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    If Only We Could . . .

    The Weeping Alaskan Cedar tree whipped from side to side in the storm’s strong winds. Regie loved the tree that had not only provided shelter from the summer sun but also protected her family from the neighbors’ gaze. Now the fierce storm was tearing the roots from the ground. Quickly, Regie, with her 15-year-old son in tow, ran to try to rescue the tree. With her hands and 90-pound frame firmly planted against it, she hoped with her son’s help to keep it from falling over. But they weren’t strong enough.

    God was King David’s strength when he called out to…

    Inside the Fire

    A wildfire in Andilla, Spain, scorched nearly 50,000 acres of woodland. When scientists entered the area they expected total devastation; and they did indeed see miles of blackened oaks, pines, and junipers. However, in the middle of the wreckage, a group of nearly 1,000 bright green cypress trees remained standing. The trees’ unusual ability to retain water had allowed them to safely endure the fire.

    In the days of King Nebuchanezzar’s reign in Babylon, a small cluster of friends survived the flames of the king’s wrath. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship a statue Nebuchadnezzar had created, and they told…

    Strong and Courageous

    Each night, as young Caleb closed his eyes, he felt the darkness envelop him. The silence of his room was regularly suspended by the creaking of the wooden house in Costa Rica. Then the bats in the attic became more active. His mother had put a nightlight in his room, but the young boy still feared the dark. One night Caleb’s dad posted a Bible verse on the footboard of his bed. It read: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; . . . for the Lord your God will be with you” (Joshua 1:9). Caleb began to read…

    Irrational Fears

    It makes no logical sense, but when my parents died within a three-month period, I feared they would forget me. Of course they were no longer on earth, but that left me with a large uncertainty. I was a young, unmarried adult and wondered how to navigate life without them. Feeling really single and alone, I sought God.

     

    One morning I told Him about my irrational fear and the sadness it brought (even though He knew it already). The Scripture passage that came in my reading for the day was Isaiah 49: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast .…

    Beat Again

    In 2012, Phillips, Craig and Dean released their song “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.” It was inspired by the true story of a heart surgeon. After removing a patient’s heart to repair it, the surgeon returned it into the chest and began gently massaging it back to life. But the heart wouldn’t restart. More intense measures followed, but the heart still wouldn’t beat. Finally, the surgeon knelt next to the unconscious patient and spoke to her: “Miss Johnson,” he said, “this is your surgeon. The operation went perfectly. Your heart has been repaired. Now tell your heart to beat…

    Strength for the Journey

    One summer, I faced what seemed an impossible task—a big writing project with a looming deadline. Having spent day after day on my own, endeavoring to get the words onto the page, I felt exhausted and discouraged, and I wanted to give up. A wise friend asked me, “When’s the last time you felt refreshed? Maybe you need to allow yourself to rest and to enjoy a good meal.”

    I knew immediately that she was right. Her advice made me think of Elijah and the terrifying message he received from Jezebel (1 Kings 19:2)—although of course my writing project wasn’t anywhere…

    Living in the Branches

    As I shared with my counselor my roller-coaster of emotions after a stress-filled week, she listened thoughtfully, then invited me to look out the window at the trees, lush with autumnal oranges and golds, the branches swaying in the wind.

                Pointing out that the trunks weren’t moving at all in the wind, my counselor explained, “We’re a bit like that. When life is blowing at us from every direction, of course our emotions will go up and down and all around. But sometimes we live as if we only have ‘branches.’ Our goal is to help you find your own…

    Divinely Aligned

    I was deeply troubled and woke in the night to pace the floor and pray. Frankly, my attitude was not one of prayerful submission to God, but one of questioning and anger. Finding no release, I sat and stared out a large window at the night sky. I was unexpectedly drawn to focus on Orion’s belt—those three perfectly arranged stars often visible on clear nights. I knew just enough about astronomy to understand that those three stars were hundreds of light years apart.

    I realized the closer I could be to those stars, the less they would appear to be…

    Strengthening Weak Knees

    When I was a kid, I thought the song title, “He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need” written by Dottie Rambo in 1967, was “He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Knees.” Employing the logic of a child, I wondered why God would look at knees. Was it because they were weak? I knew that weak kneed meant “afraid.” I later discovered that Dottie had written the song about God’s unconditional love in response to her brother Eddie’s belief that he was unlovable because of the wrong things he’d done. Dottie assured him that God saw his weakness…

    Here Be Dragons?

    Legend has it that at the edges of medieval maps, marking the boundaries of the world the maps’ creators knew at the time, there’d be inscribed the words “Here be dragons”—often alongside vivid illustrations of the terrifying beasts supposedly lurking there.

    There’s not much evidence medieval cartographers actually wrote these words, but I like to think they could have. Maybe because “here be dragons” sounds like something I might’ve written at the time—a grim warning that even if I didn’t know exactly what would happen if I ventured into the great unknown, it likely wouldn’t be good!

    But there’s one glaring problem…

    Overcoming Fear

    Fear ruled the man’s life for thirty-two years. Afraid of being caught for his crimes, he hid at his sister’s farmhouse, going nowhere and visiting no one, even missing his mother’s funeral. When he was sixty-four, he was discovered and learned that no charges had ever been filed against him. The man was free to resume a normal life. Yes, the threat of punishment was real, but he allowed the fear of it to control him.

    Likewise, fear ruled the Israelites’ heart when the Philistines challenged them at the Valley of Elah. The threat was real. Their enemy Goliath was 9…

    Our Guiding Light

    At a museum, I lingered near a display of ancient lamps. A glance at some printed information revealed they were from Israel. Decorated with carved designs, these oval-shaped clay vessels had two openings—one for fuel, and one for a wick. Although the Israelites commonly used them in wall alcoves, each was small enough to fit in the palm of a person’s hand.

    Perhaps a little light like this inspired King David to write a praise song in which he said, “You Lord are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light” (2 Samuel 22:29). David sang these words after God…

    No Longer Afraid

    When the Ethiopian police found her, a week after her abduction, three black-maned lions surrounded her, guarding her as though she was their own. Seven men had kidnapped the twelve-year-old girl, carried her into the woods and beaten her. Miraculously, however, a small pride of lions heard the girl’s cries, came running and chased off the attackers. “[The lions] stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest,” police Sgt. Wondimu told one reporter.

    There are days when violence and evil, like that inflicted on this young girl, overpower…

    Strengthened in Song

    When French villagers helped Jewish refugees hide from Nazis during World War II, some sang songs in the dense forest surrounding their town—letting the refugees know it was safe to come out from hiding. These brave townspeople of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon had answered the call of local pastor André Trocmé and his wife, Magda, to offer wartime refuge to Jews on their windswept plateau known as “La Montagne Protestante.” Their musical signal became just one feature of the villagers’ bravery that helped save up to 3,000 Jews from almost certain death.

    In another dangerous time, David sang when his enemy Saul sent…

    False Places of Safety

    When our dog Rupert was a puppy, he was so afraid of going outside I’d have to drag him to the park. After getting him there one day, I foolishly let him off his leash. He sprinted home, back to his place of safety.

    That experience reminded me of a man I met on a plane, who began apologizing to me as we taxied down the runway. “I’m going to get drunk on this flight,” he said. “It sounds like you don’t want to,” I replied. “I don’t,” he said, “but I always run back to the wine.” He got drunk, and…

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