By Mitch CarnellJune 9, 2020 –

If you want to experience joy and feel as though you have been wrapped in a warm blanket of love, then read Susan Sparks’ new book, “Miracle on 31st Street.”

It is a small book of 26 devotionals that will lift your spirits. Sparks spreads out the message of Jesus in a simple but profound manner.

The devotionals are grouped under four headings – Hope, Peace, Love and Joy – plus reflections for Christmas Day and The Day after Christmas.

Quick response, or QR, codes included inside allow readers to obtain a workbook and an Advent calendar.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Sparks knew she wanted to be a preacher by age 7. However, all of her role models in her Southern Baptists circles told her that women could not be pastors.

She then became a lawyer and a standup comedian. After 10 years of being a lawyer, she decided she could deny her calling no longer.

So, Sparks enrolled at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where her calling was honored, and later became lead pastor at historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City.

The title of the book comes from the location of the church, which is only three blocks from 34th Street, the location of the famous Christmas movie, “Miracle on 34th Street.”

The book grew out of a series of sermons she preached at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York State.

Sparks takes full advantage of her Southern roots in how she slides the gospel into her wonderful stories. She is a storyteller and a very good one, finding a way to assure us of God’s profound love for each of us in every entry.

In the devotional, “It Is Enough,” she recounts making a cheese grit soufflé and offers a good example of how she uses humor to teach us a biblical truth. “The recipe of life is enough. We are enough.”

In the same devotional she says, “If someone in your life doesn’t call you beloved, it’s their failing, not yours.”

Just to make certain we get the point, she adds, “We are beloved because of who we are. We are children of God.”

The most inspiring story comes in the devotional, “Changing the World with a Five-Dollar Bill.”

Each church member was given a five-dollar bill with the sole instruction to use it to lift someone’s day. The stories that came back from that experience teaches us a lesson on how to do much with little.

Sparks is at her best in the devotional, “Christmas Day.” She quotes a Russian store clerk just after he helps an elderly woman, “If we don’t help each other, who are we?”

You can easily read all the devotionals in one sitting, but I urge you to take your time and savor each one. You will also enjoy giving this book of love and hope to friends.

Mitch Carnell

Mitch Carnell is a member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of “Our Father: Discovering Family.” His writings can also be found at MitchCarnell.com.

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