November 2023 Devotional: Live Simply – Remain Grateful

By Major Linnea Desplancke
Administrator for Program 
Canoga Park, CA Adult Rehabilitation Center

Live simply – Remain Grateful

I was walking by this shop, and this sign caught my eye. I stood there thinking about how true it is for us to live as simply as possible and more importantly, remain grateful. When ingratitude remains in our hearts, it is not possible for us to live a life of victory and serenity. When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they were full of joy and gratitude to God for saving them from their captivity. But they consistently lost hope when the journey took too long, when Moses was on Mount Saini too long, and when they complained about the food God provided them. Not to mention, their shoes and clothing never wore out. One day Moses had enough of their complaining and said, “Quiet!” Moses replied. “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the Lord?” (Exodus 17:2b)

So often we too complain to God about things and situations when something does not go our way. We question God asking where He is and why is He not answering our prayers. We start to think that we can take care of ourselves better than He can. Going back to the way we used to live seems like a good idea. But we are only fooling ourselves. Trying to do life without God will most certainly end in disaster. We will fall back into our old sins and many even start committing new ones. Failing to see the things in life God has given to us, makes us truly ungrateful. If we want to have gratitude in our lives, we need to let go of our ingratitude, ask forgiveness from God, and immediately start to look at the things God and others have done for and given us. Psalm 92:1-4 reminds us to give thanks to God and praise Him for all He has given us.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High. It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening, accompanied by the ten-stringed harp and the melody of the lyre. You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done.

As far as living simply, this can more difficult. We fill our lives with stuff, spending exorbitant time on our electronic devices, and other things that distract or take away from time with our families and more importantly, God. We spend money we do not have trying to keep up with our neighbors or to get the latest gadget. It is hard to slow down, check out our lives, and see where we can live more simply. We can fill our boredom with reading the bible or in prayer. We can call up a friend or take a walk. Being grateful is a great way to live simply. When our hearts are full of gratitude, there is no room for living large. The Beatitudes say it simply, “God bless those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” Matthew 5:5

You may be thinking, that’s easy for you to say. But once I was in a place in my life that my gratitude slowly slipped away. Before I knew it, I did not think God was working in my life at all and all I could see what He was not giving me and I was not getting what I wanted. This was a dark season for me. I was not a nice person to be around nor was I engaged in the ministry I have always loved. Like a bear with a sore tooth, I snarled and growled at anyone that dared cross my path. I started getting more involved with things, outside my ministry and family, that were not good and not helping me or others. Soon all I could see was what other people had that I did not, and this made me very angry. I started doubting my calling. Of course, my husband noticed this and asked me what was going on. I looked at my life and saw how far I had fallen from where I was meant to be. I did some soul searching with God and saw I had not been grateful for what He had done for me and given me. I also realized that my life was very worldly and that was a problem. So, I prayed, sought forgiveness and starting to live simply and grateful again. Since that point I am at peace, loving my ministry wholeheartedly, and full of fresh love and vigor for His people. Daily I remind myself to live simply and remain grateful. It is a whole new and fresh world for me.

In case you were wondering, I went back to the shop and brought that sign.

October 2023 Devotional: Take a Sabbath Rest

By Captain Ryan Boyd
Denver Red Shield Corps, CO – Intermountain Division

I once had a friend who asked me what I did on my day off. When I started listing the unending responsibilities I had at home, she cut me off and said it didn’t sound much like a day off to her. “Well, if I don’t get them done on that day, when will it get done?” was my exasperated reply.

Busyness is often worn as a badge of honor in our society. We book back to back meetings and activities and wonder why we are always exhausted. We were not made to go all day every day. Like our electronics, we need a time to recharge our batteries.

Exodus 20:8-11 says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

It seems to me that we have taken the ten commandments and made them nine commandments and a suggestion. We treat this instruction from God as an optional activity instead of the mandate it is. As the Israelites are heading to the Promise Land, God gives Moses instructions for them so that they will live in a way that pleases God. We know that the first four relate to our relationship with God and the last six relate to our relationships with others.

God knew it was important for us to rest. Not sleep in, not have a lazy Saturday, but to rest. To trust in Him to provide for our needs. Now, most of my Sabbaths involve sleeping in because that is what my body needs to refresh. Even if it is just thirty extra minutes, I feel it when I wake up. But Sabbath rest goes much deeper. It is resting from my work knowing that I am not the one who makes the world go around – God is. I am not the one in control – God is. And when I spend my time dwelling in that knowledge, I can enter the rest that God provides.

But Sabbath rest goes much deeper. It is resting from my working knowing that I am not the one who makes the world go around – God is. I am not the one in control – God is.

Captain Ryan Boyd

In Mark 2:27-28, Jesus tells the Pharisees that man was not made for the Sabbath, rather the Sabbath was made for man. Taking a Sabbath is not something we do because we want to check off something from our “Good Christian” to-do list. It is not meant to be a burden at all. Instead, it was made for us to refresh and delight in what the Lord has provided for us. We are supposed to be joyful during our Sabbath. Originally, it was intended to give reprieve to the Israelites who had the mindset of an enslaved person – their brains told them they needed to work all day every day. God said no – my plan for you is better. Enter into the rest I provide.

The Pharisees morphed the Sabbath into something it was not intended to be – rigid rule following. They burdened the Israelites with their preferences instead of sticking to God’s intentions. And the people suffered for it by missing out on the freedoms that Sabbath provides. Ray Stedman wrote, “So there are two aspects of the Sabbath—creation and redemption. There is a rest of cessation; a ceasing from our own works. But then there is the rest of rejoicing in the mighty delivering power of God.”

So there are two aspects of the Sabbath – creation and redemption. There is a rest of cessation; a ceasing from our own works. But then there is the rest of rejoicing in the mighty delivering power of God.

Ray Stedman

If you are anything like me, rest feels weird. I always feel as if there is something I am supposed to be doing. Only in recent years have I been able to start fully resting on a Sabbath day. I would love to have the same day every week, but scheduling makes that impossible. So I take it where I can. I take Fridays off so that I can get all my errands and schoolwork done so that Saturdays are clear for rest and delighting in the blessings God has given me. If I can’t make Saturday work, I find a different day.

We prioritize what is important to us. Making adjustments to create space for Sabbath is hard, but so worth it. Resting in the knowledge that God is in control brings a peace that cannot be described.

Take a Sabbath. Rest. Obviously it is important for us to do, because God made it a commandment.

September 2023 Devotional: Putting on the Belt of Truth

By Major Beth Desplancke

I am a Wonder Woman fan and have been since I was a little girl. And although I am thrilled that Wonder Woman has finally been brought to the big screen, portrayed beautifully by Gal Gadot, I am partial to the TV show that aired in the late 70’s and early 80’s (when reruns were a thing) with Lynda Carter portraying her.

In the pilot episode of the TV show, we are introduced to who will become Wonder Woman. It is during WWII and the Nazi regime is set on conquering the world. An American solider, Steve Trevor, lands on Paradise Island, an island of only amazon women. These Amazons learn of the evil that is destabilizing the outside world. The queen realizes that the Americans need their help, so a contest is held to see which woman will go back to America. Princess Diana disguises herself to compete in the competition and wins.
The Queen gives Diana a golden belt and tells her, “As long as you wear it, you will maintain your cunning and strength from Paradise Island.” Diana is also given a golden lasso, “which will compel people to tell the truth.” Throughout the TV show, we see Wonder Woman using the lasso on the bad guys, forcing them to tell the truth.

I thought it was interesting that the creator of Wonder Woman, was William Moulton Marston, who was a lawyer, a psychologist, and the inventor of an early version of the lie detector machine. Perhaps that is where his idea for the lasso of truth stemmed from.

As believers, we are in a spiritual battle. We have an enemy of our souls, the devil, who is cunning and deceptive. He tells lies; in fact, his native language is lies (John 8:44). Our world is full of lies, and the lie the enemy has been using since the beginning is that truth is relative; we can make our own truth. Gustave Flaubert, a French writer in the 1800s wrote, “There is no truth. There is only perception.”

When there is no basis for truth, there is no basis for moral right and wrong. That’s why our society is saying we can define our own truth – because then there is no right, no wrong, and no consequences. But sadly, denying the truth doesn’t remove the consequences. Truth is still truth, even if no one believes it.
How do we combat lies? With the truth. In Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul writes about a spiritual armor that God provides for us believers so we can stand strong in face of the enemy. Verses 13 and 14 say, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist with the breastplate of righteousness in place. We don’t have a lasso of truth like Wonder Woman, but we have something even better; we have the belt of truth!

How do we put on this belt of truth to combat the lies of the enemies? First, we need to know who the truth is. Jesus said in John 14:6a, “I am the way, and the truth and the life…” Jesus is the Truth. God’s Word is truth. In John 17:17 Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” The only truth is found in Jesus and His Word.

Second, we need to be in the truth of His Word. The more we know God’s Word, the better we can stand up against the lies the devil spews. We need to read and study the Word. We need to memorize His Word, and allow it to fill our minds. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:11). When the enemy comes at us with his lies, we need to know the truth of God’s Word so we can speak the truth to the devil.

Finally, we need to not just know the Word, but we need to obey and live the Word. Just having head knowledge and being able to quote verses is not enough. We need to live the Truth, and not compromise the Truth. James 1:22 says, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

The only way to recognize a lie is to know the truth. Evangelist D.L. Moody once said, “The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it.” God’s Word is our straight stick, the Truth, to combat all the lies of this world.

In closing, pray this prayer, speaking the truth of God’s Word (all verses are taken from Psalm 119 NIV). As you pray these words, visualize His TRUTH encircling you.

Trustworthy and true is Your Word, O Lord.
All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal (160). The statutes that you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy (138). Never take your word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws (43).

Righteous, O Lord you are, and Your words are right.
You are righteous Lord, and your laws are right (137). Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true (142). Your statutes are always righteous; give me understanding that I may live (144). I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws (106). And because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path (128).

Understanding is what I need.
Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds (27). Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart (34). I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes (125). May my cry come before you, Lord; give me understanding according to your word (169).

Teach me Your truth.
You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees (68). Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me and teach me your law (29). Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end (33). Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands (66). Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws (108).

Help me to live and obey Your truth.
I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word (101). I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me (102). My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end (112). Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me (133). May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts (173). Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees (v. 5). I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands (10).

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August 2023 Devotional: Flourishing in the Dry Season

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

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)

It is wonderful to be in a season of life when things are blooming, happening, and coming to fruition. God’s miracles seem to be popping up everywhere and there is little that can drag your spirit down. You hardly have to try as you feel yourself…well, flourishing! We’ve all been there, enjoying moments of peace and joy and confirmation that we are on the path God has laid out for us.

This is not where we are setting down our feet this time. Think of a dry, arid desert. Nothing for miles and miles except endless stretches of sand and heat waves visible to the naked eye. Eyes aching from the harsh sun, skin blistering past the point of sunburn, heat radiating up through the soles of your shoes, throat parched and sandpaper-rough. What would you do for a single sip of water? How far would you crawl to reach a small patch of shade? You would cry but for the fact that you don’t have enough spare moisture left in your body to produce a single tear. Have you ever been in a place like this? Perhaps not literally or physically. But what about spiritually? I have. It’s a ‘yes’ to both.

I went to high school in Santa Cruz, California, close enough to the ocean that my surfer classmates would run onto campus just as the bell rang, shoes forgotten in the car and still towel-drying their ocean-soaked hair. If they remembered, they would do the courtesy of dusting the sand off their feet and legs before rushing into class. Admittedly, it was a pretty fantastic place to be a teenager. The summer before my senior year, my Officer parents were appointed to Mesa, Arizona. Mesa means, “An isolated flat-topped hill with steep sides, as found in arid and semi-arid areas of the U.S.” We were headed away from the cool water of the Pacific, toward vast expanses of sand, cacti, lizards, and broiling HEAT. I did not take well to all the jokes meant to cheer me. “Hey! You’re moving to the biggest beach in the world!” “You’ll be able to get a tan year-round!” (I am Danish and English. The ability to tan is not even in my DNA). I found myself, for the first time ever, dreading a move.

There are times in life when we can feel the desert coming; a palpable transitioning from a time of abundance and moisture, into the scorching heat of a spiritual desert. We may fight it, try to delay it, but it still comes. What brings it on? What specific purpose could it possibly have? Even if we could pinpoint the what and the why, how LONG will we be in this dry, hot, lonely, near-uninhabitable atmosphere? It’s an unanswerable question. We do know this: It is hard to flourish in the dry season.

I found myself in a dry season that stretched a span of nearly 16 years as one after another, my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th children were diagnosed with autism. There wasn’t nearly the amount of awareness, information, and treatments back in the day, as there are now. I wanted to praise God for the lives of my 4 children. I wanted to delight in their presence, savor their giggles, and hold silly conversations that only toddlers can provide. I wanted to see them thrive and flourish. That was not God’s path for them or, ultimately, for me. Oh, how I longed to talk with Jesus in the night hours, pouring out my sorrows to Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals. But by day’s end I had nothing left. Watching my children struggle to learn, communicate, and use the most basic of fine-motor skills was emotionally exhausting. On the outskirts, our oldest was feeling sorely neglected. My husband was as hands-on as he could be after a long day at the office. My spirit became a dry husk, on the brink of shriveling completely and blowing away in the hot desert wind.

Years before, in training school, I claimed Isaiah 58:11 as ‘my’ verse.

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

During this long, dry season God would continually bring this verse to mind. So many times I shoved the verse away as if it were not a promised cup of cool water, but merely a mirage meant to torment me. I knew it was not meant to taunt me, but rather to remind me He had made a promise, and I should focus on that. But it was oh, so difficult.

It was while visiting my parents in Mesa, Arizona (yes, they retired there!) that my dad showed me the most recent collection of his photographs: desert cacti in full bloom. As we chatted, he shared how amazing it is that these cacti could flourish and bloom in the heat of the dry desert. A cactus is incredibly heavy because it is 90% water, having constantly gathered moisture from the environment, storing it up for the dry season.

Then it hit me, full-on. Be a cactus! If I so immerse myself daily in God’s Word and His presence in each season, I will have ‘hydration’ stored up to keep me alive during the dry season. I would still need to allow God to rehydrate and soften my crackling-dry spirit, but in His loving care I WOULD make it through this desert. He would cause me to thrive once again. I WOULD FLOURISH!

And that is exactly what happened. Years earlier as a teen, I could not escape the physical desert of my new Arizona home. But God was faithful and brought me the gift of my now husband of 32 years. Years later, I could not hide from the spiritual and physical exhaustion that parenting brought me, but God was faithful, and continues to be faithful as I watch my 4 boys grow into fine men who love the Lord, each to the best of their abilities.

When the dry season comes, and we know it will, fall back on God’s promise. He will guide you always. He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and he will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. In the meantime, if you are flourishing in a season of abundance take advantage of those showers of blessing. Soak up the living water into the very core of your being. And when the dry season comes it will be stored up and ready to sustain your soul. You will FLOURISH, like a beautiful desert cacti in full bloom.

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July 2023 Devotional: Flourishing in the Waiting

By Rev. Teri McClanahan

About the Author: Rev. Teri McClanahan is an Ordained Deacon, African Methodist Episcopal Church, and a recent graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary.

Sometimes in life, we are confronted with significant challenges that bring us to an abrupt halt. We face a wall that seems to stretch from horizon to horizon and reaches heights unscalable. There appear to be no doors and windows. We are stuck, waiting for a way beyond the current situation. Try as we may, there is nothing we can do to alter the situation, so we pray and plead to God for an immediate fix. But nothing happens, and time presses on. I experienced such a challenge eight years ago.

There was a waiting period between being told I had cancer and the onset of treatment. There was nothing I could do but wait on the doctor’s report. So much crossed my mind. The obvious questions were what type of cancer? Has it spread throughout my body? Where were my major organs impacted? Was there a cure? Could I survive the treatment? How do I tell my family? The big question – was I going to die?

That was one of the most challenging times in my life. And there was nothing I could do! I had to wait.
I’m a task-oriented type of person. I like to control as many variables as possible. When faced with challenges and obstacles, I charge in and seek solutions. I fix it; I make it better. Not only do I fix my problems, but I also fix others’ problems. People come to me seeking solutions. That was my life before cancer. As Jerry Bridges (2008) says in his book, Transforming Grace, I was not living by the grace of God; instead, I was living by the “sweat of my brow.” I worked hard in life. Somehow, I thought that if I worked harder, I would have success. I was driven, committed, and didn’t bother God with the details of my life. But then I had my “road to Damascus” experience. Like Saul, I was transformed through the love and sacrifice of Jesus.

It took two weeks before I had all my questions answered by the doctor and was placed into treatment. I experienced the most miraculous changes in my life during those two weeks. I prayed that God would change my circumstances, that the doctors had made a mistake, and that God would remove this thorn from my side. As opposed to changing my situation, God transformed me. I went from being a person of little faith to one of great faith and devotion. I stepped out of my mundane existence into the grace and wonder of God. I gave up control of my life and let God guide and direct me. I was free!

Ephesians 2:8-9 says God’s grace saves us through our faith. My transformation extended beyond being saved by grace; I learned to live each day of my life by God’s grace. Psalm 25:5 says, “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me; for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.” As I humbled myself before God, I relinquished all control of my life to Him. God led me to his throne of grace and mercy. God taught me the art of patient rest and the knowledge of His divine plan for my life. I let the Spirit guide my thoughts, and I had peace for the first time in my life. This wasn’t just a one-time experience. I had peace daily. Even when it seemed I could go no; further, I let the Spirit guide me back to that place of peace with my Father.

When confronted with life’s challenges, I no longer contemplate the solution. I seek God in prayer, and I let the Spirit guide me in the path I should take. Sometimes, the answer does not come instantaneously. But as I wait, I do so with the assurance that it is God’s divine plan for my life. I maintain a posture of joyful hope, patience, and faithful prayer (Romans 12:12).

Bibliography: Bridges, Jerry, Transforming Grace, Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 2008. NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO.

June 2023 Devotional: Praise Changes Things

By Captain Michelle Josephson
Hoonah, AK Corps – Alaska Division

Praise is incredibly powerful and far richer, far deeper than we tend to think of it. What comes to mind when we think of praise? Singing to the Lord? Our praise is tied to our faith and our understanding of God. The more we understand and know of God the more we Praise Him.

Our praise is tied to our relationship with Him. The better our relationship the more our Praise. Are we in a right standing with God and others? Our praise is tied with faith. It moves mountains, armies and it can silence our enemies.

What enemy are we combatting right now? Yes, the invisible enemy in the spiritual realms. We also battle the fleshly fallen nature and the world around us. We battle negative self-talk. We may find it hard to change our perspective.

As He put Praise on my heart, I began to meditate and study. It brought such joy to my heart.

You have taught the little children to praise you perfectly. May their example shame and silence your enemies! Psalm 8:2 TLB

How wonderful and amazing is our God that through the praise of little children the enemy is silenced. And it is God teaching them praise!!! This is something so natural for our children, so pure and innocent as they praise God it silences the enemy, and a hedge of protection is built around them.

I like to see the good in things; the blessin’ in the lesson. I trust the Lord through all things. I can tell you my life has not always been that way. Trust was always a hard road for me, but faith was a beautiful process with the Lord. When we praise the Lord through our circumstances the enemy is defeated, we are encouraged and uplifted. Praise changes our perspective as we look to the Lord.

I looked further, He showed me praise is also a tool/spiritual weapon. Praise could stop enemies in their tracks! Does God really do that? I mean, I know God uses unusual weapons but just praise? You better believe it!!!

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: Here they are facing this vast army and what does the Lord say: Don’t be afraid. Don’t be discouraged. The battle is not yours, but God’s. He gives them some very specific instructions. He tells them where they will find the enemy. And again: You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. 2 Chronicles 20:15-17a

Where is God telling you to take your positions? Stand firm! See the deliverance He will give you!!!
Again the Lord reiterates: Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. Go face your enemy tomorrow. The Lord will be with you. 2 Chronicles 20:17b

What battle are you facing? Praise the Lord. Have faith. The Lord is with you.

And they all fell down in worship before the Lord. Some Levites stood up and praised the Lord, with very loud voice. In the morning they left. As they set out, Jehoshaphat said, “Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” Men are appointed to sing to the Lord and praise Him for the splendor of His holiness. 2 Chronicles 20:20-21

Do you need upheld by God? Do you need God fighting for you? Praise changes things. Invite the Lord into your circumstance and praise Him as He fights for you.

They go out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against them. The enemy was defeated.
2 Chronicles 20:21b022

He defeated their enemy without raising a single manmade weapon. They fell down in worship. Men were specifically appointed to sing praises. Everything hinged on what? Their praise and faith.

Hear their praise: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” They praised God’s love and faithfulness. God loves us so much. He wants to be in a relationship with us. Part of that relationship is submission. We submit our will to His, that it might go well for us.

We need to do things right and in order. We do not put the cart ahead of the mule and expect that the field will be plowed. Where do you need to trust God and start praising Him?

Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds-his name is the Lord-and rejoice before him. Psalm 68:4

How will you Praise God today? In the days to come? He is faithful, and His love endures forever.

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high. Psalm 7:17

With Praise to God and faith in our heart we can silence the enemy, move mountains and even armies. Nothing is impossible with God.

I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Psalm 146:2


May 2023 Devotional: Mourning into Dancing

By Lt. Jayerica Tumale
South Mountain, AZ Kroc Center – Southwest Division

There have been mornings, evenings, nuggets of time, and even extended seasons where we have wept and mourned. 

We have mourned over a death of a loved one.
We have mourned over disappointments.
We have mourned over illnesses.
We have mourned over tragedies.
We have mourned over sins that we have made. 
We have mourned over all kinds of things that we love.

Mourning is the state of being in deep grief. We mourn over a profound loss. We mourn over our mistakes and sins as we strive for a pure heart. Though painful, mourning is a part of human life. 

Throughout scripture, we witness people mourning. Ezra mourned over the sins of his people (Ezra 10:6). Nehemiah mourned at the news that his beloved Jerusalem lay in ruins (Nehemiah 1:4). Naomi was introduced as she displayed the depths of grief and mourning (Ruth 1:20-21).

Throughout the book of Psalms, David writes about his season of mourning. Amidst the loss, grief, and mourning, God promises to comfort and turn our mourning into dancing and great joy.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever. Psalm 30:11-12

When David wrote this portion of scripture, he had been going through a painful time. He had been weeping and crying out to God for His mercy. God heard his prayers. David put on new clothes of righteousness that brought about joy in his life. The purpose of the new clothing was to give God praise and tell others about what God had done. 

Life will always be filled with overwhelming situations because of the unknown. As I reminisce about my life, the Lord has always comforted me. He has turned my mourning into dancing and provided the most unexpected miracles! Mourning is a process that we all encounter. Although painful it can help us align our hearts with the heart of God, scripture reminds us: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4) We need to lean on God and trust Him and His process as He comforts us. But while we wait for our situations to change, let’s sing and dance before the Lord just as David did. We have such an amazing God who redeems us and that is worthy of dancing about!

April 2023 Devotional: Planted in Joy

By Captain Aimee Docherty
Retired Officer’ Representative & Order of the Silver Star – Southern California Division

I know I’m not alone in this. I know I’m not the only one who took on some sort of new activity during the Pandemic because we were home all the time. While some took on running, or cleaning the garage out, or perhaps even knitting…I took on gardening. I took these little seeds, lovingly germinated them in the Instant Pot and planted them in the freshly toiled soil in my raised garden bed that my husband built for me. I took great pleasure in watching my baby plants sprout. It was a process that took patience. Every day I would stroll out in the morning with my cup of coffee and watch for signs of the little green sprouts which would become my cucumbers, beans, peas, or my favorite…a perfect little pumpkin. I gently tugged any weed out that threatened my baby seedlings. Faithfully watering them throughout the long dry Summer. Allowing the water to seep deep to the little seeds, even when I wasn’t sure what was going on under the ground and whether they had survived the planting process. I was intentional and careful with my “plant babies” watching them grow and flourish with a happy heart, and then harvesting my precious garden with so much care. It was so satisfying and joy giving.

And then a whole year passed, and this Summer arrived, and things have changed again. The pandemic has seemingly gone away, and we are no longer home all the time together. Instead, we are busier and our hearts are distracted by all of the things in our lives that have so easily snuck back into our lives. So, what of my garden this year? Well, it’s not so lovingly tended any more. I’ve no seeds that I’ve germinated planted with care. I’ve not planted, visited, watered, and lovingly tended. You would imagine that my garden might be barren, empty, and full of weeds. And it might be so…

However…All the work I invested in my garden last year has allowed seeds that I didn’t purposely plant to spring back to life. My marigolds, which last year I had planted to prevent pests, came back in full bloom all over the whole garden making my garden a lush wonderland! The strawberry plants which had failed last year came back to thrive! We have gorgeous strawberries to eat without investing a moments work! I even have one little pea plant which has made its way back all on its own, sprouting and growing, and maybe it might even produce some yummy peas in time. Of course, the weeds made their way back too, so I’ve managed to spend a few moments weeding here and there. By investing those minutes in weeding I’ve been rewarded with a flourishing garden that has allowed my heart to flourish as well.

As our hearts and lives get busier with post pandemic life, what will we allow to take root and flourish in our hearts? It’s surprisingly easy to fall back into that distracted state of busyness. Lack of focus in any one area because we are busy in all the areas. God falls into the back seat because we’re too distracted to notice. Our hearts become hardened, and the weeds pop up taking root. We’re no longer intentional in caring for the garden of our hearts. Worry, anxiety, anger, frustration, disappointment begin to take root and flourish. But, just like my surprise garden, God is there. Working. Waiting. Seeking our attention. Calling us by name. When we stop and look to see what He has to whisper into our hearts we will discover the joy and love that He has for us. The words of His love are like those strawberries on the plants I didn’t tend, waiting to be harvested. The beautiful Marigolds like the work of His hands are blossoming everywhere in front of my eyes, but will I stop, rest, and soak in their beauty? Will I stop to recognize the work of His hands? He is inviting us into His presence. He is calling us, come to Him so that He can fill our hearts with the joy that we seek so that our heart will flourish in His beauty.

In John 7: 37-38 Jesus extends an invitation to our dry gardens “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Let’s take a deep drink and allow the waters of His love to refresh our soil, bathe our dry roots, and restore our wilting hearts. Let’s take a deep drink and find healing and wholeness where we feel dry and distracted, let’s take a deep drink and find love blossom in replacement of anger, let’s take a deep drink of His water and find Salvation take root and grow in the unlikeliest places. Let’s take a deep drink and allow our garden to blossom and bloom so that others can see His work in our lives and might know His beauty.

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March 2023 Devotional: Flourishing in the Tests and Trials Season

By Evie Dobney
Intermountain Division

When I think of tests and trials and those who’ve overcome them, I think of people like Helen Keller, a blind and deaf author and champion of the power of the human spirit. C.S. Lewis, who overcame atheism. Tim Tebow, prejudiced for being a Christian, Carrie Underwood who’d suffered through many miscarriages, and Stephen Baldwin who overcame his addiction to drugs. What do they all have in common? They’re Christians. Some grew up in the faith, and some became born again. All overcame great adversity and flourished in their fields.

But what about “ordinary” folk like me? Can I overcome my trials and go on to flourish? The simple answer is, yes! Mark 10:27 explains that with God anything is possible! There are so many beautiful, frustrating, difficult, and loving examples in the Bible. Moses stuttered and was afraid to lead two million enslaved Israelites out of Egypt, one of the most powerful nations of that day. But he listened to God and God gave him the strength and help to accomplish just that. Deborah, the only female prophet and judge in the entire Bible, went to war with the warrior Barak, at his insistence. John the Baptist, cousin to Jesus, was tasked with spending his entire life in the wilderness. He persisted and successfully baptized thousands into the kingdom of God. There are many more – Jeremiah, Esther, King David, Joseph, Sarah, Job, Gideon, and the thousands of people who approached Jesus for healing.

The Hebrew words for “flourish” are revive, blossom, and sprout. Psalm 92:12-13 say, “But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.” Palm trees are strong and last a long, long time. Cedars can grow up to 120 feet high and up to 30 feet in circumference. They’re strong and immovable. King David is talking about us and our faith. If we have faith and believe that God will get us through, how much more can we accomplish in His Name?

As I write this, my own trials surface, constantly repeating in my mind, swirling like great hurricanes seen on radar screens. My oldest son declared that God doesn’t exist, because if he did, he wouldn’t have dropped us down here on earth to figure it out for ourselves. I found myself thinking . . . “What am I going to do?” Why do we forget to go to God first before thinking something like this? Because our trials are here, are real, and often, very scary. When we’re afraid, we tend to panic and forget there’s a real, loving Father right here by our side.

Some time ago I was driving my van and it started to rain, hard. Once again, I’d forgotten to get my windshield wipers replaced. Yep, you guessed it, I had to drive like I was 3 feet tall and 100 years old. I was so close to the windshield so I could see, that my body turned along with the steering wheel! While comical, that was a stressful test of my own doing! Is God responsible for that? No. But if we neglect stuff in our lives, they add to the stress we may already be under and can become frightening.

So, too, the world can be very frightening with the ever-growing identity crises of our young people, attitudes of instant gratification, disrespect of authority, “do what feels good” attitude, and lack of moral absolutes (it’s wrong for you but not for me), just to name a few. Circumstances of life, tests and trials are exacerbated when we already feel the stress the world’s troubles cause. I know God doesn’t want us to feel this way, so what must we do?

Get to know God by reading the Bible. No kidding, right? If you’re like me, you may need to read a study Bible and keep a Bible journal asking honest questions to understand its message more thoroughly. Be sure that you’re talking to others who share your faith in Jesus. They may not have the answers, but conversations can sometimes lead to answers in other areas of your faith. Get involved in a Bible study and ask questions, even if you feel they’re silly. You’d be surprised at how many others are thinking the same thing! Read trusted and well researched online Biblical websites.

Pray. In fact, turn your worries into prayers. Pray all the time, everywhere as if you’re talking directly to God, there in front of you. Be honest. Write your prayers down in a notebook or journal. Ask God to teach you through your own circumstances. Listen to God’s answers. He speaks to us in some of the most unusual ways sometimes!

Recently, I attended a conference where the speaker talked about the book of Jude, a tiny, short letter just before the book of Revelation. It was written by the brother of Jesus who reminds us of what we must do to keep our faith strong. Verse 23, “Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgement. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” By the glorious words of God through Jude, I know my path. God was speaking to me and giving me comfort at the same time. I know my Lord is there with my son, and I know, because of His Holy Word, what I must do. Through it all, I will flourish because I have His Word and promises to keep me firm in my faith and sure of my steps. With these tools and wearing the armor of great faith, you can’t go wrong. In fact, like the cedars of Lebanon, you’ll stand strong and flourish!

February 2023 Devotional: Flourishing in the Valley

By Major Nancy Ball
Divisional Secretary for Program – Hawaiian & Pacific Islands Division

Walking through challenging seasons is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes “flourishing” means getting out of bed to face another hard day. It might mean doing a load of laundry before going back to a hospital bedside or facing a painful task with the support of others. The Bible has a lot to say about travelling through the valley and Psalm 23 is one of the best:

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Psalm 23: 4 (NLT)

Since the early 1900’s, rocks – even large boulders weighing up to 700 pounds – have been discovered in Death Valley National Park leaving evidence of movement with no apparent cause. These large rocks leave proof in the hard ground tracing their movement as much as 1500 feet along the valley floor to leave tracks in the hard packed soil. Researchers and scientists have been unable to determine the cause for this phenomenon until recently. Once every decade or so, perfect weather conditions leave thin sheets of ice across the valley floor. Light winds begin to blow the breaking ice which pushes against the rocks, causing them to move while leaving ruts in the muddy ground.

In the same way, there are forces working beneath the surface when we are in the valley of our own lives. We can’t see the change in real time, but over time we will be able to see God’s faithfulness at work in the struggle. Find encouragement in the journey. The reason for our suffering is rarely obvious. Faith is what we cling to when nothing else makes sense. Look to Jesus and flourish in the valley.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18