“Always Good” – A Guest Blog by Nicole Merchant

She beckoned from the confines of her basement bedroom.

“Colee, will you tuck me in?”

This girl, no longer a young child, not yet an adult.

“First songs. Then prayers. And will you do “X marks the spot”?”

It was reminiscent of younger years.

Years when I lived with her family,
helping mold the image of God in her and her siblings.

I always tucked her in.

She preferred me to her parents;
mainly, I suspect, because she loved to sing.

And, who better to manipulate with requests of singing than me.
Singing and “X-marks” spot helped calm her before bed.

It was a daily routine.
Routine that prepared her for a rest of sweet hopes and dreams.

Last Saturday, she requested the familiarity of her bed-time routine from years past.

I snuggled beside her to sing and rub her back.
“At the Cross”,
“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,
“As The Deer”,
“More precious than Silver”…
and she relaxed in the remembrance of sweet choruses.
until tears dampened her pillow and her body began to heave.

She cried as she spoke.

“Colee, please pray for my injured leg. I want to compete, so badly.
If it doesn’t heal, I can’t compete and all my practice will be wasted.”

The soft, prayer murmurs of a young girl,
whispered in the safety of night’s curtain.

An injured gymnast who longs to compete.

A girl experiencing physical growing pains.

So, I pray.
And, after I pray.
I remind her:
“Jesus sees you.
He hears you.
He knows you.
And, no matter how He answers,
He is always good.”

God growing a girl’s faith through a sport injury.
It seems silly actually.
to think He cares about the broken-heartedness of a child’s simple desire
and yet,
it’s His mercy on display.
His merciful, lovingkindness to teach a girl about life and His love,
through that which she can handle.

As I lay beside her,
knowing the extra weight of my own broken-hearted burdens
and desires,
tears slip down my face as
I hear my voice echo:
“Jesus sees you.
He hears you.
He knows you.
And, no matter how He answers,
He is always good.”

– Thank you, Nicole Merchant, for your beautiful words



Daughter of the King


From Your throne, God,

You motion for me to come near


and as I approach

there is no hesitation


for You have called me

as Your daughter


And as I draw close in prayer

the grace that emanates is tangible and beautiful


I know that at Your throne

I will find mercy and grace

in this time of need


I receive the mercy gratefully

and I embrace the grace wholeheartedly


for I am in need


And my Abba reassures

and there is complete peace gazing at Him


I come boldly

because my Hero Jesus

has torn the veil

that once separated me from God


I trust

in the King of grace

on the eternal throne


and that is why I come

with confidence


as the daughter of the King


– Susie Stewart

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

– Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)


God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who He is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us – an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with Him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with Him!
-Romans 8:14-16 (MSG)


Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

– Romans 5:1,2 (NIV)


Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

– Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)


Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.

– Hebrews 10:19-22 (NIV)


Prayer & Trust

When you don’t get the answer you want

from God,

what is your response?


Is it anger?


Turning away from Him?


Or do you Trust?


Trust that He is God?


Before you had this trial

you knew


that sometimes God says










“I have something better”


But does your trust in Him

reflect that?


Do you still praise and bless Him

when the answer is “wait”?


or “No”?


Or do you stomp your foot

as a demanding child?


You either have confidence in God’s sovereignty

or you doubt it


Prayer and trust

go hand in hand





In God who knows best


Don’t fall into the trap

of faithfulness to Him

only when the answer

is “Yes”


– Susie Stewart


This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

– 1 John 5:14 (NIV)


I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called—His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance.

– Ephesians 1:18 (NLT)


Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. 

– Romans 12:11,12 (MSG)


Photo by Wade Callison

Jesus First

Take note

of what distracts you

from Jesus


We say

“Love the Lord your God

with all your heart

and all your soul

and all your strength

and all your mind.”


and then we start the day

without talking to Him


we ignore His prodding

to love people practically


and we end the day

soaking in more distractions


with a token prayer at bedtime,

if that


Lord, I want to love You

with everything I have!


as a brand new lover

who can think of little else


Jesus, You saved me

with Your love!


with Your love…


I want You to know

that I recognize that and I’m grateful


and I see this

as a reciprocal relationship


I want to love You


each day


and I want people to see

that You



in me


I  want You to know

without a doubt

that I love You


– Susie Stewart


Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.

– Luke 10:27 (NIV)


One of the religion scholars came up. Hearing the lively exchanges of question and answer and seeing how sharp Jesus was in His answers, he put in his question: “Which is most important of all the commandments?”

Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.”

– Mark 28:27-31 (MSG)


So I am not the one living now—it is Christ living in me. I still live in my body, but I live by faith in the Son of God. He is the one who loved me and gave Himself to save me.

– Galatians 2:20 (ERV)


For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

– Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)


– Photo by Susie Stewart



Do you feel timid when you pray?


Do your sins glare before you

and get in the way of your relationship with God?


Do you skip it altogether

because you are altogether imperfect


to come before a perfect God?


Well, I can relate


But God has shown me

that something amazing happened


when Jesus became my Savior


He became my bridge

to God


His perfection

sacrificed for me


and His righteousness

imparted to me


and His white robe of sinlessness

put on me


Caused me to be able to approach

that great throne


with confidence

and freedom

and boldness


And it’s not because I had a sinless day

but because my sins have been washed away


And I look my Abba in the eyes

and I talk to Him


We are close

and I don’t need to be timid


because of Jesus


I confess to Him

what is not right


But I don’t feel the weight

of condemnation


Because I’m not condemned


I am free


– Susie Stewart


In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

– Ephesians 3:12 (NIV)


Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

– Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)


It is also very comforting to us to observe that the God who hears prayer is enthroned and glorified. The God of grace sits upon the throne of grace and so grace reigns supreme at the place where God meets with us in prayer! The hands of grace are full of blessings through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ—and those hands are happily employed in dispensing royal largess among the poverty stricken sons and daughters of men! Come here, then, all you who feel your need of grace! Be not afraid to approach the throne of grace. Since Jesus Christ has taken upon Himself our nature and suffered in our place, the throne to which the sinner is bid to draw near is a throne of superlative, unlimited, reigning grace—grace that pardons; grace that regenerates; grace that adopts; grace that preserves; grace that sanctifies; grace that perfects and makes meet for glory!

– C.H. Spurgeon


…or He delivered us and saved us and called us with a holy calling [a calling that leads to a consecrated life—a life set apart—a life of purpose], not because of our works [or because of any personal merit—we could do nothing to earn this], but because of His own purpose and grace [His amazing, undeserved favor] which was granted to us in Christ Jesus before the world began [eternal ages ago]…

– 2 Timothy 1:9 (AMP)


With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

– Romans 8:1,2 (MSG)


Photo by Susie Stewart

Slow It Down

Slow it down


Slow down your prayer


Think carefully about what you are saying






Memorized phrases

and empty words of habit


Don’t form deeper connection


Choose your words deliberately

and let them be


Love expressed

Worship embodied

Confession deep

Adoration clear


Words of meaning


– Susie Stewart


But when you talk to God, go into your room and shut the door. Then talk to your Father in secret. Your Father sees secret things and He will reward you.

And when you talk to God, do not say words that mean nothing, over and over again. People who do not believe in God do that. They think their god will hear them because they say many words.

Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

– Matthew 6:6-8 (WE)


Never stop praying.

– 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)


Eternal One: Call to Me, and I will answer you. I will tell you of great things, things beyond what you can imagine, things you could never have known.

– Jeremiah 33:3 (VOICE)


Photo by Susie Stewart



We have the great privilege

of coming to God with our requests


We ask Him for what we want

and He chooses to answer the way He wants


And we get into a dangerous place

when we only see Him as good


When He answers the way we think He should


The fact is,

we either trust His sovereignty

His wisdom

and His omniscience


Or we don’t


When we meet God’s “No”

with the stomp of our foot


We in essence are showing a lack of trust

and a sense of entitlement


Santa Jesus would hand us whatever we ask for

and therein we would develop no faith


We would have no need of an all-knowing God,

for whenever we exercised our will of asking


Santa Jesus would give us

whatever we want


This is not what we should expect


May our prayers be ones of great faith

and trust


In our great God

who knows best


– Susie Stewart


He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. God knew what He was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love Him along the same lines as the life of His Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity He restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in Him. After God made that decision of what His children should be like, He followed it up by calling people by name. After He called them by name, He set them on a solid basis with Himself. And then, after getting them established, He stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what He had begun.

– Romans 8:27-30 (MSG)


Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…

– Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)


But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”

– Mark 5:36 (NLT)


They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

– Psalm 112:7 NIV)


Photo by Andy Stewart


You hear my heart

as I turn to You


You know my thoughts

not a single one missed


No pompous prayer needed

or pretentious posture required


I come as I am

in what state I am in


The highs and the lows

bowed before Love


Imperfect speaking to Perfect

adoring one another


All bowed down


– Susie Stewart


We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!

-1 john 1:2-4 (MSG)


“…those the Father has given Me will come to Me, and I will never reject them.”

– John 6:37 (NLT)


“Come now, let’s settle this,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
I will make them as white as wool.”

– Isaiah 1:18 (NLT)


The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.

– Revelation 22:17 (NLT)


Photo by Susie Stewart


On my hike this morning….


Lord, I love you!  I see Your beauty in these wildflowers!  You are lovely, God.  You are so great and I love You…


(Don’t forget to get trash bags at Walmart, oh and potting soil…)


And, God, please watch over Colie at camp and Arik in Denver, keep them safe….


(These shoes are so good for hiking.  I’m really glad I got them.  My flip flops are wearing out, though, I think I better get some new ones before the old ones break…)


Oh yes, God, thank you for a new morning, and for health and strength and for life!


(Man, I really loved my time with my Jericho Girls group last night.  What a precious time of sharing…)


Lord, I’m sorry….


I have the hardest time staying focused sometimes when I’m praying to You.  I want to




I want to keep all my focus on You on these hikes, but I’m so distracted.  I’m just sorry….


(Ugh, messed up again….)


I love you, child.  I made you a multi-tasker.  I see you trying hard to keep focused on Me.  I made you this way and I use you this way.  You are not messing up.    I’m always here.  


God….  I just love You so much.  Thank You.  I will keep trying with Your help.


I am just like a friend walking along your side that you jump from topic to topic with.  I delight in you.  


Friend, do you struggle with focus when praying?  Boy, I sure do.  But I’m so thankful that God sticks right with me anyway.  And I’m thankful that as I grow to know Him more and more that my communication with Him can flow more and more freely throughout the day.  He is always with me and I can talk to Him any time.  What a precious gift from my Abba Father.  Be encouraged!  God knows we can be flighty.  He is patient with His children. 


– Susie Stewart



Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.

– Jeremiah 29:12 (NIV)


God can’t stand pious poses, but he delights in genuine prayers.

– Proverbs 15:8 (MSG)


Search for the Lord and for His strength;
continually seek Him.

– 1 Chronicles 16:11 (NLT)


I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope Je has given to those He called—His holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

– Ephesians 1:18 (NLT)


Photo by Susie Stewart

Into Focus

Occasionally when I’ve begun to pray, my vision seems blurred. Fuzzy. As though my prayer is out of focus because I don’t know exactly what to pray for or how to pray. But like adjusting the focus on [my] binoculars while I looked through them, I’ve found that as I pray, my thoughts become clearer, my focus sharper, and my requests more specific.

Daniel seems to have experienced this while praying because he states that God gave him insight and understanding, “While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people…while I was still in prayer…” (Dan. 9:20-22). It’s encouraging to me to know I don’t have to know specifically how or what to pray in order to submit to my Father’s guiding whisper. Sometimes I’m intimidated to pray beyond the limits of what I can imagine or understand. But as I am praying, God can bring to my mind the thoughts and ideas that have eluded my own understanding.

Why is it that I think after I pray it’s my responsibility to do all I can to bring about the answer? Why do I take the battle into my own hands? Like a drowning person who tries to “help” the rescuer, I wonder how many times I have actually hindered God’s answer to my prayers. I find it encouraging to be reassured that I don’t have to know everything, understand everything, analyze everything before I pray for something.

This is true for all of us. We don’t have to have a clear comprehension of what the need is or what the solution should be. We don’t have to tell God how to “fix” things or even suggest what His course of action might be. We don’t have to solve the problem for Him. What a relief it is to know all we have to do is to get down on our knees and state the problem. The burden to resolve the situation is His, not yours and mine.

– Ann Graham Lotz


I went on praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, pleading with the Lord my God for Jerusalem, His holy mountain. As I was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came swiftly to me at the time of the evening sacrifice. He explained to me, “Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. The moment you began praying, a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God.

– Daniel 9:20-23 (NLT)


My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he’s listening. And if we’re confident that he’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours.

– 1 John 5:14,15 (MSG)


Photo by Susie Stewart