The year I turned 33 was the most difficult of my life. My father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, and our family was enduring a difficult season in the first weeks of that year.

But in the deepest pit of my life, God did the unthinkable: He joined me.

Over the course of three months, I endured overwhelming grief and multiple eight-hour drives home to see my father. I also balanced full-time work and caring for two small children in a home where peace and rest were impossible for my heart to find.

But Jesus met me one day in my bedroom closet as I rediscovered a study Bible I had purchased a few months before. Every morning I woke up early, crawled into my closet, and talked to Jesus through tears as I encountered His Word.

God anchored my favorite verse to my soul years ago—and it is the promise that Jesus also offers to you: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

You were not made to be wrapped up in worry. You were not made to fit back into the boxes you have outgrown.

You were made to live free in God’s truth and light.

Do not let the weight of the pieces you hold discourage you. God loves you. God is ready to make you whole.

One Prayer Away From A New Life

It sounds unbelievable until it happens.
You pray the impossible prayer.
Because you are at the edge of what your heart can handle.

You are at the edge of what your emotions can endure.
And even though you may have prayed that prayer many times
Before, this time is different.

Because something shifts on the outside.
Jesus answers the prayer.
Jesus opens the door.

And God invites you to take the next step into a whole new life.
This is the miracle of mercy.
This is the foundation of faith.

So today, offer that bold prayer with this sweet confidence:
One single prayer can change everything.
Because one single prayer can change you.

Dear Jesus,

I pray for the woman who cannot see the road ahead. Lord, her vision is clouded by emotions and overwhelming uncertainty. Remind her that You will equip her for every difficulty and decision—that You will be beside her all the way.

In Your Holy Name, Amen.

*For further reflection, listen to Psalm 18 today.

  1. Psalm 18

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Adapted from One Prayer Away by Lauren Fortenberry. Copyright © 2024 Lauren Fortenberry. Used by permission of Zondervan. HarperCollinsChristian.com.

Fear and discouragement inevitably knock on the door of my future dreams. When I answer, I politely welcome them in, acknowledge their presence, but then escort them out before they invade my refrigerator and linger on my couch.

I tell them that I have God’s business to attend to, and that they don’t have any business tending to me. Instead, I can lean entirely on God’s abilities, which are perfect and never-ending.

To prevent crippling fear from creeping in sometimes, I do an exercise called “Fear Setting:”

1. Write down one goal that you are afraid of in the form of a question.

2. Now, make a list of every fear you can think of as it relates to this goal. These can be realistic, highly irrational, or dramatic. Write down any and every little thing you can think of that could go wrong. This is not a time to be judgmental toward yourself or your fears. The more you write down, the better.

3. Then make a list of ways that you can prevent some of these realistic concerns from occurring. This is a great place to work on your brainstorming abilities and problem-solving skills.

4. Finally, if some of your fears do come true, list ways you can repair your life and recover from them.

Even with this soothing exercise in reach, there are some days when fear can be so paralyzing that moving forward feels more like navigating the forceful hands of quicksand.

On days like those, I refer to the basics: What does God say about fear?

I look in the concordance of my Bible and then read each recommended Scripture.

I read them aloud to myself, pacing around the room, desperate for peace.

Eventually, I’ll be so filled with the Holy Spirit that hearing God’s Word becomes an expression of my excitement rather than something to dread.

Graduating from a fear-based mindset to a faith-based one has been the most liberating and useful thing I’ve done these days. Maybe “graduating” isn’t the best word to use because it’s more like studying.

It’s an ongoing process. But it’s influencing everything—how I listen to God in my prayer life, who I call for help, and how authentically I try to parent, live, and work.

I don’t know anyone who lives without fear, not truly.

But the skill I’m trying to master lately—I’m calling it a skill because it takes practice—is to welcome that fear, sit with it, pray through it, and then do the thing anyway. This skill has the power to change the course of my life if I let it.

It’s entirely challenging, but I’m building childlike faith in the process. I’m gaining spiritual muscle by spending time reading my Bible and praying every day. With this newfound perspective—this shift from fear to faith—my mindset grows stronger with experience and repetition.

Faith wouldn’t be required if I knew all the answers ahead of time.

It’s okay. I’m starting to appreciate that, or at the very least, I’ve become more used to it. Now, when God speaks, I jump with what appears to be a hard landing and no net. Then, like Superman, He catches me at the very last second, easing my anxious mind and glorifying Himself in the process. “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8).

Fear might stop by to say, “Hello,” from time to time, but it no longer stays the night.

*For further reflection, listen to James 4 today.

  1. James 4

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Enjoy our conversation together with Ciara!

It wasn’t just impossible; it was laughable.

Jesus and his disciples needed to feed a crowd of nearly 5,000 men plus women and children. Jesus asked Philip, “Where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?” (John 6:5) But, of course, Jesus is God, and he didn’t need the answer.

He asked Philip anyway. And Philip dared to sarcastically talk back to the Creator, reminding Jesus that it would take more than half a year’s wages to fund such an endeavor. From there on, Jesus didn’t even attempt to explain himself to Philip. He just showed him instead.

During this season of transitioning from three to four kids, I’ve felt like Philip: annoyed, even angry at God that He would expect me to do something so impossible.

It honestly isn’t even the “being a mom” part. As hard as it is to live in a perpetually cluttered space, I love rising to the parenting challenges in New York City. I love catching those moments where my kids are actually hugging each other or dancing together instead of bickering. However, since my youngest was born, I’ve procrastinated multiple times on writing. Writing takes emotional strength. After spending all day with young kids, I often feel like I have nothing left to give of myself in writing.

God has been revealing that I get frustrated and overwhelmed because I place unrealistic expectations on myself that He never puts on me.

When my inner critic calls me a mediocre homemaker, God tells me I don’t need to cook a different home-cooked meal every night, nor do I need to keep the house clutter-free.

When my inner critic calls me a mediocre blogger, God reminds me that many bloggers whom I compare myself to have teams behind them helping them to post daily.

For the past six months, I’ve been trying to write in my power, not out of an overflow of my relationship with God. And to no surprise, I come up short every time.

When my inner critic calls me a mediocre blogger, God reminds me that many bloggers whom I compare myself to have teams behind them helping them to post daily. For the past six months, I’ve been trying to write in my power, not out of an overflow of my relationship with God. And again, to no surprise, I come up short every time.

After Philip reminds Jesus of the hopelessness of the situation of feeding the crowd, Jesus ignores his comment and essentially asks his other disciples, “Well, what do you have?”  Another disciple, Andrew, replies, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

God reminds me that when it is time to write something, the Holy Spirit will take over and give me what I need. He tells me that He will be faithful to renew my strength and give me the rest I need to deal with another day of dealing with the chaos of raising four young kids. God is faithful to use my “barley loaves and two fish” and, in His power, multiply it into something much more than I could have ever mustered up on my own.

May God do the same with you as you walk forward in his strength!

*For further reflection, listen to John 6.

  1. John 6

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I grew up with the niggling feeling that God valued men more highly than women. And to be honest, what I heard in church only seemed to confirm my suspicions. Finally, I asked God to show me what He really thinks about women. 

So, I listened.

In my mind’s eye, I watched how Jesus interacted with women in the gospels. But, rather than looking from a twenty-first century point of view, I looked through the lens of Jesus’ culture when He walked the earth.

When Jesus made His first cry in Bethlehem, Jewish women were not allowed to talk to men in public—even their husbands. They were not allowed to eat in the same room with a gathering of men, to be educated on the Torah (the Scripture) with men, or enter the inner court of the temple to worship with men.

They sat behind partitions and could listen, but were not expected to learn.

A woman was considered the property of her father. That ownership was passed to her husband when she married and to her son when she was widowed. Women were not counted as people, thus the feeding of the 5,000 and 4,000 men with women not included in the number. They were seen as unreliable witnesses and not allowed to testify in court.

But then Jesus stepped into the story. And Jesus, God-made-man, broke a man-made rule every single time he interacted with a woman in the New Testament.

  • He encouraged the woman healed from the twelve-year flow to testify to the crowd about what had happened rather than letting her slip away unnoticed.
  • He welcomed Mary of Bethany into the classroom full of men to sit under His teaching.
  • He talked publicly with the Samaritan woman by the well, and for the first time, Jesus announced to her that he was the Messiah.
  • His longest recorded conversation was with a woman.
  • He welcomed both the sinful woman’s worship of tears and Mary’s anointing with oil—each was at a men’s only gathering.
  • He called the woman with the crippled back from the shadows of the women’s section of the synagogue to come up front for healing.
  • He invited Mary Magdalene and other women to join his ministry team.
  • He commissioned Mary Magdalene to go and tell the disciples of his resurrection.

Yes, Jesus entrusted the most important message in all human history to a woman and then instructed her to “go and tell.”

Jesus took the fearful and forgotten and transformed them into the faithful, forever remembered.

Oh, sweet sister, on this International Women’s Day, never doubt how your Heavenly Father values and esteems you—the grand finale of all creation and a co-heir with Christ.

*For further reflection, listen to Mark 5.

  1. Mark 5

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Listen here  to our conversation to learn more from Sharon Jaynes on each Biblical woman’s story in our encouraging conversation!

Growing up, I was very harsh and critical of myself.

When my parents divorced, my relationship with my mom was loving but detached. Even though my mom and I talked throughout my life, it felt more like catching up with someone than a loving connection. In fact, as a teenager, I didn’t really feel that I needed or wanted a mom.

I never seemed to feel comfortable around girls, and even as an adult, I was never the girl with a long list of girlfriends. But as I got older, something in me yearned for close friends. About five years ago, my mom was without a home. Suddenly, I was faced with the real possibility of living with my mom again after being separated for over three decades.

After much contemplation and prayer, I decided that my mom could move into the granny flat we had downstairs. For the first time, I had my mom and things were different.

She started asking me questions I would never think to ask anyone. I started wondering what my life would have been like if I’d come home every day to someone who was as interested in my emotions, my day, and my thoughts as she was now.

I started learning things I didn’t know—like how to move with gentleness and patience toward your child.

I struggled with this with my own children, especially when I was so harsh and critical toward myself.

She was gentle, kind, and nurturing, and to be honest, it made me pretty uncomfortable. Most of the time, it felt like too much. I felt like she gave me too much attention, too much serving, too much love, and too much availability. I wasn’t used to that, however, I slowly let myself be vulnerable before her. It felt like God brought her into my life for a healing purpose.

And now I began to feel what it was like to be truly seen, known, and loved unconditionally, not just by God but within a relationship I didn’t even know I needed deeply.

Time with her allowed me to see her vulnerability as well. Our time together also helped her heal from the shame she felt for not being present in my life. The daughter she believed she had lost could finally see, know, and love her.

Together, we learned how to stand without shame from the past. It didn’t happen in an instant, but it did happen, and it’s still happening today.

“Fear not, you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth.” Isaiah 54:4

Adapted from “She Speaks Fire: Battling Shame, Igniting Faith, and Claiming Purpose” with Nelson Books; Publishing February 13, 2024.

To hear more from Mariela, watch here here!

*For further reflection, listen to Isaiah 54.

  1. Isaiah 54

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For nearly six years, my husband and I waited for our baby. We hoped and grieved, hoped and grieved, hoped and grieved, over and over and over again.

We longed.

And our longing led us straight to the middle of God’s heart.

God wants more than anything for us to get to know him. As our Creator, he knows all there is to know about us. The Lord holds our pasts, presents, and futures in his all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving hands.

But he gives us the choice to get to know him in return. And that choice is everything.

Getting to know God’s love is perhaps the easiest and most challenging thing you will ever do with your life, but it is also the very best thing you will ever do.

It is what your soul was made to do. It’s what your soul longs to do more than anything.

At the root of all longing is a longing for life, as God intended.

Before sin, Adam and Eve didn’t want for anything—they had no longings because all of their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs were perfectly satisfied. Life, as God intended, was a perfect paradise void of sorrow, sickness, suffering, doubt, disappointment, and death. It was a perfect paradise where we walked and talked with God without shame, guilt, or fear.

But the moment sin entered the world, longing entered as well.

While we live on this earth, we will long. We will long for life over death, health over sickness, joy over sorrow, love over hate, peace over anxiety, abundance over lack, safety over insecurity, justice over injustice, good over evil, and right over wrong.

We all long, and all longing is really longing for life as God originally intended.

God will one day fully redeem this earth and all your longings will be satisfied in the fullness of his presence.

Until then, your soul will find fulfillment only in getting to know God—your Creator, Savior, Sustainer, and Satisfier.

“Oh God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirst for you; my whole body longs for you” (Psalm 63:1).

Excerpt from Asha’s book, This Hope: A Journey of Getting to Know God.

*For Further Reflection, listen to Psalm 63.

  1. Psalm 63

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Have you found yourself wishing you could just be better?

If only I could run faster, smarter, and harder. If only I had more access, more training, and more resources.

On this journey called life, I’m tempted to think that my biggest problem is what’s outside of me, rather than what’s inside of me.

If the self-improvement game didn’t produce results, we wouldn’t be so obsessed with it as a culture. We want to be younger, faster, prettier, healthier, more well-liked, more strategic, and more effective. There’s no end to the ways we can try to better ourselves. (We can even attempt to defy the aging of our skin with the use of regenerating night creams.)

We are people obsessed with youth, and we often chase after it at all costs. “Be your best self! Forget your past! Remake yourself!”

But in the quiet corners of our lives, we’re confronted with the reality that no matter how many serums we use, we can’t turn back time.

Regardless of how hard we work to be the best version of ourselves right now, we can’t change the past.

There’s a limitation to self-improvement.

We often wear ourselves out trying to achieve freedom of our body, heart, or mind that we cannot achieve by trying harder.

Our constant efforts to fix what ails us come up short and leave us feeling defeated. We were made for much more than improvement or a little polishing up. Instead, we were made for a complete do-over, a new beginning, and a regeneration.

That is why Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “I tell you the truth: unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus was a religious man, an expert at keeping the Law and perfecting himself. And yet Jesus made it clear to him: All that looks great on the outside can never get us closer to the heart of God. We must be born again.

Long before Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, the prophet Ezekiel foretold how God would restore His people: “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations” (Ezekiel 36:26–27).

These words were for the Jews, God’s people, but because God’s promises extend to all of us through Christ, the hope of a new heart is for us too.

You see, our hearts are unaware of its deadness before the love of God causes us to surrender.  We’re unable to have hearts that beat for God and that are soft to his ways.

A few tweaks here and there won’t break a prisoner’s heart free from the shackles of their guilt, unworthiness, and sin.

It takes the work of the Holy Spirit in you, the Father’s love upon you, and the sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus, for you.

Your new heart is straight from the intentional, loving heart of God. And guess what? Your new beginning isn’t temporary.

Remember your new heart, friend…when you’re ready to give up, when you feel like you’re not enough, when shame and regret creep in, when you fear what lies ahead and when it’s tempting to keep trying to fix yourself.

Your new heart is made to carry you for the journey Christ has set before you. It’s stronger than you think because it’s a new heart given by God Himself—not as a result of your attempts at trying harder to make yourself new.

So, weary friend, have you forgotten His promises to make you new from the inside out?

We were never meant to be sustained by anything other than a new spiritual heart—one that pumps God’s new life through our veins because of God’s grace.

If you are in Christ, you are born again. You are renewed.  You are a new creation. God’s divine power has given you everything you need for life and godliness. When we walk in the reality of this gift, we exercise the muscle of faith. Here, there is no looking back or covering up.

Instead, we experience a miracle we couldn’t know otherwise: We grow hearts that beat for God. With our new hearts, we have everything we need for our journey.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Ezekiel 36 today.

  1. Exodus 36

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Adapted from Pilgrim:25 Ways God’s Character Moves Us Onward Pilgrim by Ruth Chou Simons (Harvest House).

I eagerly followed various schools of brightly colored fish as they darted in and out of coral reefs. That morning’s snorkeling adventure in Hawaii would definitely be remembered.

All of a sudden, I realized that I was tired. Incredibly tired. When I lifted my head from the water, I discovered I was much further from shore than I realized.

A second problem quickly emerged. I was all alone. While my friend had advised snorkeling with a buddy, I decided it was unnecessary. Now, I realized there was no one near to help.

As we emerge from the global crises of the past three years, many of us feel the same way. Adjusting to our new normal has left many of us weary and isolated.

Not only that, but when we do reach out to others for help, we often hear many voices all claiming to know how we should move forward.

We now wonder if truth is not accessible as we thought.  We’re  more skeptical, cynical, questioning and guarded.

 

The author of Hebrews writes, “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1).

Increasingly, people are caught in the swift current of today’s spiritual drift. Scripture helps us not be carried away.

“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Be cautious of the drift toward accepting a promise of salvation whose author is not Jesus.

“Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Be cautious of the drift toward viewing Scripture as untrustworthy—a product of man instead of inspired and written by God.

“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Be cautious of the drift toward elevating your ideas about God and drawing a picture of him that matches your likes and preferences.

We have a reliable Source!

Although the pandemic chaos led us to doubt whether we could know the truth, God encourages us to believe him: “And you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).

*For further reflection, listen to John 14.

  1. John 14

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Whether you’re caring for a new baby, a sick child, an aging parent, or you’re nurturing the work you love, some days can feel like the work is never done.

I often find it hard to go to sleep when all my tasks haven’t been checked off my to-do list. It feels like I can only draw my day to a close when I’m able to shut the book on that list. But what is a life when it’s lived chasing after a list?

I hope you’ll take a deep breath and receive this blessing today:

May you give yourself a moment to take a few deep breaths.

May the Lord guide you to the reason you work as hard as you do.

May you acknowledge that God is working and watching out for you, bringing peace to your racing heart.

May you remember that life is more than lists.

Life is moments connected by time and love: a hand slipped slowly into yours on a walk, the joy of a puppy, bedtime prayers recited together.

May you never give yourself so wholeheartedly to your lists that you forget to live your life.

You are more than the sum of your check marks.

Consider tomorrow’s to-dos. What can you rearrange or move to make space for life to happen?

These are the moments that will fuel your energy and passion for the work you must do.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” (Proverbs 17:22)

*For deeper reflection, listen to Proverbs 17 today.

  1. Proverbs 17

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Taken from Near in the Night by Emily Ley. Copyright © 2023 by Emily Ley. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.

When I turned 50, I said to myself, “I am not THAT old.” When I turned 60, my friends told me, “Sixty is the new forty.” Finally, when I turned 70, I admitted, “Seventy is THAT old!”

Now I am almost a decade older. I’ve written a book on aging. But I am still surprised by the experience of getting older.

My soul is growing as my body is aging.

To grow means to change. Paul wrote, “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” (Ephesians 4:23). As we age, we are invited to allow the Holy Spirit to change the thoughts and attitudes we have held for decades. Some perspectives and spiritual disciplines that helped me when I was younger are no longer life-giving.

As my body ages, I have less energy and fewer opportunities. The Holy Spirit is changing my expectations and priorities.

I need to unlearn some of the things that I used to believe.

I used to feel responsible for many things. Now that I can do less, God is inviting me to think about my days in terms of fruitfulness rather than productivity.

The list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22–23 reminds me that it is more important to love others than to finish my “to-do” list.

I want to focus on the invitations God gives in my losses.

Jesus said,“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20). When I was younger, I had important jobs to do and places where I found significance. Now I am losing some of that sense of importance. Some days my spirit feels “poor” about all I have lost.

Jesus promises I will experience the Kingdom of God even as I experience this part of aging.

He said God’s Kingdom is like “a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens.” (Mark 4:26-27)

What a comfort this is! I can toss seeds on the ground (when I have the energy!) and then go to bed. I don’t understand it, but whether I am asleep or awake, the seeds are growing.

I thank God for the fruit of this season of life.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Ephesians 4 today.

  1. Ephesians 4

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