So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. -Romans 10:17 (NRSV)

This year I officially decided to stop saying, that I run twenty-one miles a week because, increasingly; I don t.

The truth is I mostly jog. Ever more slowly. With sometimes moments of walking in between. Not infrequently, I stop altogether to examine a bird through binoculars I carry or tally a count for

or record on my phone a writing idea to work on later that day.

The older I get, the slower I get and the quieter and more alert.

I didn’t realize this was happening until recently. I was running – no jogging along, and suddenly, without planning to, I was differentiating the birds’ voices around me, one from the other, and acknowledging their presence before I even saw them. Without meaning to, I was listening for which birds were there with me: out-of-season or newly arrived voices, voices I’d .forgotten from previous years, voices I didn’t know at all.

I was aware that the flock of meadowlarks surrounding me were Westerns, not Easterns, though the two species look identical. I heard before seeing a little towhee, a rare sighting in these parts, squawking forth its funny name. When the cardinal’s chip-chip of winter changed to its fluting summer cry, I sensed the approach of spring.

And it’s not just birds. Today, without even realizing I was listening, I knew the train approaching invisibly from the distance had three locomotives and was not pulling cars. I heard it, knew it, without even thinking about it, and when I turned to look, I found I was right. That’s my hope for the coming seasons: as my life slows down, as it inevitably will, and gets quieter, I’ll hear and become ever more aware of God’s voice speaking His presence into my days.

Help me slow down and hear You, Lord.

-Patty Kirk

Digging Deeper: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8




After a worship service, a mother with a fidgety seven-year-old told me how she finally got her son quiet.

About halfway through the sermon, she leaned over and whispered, “If you’re not quiet, Pastor Chariton is going to lose his place and will have to start all over again.”


Things I’ve Learned from my Children

If you spray hair spray on dust bunnies and run over them with roller blades, they can ignite.

A 3 year-old’s voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant.

If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, the motor is not strong enough to rotate a 42-pound boy wearing Batman underwear and a superman cape. It is strong enough however to spread paint on all four walls of a 20 by 20 foot room.

You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on.

When using the ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a few times before you get a hit.

A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way.

The glass in windows (even double pane) doesn’t stop a baseball hit by a ceiling fan.

When you hear the toilet flush and the words “Uh-oh”, it’s already too late.



“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. ” John 10:10 (NIV)

In celebration of National Nurses’ Week, the staff in my hospital department were filming a video of something called “Uptown Funk.” “You know, Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson made it popular,” Stephanie told me. “They’re the new Michael Jackson.”

No, I didn’t know. When it came to moving to music, I didn’t know much these days. The new tumor in my foot had taken care of that. I could barely walk, let alone dance.

“Just count me out,” I announced to my colleagues dressed in hoodies and dark glasses and laughing up a storm. “I’ll cheer everybody else on.”

But I wasn’t prepared for how sitting on the sidelines would make me feel. Suddenly, I was fifteen years old again and watching my peers from the bleachers in my junior high gym class. “Epileptic,” someone

hurled at me in reference to a seizure I’d had in front of my classmates several days before.

Today, my hospital peers were having a terrific time. How I longed to be one of them.

‘Then my boss, Paula, spoke up. “Get a big sheet of paper and a marker, Roberta,” she said. “Make a sign that says, ‘I’m not a part of this!’ You can appear at the end and you won’t have to dance. ‘Trust me.

lt’Il be great.”

After the video was filmed, I heard someone in another department remark: “This is hilarious. I think Roberta had the best part of all.”

So did I Thanks to my sensitive coworkers, I was really a part of things. Now that was something to celebrate!

Because of You , Lord, I don’t have to live in the past anymore. Thank You.

-Roberta Messner

Digging Deeper: Isaiah 43:18-19; Matthew 6:31-34




While standing in line for confession, I overheard a woman whisper to her friend, “I really don’t know why I am going to confession. I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to sin.”


Mother’s Dictionary

Amnesia: Condition that enables a woman who has gone through labor to make love again.

Dumbwaiter: One who asks if the kids would care to order dessert.

Family Planning: The art of spacing your children the proper distance apart to keep you on the edge of financial disaster.

Feedback: The inevitable result when your baby doesn’t appreciate the strained carrots.

Full Name: What you call your child when you’re mad at him.

Grandparents: The people who think your children are wonderful even though they’re sure you’re not raising them right.

Hearsay: What toddlers do when anyone mutters a dirty word.


FALLING INTO GRACE: Embracing a New Role

“The kingdom of God … is like a mustard seed, which, when sown …

is the smallest of all seeds on earth; yet … it grows up and becomes the

greatest of all shrubs …. ” -Mark 4:30-32 (NRSV)


I sat in the car outside of the homeless shelter where I’d been volunteering for years. My arm was safely encased in its sling-“to keep people from jostling you,” the doctor said–but I wasn’t moving.

“Too soon to come back?” my husband, Charlie, asked. “Should we wait another week?”

I’d always come here to help others. I’d always come from a place of strength. No one here had ever Seen me weak, broken, I couldn’t even carry the bag of fruit we’d brought or the Scrabble game I occasionally engaged in. I missed the residents and staff, but I was nervous about how they would react.

I pushed open the door and heaved myself out. We hadn’t even reached the shelter before people asked, “What happened?” “You okay, Marci?” “Let me get the door for you.” “You need help with anything?”  Want to say a prayer?”

Celida, who runs the shelter and had been praying for me for weeks, embraced me gently. I tried to pass out the fruit, but someone took over that job. I was told to sit; they would do the work this time.

I felt strange. This was not my role, but this is exactly where God wanted me to be: The helper had become the helped.

Lord, let me accept Your love and help through the love and help of others.

-Marci Alborgherti

Digging Deeper: Isaiah 50:4-5; Mark 1:30-31




Working at an airline ticket counter, I pulled up a passenger’s reservation that showed his name as “Cole, Pheven.”

“I’d like to be certain our information is correct,” I said to him. “What is your first name?”

“It’s Stephen,” he replied. “I hope the reservation agent got it right. I told him it’s spelled with a ph.”


Principles of Motherhood

  1. Motherhood ~~ If it was going to be easy, it never would have started with something called labor!
  2. Shouting to make your children obey is like using the horn to steer your car, and you get about the same results.
  3. To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today.
  4. The smartest advice on raising children is to enjoy them while they are still on your side.
  5. Avenge yourself – Live long enough to be a problem to your children.
  6. The best way to keep kids at home is to make the home a pleasant atmosphere – and to let the air out of the tires.
  7. The right temperature in a home is maintained by warm hearts, not by hot heads.
  8. Raising a teenager is like nailing Jell-O a tree.
  9. Parents: People who bare infants, bore teenagers, and board newlyweds.
  10. The joy of motherhood: What a woman experiences when all the children are finally in bed.
  11. Life’s golden age is when the kids are too old to need baby-sitters and too young to borrow the family car.
  12. Any child can tell you that the sole purpose of a middle name is so he can tell when he’s really in trouble.
  13. Grandparents are similar to a piece of string ~ handy to have around and easily wrapped around the fingers of grandchildren.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. –Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)

Bent over the soil, I cleared off leaves and began to wake up my J garden by sweeping away winter’s mess. My thoughts turned to an upcoming business trip. I had volunteered for the project and was

looking forward to it, but now as it grew near, all my excitement turned to dread. Would the flight be delayed? Would my presentation go over well? In a flash, a garter snake slithered right in front of my knees!

My heart jumped, and I let out a squeal.

I caught my breath, and my mind traveled back to elementary school. In the fourth grade, we had garter snakes in the classroom. The first day of schooI, the teacher picked one up out of the tank and strolled the aisles, between our desks. The snake slinked up his left arm, and kids backed up their chairs.

“We’re afraid of things we don’t understand,” he said. “I’m going to teach you all about these amazing creatures. You don’t have to touch them or go near them if you don’t want to. But I’ll bet by Thanksgiving each one of you will have held one. Anyone want to touch one now?”

I folded my arms and shook my head. I wasn’t about to touch a snake, let alone hold one.

It started out simply. For a few minutes in the morning our teacher would go to the tank and pick one up. He showed us how snakes weren’t slimy but strong. He offered facts and asked us to look closely,

so we could see the beauty of their scales.

It didn’t even take until Thanksgiving. Before the end of September there wasn’t one of us who hadn’t grown to care for what we once feared. My business trip was going to be just fine.

Heavenly Father; when worry enters my heart, help me remember that what is beyond my understanding is in Your hands. I have nothing to fear.

–Sabra Ciancanelli

Digging Deeper: John 14:27; Philippians 4:6-7; 2 Thessalonians 3:16



A man was stopped by the police around 2 a. m. The officer asked him where he was going at that time of night.

The man replied, “I’m on my way to a lecture about alcohol abuse and the effects it has on the human body, as well as smoking and staying out late.”

The officer then asked, “Really? Who’s giving that lecture at this time of night?”

The man replied, “That would be my wife.”



This is the day that the Lord has made. -Psalm 118:24 (NRSV)

Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t always have the most loving relationship with my dog, Max. He frustrates me as often as he delights me. And I suspect that he feels the same way about me, the guy holding his leash.

I want to run more! I want to eat more! I want to play more! If dogs think these things, and I imagine they do, then Max thinks them when he looks at me throughout the day, most every day.

But the other day I woke up after sleeping very little. I was worrying about some project that was still undone when Max stuck his muzzle in my hand as if to say, “Take me outside.” So, I did. It was just after

dawn, and the sun was coming up. ‘There I stood, watching Max in the morning light, but my mind was still at my computer. Do your business and let’s get back inside was all I was thinking.

Max wanted to linger. He walked over to the hedge and smelled it.

Then he paused to look up at the bird feeder as if to acknowledge the chickadees that were already chattering away there. Then he sat down in the grass and just looked around, seemingly taking it all in for the first time.

“Come on,” I said. It isn’t as if we don’t do this every single morning.

And, instead of following me inside, Max, who is usually obedient, as dogs are, turned his head and looked at me. It was like a tap on the shoulder.

Stop, look, smell, listen.

May I live for You in the present today; Lord.

Ob, and I look forward to tomorrow too!

-Jon Sweeney

Digging Deeper; Psalm 66:5-6



One day, the pilot of a Cherokee 180 was told by the tower to hold short of the active runway while a DC-8 landed. The DC-8 landed, rolled out, turned around, and taxied back past the Cherokee.

Some quick-witted comedian in the DC-8 crew got on the radio and said, “What a cute little plane. Did you make it all by yourself?”

The Cherokee pilot, not about to let the insult go by, came back with a real zinger: “I made it out of DC-8 parts. Another landing like yours and I’ll have enough parts for a second one.”


If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit”. Galatians 5:25 (NAS)

I recently read a story about John Knox, the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. He was a valiant prayer warrior. As he lay on his deathbed, he asked his wife, Margaret Stewart, to read him Scripture.

While reading to him, she noticed that John Knox had started to pray aloud, his voice growing slower and dimmer. Then, as he prayed for those he loved, his spirit slipped from his body and joined Jesus in Heaven. What a wonderful testament to this mighty man of God.

Over the years I’ve struggled with prayer. I’ve made long lists and prayed through them. I’ve written my prayers down, which I continue to do to this day; and I’ve tried my best to be continually in prayer by

having an ongoing conversation with the Lord as I go about my day.

John Knox was a man who lived by prayer, so when it came time for him to leave this earth, prayer was a natural part of his life … and death.

This is what I want for my relationship with God, a life of prayer that is so engrained that communication with Him is simply part of my every thought and deed. And when it comes time for me to leave this earth, I want it to be with a prayer on my lips.

Father God, thank You for the beautiful example of John Knox’s life, this saintly man of prayer. May I live a praying life.

-Debbie Macomber

Digging Deeper: Jeremiah 33:3; Colossians 4:2



Saturday morning I got up early, dressed quietly, made my lunch, grabbed the dog and fishing equipment, slipped quietly into the garage to hook the boat up to the truck, and proceeded to back out into a torrential downpour.

The wind was blowing 50 mph. I pulled back into the garage, turned on the radio, and discovered that the weather would be bad throughout the day.

I went back into the house and slipped back into bed, where my wife was turned away from me. I whispered to her, “The weather out there is terrible.”

My loving wife of 20 years replied, “Can you believe my stupid husband is out fishing in that mess?”

I still don’t know to this day if she was joking, but I’ve stopped fishing.


For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. -James 2:10 (NIV)

 I write chapter books for young readers. It’s the only job I ever dreamed of having. As a little girl, I’d look at authors’ names on books I loved and wonder if, someday, my name might be on a book a child

loved too. I take my work seriously and try to get everything right, always remembering what an honor it is to have my words read by children.

Recently, after I’d sent final edits to my publisher for a novel, I realized I’d missed a mistake in the manuscript. Even though we’d been through multiple edits, the fault was mine–the blame rested solely

with me. Sheepishly, I emailed my editor and told her my error. All the major kinks should have already been worked out. Now I would waste the copy editor’s time and’ create a hassle. My one blunder made

all the hard work I’d done on the book seem to fade into the background. How could I have been so stupid? I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t eat; I couldn’t concentrate on anything except the guilt.

After I beat myself up most of the day, my editor called and assured me it was no big deal. “Stop worrying,” she said. “We’ll take care of it.” Just like that!

How strange it felt to have my burden taken away so quickly, so completely. Especially when I didn’t deserve it. I hardly knew how to respond.

But why should it have felt strange? Isn’t this what God does for me every day?

Lord, thank You for Your amazing grace!

Thank You for the endless edits You allow.

-Ginger Rue

Digging Deeper: Galatians 5:4-5; Jude 1:24



While vacationing in Alaska, I couldn’t help but notice all the warnings about bears posted in campgrounds, visitors’ centers, and rest areas advising people not to feed the bears, how to avoid bears, what to do if a bear sees you, what to do if a bear attacks, and so on.

My favorite, however, was a hand-lettered sign on the door of a small gas station in a remote area. It said: “Warning! If you are being chased by a bear, don’t come in here!


“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.” Jeremiah 29:5 (NIV)

To get a head start on our garden, we sprout our tomatoes from seeds indoors. We plant them in a cute little germination station that we move around the house, from window to window, finding the


My favorite part of tending to the tomato plants – the part that touches my heart-happens when the glorious little green stems surface from the dirt. Each seedling receives a soft touch, from left to

right, up and down, a few times a day, to encourage strong stems.

When I first learned about the brushing technique, I wondered if it was related to stress. Was a little pressure the same as “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? For a long time, I believed that was the case (stress was behind the strength), but this morning I changed my theory.

Today as my hands grazed each plant, I thought that maybe the brushing is more about caring enough to take a moment to reach out and be a part of its growth. Afterward, the herbal fragrance of the plants, the smell of spring, was left on my hands, reminding me of the beautiful exchange that happens when we care for another. The benefit of our effort changes us as well.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of caring, for the fulfillment I receive from planting seeds and watching them grow, and for creating fruit that nurtures my mind, body, and spirit.

-Sabra Ciancanelli

Digging Deeper: Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:32



Bubbles and Barbie, two blonde sisters, had promised their uncle, who had been a seafaring gentleman all his life, to bury him at sea when he died.

In due time, he did pass away, and the two blondes kept their promise. They set off from Clearwater Beach with their uncle all stitched up in a burial bag and loaded him onto their rowboat.

After a while Bubbles said, “Do you think we’re out far enough, Barbie?”

Barbie slipped over the side. Finding the water only knee deep, she said, “Nope, not yet, Bubbles.” So they rowed a little farther out.

Again Bubbles asked Barbie, “Do you think we’re out far enough now?”

Once again Barbie slipped over the side and almost immediately said, “No, this will never do; the water is only up to my chest.”

So on they rowed and rowed and rowed, and finally Barbie slipped over the side and disappeared. Quite a bit of time went by, and poor Bubbles was really getting worried when suddenly Barbie broke the surface, gasping for breath.

​”Well, is it deep enough yet, sis?”

“Yes, finally. Hand me the shovel.”


A soothing tongue is a tree of life, But perversion in it crushes the spirit. -Proverbs 15:4 (NAS)

Our teen grandsons came over for a visit last week. Those boys argued over everything. Twice the fourteen-year-old erupted frustration-launching into a tirade against his younger brother before

stomping outside. When he returned, the twelve-year-old mumbled, “What’s he doing here?”

That did it. They got “alpha” grandma. Not condemnation or anger, but a firm teaching.

I broke down the nasty sound bite. “‘What’s he doing here?’ says ‘You are not welcome, you don’t: belong, I don’t like you, go away.” I went on, “Boys, these things you are saying are careless words. They go down inside a person and create hurt. Arguing and running each other down has become such a habit that you don’t hear what you are saying. I’m going to step in when I hear this happening, and we’re going to look at what is realy being said. If you can just start to see careless words, then I’m hoping you can choose better ones.”

My grandsons made more peaceable attempts toward each other for the remainder of their visit. Later I looked up Bible teachings about careless words-a reminder for myself about speaking without thinking – or intentionally letting go an unnecessary volley.

The real awakener for me was Matthew 12:36. Jesus states, “Every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for,” I decided right then that I want to make this a very short list.

You, Lord, are the living Word. Fill me with pleasant words- as a honeycomb, “Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).

-Carol Knapp

Digging Deeper: Psalm 141:3; Proverbs 12:14;

Jeremiah 15:19; Matthew 15:15-20



A local priest was being honored at his retirement dinner after 25 years in the parish.

A leading local politician and member of the congregation was chosen to make the presentation and to give a little speech at the dinner.

However, he was delayed debating the “bail-out packages,” so the priest decided to say his own few words while they waited:

“I got my first impression of the parish from the first confession I heard here. I thought I had been assigned to a terrible place. The very first person who entered my confessional told me he had stolen a television set and, when questioned by the police, was able to lie his way out of it. He had also stolen money from his parents, embezzled from his employer, had an affair with his best friend’s wife, and taken illicit drugs. I was appalled.

“But as the days went on, I learned that my people were not all like that and I had, indeed, come to a fine parish full of good and loving people.”

Just as the priest finished his talk, the politician arrived full of apologies for being late. He immediately began to make the presentation and said: “I’ll never forget the first day our parish priest arrived. In fact, I had the honor of being the first person to go to him for confession.”

Moral: Never, never, NEVER-EVER be late.


Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; make me, therefore, to know wisdom in mine inmost heart. -Psalm 51:8 JPS)

After keeping the house closed up through the winter, I’m always relieved when there’s a warm enough day to open the windows.

I enjoyed the breeze that wafted across my office on that first nearly balmy morning. The squirrels were especially active, obviously having decided that my fence top was the safe road around my yard.

I was working at my computer when I heard such loud birdsong that I was certain the bird had to be on the fence directly outside my window; The chirping was beautiful-three notes that sounded the same

then then a full-throated liquid crescendo of joyous singing. The whole song repeated every few seconds.

I looked out, expecting to see the pretty singer, but the fence was empty except for some stray tendrils of blackberry vines. I would have thought the bird had flown away, but I could still hear its lyrical chirping. I got my binoculars to scan my neighbor’s roof and some nearby trees but saw only robins or jays, neither of which has such a melodious song.

J resolved to find the songbird, so I trained the binoculars on the blackberries, In the shadow of a curving stem was the tiniest brown bird, throat feathers ruffling as it gave out its huge, lovely song.

It seemed a wondrous reminder that the way we look on the outside really has no bearing on what may be within-and how blessed we are when we encounter what’s hidden there.

Turn me inside out, Lord, so that

what I show the world is the song inside me.

-Rhoda Blecker

Digging Deeper: Psalm 28:7



An important and very well publicized murder trial was soon to begin. In preparation for the trial, the tiresome jury selection process took place, each side hotly contesting and dismissing potential jurors.

One prospective juror, Dan O’Keefe, was called for his question session.

He was asked, “Property holder?”

Dan replied, “Yes, I am, Your Honor.”

Then he was asked, “Married or single?”

Dan responded, “Married for twenty years, Your Honor.”

Then the judge asked, “Formed or expressed an opinion?”

Dan stated with certainty, “Not in twenty years, Your Honor.”


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