was being foolish.

But, really, it was just snow. And the looks on the kids’ faces-well, deep yearnings like that don’t come from nowhere. We had trusted our hearts, and in doing so we’d trusted God to guide us well.

Help me to know when to wait, Lord, and when to venture out in obedience to Your call

-Jim Hinch

Digging Deeper: Psalm 25:4-5; Revelation 14:12



My family was visiting a church and the minister announced they had both Spanish and English Bibles for use during the service.

My youngest son tugged at my sleeve and whispered, “Mommy, I want one of those Spanish Bibles.”

“Don’t be silly, you can’t read Spanish,” I quickly rejoined.

Holding out his own Bible to me, my kindergartner explained, “Mom, I can’t read English either.”


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