Thanks for Listening


Thanks for Listening

Prayer journal of Susanne Fisher Berger, friend of God
November 17, 1954 - July 31, 2021

Susanne left us a treasure trove in her prayer journal from her journey over the last year. I share this with you that you might be inspired by her heart for God, and her unwavering hope and thankfulness. May He use her deep faith to draw you to love and trust Him too.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

“Thanks for listening, I hope those verses will encourage you even today.”

June 14, 2020

Thank you for praying. Isn’t God good to provide sister-friends to listen and pray with us!  Your calls, texts, cards, meals, etc. are received with deep gratitude. They are tangible means of encouragement and joy! 

Along with a continued focus on Psalm 18, I’m reading Isaiah. I see much “me-focus” or pride in the Israelites throughout Isaiah. That said, I acknowledge my blindness to my own prideful ways. God in His mercy points those ways out to me. One consistent tool He uses is this illness and treatment. He uses it to reset my thinking.

How? Isaiah 46:3,4 say this: “Listen to Me… you who have been borne by Me from before your birth, carried by Me from the womb: til you grow old I am He, and when white hairs come, I will carry you still. I have made you and I will bear the burden, I will carry you and bring you to safety.” 

So when my thoughts race: “Will radiation be effective? What will follow-up be? More chemo? Will I have energy to ‘do' life?”  He gently turns me back to His sufficiency. I pridefully take on the burden of fixing myself. He jolts me into realizing that He takes my burden and bears it daily (Ps. 68:19-20). No days off. He never sleeps. My job is to give it to Him.

When I let God bear my burdens, that brings Him glory. Please pray I will!

July 2, 2020

Your prayers for my peace, comfort and healing were and are so appreciated. We all have trials and challenges. I’m truly humbled that you’d take the time to pray for me.  

As I transition from active treatment to a “watchful waiting” period, I realize we are all there — watchfully waiting, moving forward. Waiting and working for the Kingdom coming, as God gives strength. 

Like you, I rejoice that the cross makes all the difference. We wait and work with purpose and hope. We are new creations in Christ; the old has passed away, the new has come! Our perspective is eternal and our burdens light in Him.

September 25, 2020

Since Wednesday, Paul’s phrase has been popping into my head, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Philippians 4:11. He wrote it while in prison! He goes on to say he has “learned the secret…of having abundance & suffering need.” (v. 12). I find his phrasing significant: he has learned to be content. He doesn’t say “I feel content in every circumstance.” That helps me. 

The Lord is my Teacher - none better - and while feeling content is a bonus, I am the most grateful, feelings aside, for a deep, settled contentment He is teaching me. Especially now, when news received is not what I’d hoped, I want to learn contentment; He wants to teach me. So I am in a good place to learn. While not a huge fan of waiting, it is made easier as God reminds me nothing slips past His notice; and as I love to remember, He is FOR me. FOR us! (Rom. 8:31)

Thanks again for your prayers. I’m praying that I keep God’s perspective. When fear and "what ifs” plague me, I pray He turns me towards gratitude and contentment - quickly! I don’t want to waste precious time on unfruitful roads. I believe He will steer me instead towards encouraging ones!

October 15, 2020

“Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! … I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.”  Psalm 130:1,2 & 5

Sometimes our best prayer is short - “Lord have mercy” or simply “Jesus.”  He hears and acts. Those are my prayers in recent days. 

November 6, 2020

Thank you for your prayers as God keeps Bruce & me in this holding pattern. We would not have chosen this path but we absolutely desire to trust Him that it is for our good. Pray we will trust God ruthlessly. Please pray we will find His mercies new every morning, living in the moment. 

November 19, 2020

This week I was fixing dinner (yes, I do occasionally cook) and feeling pretty low. An unwelcome combo of pity-party and fear-fest was making itself at home in my head & I was tired. Reached in my pocket to retrieve a pen and instead found a forgotten Scripture from a few months back. The Holy Spirit was giving me a gentle and necessary forehead slap. 

He reminded me, God only asks of me that which is doable and for my best. I realized it wasn’t pity or even well-meaning commiseration on how tough life can be that I needed. I took a mental U-turn, put the Scripture on my kitchen counter where I could not escape it. I began thanking God (begrudgingly at first, then for real!) for so many blessings. Gifts like you praying for me faithfully. 

Dinner was ready and the list kept going in my head. God is truly SO good to me; what can I say in response? What compares to the glory of God revealed in Jesus? What do I have, including the promise of eternal life with Him - where all things are made new - that He has not provided? 

So I Thess. 5 has spoken to me recently. As has a simple quote from Robert M. McCheyne (Scotsman who could really roll his rrrrr’s), here it is:    

“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”  

That is exactly why I can rejoice always.

November 30, 2020

2020 has just been crazy, yet God remains faithful. I’m amazed at His goodness even in my distress. I need to remember this  promise from Isaiah I have held to over the years. I hope it comforts you, too:

"In all their affliction (distress), He too was afflicted (distressed); and the angel of His presence saved them. In His love and His mercy, He redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”  Isaiah 63:9

December 2, 2020

I continue realizing how much I can allow my circumstances to dictate my peace of mind. I know you understand, as we all have our stuff. I am just a mess without Jesus. I have been thinking about how He makes all the difference in my life. He offers Himself daily, freely, moment-by-moment and He is everything I need.

I’m beginning to understand why John stressed that “He must increase while I must decrease.” I can be so circumstance-focused. Yet always I have the option to return to a perspective that all is well, ultimately. We are a blessed and secure people, when we know Jesus. Pray I cling to that mindset, rejecting the roller-coaster one that my circumstances offer me.

December 5, 2020

Pray that I can take one day at a time, that above all, I will want what the Lord wants for me!

February 15, 2021

My sister gave me a coffee mug for Christmas that says “Count Your Blessings.” As I literally name and count them, often my blessings are tangible: like people and events. Each of you is a blessing to Bruce & me, for example. We are humbled that you would take the time to pray & care for us.

But this morning I thought about the blessing of perspective. The solid assurance of an eternal perspective is huge, especially when living with cancer. Someone has said that many Christians live as “practical atheists.” That is, calling themselves Christians but living as if life-on-earth is all that matters. I am certainly guilty of that at times and want to re-route my thinking. 

God alone can give me the ability to frame each event and circumstance, no matter how it looks at the time, as coming to me from Him who is good & does all things well. I read Psalm 145 today and noticed this truth:

"Everything God does is right— the trademark on all his works is love.  God’s there, listening for all who pray, for all who pray and mean it." Psalm 145:17,18, The Message

Nothing compares to knowing my future is bright and secure. I am in the hands of a God who is 100% FOR me!

Thanks for listening & allowing me to tell myself this truth today.

April 24, 2021

Bruce & I continue to desire to trust God as we walk together through this, so please pray for our peace, joy and our eyes to be focused on the Lord. It’s a journey full of ups and downs. Also, pray especially for our wisdom in conveying my progress & my challenges to our children. 

Finally, I saw something significant about Psalm 34: 4, 6. This wisdom courtesy of Amy Carmichael. The Psalm reads “I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. This poor man cried (David wrote this when in fear for his life) and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”

Amy writes: My fear is not yours, but nearly everyone has, somewhere inside, a weary little fear which keeps cropping up. But every time the fear pushes out its head, there, waiting to end it, is that glorious word, “delivered from all my fears.” Not from some, or from most but from all."

She goes on to say about v. 6: We may have to pass through the waters, but we shall be delivered out of them. They will not overflow us. "This poor man cried and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.”  There again, it is not out of some, or out of most but out of all.

May 6, 2021

God continues giving me His peace. I wander off into “what-if’s” at times. I get discouraged and always He faithfully pulls me back up, like the patient Father He is. He reminds me to speak boldly to Him about where I am and what I desire. What a great God we are privileged to know and serve! I so want to keep my eyes on Him.

Here’s a reminder from my kitchen, words I see every day :) Lots of encouragement from the book of Isaiah. “For the mountains may be moved and the hills may shake, but My loving of peace will not be shaken” says the Lord who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10

Love to all, Susanne

May 13, 2021

I was encouraged this week in a Bible study of Ephesians 1. Look how Paul prayed, from a Roman prison, for his Ephesian brothers and sisters. 

From my read of Eph. 1:15-21, he gifted them with his prayers for a spirit of wisdom & revelation to know Jesus. He prayed for the eyes of their hearts to open to see & know God’s great hope and power. He prayed God would reveal to them how rich an inheritance they have in Him. What an inheritance we have indeed and what a privilege to pray for each other!

Thanks for listening, I hope those verses will encourage you even today.

June 3, 2021

I would appreciate your prayers that I choose faith over fear as we navigate this development. And specifically that my faith rests on the knowledge that the Lord has gone ahead of me - which He promises He has - and He will never leave me. I think of Deuteronomy 31:8 and picture Him already there at the Cancer Center, reassuring me. Ready to reveal His good next steps for me.  

I realize how changeable life on this planet is for us all. Hebrews 13:8 comes to mind, how unchangeable is our Savior!  This journey with cancer is no fun & full of changes; yet I truly experience how belonging to Him makes all the difference. Even as I type those words I realize how easily I can forget them when circumstances don’t go “my” way. I love how the Lord understands and lovingly reminds me that His plans, even when difficult, are for my good and His glory. I can fully trust Him in that knowledge.

June 5, 2021

Thank you for continuing to pray for our wisdom to process info; for my strength amidst fatigue and for us to cling to “faith, not fear” as I mentioned in my last update. I am comforted by Psalm 18 and especially knowing, as it says right at the beginning, that not only does the Lord give me strength, He IS my strength! What a gift!

June 22, 2021

So now we have a plan - I am reminded, lest I get too comfortable with my plans, of the truth of Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in the mind of a man (woman), but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." So please pray I can hold my plans loosely, while trusting the Lord’s good purposes for me.

June 27, 2021

I read Psalm 27 this evening: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense [refuge] of my life; whom shall I dread?” I want to dread nothing, fear nothing as I cling to the light, salvation and refuge that the Lord has always been - and will always be! - to me. He wants to be all of that to each of us. Please pray the Lord will equip me to trust Him fully & completely.

July 2, 2021

My prayer is that I stay in step with the Lord, trusting Him for each step & choice along this unknown path. Unknown to me, completely known to Him. There is great comfort in that truth. He will not let go of me; I want to keep clinging to Him! There are certainly details to pray for, like quick scheduling, good rest, better breathing, etc. But I learn again & again that clinging to His side even without understanding the path brings me His great peace. And that is priceless.

July 22, 2021

I continue to request and appreciate your prayers for clarity, comfort and encouragement.  

I remain thankful that the Lord is in control in this difficult situation and the knowledge that even in this circumstance that I wouldn’t choose, I am still living in the shelter of the Most High, causing me to dwell in the shadow of the Almighty.    

Thank you all for the many ways you have expressed your concern and love for me and my family through meals, flowers, cards, gifts, texts, emails, etc.

July 27, 2021

Although her physical situation is difficult, Susanne is at peace, knowing the Lord is at her side and is a God of comfort (Isaiah 66:13; Psalm 23:4).  She appreciates your prayers for physical comfort and that she would release this to God and not feel like she needs to continue fighting. She realizes she is firmly in the shadow of God’s wings (Psalm 17:8), held close by his loving arms (Isaiah 40:11).  

Susanne and Bruce are grateful for the wonderful, caring support of family and friends.  Thank you!

July 31, 2021

Susanne went to be with our Lord last night.  Bruce and her children were by her side. She was blessed and honored that her family was present and so many good friends were able to visit with her and, though weak, was able to enjoy that time and have the opportunity to say good-bye. 

Bruce and the family are comforted knowing that Susanne rests in the loving, everlasting arms of Jesus and is at perfect peace, looking forward to spending eternity with her brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thank you each so much for your cards, thoughts, prayers, texts, calls, emails, meals, flowers and the many other ways so many of you have supported the Berger family. They are truly grateful.

“You keep her in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because she trusts in You.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26:3,4

“In this [salvation] you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” I Peter 1:6,7

“Blessed in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Psalm 116:15


To the thirsty bring water; meet the fugitive with bread (Isaiah 21:14)

Apostles Benevolence Ministry

A Testimony Robin Vincent | Benevolence Team Member 

I have been serving on the Benevolence Team at Church of the Apostles for over a year. Our team has worked together to serve families in our community, in and outside of our church.  Some of the ways that we help is to provide money for groceries, help with monthly bills, and be a listening ear during an incredibly hard time. Many times the phone calls can be overwhelming and we are at a loss of how to help. I am always amazed at how transparent people are with sharing their lives and their humbleness to ask for support. 

Last month, the Benevolence Team received a request from a family that their children had been involved in the after school tutoring program through the Y. The family had lost their apartment and all the contents to the fire on Navaho Drive. I was assigned to the family, and honestly, was concerned with how much we could support since they had lost EVERYTHING and I knew they had no transportation. 

I made the initial phone call only to find out that neither the mother nor father could speak English. I knew I was not the person for the job since my Spanish skills were lacking. Within minutes, the Lord brought to my mind an interpreter that I knew. I called and she was happy to help. When the interpreter and I spoke with the mother, she was gracious and stated that they needed shoes and air mattresses to sleep on. 

Once again, the Lord provided the people. With a few phone calls people donated new shoes, house goods, and even Rex hospital donated air mattresses. The blessings kept coming. The next week a realtor in our church called and said she had a client leaving furniture in their home and heard that we had a family in need. We gathered a family in our church that agreed to pick up and transport the furniture. Over and over, God proved to me that if we are willing He is able. I alone could not get what the family needed, but God kept showing me people that could. Through every aspect of this story, God provided and used the body of the church to work to accomplish His goal of community.  

How It Works | Dave Ritchie | Benevolence Team Member

Robin’s great testimony is one of the many ways The Lord is using Benevolence to impact our Community.  So here is how the process works…

If you know of someone in need of assistance, please contact a church staff member, and they in turn will complete a form that gets distributed to the Benevolence Team. This way, full attention and prayer can be given to the person in need, while the clergy and staff continue with other ministry responsibilities.

The Benevolence Team Member on duty will take the case and follow up with the candidate. The Team Member will hear the case, first person, from the candidate, and will prayerfully consider the amount of assistance available. The process typically takes about a week, from inquiry to issuance of assistance.

We do have parameters that guide us in the types of cases we can care for, as well as the amounts we are able to support. Some examples of support include:  

  • Rent/Mortgage Assistance, Utilities, Groceries and Household Needs. 
  • Special attention is also given when children are involved. 
  • It is our goal to assist whenever possible for those who are clearly making good choices and trying to be responsible through employment or in doing as much as they possibly can. 
  • Prayerful wisdom and discernment is exercised in assessing specific needs.  We recognize that individuals are unable to make lifestyle changes on their own without the reliance on the strength of Christ. We will observe the spiritual maturity of the individual, and with their permission, may pray alongside anyone seeking assistance.
  • In general, we emphasize support for church members first, as well as friends and family of the church. 
  • We also assist those in the community from outside of the church.  In fact, the majority of our inbound requests do come from outside the church. 

So, if you happen to need assistance yourself, or know of someone who does, please know that the Church of the Apostles Benevolence Ministry is an available resource, and we are here to help. And if you sense God’s leading to join us in this ministry, please feel free to contact me:


What Makes U Beautiful? {Advent Proclamation}


What Makes U Beautiful?
A poem by Susan Benson

What makes U beautiful?
The reason is that U made such a wonderful & beautiful world.

What makes U so kind & compassionate?
The reason is that U were willing to lay down Ur life to save us from the sin of the world. 

What makes U want to send your son down to set us free?
The reason is that U were willing & able to come to earth so that we might have eternal life.

What makes U beautiful?
The reason is that U made such a wonderful & beautiful world.

What made U want to choose such a normal young lady a virgin to be the mother of your son?
The reason is that U wanted a simple lady to be your son’s earthly mother.

What makes u chose such simple carpenter to be the father of your son?
U wanted him to have good skills so he could survive in this world. 

What makes U want to suffer on that terrible wooden cross?
The reason is that U were willing to send your beloved son to set us free.

What makes U beautiful?
The reason is that U made such a wonderful & beautiful world.

What makes us cry to U in prayer?
The reason is that we know U can help us in times of trouble. 

What makes people love U & yet they still do wrong?
The reason is that this world is made up of sinners.

What makes us love U?
The reason is that U care so much about your beloved children.

What makes U beautiful?
The reason is that U made such a wonderful & beautiful world.

What made U want to have so many people following U?
The reason is because they love to hear U teach your word. 

What makes so many people write poems & music about U?
The reason is simple the reason is that they love to worship U.

What makes us give our all to you?
The reason is that U love us more than we could ever know.

What makes U beautiful?
The reason is that U made such a wonderful & beautiful world.

What makes U so powerful?
I don’t know but if I did I’ll never stop loving U.

What makes sinners repent to U?
Because they need the loving kindness of U our wonderful maker.

What makes U beautiful?
The reason is that U made such a wonderful & beautiful world.

Susan Benson
Apostles Member


The Panacea for Pride

June 28, 2020

When Pastor Art challenged us to study Isaiah 66, I was unaware of the personal journey I was about to make. Verse 1-2 of the Message translation read:
“Heaven’s my throne,
    earth is my footstool.
What sort of house could you build for me?
    What holiday spot reserve for me?
I made all this! I own all this!”
    GOD’s Decree.
“But there is something I’m looking for:
    a person simple and plain,
    reverently responsive to what I say.

Verse 1 speaks to man’s pride of self--his wealth, resources, assets, homes, cars, memberships, awards and fellowships. He buys into the lie that those things make him a powerful person. God reminds him that He is the one who made this Earth; it belongs to Him; He is not only the Architect, but the Owner of the Deed. He. Is. Sovereign. 

Although written centuries ago, this sounds like it was written for today. Have we lost our wonder of the sovereignty of God?” Are we out of touch with how worldly we are?

“It is so easy to become more thick-skinned in conscience, more tolerant of evil, more hopeless of good, more careful of one’s own comfort and one’s own property, more self-satisfied in leaving high aims and great deeds to enthusiasts, and then to believe one is growing older and wiser.”
During a recent Bible Study, we were asked, “What sin, do you think, is the one from which every other sin originates? Many responses were given, ranging from hate, anger, lust, greed, lying and stealing to pride. What do you suppose the answer is? Pride is the sin from which every other sin originates.

In verse 2, God is looking for “a person simple and plain, reverently responsive to what I say.” God is hopeful His search will yield a person of humility...a person of faith. He is not looking for worldly people—or pride-filled people. Ouch! This is a personal journey. 

Think with me on this for a moment. As humans, we are made in the image and likeness of our Heavenly Father. It says in Genesis 1, “God saw everything He had made and said, ‘It is very good.’” Our Heavenly Father has a healthy pride—mere satisfaction for a job done well. He doesn’t say, “Hey! I completed this awesome project! I’m the #1 God!” Rather, our Heavenly Father says, “It is good!” That’s it...plain and simple.

Pride begins innocently when children are young. They aspire to do what older peers can do. They love perfecting new skills. With that perfection comes a sense of pride, or satisfaction, over a job well done. 

In the first few years of life, children are learning new activities. They come away either with some things done well, or not at all. This is when the dynamic of the “know it all” and the “bully” comes into play. Children can either become overly confident or under-confident in developmental skills. Like our Heavenly Father, a parent molds a child to the level of confidence best suited for the child’s future.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 teaches us what to do in situations just like that: “Be sure that no one pays back wrong from wrong, but always try to do what is good for each other and for all people.” 

A recent devotion by Max Lucado advised, “ friendship is perfect, no marriage is perfect, no person is perfect.” To “transform a difficult situation into something beautiful,” we can develop “peace treaties of love, tolerance, and harmony.”  

I envision Lucado’s statement to be a panacea for pride. Imagine every household in our world embracing peace treaties based on God’s love! What would happen If each of us looks in the mirror daily and says, “I’m not perfect, but I’ll try to be the hands and feet of Jesus to everyone I meet today.”

I tend to think there would be far less pride and far more love and acceptance for others in our world. It inspires me to make that the measure of my calling. I hope you, also, will consider making peace treaties of love, tolerance, and harmony.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Without You we are nothing. You have made us from the clay of the Earth. You have invited us to partake in the glorious adventure of life with You, our Sovereign Lord. Forgive us for making life all about us, for being puffed up with pride. Help us to focus on being a people who are plain and simple, always listening responsively to what You say. May our days be spent in making peace treaties of love, tolerance, and harmony.
In Jesus’ Name-

1JOY & STRENGTH, Mary Wilder Tileston, WWP, Minneapolis, MN, Juliana H. Ewing, August 3, 1990, p. 216.
2GRACE FOR THE MOMENT. Vol. I, Peace Treaties of Love, Max Lucado, June 23, p. 396

By Jan O’Neal


Discernment in Coronavirus

In my early walk with the Lord, discernment was a weakness of mine. It seemed an entire lifetime had already passed. A new era had dawned, and I was eager to live it right. Trouble was the baggage from my former life. And no one had shared how to get rid of it. Old habits had to be overhauled into Christ-like habits...and what was the best way to go about this?

Random thoughts flittered across my mind, trapping me in befuddlement. I’d have to find a way to keep a sense of continuity. I coached myself by thinking, “Only a distraction...Focus on what the Lord has for you.”

Phone calls were the worst. With no answering machine or cell phone, I felt compelled to answer the phone. It might be my Mom who was out of state, or it could be my husband with an important question, I thought. Only to find out, it was someone wanting to gossip about the newest neighbor down the street.

I bemoaned the fact that my “new life in Christ” was turning out to be just like my old life. “I don’t want things to be this way, Lord. I want to live for you! Help me to hear Your voice,” I prayed one day.

Things continued until one day when the kids played in their little outdoor pool. Setting it up in a hurry, I heard a wee, small whisper, urging me to be careful of the items I placed in the pool. Checking each toy out quickly, I placed both children in the pool. It wasn’t long before one of the children had a boo-boo. How did that happen? I wondered, soothing my child with a clean band-aid on her knee, a popsicle in one hand and a new Minnie Mouse band- aid on her knee.

When I looked back on what had happened that day, I recalled the Holy Spirit’s whispers for safety...but I missed it. You can imagine how disheartened I was upon this realization! I had been out of touch with God’s direction. I prayed for forgiveness and told the Lord I could see how I missed His prodding. Then I prayed for the gift of discernment to know His voice.

Have you ever had a moment like that? Something happened to make you realize those little tugs were the Hand of God trying to spare you from some fiasco.

Months prior to Coronavirus, I had one of those little tugs. It was brought on, in part, to the feelings of unrest in our nation. But it was also something God was conveying to me. Praying for discernment, I asked the Lord to remove the somber thoughts if they were not of Him. It was as if the Lord were preparing me for something that was going to happen at an uncharted time--something over which I would have no control...and no ability to change.

But over time the same thoughts persisted. So, I prayed, “Lord, what would you have me to do about these thoughts?” I felt the Lord saying, “Fear not. Trust in Me and wait on Me.” Then I wrote something in my journal; my question was resolved and put to rest.

In March of this year, when the Coronavirus was in full force, I thumbed back through my journal. Such an odd feeling overtook me as I read an entry dated, February 1, 2020: “I continue thinking there’s going to be an interruption.” Just one sentence. But it seemed a pertinent thought prior to 2020. Quite so. By that time, each person, apart from front line workers, was in stay-at-home mode. It was a stunning moment for me.

The Lord God had, indeed, answered my prayer for discernment. I was filled with rejoicing! Yet, His message of hope had prepared me for one of the worst pandemics in history. Although I didn’t know what was coming...or when, He had prepared me for this critical situation. As a result, I felt only peace. Gratefulness washed over me.

“Now, I thought, “time to roll up my sleeves and pray for the health of our nation.”

Lord God, Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Your Holy Spirit, who gives us the wisdom and discernment necessary to walk this place called home. Thank You for Your provisions in confusion and turmoil. Be with those in need of Your mercy, grace, and healing. Lead us onward to our Heavenly Home, which You are preparing even now for us.

In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.

By Jan O’Neal

Overcoming Pandemic Difficulties

As the pandemic lingers, I often wonder how you are. I picture your joyful faces and imagine hearing about what God is doing in your life. I imagine each of you has someone you long to see or visit. So many plans; so much undoing. I stand amazed and grateful for our Pastoral Staff, virtually gifting our congregation with meaningful worship. No small task! And, how blessed we are with a congregation eager to share God’s Word to our brothers and sisters in Christ! 

Recently I read the phrase, “I just want to return to what we had.” Do you, also, feel like you’re walking in a new world - caught in the middle of two unacceptable choices, wishing for what we had? 

We are creatures of habit—our schedules and agendas mold us into consistency. We don’t like change. I must confess little “snippities” escape now and then if there’s no consistency. Move the lens to a different angle, and picture what God’s perfect will may be in this pandemic.

As a young teacher, I recall the dismay and frustration our staff experienced when a program was rescheduled, or testing delayed lunch, or heaven forbid, playground was cancelled due to inclement weather! Teacher unease was not so much due to agenda as how it would affect the children. What then?

Children often approach change with apprehension, mistrust, and worry--for good reason. When their schedules are consistent, their lives seem to move along nicely, and growth is usually seen. Eliminate one thing...and look out! A child might become fidgety, out of sorts, or lose focus. With no strategies in place, a loss of growth is possible. Children need consistency. We need consistency. Life chugs along at max speed when schedules are consistent, and needs are met. Remove one precious asset? Uh-Oh! 

At my school, teachers were perplexed during a five-day streak of 100-degree days and “O-Dark-Thirty." My sweet first grade children looked like jellyfish out of water. We drank lots of water. We played Alphabet Bingo. We found plastic counters with flashlights—then added them up. We got hot! We ate popsicles. When we can’t have what we want/need, we get creative. Some get snippety. More in a moment...

We are so grateful for God’s provisions during this pandemic. My husband, David is being treated for CLL. Like some of you, his doctors recommend we all stay at home until there is a vaccine for COVID-19. Although we are not fond of the thought of hibernating for two years, I will support my husband’s health needs because it’s part of our marriage vows. This is just one of the difficult strategies people are facing all over the world.

We are only a tiny fraction of the many faces—all of us are in this together. I say this with the greatest love and respect for those of you going through much worse. We stand with you, elbow to elbow, praying God’s absolute best for you!
 “Do not resist or run from the difficulties in your life. These problems are not random mistakes; they are hand-tailored blessings designed for your benefit and growth. Embrace all the circumstances that I allow in your life, trusting Me to bring good out of them. View problems as opportunities to rely more fully on Me.  When you start to feel stressed, let those feelings alert you to your need for Me... your needs become doorways to deep dependence on Me and increasing intimacy between on Me produces abundant living in My kingdom. Thank Me for the difficulties in your life since they provide protection from the idolatry of self-reliance.” (Jesus Calling, May 10, by Sarah Young)
Back to my first-grade class … first I prayed to my Heavenly Source. Then, I searched for an alternate source of air coolant. Never have I been more elated as when I found a scratched and dented box fan! It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. Funny, those long forgotten “less than” items can cause us to give thanks when they supply the greatest amount of comfort in the present.

There is a strategy for assuring consistency in the lives of children and adults. Might not be popular or cool. But it’s one we can do for our Heavenly Father. Choose to overcome difficulties...for Him. He did it for us.

Jan O’Neal
May 18, 2020

Scripture References: John 15:5; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Ephesians 5:20


Faith, Hope, and the Unseen

About a year ago, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 popped up everywhere in varied devotions, a conversation, hearing a song or a prayer. But it was verse 18 that elicited my attention:

“We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

At first, it didn’t register that I should seek the Lord about why this was happening, or what His purpose was.

Then one day last summer, I received a beautiful card from a dear friend. Inside was a shiny sticker on which was part of the same verse. Hope in the Things Unseen jumped out at me. It was almost as if God said: “Put your hope in things you cannot see.”

I got the message. Humbled, it became clear how out of touch I had been. I began to search, wait, and hope for my next verse to arrive. It happened during the Apostles’ summer sermon series on Hebrews: 

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for the conviction
of things not seen.” (
Hebrews 11:1)

No one loves a treasure hunt more than me! This led to cross-referencing Bible verses to know more about “things not seen,” “hidden things,” and the “unseen.” * Paul wrote about one of those treasures in 1 Corinthians 13:13.

“Now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Knowing I’m not the only eager one to find the unseen, I began to wonder. What causes these four words, faith, hope, love, and the unseen, to be linked together? 

Where does one find the unseen? Does it occupy earthly space? Are humans able to understand the unseen while living on Earth?

To answer these questions, I first had to ask myself, do you really understand what hope is...from God’s perspective?  
Looking up synonyms for hope, turned up abide, a synonym which means endure. Hope is not a flimsy hangs in there. Hope abides. It doesn’t give up. It withstands life itself.

Faith is found in our spiritual heritage. Just a few examples of not giving up are:

  • Abraham believed in hope against hope that he would become a father to many nations; he was credited as righteousness.
  • King David said, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered.”
  • When Jesus hung on the cross dying, he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
  • In prison, Paul sang songs of praise and wrote letters of encouragement to the believers.

Worship and “the Unseen”

  • The Holy Spirit’s presence in worship is such a sacred part of liturgy and crosses all barriers. God longs for us to come into His presence; He knows when we do, we will experience His unseen presence. 


  • Listening to and singing Christian music infuses me with energy and a hopefulness that may have been lacking before. It is reassuring to me that while preparing this blog, these lyrics ran through my mind:

“My hope is built on nothing less
  Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
  I dare not trust the sweetest frame
  But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.”

“On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
  All other ground is sinking sand,
  All other ground is sinking sand.”

Although hope is not a tangible gift, it is something that can be shared.

Encouraging Others
Encouragement, not false hope, gives others a sense of hope and affirmation. By encouraging “even the least of these,” we are being Jesus’ hands and feet. Just one note of encouragement can brighten someone’s day.

Praying with Friends
Prayer is the great equalizer, lifting us out of the doldrums and into the Presence of God. How can we not feel a bit more hopeful in His place of promise?  “For where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I with them.” Mt.18:21

Part of what cannot be seen are the people we will never see. Continual prayer for those we don’t know, reading His Word, and trusting Him fills those unseen gaps.

I recall a time, praying for a burden so deep, but the answer didn’t come. I must admit being discouraged. Even so, I prayed more. No answer. More discouragement. For years, I prayed continuously. Still no answer. Heartbroken, I continued to pray. Now, years later, answers are arriving...bit by bit! 

I am thankful for the unseen when tiny pieces of prayers are answered. Thankfulness leads to worship and praise. Suddenly, the prayer is not so important, after all. The King of Kings is preeminent. There is peace and hope in His unseen presence as He works all things together in His time.

Lord Jesus,
Although, there is so much more to learn about the unseen, I’m not giving up on it. I pray that others won’t either. Truly, all our hope is in you, the unseen, risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Jan O’Neal
April 26, 2020

Verses on Hope:
Job 17:15; Job 13:15
2 Cor. 4:16-18, 2 Cor. 5:7, 1 Cor. 13:12, 1 Cor. 13:7
Hebrews 11:1 
Psalm 112:7