The writers of Encouraging.com are celebrating their fifteen year landmark by making their 365 daily devotional book, God Moments, available as a free digital download! A total of thirty-six GABC writers have faithfully captured “moments of God’s presence” in their lives to encourage your own spiritual journey. You can find God Moments on amazon.com, iTunes, and BarnesandNoble.com.

Sandcastles

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.'
Matthew 7:24


When my grandchildren were little, we vacationed one summer at the beach. During that week I rediscovered the simple joy of building sandcastles.

Every day, armed with plastic buckets and shovels, we marched across the dunes and over the sand to the place where the ocean lapped against the shore. There, just beyond the waves, we amused ourselves for hours filling and dumping buckets of sand until our sandcastle was complete.

However, no matter how big our castle was when we left, the next day when we returned, it was gone. We expected this. Sand is not a permanent building material.

On the other hand, the beachfront condo where we stayed was built with steel and concrete. That material proved its worth one fall when a hurricane hit.

Although 100 mile-an-hour winds shook the condo, and tide surges flooded the first floor, the building stood firm. When the hurricane was over, the structure was still there. It had made it through the storm.

Storms are a part of life, and they come in many forms. Sooner or later each of us will face difficult circumstances that threaten and shake our world.

When that happens, Jesus told us how to stand firm. He said, 'Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock' (Matthew 7:24).

In other words, Jesus advised us to build our lives on His Truth. When our lives are based on hearing and applying God’s Word, adversity won’t wash us away. We won’t collapse because our foundation is indestructible.

Father, we are reassured by Your Word and Your faithfulness.


Carol

Second Chances

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9


The first time I applied for a driver’s license, the hardest part for me was parallel parking. As time passed, my parking skill didn’t improve. Recently, I was forced to parallel park. It took several unsuccessful attempts before I was finally able to get the car next to the curb. Good thing I had more than one chance to do it right.

Someone once described God as “the God of second chances,” but that doesn’t go far enough in describing His mercy. Actually, He’s the God of multiple chances.

You probably realize I’m talking about more than parking. I’m talking about the times when I let God down, and He gives me a do-over. If you‘ve never heard of a do-over, it’s southern talk for another chance to get something right.

I need a lot of do-overs. I need a do-over when I’m lazy about praying or reading the Bible or when I deliberately choose my way instead of God‘s. I need a do-over when I’m overly critical, ignore someone’s needs, or say something hurtful.

When the Holy Spirit nudges me into painful awareness of my failure, and I think, I wish I hadn’t done that, God offers me another chance. The scripture says, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). At those times when I fail, God’s provision is for me to simply, sincerely tell Him I have messed up and ask His forgiveness.

God knows we won’t always get it right, but He wants us to keep trying. When we ask His forgiveness, He wipes the slate clean.

He loves to give us another chance.

Father, I thank You for Your patience with me.


Carol

The Blueprint

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.   
Romans 8:28



As a young wife and mother, I thought I had the perfect blueprint for our family.  My intention was to have two children. No more. Within a few years we had two wonderful little boys. When I learned that I was expecting baby number three, I was extremely upset.

For days I wrestled with disappointment and tried to make sense of the change in my plans. My life verse and the essence of my philosophy as a believer was Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

Now I had to ask myself if I truly believed those words. Did I really trust the sovereignty of God? In short, was this pregnancy an accident or part of His design for my life?

Peace finally came when I chose to accept as true that God was in control and that baby number three was a manifestation of His Romans 8:28 “good.” From my perspective now these many years later, the good is all too obvious. 

Baby three was a girl. If I’d had my way, our family would have lost the blessing of her sweet, funny personality, and my husband and I would have never known the joy of having a daughter. I personally would have missed out on ruffles, bows, and French braids, on cheerleading, shopping, and being mother-of-the-bride.

Whenever the phone rings, and I hear my daughter’s voice asking for a recipe or telling me about her baby’s newest trick, I thank God that He replaced my blueprint with His own.

Through this experience He has taught me many things, but one of the most important is to seek God’s will for my life instead of creating a future based on my own wisdom. For me, the perfect blueprint has His fingerprints all over it.

Father, may Your will be done in our lives.   

Carol

A Prescription for Insomnia

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.  
Psalm 4:8


I punched my pillow and turned over in bed for what seemed the fiftieth time. I just couldn’t get to sleep!

With a sigh of envy, I recalled how easily my daughter’s baby had fallen asleep earlier this evening. The minute his mother sat down in the rocker with him, he’d settled his head on her shoulder and closed his eyes. Safe and secure in her arms, he’d quickly drifted off.

I wish I could fall asleep like that, I thought, staring at the ceiling. Maybe I should call the doctor tomorrow and ask for something to help me sleep.

In the dark room the numbers on the bedside clock glowed brightly. It was 1 a.m. In disgust I decided to get up. Maybe reading for a while would help.

I switched on the living-room light and reached for my Bible. Turning to Psalms, I began to scan the opening chapters. I had just begun the fourth when a verse caught my attention.

The verse was about sleep. It said, In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8).

Apparently, the Psalmist could fall asleep as fast as my grandson---unlike me. I re-read the verse slowly. Suddenly, I understood why these two could close their eyes and fall asleep so effortlessly.

Both of them felt secure. They knew they were safe and protected while they slept. My grandson trusted his mother to watch over him. The Psalmist trusted his Father to do the same.

I closed my Bible and returned to bed. Instead of letting my mind race wildly, I repeated Psalm 4:8 to myself and meditated on its truth. I could sleep in peace, knowing God kept me safe. My eyes began to feel heavy.

The next thing I knew, it was morning, and I’d slept like a baby. I knew I wouldn’t call the doctor today. I wasn’t going to need any sleeping pills. In Psalm 4:8 I’d found a prescription for insomnia.

Father, thank You for Your constant watch-care and protection.
  
Carol

Beauty in Barren Places

I will never leave you, nor forsake you.
Joshua 1:5


Last month, while jeeping on an alpine trail at 12,500 feet altitude, I was astounded at the bounty of glorious flowers. There were natural-formed bouquets of golden sunflowers, delicate lavender blooms scattered among them, and an array of pink and white blossoms peeking around the rocks. 

How does all this beauty survive in this poor soil, high, cold, and rocky environment?

Have you ever noticed in yourself, and in others, the most spiritual growth and beautiful fruits have come out of life’s most difficult situations?

Those places where the going is tough, rocks and boulders seem to block every move? Where the winds of loneliness chill you, and there doesn’t seem to be enough oxygen in deep breaths or sighs? You know God loves you, but, some moments you feel weak, weary, and worried. These times in my life have grown me more than the bright periods of sunshine and happiness.

In the struggles, Jesus has been there in so many ways to gently goad, guide, and grow me.  He has been my generous, loving shepherd, and encourager in the bleak places.

Thank you, Father, that You have not wasted our bleak, struggling times. With You, even our rocky times are fertile with spiritual growth.


Claudia Jackson