Today’s Bible passages are: Genesis 40, Mark 10, Job 6, and Romans 10

mark 10By Brenda Chance

If you met up with me in an airport, commanding your attention would be my luggage; it is large and in charge. I’m the little girl with the big bag.

Friends snicker. The family rolls their eyes. The rental car agent is indignant when I need a car with a more spacious trunk. I endure the ridicule of my bigger-than-me baggage because when others find they’ve left behind toothpaste, socks, or a matching purse, I will have them. In travel and in life, I like to be prepared for anything…and everything.

Or at least that’s my positive spin. Truthfully, I’m a control freak.

Like most control freaks, I have fancy ways of dressing up my controlling ways: I’m efficient. I’m conscientious. I’m a pursuer of excellence.

However, like the quickly fleeting green flash at sunset, I sometimes glimpse a truer picture of who I am: I am a self-proclaimed ruler doing everything I can to keep my little kingdom going. Having everything in its place, lacking nothing, and leaving no space for surprises are the intangibles of my rule. Never panic. Never beg. Keep calm and carry on.Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: Genesis 21, Matthew 20, Nehemiah 10, and Acts 20

matthew 20By Tricia Lott Williford

I was a waitress all throughout college, waiting tables at Friendly’s (a quick shout-out to the Fribble!), Cracker Barrel (hooray for biscuits with your meal), and TGI Fridays (back when each of us wore a ridiculous hat and 15+ pieces of flair).

We had a good camaraderie among the waitstaff, and I loved my jobs serving ice cream, sandwiches, pancakes, and the occasional Oreo Madness. But we were also keenly aware of the system of justice and fairness in the food transportation industry.

There was a rotating system, a moving ramekin on the hostess’s seating chart, to make sure each server had equal turns with new guests in the restaurant. Some of it was luck of the draw: if it was your turn when two old ladies came in for an afternoon tea, then you missed out on the next guests: a party of ten – five young couples, all probably double-incomes-no-kids, fully expecting to eat much and tip generously.

There were no promises of a good night, and I confess that there were many nights when I envied the servers who had more tables, bigger parties, or just a prettier smile than I had that night, and they were leaving with way more cash.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: Genesis 18, Matthew 17, Nehemiah 7, and Acts 17

acts 17By Amy Kannel

I love to devour a good novel, and I’m not picky—I enjoy classics and contemporary authors, historical fiction and young adult lit, fantasy and mystery. I also love to write—essays and letters, blog posts and poetry, even research papers. But I leave the writing of fiction to the experts, for good reason.

I still laugh when I think of my favorite college writing professor’s compassionate but blunt comments, scrawled at the bottom of the short story I turned in for her creative writing class (I’m that crazy pack rat who saves everything, so this is an exact quote): “Well…” she wrote. “Let me just say that I like your poetry better. But I can see that you tried.”

She called my characters “flat”; other adjectives included “tedious,” “obvious,” “corny.” (For the record, she was 100% right, and the grade can only be described as grace—when I reread the story ten years later, it was even worse than I remembered.) No matter how much I enjoy stories, I don’t seem to have quite the imagination to pull one out of my own head.

I first discovered the depths of my total inability to write fiction during my senior year of high school, in a creative writing workshop with my favorite teacher.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: Genesis 8, Matthew 8, Ezra 8, and Acts 8

matthew 8By Brenda Chance

“You can’t push a string,” a favorite expression of my husband’s late boss, found its way out of my husband’s sales office and became a well-played line and prevailing philosophy in our home. It was our parental rallying cry against the psychological torment of two very strong-willed children.

I grew up in a different era of family life. My four sisters and I had standard-issue sass and sneak but when push came to shove the convicted resolve in our father’s eyes sobered us quickly to the path of least resistance. “Because I said so” were magic-filled words children dare not challenge.

If there is such a thing, my two boys entered the world without the authority-deferent gene. From the time they could talk, ‘no’ was attached to every phrase they said. It seemed they learned to walk only to run away from us. They were put to bed only to keep us awake. Like a surprised hiker meeting up with a bear I often postured myself to appear bigger than I am in order to hold my ground against the rebellion forces. Prior to children Dennis the Menace was a favorite classic of mine.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: Genesis 7, Matthew 7, Ezra 7, and Acts 7

matthew 7By Lisa Velthouse

Writing class, senior year, undergrad. It was over ten years ago now, and still I remember Katie’s take on a particular assignment. Our professor had told us to write with honesty about ourselves. Something like that. I remember the gist of the assignment only because of how Katie fulfilled it. We went around the room, reading what we had put together, and it was all sentiment and cheap disclosure until we got to Katie, who said things like:

I’m so selfish that sometimes I wish I could take other people’s things, so I wouldn’t have to be jealous anymore.

I look in the mirror sometimes and tell myself I’m prettier than another woman is. It gives me smug satisfaction to think like that.

I often want to lie about myself to my roommates and friends, to make them think I’m better than I am.

I looked down at my own version of the honesty assignment and was suddenly ashamed to see things like I’d love to be published someday and I’m a farm girl at heart. Hardly gut-deep. Aligned next to Katie’s version of honesty, I found that my own lacked an important kind of bravery and candor.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Chronicles 5:1-6:11, 1 John 4, Nahum 3, and Luke 19

1 john 4By Emily Cummins

I guess you could call me a list maker. Currently, I have eight running to do lists on my phone, all of which I update on a daily basis. I have lists outlining who I need to send thank you cards to, which Christmas presents to buy, work projects I need to conquer, personal goals I want to meet, and even a list of adventures I plan on tackling with friends. I like the feeling of being organized and knowing where to find information when I need it. But perhaps more than a need to be organized, I like that rush you get when you finally scratch an item off your list, banning it from your memory entirely, leaving no loose ends behind.

Recently, I’ve found that I’ve translated this to do list mentality to other areas of my life…areas outside the realm of projects and items requiring action steps. I’m discovering that much like my reminders of who I need to send thank you cards to, I’ve looked at seasons of my life and even certain friendships as to do list items as well, anxiously trying to check them off my list in order to move on to the next.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Chronicles 3-4, 1 John 3, Nahum 2, and Luke 18

Luke 18By Lisa Velthouse

Our daughter is 19 months old, and today she spent half an hour in our kitchen, squeezing herself into and out of a box meant to hold clementine oranges. All four sides of the packaging around her were emblazoned with the clementine brand name: Cuties. Appropriate.

“Mama, howp,” came the request whenever her little feet became stuck in the corners.

She is enthralled by soapy bubbles in the kitchen sink, by the recycling truck’s weekly visits, and by the multicolored twinkle lights our neighbors strung along their front porch last night. Falling rain produces more excitement in her than any little body could contain. She gets agitated about the vacuum, keeping her distance and keeping aware. When her fingertips get wrinkly after a warm bath, it baffles her that she can’t lick the creases away.

Reading today’s portion from Luke 18, the first thought that came to mind was her look of sheer wonderment yesterday at bedtime, when together we peered over the half-curtain in her bedroom to see those Christmas lights.

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:17

There was so much awe and thrill in her eyes.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 1 Chronicles 5-6, Hebrews 10, Amos 4, and Psalm 148-150

Psalm 149By Amy Kannel

A while back, I was enthralled by a collection of wedding photographs that made the Internet rounds. Someone had compiled pictures of grooms seeing their brides for the first time, and the raw emotion captured in those photos was something to behold. In the pictures, the men clap their hands over their open mouths. They weep. They are unable to hide their awe and joy and amazement. Each man is captivated by the beauty of his bride, stunned that this incredible woman is actually his.

When a wedding processional begins, at that dramatic moment when the church doors open and all eyes turn toward the bride, I love to sneak a peek at the groom. I don’t want to miss his face when he drinks in the sight of his beloved, looking more beautiful than she ever has before.

And part of her beauty comes from being so loved, does it not? She has adorned herself with the finest dress she will ever wear; she has taken great care with her hair and makeup and accessories. But the extra beauty she possesses on her wedding day comes from the love that glows in her eyes, from her delight in her soon-to-be husband and her confidence in knowing he adores her.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Kings 4, 1 Timothy 1, Daniel 8, and Psalm 116

2 Kings 4By Lisa Velthouse

Colorado Springs, 1999. My first real job as a writer.

I was 17, and I had been chosen by the editors of a teen magazine to write a column every other month for a year. “Lisa’s Line,” they called it. They had flown me to Colorado by myself for a weekend photo shoot, to get the next January’s cover image and a few more pictures for accompanying my columns. The editor in charge of choosing me that year, Andrea, had flown in for the weekend as well. She and I were staying in the same hotel, and I was positively awed by her.

Andrea asked if I would meet her for breakfast at the hotel restaurant on the day of the shoot. So I found her at a table that morning, sat across from her, and tried to mirror her beautiful posture without being obvious about it. (Was it the way she held her shoulders? Were they forward or back? Or up?) I tried to say intelligent things and to not hold my fork awkwardly. I was embarrassed that my hair was still a little damp.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 1 Kings 14, Colossians 1, Ezekiel 44, and Psalm 97-98

noswim_KGBy Kelli Gotthardt

When I was a kid growing up in rural Iowa, we had very strict codes around ‘Sabbath’ observance. There was simply no work to be done on Sundays, save farming. That included no eating out (which was paying someone to work for you) or homework (no tests were scheduled for Mondays at the local Christian college or grade school I attended) or playing sports. To participate in these activities on Sunday was to essentially make yourself ‘unclean’. If my Aunt Jean was visiting from out of town the list of unclean activities expanded to include swimming and sun bathing. Acceptable activities included taking a Sunday drive after church (which we did each week) followed by an afternoon nap (the reason I hated Sunday as a child).

Things have changed in regard to Sunday rest. Going out to eat after church is now just considered good Christian fellowship and shopping, studying, and sporting activities are not only not taboo, they are encouraged. I’m grateful for the freedom from the legalism of my youth, but after reading the passages this week I am left wondering if I’m truly differentiating between the holy and the common.… Continue Reading