January 2023 Devotional: Flourishing During the Peaceful Seasons of Life

By Captain Sandra Solis
Salem, OR KROC Hispanic Ministries – Cascade Division

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. Psalm 1:1-2 NLT

Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation; I will be honored throughout the world. Psalm 46:10 NLT

Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7 NLT

Peace be with you; Shalom in Hebrew was a typical goodbye in the times of Christ. This simple phrase was not only a way to say goodbye but to wish their fellow man a peaceful rest of their day or journey, almost like a prayer or blessing upon the traveler, no matter if they were a loved one, friend, or stranger. Peace be with you, four simple words that some may not have thought about most of the time, but if we, as Christians, were to take up this practice of saying, peace be with you, as our fellow man leaves. To be able to wish someone Shalom, we must have peace in our souls as well.

We can look at our flourishing life is like a garden. If our garden is not tended to regularly, we can lose the peace and rest that the Lord gives us. We learn throughout the bible that we need to tend to the garden of our soul. This takes work, and it takes support. You cannot grow to an actual garden, but just planting the seed and walking away, you need to water it, supply nourishment, and pull the weeds. We need to do this; sometimes, we must remove the weeds that affect our peacefulness and joy. Remember, friends, when pulling out the weeds of life, we might run into painful moments, but they are necessary. These moments make us stronger and healthier and allow us to grow into the person God has intended us to be.

We must remember that we need the Lord with us, maybe even more during our times of tending the garden of our soul, because when we let the weeds come in, our peace and stillness are affected. These are the times when we honestly need Him the most. This is because we don’t reach out to our master gardener when we feel like everything is going well. We feel like we can handle things ourselves. However, we need to stay connected to God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit at all times by reading the word, staying in intentional prayer, attending Bible studies, and fellowshipping with our church family. We must remember that when we flourish, we do so by studying God’s Word.

Prayer:
Lord God, we pray that your Holy Spirit brings those into the lives that can help us tend the garden of our soul. Please give us the right mindset to hear what you have for us. Let our hearts discern the counsel that your Holy Spirit is giving us. When we seek your will in our lives, let us follow you and not get complaisant or get in your way by saying, not now, Lord. Let us be willing to accept the path you have walked before us with a generous spirit. In Christ’s name, Amen!

December 2022 Devotional: Grace in the Grinding Season

By Angelina Koenig
Northwest Division

“But he answered, ‘My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds it full expression through your weakness. So, I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I have three best friends with whom I text almost daily or chat with every couple of weeks. One of the things that I find with my best friends is that I text them about life. It could be when I am having a good day, not-so-great day, downward spiral of thoughts kind of day. What I appreciate about my friends is that each one will respond. The responses I receive are anything from encouragement, accountability, Scriptures, and sometimes memes that make me laugh.

I recently texted my friends about a not-so-good day I was having. Things were stressful and I didn’t have a clear mindset that could help improve my situation. My friend texted a picture of her devotional book and there was the verse from 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he answered, ‘My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness. So, I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.”

“I sense more deeply the power of Christ living in me” part of the Scripture hit me to the core. It made me pause and think, what if I lived this verse out each day, conscientiously, in my life? Would there be a difference in how I operate and interact with others?

In the grinding season of December, we find ourselves in various beautiful geographic locations throughout the Western United States. Yet, we find ourselves in one season at the same time—Christmas. The time where we are grabbing a Starbucks, Dutch Bro’s, or a favorite drink from our local coffee shop not just one time a day, but maybe two times. It is the season where we “need” the extra to help us through the daily grind of serving others and forsaking ourselves. We all understand this. Yet, during the grinding season of Christmas, there is something important for each of us to strive.

It is a time where we want to strive for grace. Grace in the grinding season. Grace for ourselves. Grace for those we love. Grace for those we serve. When I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me and loving me throughout each moment of the day. Christ is loving me through His promises of walking with me and speaking to me. When I recognize the grace of Christ in me, I am more apt to show grace to those I love.

When I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ when I love my family better. When I take a moment to pause and breath in Christ’s grace and exhale His peace in tiring moments. I take a moment to pause and breathe in Christ’s grace and exhale His peace when the schedule is crammed and another thing comes up that might make me explode with words on a loved on.

When I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ when I serve others without forsaking myself and my spirit. We have all been called to serve God and serve others in love. Yet, I cannot serve others when I forsake my spirit. My spirit, your spirit, cannot be what is getting grinded in the busy season of Christmas, or any season for that matter.

I feel more deeply the mighty power of Christ when I accept the grace, He has for me. It is more than the grace of salvation that Christ has for each one of us. It is the grace of love, of peace, of healthy thoughts, and physical well-being.

To help myself flourish in the grinding season of Christmas, my promise to Christ and myself, is this: I will pause in the morning to ask for help in accepting the grace Christ has offered me. I will ask for help in showing grace to myself and others. I will pause as often as possible to ask for grace in situations that arise and are difficult to handle. I will pause to give thanks for the ability to walk in the power of his grace and therefore, continually strengthen my spirit.

I have designed a small breath prayer that may be helpful to you if you find yourself in need of grace.


Dear God,
I breathe in your grace and exhale your peace over my life.
I breathe in your grace and exhale your peace over all situations I encounter today.
I breathe in your grace in my weakness to exhale your mighty power available to me.
I breathe in your grace in my weakness to exhale your mighty power in the life of my family.
I breathe in your grace because it is more than enough for me and I exhale your mighty power because your grace is perfect for me, for others, and for all situations.
Amen.

Sisters, may you know the deep and mighty power of the grace of Christ in your life during this grinding season. May you experience the grace that Christ has for you. May you know you are loved graciously and lavishly by Christ, Himself.

November 2022 Devotional: Contentment at the Feet of Jesus

By Capt. Tanya Pemberton
Administrator of Program at Santa Monica, CA Adult Rehabilitation Center

Working in The Salvation Army can have our wheels spinning, especially with this constant cycle of change and transition happening in our centers, corps, and lives. The truth is, I know I am called to be an Officer; and at this time, I am in the ARC; what a beautiful and fantastic ministry! However, God has taken me down some very overwhelming and uncomfortable paths over the past few years. Paths that I could not figure out on my own.

Things got so bad that I was told I could be put on OED (officer experiencing difficulty). That scared me, and I had to figure out how to go on. I was so depressed and wanted out. I planned out leaving officership. I was extremely frustrated and angry. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I couldn’t stop being so angry at the situation.

It was at this time I remember making a promise to God that I would never leave the ministry angry. This meant that I had to figure it out but didn’t know where to start. That’s when God whispered to my heart: “Go back to the basics” I had to remember that God wired me with gifts that I do exceptionally well. He also stretches me in areas to remind me that I am entirely dependent on Him, which must have been what He was doing.

So back to the basics, what is that? When I think of getting back to the basics, I immediately think of Jesus’ visit with Martha and Mary at their home in Bethany. Luke 10:38-42 talks about this visit. It says:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I know that no matter how hard I try to embark on my own strength, it all comes back to relying on God. I can never do it on my own, and I’m alright with that because things manage to work out better when I turn to Jesus for help: when I posture myself at His feet throughout my day, and that is just what I did.

First, I went to His feet, the feet of Jesus, in my mind. I sat there picturing Him, and me at His feet. It is there that I found a quiet place in my heart. Then I went back to the basics, back to truth, back to the foundation of sound teaching we have in Jesus Christ. Mark 12:30-31 says this, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

This started my journey to where I am now; flourishing in the season I am in – contentment! Focusing on God and the beautiful souls that God entrusted to The Salvation Army under my care, I let the rest go. It didn’t seem to matter as much as time passed.

Now I am not facing OED, quite the opposite. I am flourishing in my appointment and so are the people around me. Are there things I wish I could change? Definitely, but that no longer defines me, or my day. I can focus on the things that matter, God, others, and my family. And those things that matter to me the most are loving others just as Christ has instructed in his greatest commandment.

My hope and my prayer is that this devotional touched your heart today and it allowed you to understand that while you’re going through the storms of life, Christ is there, go back to the basics, and depend on him in all that you do and say, and he will guide your footsteps.

Tanya with her family

October 2022 Devotional: The Ordinary Season

By Captain Jessica Stevens
Family Care Director – College For Officer Training

It’s back-to-school season, and like many moms and caregivers, I feel like my life is being overrun by to-do lists. With two kids in two different schools, a dog, and two cats my days are filled with mundane and ordinary moments. School supply lists, first day of school outfits, extracurricular activity registration, and annual medical and dental appointments all fall (mom pun intended) into the month of September.
These are the days, and this is the SEASON OF THE VERY ORDINARY.

Now, as a kid, I dreamt of being an adult. I pictured being a Grown Up Lady that stayed up as late as I wanted, wore fancy shoes, and, delight of delights: ate at the restaurant of my choosing for dinner. Actual adulthood looks very different than my childhood imaginings. Sometimes I feel a little like Bill Murphy in Groundhog Day: every day looks very similar to the one before.

  • Alarm: 6 am
  • Take dog out, pour cup of coffee, complete Wordle
  • Devotions/breakfast prep/make school lunches
  • Morning routine/put in a load of laundry/remind kids to wear deodorant
  • Pack backpacks, computer bags, purse, lunches, water bottles, to go coffee into the van
  • 8:00 am depart
  • Work, make dinner, do dishes, coral kids for chores, check homework
  • Sweep floors, listen to 67 stories about Roblux, remind kids to shower, argue about reading, take out the dog
  • Start bedtime routine, program coffeemaker, fold laundry, read to kiddos

Repeat ad nauseum.

I know I’m not alone in this. Friends and sisters and aunties share similar stories of fatigue and emotional labor. Meme after meme tells the story of frazzled women hanging on by their threadbare leggings.
As a girl, I read Bible stories about David fighting Goliath, Esther saving her people, Paul preaching to the crowds, and Miriam singing songs of freedom. I dreamt of lofty things, and now I’m folding socks and jeans.

A few years ago I realized I was sorting my prayer concerns the way I sort laundry. I had a mental basket of “big” things I was consistently bringing to the feet of Jesus: school issues, family rifts, medical diagnoses, etc. But smaller, more ordinary concerns were being left out. While in my head I knew that God in His goodness cared about all my cares; in practice, I was filtering my prayers. I was weeding out the ordinary concerns of my life: math homework, sibling disagreements, my own weaknesses and fatigue.

But Scripture is full of the ordinary. Of course, as a child, I loved the adventure stories. Deborah, Esther, Ruth – what girl wouldn’t love these tails? These biblical heroines provide examples of strength, courage, faith and grit and are dear to me still. But in this Very Ordinary season, I see the Spirit just as much in other, less glamorous verses.

The oft-quoted Romans 12:1, paraphrased by Eugene Peterson in the Message reminds us “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” In this season, 90% of my life is sleeping, eating, going to work/school, and walking around; of course the God of my heart is present in these moments and in this season.

From Genesis to Revelation, from ancient times to today, if we look closely we can see a God who cares deeply for us and our small, human concerns. The God Who Came Near shows us this in Scripture: look close – you’ll see it, too. Don’t believe me? Read Leviticus. God cared so deeply for his people Israel he was very specific about their safety, worship, planting, livestock, meals and so much more.

We have only to spend a little time in the Gospels to see this in the character of Jesus himself: his stories are full of human concerns, lost coins, lost children, seeds and shallow soil. We frequently see him eating communal meals and going to people’s homes. Do we think he lived a human life and didn’t have human concerns or ordinary days?

We don’t sort have to sort our prayer concerns like laundry. If it’s on our minds or hearts, silly or serious, we can bring it to the Gentle Father. We can look through the whole of Scripture and see the love of our God in the ordinary and in the adventure. We can be like Deborah; speaking frank truth. We can be like Esther, listening to the Spirit and knocking on doors that aren’t open to us. We can be like Ruth, providing for our families and loving loyally. And in every single moment, we can lay our ordinary, sleeping, walking, going to work lives before the feet of Jesus.

September 2022 Devotional: Making Head Knowledge into HEART Knowledge

By Major Ronalee Fenrich
Honolulu, HI Adult Rehabilitation Center

Everyone has favorite foods, and I am no exception. I love avocados! But I had really only been exposed to one type of avocado my entire life. Spending nearly all of my 52 years on the West Coast, I was familiar with the Haas avocado. To be honest, I hadn’t even considered the fact there may be other types of avocados to choose from!

Two years ago, I moved to Hawaii. That has been an adventure in and of itself! I am surrounded by plant and animal life I had never been exposed to before, and it has been quite the project to learn all about these beautiful creations so new to me. One of the things I have had to learn more about – Avocados!

There is a large and very old avocado tree in my backyard. However, the avocados growing on it are very different that what I am used to. This tree grows Dominican avocados, most commonly found in Florida. Unlike Haas avocados, when Dominicans are fully ripe, they do not fit nicely in the palm of your hand. They grow so large they take tow hands to hold. They are HUGE, and it takes skill to harvest them off the tree, because one wrong move means you will get whacked in the head with a heavy piece of fruit! When Haas avocados are too soft to the touch, that is a sign they are rotting. However, Dominican avocados need to be soft to the touch. If you try to cut one open before that point, all you find inside is rock hard fruit that can’t be used.

It may seem strange I would invest so much time in trying to understand more about avocados, but when I realized what was growing on the tree was different than what I was accustomed to, I had to start doing some learning!

I think it is human nature to gravitate toward what is familiar, and what we already know to be true. There is often comfort in “knowing what we know.” The downside to that, however, is when we are too comfortable in our knowledge, we are often unwilling to consider there may be more information we need to take into account. This is especially true when we are learning God’s Word and working to apply it to our lives.

When I was in college, I moved to the city of Seattle. I was a Salvation Army Officer’s kid who had moved around a lot, but never in my life had I lived somewhere so big! The Corps I attended was at least four times larger than the last one I had attended before leaving home, and the congregation was so diverse! It was all an enormous adjustment. For the first time in my life, I was being exposed to various viewpoints and opinions I had never heard before. I remember being in some sort of friendly debate with other young adults in the Corps about a Biblical concept. Someone in the group said something to the effect of, “I was taught to believe this way.” Another said something about the importance of Church traditions. I eventually said something like, “I was always told to do it like this.” One of the Corps Officers who had been standing by listening to us, popped his head into the group, smiled, and said, “But what does the Bible say about it?”

That was a wakeup call for me! After some reflection, I realized I had been basing my entire belief system on what I had always heard and was guilty of not really studying the Bible for myself. Perhaps what I had always believed to be true was correct, but how would I truly know until I compared it against God’s Word?

Recently, I was looking at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. It is one of the most basic and easy to understand sermons Jesus ever taught. It is a sermon I had heard and read so many times, I admittedly had started just “speed reading” through it rather than taking the time to reflect on each word.

This time when I read, I tried to really focus on what Jesus was saying, and you know what? There were some important things I had been missing!

First of all, I was reminded Jesus was talking to a large group of mostly Jewish people who had grown up hearing the law of Moses and the Ten Commandments. He knew they had most likely been basing their beliefs on what they had always been taught about the law, rather than learning the law itself. Jesus made sure they understood the purpose of His teaching about the law, when in Matthew 5:17 He says, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” He then went on to challenge their understanding of what God taught through Moses.

As Jesus preached, he would begin by saying, “You have heard.” You can see this beginning in Matthew 5:21. Basically, Jesus was saying, “You may think you understand what the law is about, but there is so much more you need to know!” He would then immediately follow the statement, “You have heard” with “But I say.” He pointed His listeners to God’s true intent of the law, and covered areas of life such as anger, family life and marriage, making promises, revenge, and how to deal with our enemies.

Matthew Chapter 5 ends with words from Jesus about how to apply God’s law in our interaction with those we see as our enemies. In Matthew 5:43-45 Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and unjust alike.”

In today’s deeply troubled world, we are almost encouraged to be divided and live-in opposition with one another. But that isn’t what Jesus taught us to do. He taught us a better way, and that is to reflect His pure love in the way we interact with our enemies. This can’t be a phony or half-hearted kindness. Jesus says we are to pray for them, and sincerely ask God to work in their lives. We are to show true and intentional love toward them. This is they way God requires us to live.

Jesus taught it wasn’t enough to show up in Church regularly so we can know ABOUT God’s Word. Jesus taught it was vital we know God’s Word so intimately that we LIVE it! The only way to make that a reality is to be active students of His Word, asking God to help it take root in our heart so it will change the way we live.

“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” Romans 10:2

Let’s all vow to become committed students of God’s Word, and let it plant deep in our hearts!

Download a printable version of this devotional

August 2022 Devotional: Eyes Wide Open

By Jacqui Larsson, Territorial Social Justice Ministries Director
Territorial Social Justice Department

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV)

When I read this verse recently, it struck me in a new way. If you read the context, it defines “the least of these” as those who are hungry, thirsty, unclothed, sick, imprisoned, and estranged. I’ve often imagined that “the least of these” would be easy to identify – like those who live on the streets that we see almost every time we take a walk of drive our cars through the city – but unfortunately this is not always the case, and we actually need to have our eyes and ears wide open to see those who are hurting all around us. Sadly, the traffickers in our communities have figured this out too and are experts at doing just that – their eyes and ears are wide open! These perpetrators, both men and women, seem to be able to spot the potential victims, the vulnerable, those who feel “unseen”, and deliberately move in on their prey to show them that they can be cared for, given a place to stay, even showered with gifts – which results in them being lured into trafficking situations where they are exploited, sold, treated as objects and often hurt or even killed – all whilst tricking these young women, men and children into believing that they are being taken care of, and no one will ever “see them” and “treat them” as well as their pimp or trafficker.

Jesus was the perfect example to each of us of how we can interact with others in society to ensure that they know they are seen, not only by us, but by our heavenly Father who looks past our circumstances, the people we associate with, and the decisions we have made, in order to love us and save us from a world of hurt. Jesus saw the criminal hanging beside him at Calvary and said the words “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus saw the Samaritan woman at the well as He went against all cultural expectations and moved beyond hostility toward restoration, putting his own “religious cleanliness” into question as He shared a cup with, not only a woman but a woman, who was clearly an outsider in her own community (John 4:1-26). Jesus saw the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), he saw those suffering from mental illness, disabilities, and sickness (Luke 5:18-26), the list goes on and on. He was willing to surrender his privilege to cross cultural boundaries and draw these people into relationships, and He still does this for each of us today. Just like Jesus, we need to have our eyes opened to see those in need so that we too, can cross boundaries and build relationships!

Traffickers work tirelessly to see the vulnerable in society, to be the first people to greet the young girls and boys leaving foster care, to reach out to those who have run away from toxic home situations and need a place to stay, and to spend time with kids when they leave school for the day and have nowhere else to go. It is our responsibility to let those same kids know that we see them and more importantly, that God sees them too!

Prayer: Lord, please give us eyes to see and ears to hear those around us who need you – help us be brave as we look into the darkness to share your light. Show us how to help and give us courage to speak up. Protect these men, women, girls and boys from predators who offer promises of a better life but are actively planning their destruction. Use us to seek out and fight for the least of these.

Note: Check out this month’s Bible Study, To Be Seen By God, and this month’s craft, Lights Shining in the Darkness, that coordinates with this devotional. Also check out the resource Red Flags and Responses.

July 2022 Devotional: A Godly Character

By Major Millie Bearchell
Personnel Officer – College for Officer Training

“The true test of a man’s (persons) character is what he does when no one is looking.”
UCLA former basketball coach John Wooden

There was a brief period in time when Brian and I were not Salvation Army officers due to a family situation that needed to be addressed. During the seven years, Brian completed his master’s degree and obtained his teaching credentials and began a new career as an elementary school teacher. I worked at a large mega church as the director of their care and concern ministry department. Together, we had the arduous journey of “beginning again” with a new direction and journey in life.

During this time, we attended the church where I was employed, and we eventually became involved in ministry as much as our schedules allowed. Money was very tight to say the least, as we had to relocate homes, find jobs, and make the adjustment to living with a substantial increase in monthly financial obligations.

We have always relied on God and growing up we were taught the importance and value of tithing. I would have to say, that this time in our lives, as older, mature adults, we relied on God more than we ever had. We never wavered though in our tithing. Even though we were attending a mega church, with a large budget and our tithe was small in comparison, it never occurred to us to not tithe. There were times, when we only had $20.00 for gas, or $75.00 for food, but we never went hungry and not once did we suffer or lack for our needs being met. Times were tough, but Scripture and prayer were my (our) lifesavers.

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4

The word “character” is from the Greek word dokime, which is a noun. The verb form is dokimazo, which means: “to be approved, to put to the test for the purpose of approving.” Thus, it means: “proven character”. It is through the trials of life that we mature in Christian character.

Do suffering and trials always cause a believer to mature? Could suffering and trials have a negative effect on Christians? Sure, they could. Hebrews 3:12 (NKJV) says, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.

The author is writing to believers telling them to constantly be watching out lest there be found in them an evil heart of unbelief. Listen, believers, we ALL have the potential to doubt God, the capacity to unbelieve. We are capable of doubting God, and it is particularly under the pressures of stress and trouble that can cause our hearts to harden and our character to be tarnished.

Using our story as an example, God sees each of our hearts. He is a God of love and grace. He never gives up on us and no matter what circumstance comes our way, or we find ourselves in this day, God is developing and molding our character so we can be more like Him. May we hold onto the promises and keep our eyes focused on Him so that we can claim the promise of Romans 5:5, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

June 2022 Devotional: Sea Glass and Souls

By Major Nancy Helms
Spiritual Care Director – College for Officer Training

I LOVE SEA GLASS. Some might even say I’m obsessed. That is a claim I absolutely will NOT deny. The process by which sea glass becomes a smooth and beautiful gem over time never ceases to amaze me. At a point in time, a piece of garbage is tossed on the shore or over the side of a cliff or sea vessel. That piece of garbage breaks into pieces that becomes shards of glass. After years of being tumbled and tossed about in water, sand and rocks, what was once a dangerous object that could harm, becomes refined and smooth. Doesn’t that just excite you? I know it does.

I can literally spend hours upon hours combing the beach in search of someone’s old, lost marble, a piece of broken bottle, or a beautiful chunk of pottery. My curious mind will make up stories about who has played with the marble, taken a drink out of the bottle or eaten off the china. Get my sister out there with me, and we are like two crazy middle-aged women on a critical mission, with hope in our eyes and renewed breath in our lungs. It’s like a huge treasure hunt, only without the map.

A couple of years ago, my sister and I were able to make a dream come true when we traveled to the North Sea, in England, finding glass, marbles and pottery dating back to the 19th century. We would leave our place at the crack of dawn and stay until we could no longer see the sea. Our backs had this beautiful ache from bending over to get the best view of what was in front of us. At one point, I found myself climbing a large wall covered in seaweed, only to get to the top where I lost my footing and slid all the way down. I was bruised, cut, smelled like fish and covered in seaweed, but not deterred. Praying nobody saw me, I hurriedly collected my loot that had spilled and moved on.

I’m not sure I have ever found a “perfect” piece of sea glass. Even the best pieces usually have some sort of flaw. It may take a microscope to see them, but they exist. There are some colors and shapes more coveted than others. To me, each piece has value, as well as a story to tell.

I think what I love most about sea glass is the way it reminds me of my own broken and restored life. Because of dumb choices I have made, falls from metaphorical ladders I had no business climbing, selfish desires and unpredictable storms, I have been tossed and turned in God’s immense ocean of love, where he has refined me, and continues the refining process. He has made beauty from the broken pieces of my life. Some of the refining has taken years, while some of it is still taking place. Some flaws are still visible, and others God has to show me. I don’t dare leave this ocean of love, because He who began a good work is still faithfully restoring my soul to His perfect image. What was once an individual that was broken has been healed and made new and beautiful through God’s deep ocean of love. If nothing else excites you, I hope the idea of a transformed life from the inside out does.

O ocean of mercy, oft longing I’ve stood
On the brink of Thy wonderful, life giving flood!
Once more I have reached this soul cleansing sea,
I will not go back till it rolls over me.
William Booth

Note: Check out this month’s craft, Sea Glass Ideas, and this month’s Bibles study, Transformed Treasures, that coordinates with this devotional.

May 2022 Devotional: My ‘More’ List

By Major Noelle Nelson
Divisional Women’s Ministries Secretary – Golden State Division

Sometimes ‘more’ just feels right! I know we’re instructed from our earliest years that wanting more of something is a bit selfish. I suppose that could be true. More cool shoes, more fun toys, more food on our plate, more delicious pie… But seriously, what’s the problem with wanting more cool socks to go with the cool shoes? Is it wrong to want more new books to read when I’ve already got a bookshelf stuffed with ‘still to be read’ books? And is it a crime to want more flowers delivered directly to my office desk? at lunchtime? when everyone passing by can ‘oooo’ and ‘aaahhh’ at their beauty?

I guess one could get a bit carried away with wanting ‘more.’ Because wanting more always leads to wanting… more. Where does it stop? When do we reach the resting place of, “Ahhh! I am at peace because I now have enough!” The answer is pretty obvious, or at least it should be: It will never, ever happen. And yet we sometimes get to thinking it will. We are given a terse reminder in Matthew 6:19, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”

I can relate. I once had the opportunity to buy a beautiful, soft, woolly sweater in Scotland. It came with a card explaining the care and keeping of such a fine garment. In addition to being hand-washed in cold water with a special fiber-preserving cleanser (sold separately), the sweater was to be stored with mothballs as it was a particular variety of wool that moths were prone to eat quickly. Have you smelled mothballs?? And my sweater would smell like THAT!? That was way too much hassle (and bad smell) to keep the moths at bay.

I can also relate to thieves breaking in and stealing. One Sunday we came home from the Corps to find our house broken into and ransacked. It was such a mess, it was difficult to figure out what was actually missing. The few things we did have of any value had all been taken. And things of sentimental value, like the beautiful little cedar chest on my dresser, had been smashed. “…where thieves break in and steal” became a hard truth for me. I still don’t like to have valuable things in my home, just in case.

More, more, more. Is this ‘more’ inherently destructive? Is it ever okay to want ‘more’? To have ‘more’? To be ‘more’? Believe it or not, where Christ is concerned, it is absolutely okay! “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:30). When we want MORE of Jesus and continue to put Him first, our priorities and desires shift. As we seek MORE of Him, He fills our lives with more good things than we could ever imagine or hope for! It is exciting to me that God wants us to HAVE MORE! But it’s not the same ‘more’ that the world says we need. When we allow God to shift our desires from ‘stuff’ to the ‘treasures’ that earth cannot take away, we will be filled to the top with wonder, amazement and gratitude! What we get is MORE love, power, peace, joy, and forgiveness than we can comprehend. And that is something we definitely could use MORE of. God wants us to enjoy the fullness of life while we’re here on earth. Instead of filling it with more ‘stuff,’ what God-honoring activities and things could you incorporate more of into your day? Create a list (you can call it your ‘More List’) of what you really need more of. Let’s change the focus of what our ‘more’ is, to what brings glory to Him!

Here’s a little list of ‘good things’ you can aim to get more of:

  • Get MORE sleep (can I get an amen?)
  • Drink MORE water
  • Get MORE exercise
  • Read MORE
  • Get MORE organized
  • Explore MORE
  • Relax MORE
  • Have MORE patience
  • MORE of Jesus, less of ME!

April 2022 Devotional: Strength and Hope

By Major Cathy Quinn
Angoon, AK Corps – Alaska Division

The Sovereign LORD is my strength. HE makes me as sure footed as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. Habakkuk 3:19

In February of 2020, I was out hiking with my dogs on a trail near our house. When I came to an especially narrow part of the trail my foot slipped and I reached out to catch a branch that turned out to not be attached to anything. Needless to say; I went tumbling halfway down a steep embankment. I heard a “pop” in my left ankle as I began my descent. When I finally came to a stop and gathered myself, I knew that my ankle was broken.

I was half of a mile from my vehicle, with no cell reception. Even if I had had cell reception to describe where I was and to get help getting out didn’t seem to me as being feasible. So, I said a prayer for strength, limped the rest of the way down the embankment to the beach and back to my vehicle.

Several months later, after surgery and a very frustrating time of recovery, I decided to face that trail again. By this time, my husband had cleared a trail through the woods that bypassed the narrow part where I had taken my trip. Honestly though, I was a little nervous the first time I walked that trail after my recovery.

Spiritually, we often trip walking on the narrow way and sometimes we reach out for support to things or people that are not able to support us. During these times, we need GOD’s strength and support to get us where we need to go.

We also need to allow GOD to make our paths straight and renew the hope within us. Just because we took a tumble doesn’t mean that we must stay by the wayside. With GOD we can and will walk the narrow way again and enjoy the journey.